The Canon Question

Jan 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Articles

“I would not have believed the gospel, unless the authority of the Catholic Church had induced me.” (St. Augustine, Contra Ep. Fund., V, 6.)

Contents:

I. The Canon Question
II. Diversity of Theories

A. Self-Attestation and the Testimony of the Holy Spirit
B. The Original Hebrew Old Testament
C. New Testament Apostolic Authorship
D. Widespread Acceptance by the Early Church
E. That Which Preaches Christ: A Canon Within a Canon

III. Authority to Answer the Question
IV. Conclusion

I. THE CANON QUESTION.

As Christians, how is it that we know we are saved by the death and resurrection of the incarnate Son of God? For those raised as Christians, the Sunday School sing-song answer “for the Bible tells me so” may come to mind, and this fairly well summarizes the Protestant teaching on the communication of saving truth. The Belgic Confession, an historical expression of the Reformed faith used widely in Dutch denominations, asserts that we know God by the beauty of creation, and “more openly by his holy and divine Word.”1 The Westminster Confession of Faith, widely adopted by Presbyterian denominations with traditionally Scottish origins, contains a comparable teaching: while the “light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable,” we still need revealed truth to possess the “knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.”2 Regarding this revelation, the Westminster Confession holds that God chose “to commit the same wholly unto writing.”3

A Portion of the Hexapla

But this answer, that we know saving truth from the Bible, pushes the question back. What is the Bible? Our previous two articles, Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture and Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority, explored aspects of this question, including what we believe about the Bible, and our notion of the Bible as inerrant truth. In this paper I intend to explore another aspect of the question “What is the Bible?,” and this I will refer to as the Canon Question: “By what criterion do we know which texts comprise the Bible?” This is an essential question all Christians should be able to answer, but, in my experience in discussing this with other believers, it is to many a foreign subject matter. Without understanding why we believe the Gospel of Mark, or the Epistle of James, or the book of Esther to be among those writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, we cannot give a principled reason why we believe these books to be Scripture. Without any principled reason why we believe these books to be Scripture, we have no principled reason or basis for knowing what is the deposit of faith, and thus cannot give an answer to ‘everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope we have.’4

In this article, I argue that Reformed theology is intrinsically incapable of answering the Canon Question. The confessional and classical Reformed answer to the Canon Question, which will be considered in depth in section II.A., relies upon the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit in the heart of each believer to give assurance of a text’s canonicity. I will argue that since any two Spirit-filled Christians who are new to Scripture might not agree that any given text is canonical, this test is of dubious reliability, and thus cannot be our ultimate measure of Scripture. The inherent subjectivity of this classical Reformed basis for the canon has led to a variety of different answers to the Canon Question, each seeking a more objective basis for identifying God-breathed texts. These various efforts to articulate an objective test for the canon are not mutually exclusive. They can be summarized as follows: the Old Testament canon is that set of Hebrew texts that were canonized by Jewish leaders of Jerusalem around the time of Christ; the New Testament canon is defined as those books which are immediately or mediately of Apostolic authorship; and finally, the canon is defined as those books which received widespread acceptance in the early Church (until a certain point in time). I will explore these topics, as well as Martin Luther’s view that the canon properly consists of those Old and New Testament books which “preach Christ,” in the remainder of section II. There, I shall argue that, given the Reformed assumption that whatever authoritatively testifies to the canonicity of Scripture must be more authoritative than Scripture, each of them necessarily places extra-biblical evidence above Scripture in its effort to objectively identify the canon. This places something from outside of Scripture above Scripture, and thereby violates the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura.

In Section III, I argue that the very process of answering the Canon Question violates sola scriptura. This is because answering the question must involve extra-Biblical human judgment. This judgment is placed over Scripture because it defines the canon. By placing this judgment above the sole permitted infallible authority, the process of answering the question violates sola scriptura. As I will conclude, the fundamental problem for the sola scriptura position is that it has no way of determining the canon that is faithful to its own concept of authority.

II. DIVERSITY OF THEORIES.

Over the centuries since the Protestant Reformation, a variety of theories have sprung up that attempt to articulate an objective test for determining a text’s canonicity. The answers to the Canon Question that I describe here are comprehensive of the Protestant positions, although not exhaustive. Outlying variants on these theories abound, but the principal theories in use by Reformed and evangelical scholars are included below.5 These principal theories share the characteristics of purporting to reach their conclusion objectively, and (although being different tests) of reaching the same 66-book conclusion. The late Covenant Seminary professor R. Laird Harris believed that there is room within Protestant scholarship for multiple, and perhaps even competing, principles for determining the same canon:

[S]everal differing views concerning the principle of determination of the canon–views not necessarily exclusive–have been held through the centuries, and there is room for some differences of opinion on this point. . . . It is freely acknowledged that the views on canonicity here expressed are not the only views held by conservative Biblical scholars.6

For Harris, having a variety of canon theories within the Protestant academy is tolerable, so long as they each yield the 66-book Protestant canon. But as Dr. Flesseman-van Leer has rightly observed, those who accept the traditional canon of Scripture today cannot legitimately defend it with arguments that played no part in its original formation.7 Post hoc rationalization of such a critical point as the formation of the canon would be like painting a target around one’s arrow that is already embedded in the wall. If a rule which has led some to the 66-book canon proves false, or fails to be truly objective, the remedy is not to find a new rule allowing us to reach the same conclusion. Instead, to be intellectually honest, we must find the rule that is ultimately right and true, and accept where it leads us, wherever it leads us.

Besides those Protestant theologians who tolerate competing canon theories but themselves only advance one criterion of canonicity, other theologians are willing simultaneously to use a plurality of criteria to reach the same conclusion. For example, Harris determines the extent of the Old Testament canon by following “[t]wo lines of approach,” “one historical and the other an appeal to authority.”8 He writes, “[b]y both methods it can be seen that these Apocryphal books cannot properly be included in the sacred canon.”9 That is, Harris is willing to use a plurality of theories, ones which he views as complementary, to reach his conclusion about the canon of Scripture.10 While using plural criteria to accumulate evidence in favor of a text’s inclusion in the canon would be proper to the extent that each criterion is valid and consistent with one’s overall scriptural paradigm, it would be improper to the extent that any one component criterion was not. That is, for the Protestant, a theory that proves incompatible with sola scriptura cannot be salvaged merely by tying it together with a more defensible theory. Bearing in mind that each Protestant theory must be internally consistent with sola scriptura, I will now take them up in turn.

A. SELF-ATTESTATION AND TESTIMONY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

The Classical Reformed View:

The classical and confessional Reformed answer to the Canon Question stresses that the Holy Spirit is our immediate assurance of the canon’s truth, and also notes that the reliability of Scripture appears from within Scripture itself. This answer varies somewhat from source to source in its particular emphasis, but the assurance of the Holy Spirit is a clear common theme. In the course of the Reformation, Calvin was an early advocate for this position, which later became solemnized by the Reformed confessional standards.11 He taught that for the reader enjoying the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, Scripture is self-attesting (i.e., it says on its own to this reader that it is Scripture):

[T]hose whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men. We seek no proofs, no marks of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean; but we subject our judgment and wit to it as to a thing far beyond any guesswork!12

Calvin also likens asking the Catholic’s question, “how can we be assured that [Scripture] has sprung from God without recourse to the decree of the church?,” to asking “whence will we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter?”13 For John Calvin, it is as apparent as black is from white which books are to be included in the canon: “Indeed, Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.”14 His answer, then, is that we can be assured that Scripture is of God simply by looking at it, just as we can tell black from white simply by looking at it.

The traditional Reformed confessions also did not neglect to answer the Canon Question.15 According to the Belgic Confession, we are to receive the books of the Protestant canon, and all taught within them,

not so much because the church

receives and approves them as such

but above all because the Holy Spirit

testifies in our hearts

that they are from God,

and also because they

prove themselves

to be from God.

For even the blind themselves are able to see

that the things predicted in them

do happen.”16

Similarly, in the words of the Westminster Confession,

[O]ur full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of Scripture], is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.17

What makes this classical and confessional position attractive, from the Reformed perspective, is its immediate reliance on God to lead Christians to His revealed truth. We do not have to accept the canonical texts “so much because the church receives and approves” them, but because we are convinced immediately by the Holy Spirit. There are no middle men to muddy the waters. By doing this, the Reformed confessions mean to avoid subordinating infallible Scripture to a fallible mediate human authority. This is essential to the Reformed system because if Scripture were subordinate to fallible human authority, its contents could be erroneous, thus rendering Scripture unreliable. And if Scripture were unreliable, it could not act as our sole infallible authority over all matters of the faith.

However, since any two Christians might not agree that any given book is (or is not) canonical even where they reflect carefully on the testimony of the Holy Spirit as they approach it, this test lacks objectivity and reliability. We should be able to verify the reliability of this classical Reformed canon criterion in the following way. If the classical Reformed canon criterion were true and we set various candidate texts, like books or passages from the New Testament, apocryphal works, or revered writings from the early Church Fathers, in front of new Christians who have the Spirit but have never read the Bible, they would all pick out the same books or passages as canonical. If Calvin’s black-from-white claim is true, our hypothetical new Christians attempting to discern canonical books from non-canonical would come to one conclusion. If we could run this hypothetical test, and we obtained a result that was successful less than 100% of the time, or even less than the vast majority of the time, at identifying the one true canon, this would show that this test is not a reliable test for determining the canon of Scripture.

Something close to this hypothetical test has already been run. In the early centuries of Christian history, the many faithful Christians in close communion with the Holy Spirit, and who did not yet have a determined canon for their Bible, did not conclude that the Protestant 66-book canon is correct. We have evidence that many early Church figures, including St. Augustine himself, supported the inclusion of the deuterocanonical texts within the canon. Not one single source from this period articulates the Protestant canon.18 Following the Reformation, before the first generation of Reformers had died, the alleged black-from-white clarity regarding which books belong in the canon also failed to produce universal agreement.19 These cases from history are evidence that the Reformed answer to the Canon Question does not provide a reliable method for determining the canon. This is deeply problematic, since assurance in the canon is the foundation of the sola scriptura paradigm.

Part in parcel with Calvin’s view that the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts to the veracity of the canon, Calvin rejects the essential role of the Church in identifying the canon. In his Institutes, he starts with the proposition that Scripture obtains its authority directly from God, and not from the Church:

But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. . . . For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? . . . . Who can persuade us to receive one book in reverence but to exclude another, unless the church prescribe a sure rule for all these matters?20

As an initial matter, Calvin misstates the Catholic position by stating that, according to the Catholic Church, Scripture has its authoritative weight accorded to it by the Church. Rather, the Catholic position is that Scripture has divine authority because it is God-breathed, the Holy Spirit having inspired the texts’ authors. That is, Scripture has divine authority because of its divine author, not because of the role of God’s Church in producing it. As the Catholic Church decreed during the First Vatican Council:

These [73] books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.21

This belief is reflected also in the dogmatic work Dei Verbum, written by Pope Paul VI in 1965:

Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testament in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.22

These texts prove that the Catholic Church does not maintain that the Scriptures have only so much weight as is accorded to them by the Catholic Church. Rather, as the Catholic Church explains, the authority of the Scriptures derives from their being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with God as their author.

Furthermore, regarding Calvin’s view of the relationship between the Church and Scripture, he merely asserts, but does not demonstrate, that the Catholic Church’s position would mock the Holy Spirit. He claims to find such mocking in the belief that one cannot be persuaded to receive one book and exclude another without the Church prescribing a sure rule. Why would the Church’s prescribing a “sure rule” for knowing Scripture be a mockery of the Holy Spirit? Because for Calvin, our obtaining assurances from the Church would necessarily exclude obtaining assurances from the Holy Spirit. This is because, as shown in the quotation from Calvin cited above, he has created a false dichotomy between the Church and the Holy Spirit. For him, these two sources of assurance cannot work in a confluent way. For obvious reasons, once one accepts this dichotomy, one comes to favor the Holy Spirit option, making the option of seeing the Church as a source of assurance a mockery.

Calvin’s rhetorical question: “Who can persuade us to receive one book in reverence but to exclude another, unless the church prescribe a sure rule for all these matters?” also misstates the Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church does not claim that a person cannot be persuaded to receive or exclude a book without the Church prescribing a sure rule. One could accept or reject a book without the benefit of a “sure rule” from the Church, as occurred throughout the early Church. Rather, apart from Magisterial guidance concerning the canon, it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for all believers independently to come to complete agreement about the canon without each believer receiving miraculous enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. Christ has given authority to the Magisterium in such a way that grace builds on nature. That is, the visible government of the Church, being guided by the Holy Spirit, does not nullify, but fulfills, our natural need for visible government in the supernatural society that is the Church. But, the Church and the Holy Spirit do work together to assure us of the scriptural canon. As St. Augustine said, “I would not have believed the gospel, unless the authority of the Church had induced me.”23

Calvin next argues that the Church itself is grounded upon Scripture, and not the other way around:

But such wranglers are neatly refuted by just one word of the apostle. He testifies that the church is “built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles.” If the teaching of the prophets and apostles is the foundation, this must have had authority before the church began to exist.24

Note the significance of Calvin’s addition of the word “teaching” to his restatement of Ephesians. But St. Paul actually says that the Church is built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles themselves. For Calvin, a teaching has authority, not the teacher. He treats Paul’s statement that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles” as referring to a set of teachings, not any persons.

Calvin’s whole doctrine of Scripture revolves around this insertion of the word “teaching” into St. Paul’s statement to the Ephesians, and upon seeing the teacher as having authority derived from the teaching only insofar as he holds to that teaching. But it is the prophets and apostles themselves who were given divine authority. Consider Matthew 7:29, in which we are told that Jesus “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Jesus taught as one ‘with authority,’ not as one ‘with words with authority.’ Words of law do not have authority in isolation from their source, but are authoritative because of their relationship to their source. For example, the U.S. Constitution is not authoritative apart from its source, but represents the authority of the People who promulgated it. Likewise, the words of the Bible are authoritative because of their relation to their authors, especially their divine Author. The Church is not founded upon these words, the teachings of prophets and apostles, but upon the prophets and apostles themselves based on their divine authority. Because of the prophets’ and apostles’ divine authorization, we can know the teaching they transmitted to be divine in origin.

Further Refinement of Self-Attestation:

In his work, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures, theologian Herman Ridderbos provides a modern Reformed articulation of the confessional view. In line with Calvin, he argues that canonical texts are self-attesting (or self-witnessing) to the reader who is aided through faith by the Holy Spirit to see Scripture for what it is.25 Ridderbos also issues a noteworthy critique of the various proposed Protestant criteria of canonicity other than the classical Reformed position. He sees these as little or no better than the Catholic view, which, he says, effectively places the Church over Scripture, because they too put something over Scripture. He explains:

For no New Testament writing is there a certificate issued either by Christ or by the apostles that guarantees its canonicity, and we know nothing of a special revelation or voice from heaven that gave divine approval to the collection of the twenty-seven books in question. Every attempt to find an a posteriori element to justify the canon, whether in the doctrinal authority or in the gradually developing consensus of the church, goes beyond the canon itself, posits a canon above the canon, and thereby comes into conflict with the order of redemptive history and the nature of the canon itself.26

In this context, Ridderbos uses a priori to mean knowledge that has nothing but the canon as its starting point. His claim, then, is that if any part of a canon test depends on something outside of the canon (what he calls “a posteriori” elements)–for example, on the consensus of the Church–this explanation has placed some extra-Biblical authority “above” the canon. Within the framework of sola scriptura, this is a commendably logical observation. If Scripture is the sole infallible authority of the faith, and everything else is subordinate in authority to Scripture, then the basis for determining the canon cannot be any authority but Scripture. The working principle here is that an authority is only as authoritative as that on which it is founded. Each of the criteria listed below within the remainder of section II, most of which Ridderbos takes up with particularity, falls prey to this claim. Lessons of history, use by Hebrew-speaking Jews of the time of Christ, prophetic and apostolic authority, and the like–each of these involve criteria by which a text is judged to be canonical that is extra-canonical, so goes beyond the canon itself, and thus posits a canon above the canon.

Here is Ridderbos’s riddle then, which he believes Calvin’s view has solved: how can we determine the canon, which does not fall from Heaven, without relying on extra-canonical evidence? Riddberos sees the need to avoid the use of extra-canonical evidence, because doing so would, under the Calvinist assumption, place the confirming evidence over the canon, which would violate sola scriptura. Given Calvin’s assumption, Ridderbos needs to find evidence for the contents of the canon that is located in or derived from the canon itself. Ridderbos sees the Reformed answer to both the riddle he presents and the Canon Question this way:

Reformed theologians do not justify the acceptance of the canon by appealing to a “canon within the canon.” Nor do they appeal to its recognition by the church or to the experience of faith or to a recurring, actualistic understanding of the Word of God as canon. . . .

. . .

Calvin appealed not only to the witness of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers but above all to the self-attestation of the Scriptures. The divine character of the Bible itself gives it its authority This divine character is so evident that anyone who has eyes to see is directly convinced and does not need the mediation of the church. . . . [As] Karl Barth wrote, ‘The Bible makes itself to be canon.’

Corresponding to this objective principle of the self-attestation of Scripture, from its inception Reformed theology has expressly distinguished the subjective principle of the testimonium Spiritus Sancti. . . . He opens blind eyes to the divine light that shines in the Scriptures. Later Reformed theology has correctly emphasized the fact that the internal witness of the Spirit is not the basis for but the means by which the canon of Scripture is recognized and accepted as the indubitable Word of God.27

From this we see that his view consists of two elements: (1) that Scripture is self-attesting, (2) via the Holy Spirit leading the reader to recognize it as canonical.28 The first element, if taken on its own, would certainly answer Ridderbos’s riddle. If some quality of Scripture allows it to attest to its own canonicity, then there is no need to resort to evidence that is external to Scripture in order to define Scripture.29 Thus, nothing is placed “above” the canon, leaving Scripture as our final authority. The second element also plays a vital role; it explains why it is not the case that the entire world recognizes Scripture’s own attestations, why the world does not see the black from the white. In Ridderbos’s own terms, the first element of the test of canonicity is objective and the second element is subjective.

But prior to Calvin, the Church never used this method to recognize a book as belonging to the canon. The Church recognized books as canonical on the basis of their having been inspired by the Holy Spirit.30 In its process of identifying which books possessed this quality, the Church never employed a private, individualistic means. Instead, it relied upon councils of the Church confirmed by the Bishop of Rome.31 Again, as one cannot legitimately defend the canon with arguments which played no part in its original formation, Calvin’s novel elements cannot explain how Church reached its present canon.32

Also, the subjective aspect of Ridderbos’s theory renders the entire test too subjective to be reliable. This is because each text’s objective quality, self-attestation, is only evident to an observer to the extent that he subjectively experiences the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. Just as a building cannot be more sturdy than its foundation, the Reformed answer to the Canon Question is no more objective than its most subjective part. Here, the objective quality is not merely supported or enhanced by the subjective, but is entirely dependent upon it. Using the Reformed frame, if two people disagree in their view of which texts are (objectively) self-attesting as Scripture, they can only settle their disagreement by calling into question the degree to which (subjectively) the Holy Spirit is testifying in their interlocutor’s heart. In this way the classical Reformed theory is too subjective to be a reliable basis for assuring believers which texts belong in the Bible.

That the Reformed test is too subjective to be reliable because new Christians considering candidate texts would not reach the same conclusion when applying it, has already been discussed above. This also appears from the views of Luther himself. Remember that according to Ridderbos, the objective element of the Bible’s “divine character [is] so evident that anyone who has eyes to see is directly convinced and does not need the mediation of the church.”33 But Luther’s subjective interpretation of the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit regarding Scripture led him, at least at times in his life, to some different conclusions than Calvin about certain of our New Testament books.34 Neither was Luther alone in his day in doubting the canonicity of certain New Testament works.

Calvin knew of and addressed conflicting conclusions about the canon in the introductions to his commentaries on Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Jude. In one instance Calvin called into question which spirit was working in the doubters’ heart. In his argument for the inclusion of the book of Hebrews in the canon, Calvin says, “I, indeed, without hesitation, class [Hebrews] among apostolical writings; nor do I doubt but that it has been through the craft of Satan that any have been led to dispute its authority.”35 Calvin is explaining that Satan undoubtedly is involved in a case where some are denying what he finds to be canonical. We see that under the classical Reformed view, in a case of dispute, a failed meetings of the minds on what is self-attesting is explained at the subjective level.

What of the reply that since all Protestants agree on the canon, this is evidence that these 66 books properly comprise the canon, objectively reached? First, the premise that all Protestants agree on the canon is false. The classical Lutheran position does not agree with the Reformed view of the canon, in that Lutheranism creates a canon-within-a-canon, relegating some books to a secondary place. This position distinguishes a homologouna from an antilegomena, i.e., never-disputed books from disputed books such as Jude and Revelation. Unlike the Reformed canon, which is a proper source for the formation of dogma in its entirety, only the never-disputed books may be used for the defintion of dogma within a classical Lutheran view.36 Further, to the extent that Protestants see themselves as lineal descendants of pre-Reformational proto-Protestants, it cannot be said that “Protestants” have agreed on the canon throughout the Church’s history. As I discuss elsewhere, many biblical texts have been rejected at one time or another by various Church Fathers. Finally, widespread agreement amongst today’s Protestants does not disprove the objective canonical quality of the deuterocanonical books since the vast majority of Protestants have never read them. Today’s average Protestant does not study why he has the Protestant 66-book canon, and does not independently decide if the Bible handed to him is correct. Rather, he accepts as an a priori of his Protestant faith that the 66-book canon is correct. Belief that the 66-book canon is right is part and parcel with the small cluster of unifying evangelical Protestant beliefs. Since it is a unifying principle for most Protestants, we would hardly expect to see anything but universal agreement; thus we can draw no lessons about the canon from this widespread agreement.

With Ridderbos’s answer to the Canon Question, we have no way of knowing whether the Holy Spirit is permitting a reader to recognize a text as canonical, or is simply permitting a reader falsely to perceive it as Scripture. We cannot tell since we would necessarily have to appeal to Ridderbos’s subjective element in order to know which of these actions the Holy Spirit is engaged in when, for example, He permits Catholics to recognize the deuterocanonical texts as Divine. If the Holy Spirit is simply permitting Catholics falsely to perceive them as Scripture, as Protestants must maintain, then Protestants have no objective criteria by which to distinguish this act of the Holy Spirit from cases in which He is permitting readers to recognize a text as canonical. And such a test is surely a kind of ad hoc opportunism in which it is claimed that the Holy Spirit is doing whatever I am doing, even if many others are doing many things contrary to what I am doing.

To resolve the disputes that lingered in spite of his supposedly objective test, Calvin employed a potpourri of fall-back arguments to shore up his teaching that the Holy Spirit allows a reader to perceive directly what belongs to the canon of Scripture. According to Ridderbos, Calvin distinguished Scripture from what did not belong to Scripture, “not simply by appealing to the witness of the Holy Spirit as some infallible, inward arbitrator, but he appealed to the fact that the authority of those books has been recognized from the church’s inception, that they contain nothing unworthy of an apostle of Christ, and that the majesty of the Spirit of Christ is everywhere apparent in them.”37 Thus he utilizes four different factors, culled from reason and not revelation, to settle the disputes in favor of his ‘objective’ conclusions.38 Calvin is not alone in finding the need for supplemental arguments to support the supposedly objective, self-attesting, black-from-white criterion for determining the canon. The renowned 20th-century Reformed theologian F. F. Bruce, in employing his own supplemental arguments, said that “[i]t is unlikely . . . that the Spirit’s witness would enable a reader to discern that Ecclesiastes is the word of God while Ecclesiasticus is not.”39

This ‘appeal to external facts’ reveals something about Reformed thinkers’ discomfort with relying too heavily on the supposedly objective self-attestation method of discerning the canon. This ‘appeal to external facts’ also is in tension with Calvin’s and Ridderbos’s position that sees using evidence outside of Scripture to determine Scripture as effectively placing that evidence over Scripture, and Calvin’s potpourri use of fall-back argumentation.40 Calvin, in using reason and historical proof to determine the canon (for example, by appealing to “those books” that have “been recognized [as canonical] from the church’s inception”), is either contradicting his principle that no evidence outside of Scripture can determine the canon, or is refining his principle in an ad hoc fashion.

But without the external appeal, Calvin’s position is left only with the two elements mentioned above: self-attestation and the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. However, as we have seen, the self-attestation element effectively collapses into the subjective element–the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit–when faced with disagreements about the canon. Because what then remains is too subjective a test to yield a single canon if put before a hypothetical test group of new faith-filled Christians, it cannot bind us to a single set of texts as certainly belonging in the Bible.

B. THE ORIGINAL HEBREW OLD TESTAMENT:

Another Protestant answer to the Canon Question, used either as an independent criterion of canonicity or as a supplement to other criteria, holds that the canon of the Old Testament is that which originally was in use by Hebrew-speaking Jews. The timeframe of this hypothetical ‘original’ canon will go back as far as the historical evidence will support the idea of a closed Hebrew canon. Dr. Harris, a noted Reformed Old Testament scholar, put forward this view in an extensive treatment of Old Testament history in his book Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures.41

Starting with a discussion of the Hebrew manuscripts in use amongst modern biblical Scholars, Harris states: “Our English Old Testament depends largely on medieval Hebrew manuscripts from about A.D. 900 and following. These Hebrew manuscripts contain our familiar 39 Old Testaments books.”42 He then attempts to proceed back through history, as early as can be traced, to determine the original Hebrew canon. The Babylonian Talmud lists the Hebrew books accepted in about A.D. 200, the time of its writing. These align with the 39 Protestant books of the Old Testament.43 Harris also presents a litany of early Christian writers who discussed Hebrew canons quite similar to the 39-book Protestant Old Testament.44

A test of canonicity that relies on such extra-Biblical evidence as what the Jews of A.D. 200 (or any other time) accepted as canonical falls subject to the critique of Ridderbos, noted above.45 Without biblical warrant to craft such a test, it remains extra-Biblical. Therefore, its application would be a canon above the canon and thus violate sola scriptura according to Ridderbos’s criteria. A major problem with this canon theory is that it grants to the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day an authority which, it claims, if possessed by the Church, would undermine the authority of Scripture. But it would be ad hoc to allow a Jewish magisterial authority to determine the canon while claiming that a determination of the canon by way of Catholic magisterial authority would undermine the authority of Scripture.

The ‘Original Hebrew’ Canon:

Setting aside its extra-biblicality and focusing on its application, the ‘Original Hebrew Canon’ answer to the Canon Question leads to additional problems.

First, there is no historical basis to conclude that any one Jewish group had the authority to pronounce and close the canon for other Jewish groups, or that any one of them could conclude the canon for Christianity. While there was a body of Scribes sitting “in the chair of Moses” who may have had the authority to rule on the contents of, and eventually to close, the canon of the Old Testament, the fact remains that differing groups of Jews at the time of the founding of Christianity accepted different canons.46 Harris admits that the Essenes probably accepted for their canon, in addition to the generally accepted texts, “other books written by members of their own sect.”47 While Harris and Bruce reject claims from within academia that the Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch as canonical,48 Bruce goes on to explain that the Samaritans held exactly that belief: “As for the Samaritans, their Bible was restricted to the Pentateuch49.”

The Diaspora Jews, on the other hand, used the Greek Septuagint, which included the deuterocanonical texts as well as some apocryphal texts.50 Harris dismisses this problem by denying that history can prove that the canon used by Jews of the Diaspora (what Harris calls the Alexandrian canon) included the deuterocanonical texts:

That our present Septuagint copies have a variant canon really proves nothing about the Alexandrian canon of A.D. 50 much less the Alexandrian canon of around 200 B.C., when the Septuagint was translated, for in those vital centuries there were three major factors which surely affected such questions.51

What follows is Harris’s explanation of how it might have come to pass that the modern Septuagint does not match the earlier Septuagintal canon, which presumably would have matched the ‘original Hebrew canon’ that Harris is pursuing. Firstly, says Harris, the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, but until that time “the canon would naturally be defined at Jerusalem for all the Jewish world.”52 In other words, while the views of dispersed Jews are not authoritative in determining the Old Testament canon because of their distance from the Jewish center of gravity, for Harris, the views of those Jews in the Holy City are binding. Harris does not expand his claim beyond opining that the canon “naturally” would have come from Jerusalem. Harris does not show that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem decided anything regarding the deuterocanonical texts prior to AD 90. He does not show that they formally made a conclusion regarding the canon that was binding on all Jews.

No authority within Scripture, and no argument from reason, requires Christians to abide by the speculative conclusions of the first-century Pharisaic leaders from Jerusalem, some of the very ones who had Christ put to death. The definitive reason why the Septuagint was accepted by the Church is because it was accepted by the Apostles. Even if the non-Christian Jews of A.D. 40 had ruled against the Septuagint, that would not in any way change its acceptance by the Church. After all, the authority for the Church flows from Christ to His Apostles, not to the determinations of non-Christian Jewish leaders.

Secondly, Harris argues, early “Christians throughout the Roman Empire naturally used the Greek, as the New Testament language evidences. They therefore naturally appealed to the Greek Old Testament,” while the “Jews in self-defense argued that some of the Messianic passages were mistranslated.”53 The “Jews retreated into the Hebrew while the Christians took over the Septuagint.”54 Along these same lines, Bruce notes the Jewish disdain for the Christians’ thorough appropriation of the Septuagint: “the Jews became increasingly disenchanted with it. The time came when one rabbi compared ‘the accursed day on which the seventy elders wrote the Law in Greek for the king’ to the day on which Israel made the golden calf.”55

Why, then, as Harris implies, is the opinion of the non-converting Jews more reliable than the opinion of those who converted to Christ and widely used the Greek Septuagint? For Harris, the answer is because “the Christians did not have the regulative effect of ancient history to help them retain a proper view of the canon.”56 By this, he means that early Christians lost their grounding in Hebrew tradition, and thus lost the guiding benefits this tradition would have provided. Here we have a striking statement from Harris. He must believe that the “regulative effect of ancient history” (that is, tradition) could maintain the non-Christian Jews in truth about the canon, while the “regulative effect” of the Holy Spirit did not preserve the Church from the grave error of canonizing spurious texts. There are important presuppositions implicit in Harris’s position. He views the first century Church with the eye of an ecclesial deist, meaning he does not see God as actively protecting the Church from error.57 It is as if, for Harris, either the Apostles had no authority to determine for the Church what is her Old Testament Canon, or the Christians of the first century already had departed from what the Apostles had declared to be the authoritative Old Testament canon. For whatever reason, Harris believes that the early Christians were not guided by tradition, while the non-Christian Jews were.

The rapid and ubiquitous way in which Christians made use of the Septuagint is more reason, not less, to trust its contents. These Christians’ use of the Septuagint indicates their conviction that it was authentically divine, and therefore authoritative. Absent the doubts of ecclesial deism, the widespread use of the Septuagint by first-century Christians reveals not only that this was the Old Testament of the early Church, but also that it therefore remains authoritative today.

Harris’s third point about the Septuagintal canon is that, with the advent of the codex (i.e., bound book) replacing the scroll, early Christians found the need to fill up the scores of empty pages of valuable paper in their bound Bibles. To do this, Harris argues, they “[n]aturally” would “fill it with helpful devotional material.”58 This, he concludes, led to a conflation of helpful books with scared books. The extent of Harris’s historical evidence for his view is that it seems to him the only plausible explanation for these texts’ survival in spite of a lack of support from the early Church Fathers.

First, Harris is wrong about an absence of support from the early Church in favor of the Septuagint. He asserts that “from considerable testimony of the first four centuries,” the “Apocryphal books were not then received into the canon of the Christian church.” After repeating the views of Origen and Melito in favor of the Jewish rendering of the Old Testament canon, he goes so far as to say that “[t]he single voice of antiquity in favor of the Apocrypha is that of Augustine and the Councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) and Carthage (397).”59 But Harris had just stated that there were some uses of Baruch by the fathers, and some other exclusions of Esther.60 Further, Origen’s own canon was not the same as the Protestant canon, as Harris also admits. Origen argues at length against Africanus regarding the validity of Susanna, and he also confirms Tobit and Judith:

Where you get your “lost and won at play, and thrown out unburied on the streets,” I know not, unless it is from Tobias; and Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves. However, since the Churches use Tobias, you must know that even in the captivity some of the captives were rich and well to do.61

We see from Origen’s support for Tobias, as well as from the fathers who supported the inclusion of Baruch, that Augustine and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage were not alone in antiquity in favoring the inclusion of deuterocanonical texts. It is also unlikely that two councils of the early church–Hippo and Carthage, A.D. 393 and 397 respectively–would draw within their list of sacred books what had to that point been universally rejected. If even a majority of the Church’s leaders had rejected those books, their inclusion in the canon by St. Augustine (b. 354) and the North African councils would have created an uproar. But history records no such reaction. For this reason, Harris’s claim that with “one voice,” “all the important witnesses in the early church to about A.D. 400 . . . insist that the strict Jewish canon is the only one to be received with full credence”62 is false, as Bruce agrees. Bruce sees that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage “did not impose any innovation on the churches; they simply endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and of the greater part of the east.”63 So widely held was the belief in the deuterocanonical books, that Bruce writes, “[i]n 405 Pope Innocent I embodied a list of canonical books in a letter addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse; it too included the Apocrypha.”64

Second, even if there was an absence of support from the early Church in favor of the Septuagintal texts, as Harris claims, Harris does not give any reason to rule out the possibility that the Holy Spirit preserved these texts and guided the Church to include them. Harris implicitly presumes that the Holy Spirit did not act this way in the early Church, and instead offers the speculation that these books exist because they were filling in empty pages. This speculation or hypothesis has no more support than the deisitic assumption of the Holy Spirit’s non-intervention upon which it is based. Rather, the Septuagintal texts’ early appearance in the Church, opposition-less acceptance, and widespread propagation by Christians lead to the conclusion that these very Jewish books had been in use by Alexandrian Jews. The evidence I have provided here indicates that, at the time of Christ, Samaritan, Essene, and Alexandrian Jews used a canon different from the 39-book Protestant canon. Even the rabbis at Jamnia, who famously debated in the year A.D. 90 about which books were prophetic, gave the opinion that Ezekiel should be “withdrawn.”65

As I have shown, Harris’s claim that there was an absence of support from the early Church is based on a weak hypothesis, and fails to account for contrary evidence. His historical claim that there was nothing but a single voice from antiquity favoring the inclusion of the deuterocanonical texts is demonstrably incorrect. His arguments to explain the eventual inclusion of deuterocanonical texts in Christian use–that they filled empty space in Biblical scrolls; that the Greek Septuagint that supported them lacked the regulative effect of Jewish tradition; and that the original Septuagint from before the temple’s destruction would have matched what the first-century Pharisaic leaders from Jerusalem used–are based on unreliable speculation and give undue regard for Jewish tradition. It remains that a major problem for the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory is the lack of historical basis to conclude that any one Jewish group had the authority to pronounce and close the canon for other Jewish groups, or that any one of them could close the canon for Christianity.

The second reason that the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory fails to answer the Canon Question is that it simply pushes back the question. By what criterion was the original Hebrew canon determined? Unless the answer to this deeper question can objectively produce a complete list of books belonging to the Old Testament canon, the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory cannot be our criterion for determining the Old Testament canon. One theory Harris considers is that the Jews accepted as canonical those texts which were written by Prophets.66 However, as he notes, six books in the Old Testament are of unknown authorship: Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Job. He takes comfort that “[n]ot only is it true that it cannot be shown that these books were not written by prophets, there is some evidence that they were.”67 But if the test of canonicity that the Jews applied was ‘prophetic origin,’ then either these books were known to be prophetic, or were prematurely canonized, since their authorship was unknown. Harris later states that the “Books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are more problematical [than Job]. . . . We cannot prove that Ezra, Nehemiah and the author of Esther (Mordecai?) were prophets.”68 Harris believes, and I think reasonably, that the books must have been known to be prophetic when treated as Scripture, even if the authors’ identities are not known to us today. But if this is our defense of the canon, we are left once again relying on Jewish tradition in the formation of canon. And if we are relying on Jewish tradition, then we have no reason not to accept the tradition of the Alexandrian Jews who accepted the deuterocanonical texts. Because looking for the ‘works written by Prophets’ does not objectively produce a list of Old Testament scriptures, it does not answer the Canon Question.

Concerning whether the deuterocanonical books meet the ‘written by Prophets’ test, Harris rejects them first on an historical ground: [t]hey were all composed after the period when prophecy was recognized to have departed from Israel.69 But he does not state by whom prophecy was “recognized to have departed from Israel.”

There is no non-Christian authority who can establish this claim for Christians and the Church. There are only competing claims from an uncertain and distant period in history. Even if it is possible that, as a matter of history, the Jews in Christ’s time believed that the canon was closed before the deuterocanonical texts were written, there is no evidence that the Jews had made any such determination prior to the time of Christ, or even prior to Jamnia. Neither the majority, the Pharisees, those in Jerusalem, or some other group had the authority to do so for Christians. Were they to have made a conclusion on the canon, it would have been no more binding on the Christian than is their belief that Jesus of Nazareth is not the Christ.

Finally, the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory must be rejected because not one of the early Church Fathers who were in favor of using the extant Hebrew text certainly pointed to the 39-book Protestant Old Testament. Among the early Church Fathers used by Harris to support his theory that the early Church sought the ‘original Hebrew’ to determine the proper canon are Jerome and Origen. Jerome, as is well known, made certain observations in the prefaces to his translations of certain deuterocanonical texts indicating his opinion that the Jews rejected them as non-canonical. But even granting the widely recognized authority of St. Jerome, his concerns about the deuterocanonical books do not indicate that the Church of his day accepted only the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament.

Ultimately, Jerome explicitly stated his acceptance of the Church’s Old Testament over and against the opinion of the Hebrew scholars under whom he had studied. For example, in his preface to Tobias, he says:

For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops.70

His clear conviction is to be subject to the ruling of a Catholic bishop as opposed to the conclusions of Jewish Hebrew scholars. This same conviction appears in Jerome’s prolouge to Judith. There he states:

Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. 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, indeed demand.71

Clearer still is Jerome’s work Against Rufinus. In it he writes:

What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us.”72

From this we see clearly that Jerome, for all his studies with Hebrew scholars, did not hold to a 39-book Old Testament canon that matches the Protestant canon. In each of the three instances I have given, we see what Jerome’s actual test of canonicity was: that which matched the Church’s determination of the canon. Harris’s heavy reliance upon Jerome to support the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory, therefore, is badly misplaced.

Origen, upon whom Harris also relies, while apparently a proponent of the “true Hebrew” texts, did not teach what is now the Protestant Old Testament canon.73 Origen excludes the twelve minor prophets from his own listing. Harris explains this conflict with his canon theory by speculating that the omission was merely an oversight by Origen.74 But even if it were a scholarly error to leave out the Minor Prophets while listing the Hebrews’ canon as Origen understood it, Origen included in his listing the Letter of Jeremiah, a text from the Septuagint that is not part of the Palestinian Hebrew canon.75 Bruce similarly explains this inconsistency with the Protestant Old Testament by speculating that Origen’s inclusion was by oversight. This use of one’s pre-existing conclusions to determine what must be “oversight” and what must be accurate scholarship is the kind of post hoc rationalization to which I referred earlier. Only by painting the target around one’s arrow, rather than making judgments in a principled way, can one use Jerome and Origen in defense of the Protestant Old Testament canon.

Harris next examines the works of Melito, a second-century Bishop who travelled to Palestine to record the Hebrew canon.76 However, he too does not record a Hebrew canon aligning with the 39-book Protestant canon. Specifically, Melito omits the book of Esther.77 In fact, concerning Harris’s strong claims of universal use by the early Church Fathers of the Hebrew-now-Protestant Old Testament, there is an abundance of contrary evidence. Athanasius includes Baruch and the deuterocanonical additions to Daniel.78 Cyril includes Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, and excludes Esther.79 Gregory of Nazianzus omits Esther.80 Amphilochies notes of his fellow scholars that only “some include Esther.”81 Epiphanius includes the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach.82 Theodore of Mopsuestia denies the divine inspiration of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes,83 as well as Job, Song of Songs, and Ezra84. Tertullian, who accepted “the whole instrument of Jewish literature,” and who gives the impression that he knows exactly what it contains, uses an Old Testament that is “evidently co-extensive with the Septuagint (including the ‘Septuagintal plus’).”85 He accepted Wisdom, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the Greek ‘additions’ to Daniel as authentic.86

Esther is a particularly difficult case for the advocate of the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory to make from history. Of all the Old Testament books that the Church Fathers variously excluded from the lists of Old Testament books, Esther is the book most commonly omitted. Further, all of the Old Testament books, or fragments from them, have been found in the Dead Sea scrolls except Esther.87 Full or fragmentary portions of Tobit, Jubilees, and Enoch have also been found amongst the Dead Sea scrolls.88

Harris’s theory, that the Hebrew canon both matched the Protestant 39-book Old Testament and was used by the Church until Augustine came around, does not fit with the historical evidence. In fact, while there was no universal consensus among the early Church Fathers about the complete list of divinely inspired Hebrew books, there was a consensus among them that certain deuterocanonical Septuagintal (Greek) texts must necessarily be included. So widely was this held, Bruce writes, that:

Jerome’s dependence on Jewish instructors increased the suspicion of some of his Christian critics who were put off in any case by such an innovation as a translation of the sacred writings from Hebrew (with its implied disparagement of the divinely-inspired Septuagint).89

The translation from ancient Hebrew biblical texts was mistrusted, while the Greek Septuagint was seen as divinely inspired. As we have already seen, the Septuagint contained deuterocanonical texts as well as the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament. Therefore, Harris is not right on both points, namely, that the Hebrew canon around the time of Christ matched the Protestant Old Testament and that the Hebrew canon was the Old Testament canon used by the Church until Augustine’s time.

Accepted by the New Testament:

Finally, Harris says, we can use the New Testament itself as historical evidence of what texts should be in the Old Testament canon.90 He argues that the books of the Old Testament were referenced in the New by Christ and the Apostles, and thus we can be certain of their canonicity: “Christ and the apostles have authenticated for us the thirty-nine Old Testament books and strictly avoided the seven Apocrypha.”91 Harris supports this claim by noting that the New Testament “cites almost all of the Old Testament books, often by name.”92

One problem with that claim is that the New Testament also cites “scripture” whose referent we cannot even identify. To give an example, “[w]e have no idea what ‘the scripture’ is which says, according to James 4:5, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us.'”93 If the criterion of the Old Testament canon is ‘that which the New Testament treats as Scripture,’ then we have here a grave problem, for in that case our Old Testament canon is incomplete. Also, the New Testament is full of themes and even direct phraseology from the deuterocanon. While there are dozens of these uses, here are two short examples.94 The mention in Revelation 1:4 of the seven angels petitioning before the Throne in Heaven is a reference to Tobit 12:15: “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” Similarly, Jesus’s reference to the “gates of hell” in Matthew 16:18 may be a reference to Wisdom 16:13: “For you have dominion over life and death; you lead down to the gates of the nether world, and lead back.” Careful examination of the Septuagint shows that Christ and the Apostles did not “strictly avoid” the seven deuterocanonical books.

In addition to the New Testament citation of “scripture” that is now lost, and the many references from the New Testament to deuterocanonical texts, the ‘adopted by the New Testament’ canon criterion faces one other major flaw. Judges, Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs are not cited in the New Testament, and so would fail to satisfy this criterion of canonicity and drop from our canon. Harris states that they are probably omitted from the New Testament “because of their brevity.”95 But this is no assurance of the propriety of including these five books, and no assurance of the propriety of excluding from the New Testament other brief texts circulated in Hebrew before or at the time of Christ.

If we develop from reason the canon rule that the New Testament’s use of Old Testament texts canonizes them, then we could similarly develop a rule canonizing these texts in the same form in which Christ and the Apostles used them. That is, if the New Testament’s acceptance of Old Testament texts instructs us about which texts we are to include in the Old Testament canon, then certainly its use of the Septuagint should be instructive regarding the authenticity and authority of the Septuagint, in the eyes of the early Church. According to Catholics United for the Faith, 86 percent of the New Testament quotes of the Old Testament are from the Greek Septuagint.96 If the Apostles had believed that the Septuagint contained uninspired texts, it seems that the Apostles would not have used it as their source of Scripture in composing the New Testament texts. But the Apostles did use the Septuagint in their teaching and writing. Therefore, the Apostles believed that the Septuaginal collection was the authoritative source of Scripture of the Old Covenant. It is ad hoc to acknowledge that Jesus and the Apostles treated the Septuagint as the written word of God, but then to deny tout court the canonicity of the books included in the Septuagint. We can imagine that if Christ lived in a time and place where the King James Bible was available, His use of it would be taken today by English Protestants as a divine seal on its canon. Bruce reaches an unsupported conclusion to get around this problem:

When we think of Jesus and his Palestinian apostles, then, we may be confident that they agreed with contemporary leaders in Israel about the contents of the canon. We cannot say confidently that they accepted Esther, Ecclesiastes or the Song of Songs as scripture, because evidence is not available.97

But there is no indication from history that the Jewish leaders in Israel at that time had rejected the deuterocanonical texts. As said above, we know that the New Testament authors–who, prior to the establishment of the New Covenant, would have been obedient to the Jewish leaders–widely used the Septuagint when they quoted the Old Testament. And, as also has been said, the Septuagint contained the deuterocanon as well as other texts beyond the the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament. There is no evidence that there was an immediate change at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection among the Apostles in the use of the Septuagint. If they widely used it when quoting the Old Testament, then without such an immediate change, it seems to follow that they must have widely used it prior to Christ’s death and resurrection. So we have no reason to believe that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had, by the time of Christ, ruled against the Septuagint or the deuterocanonical texts. Otherwise, the deliberation of the rabbis at Jamnia in A.D. 90 about whether the deuterocanonical books were canonical would have been unnecessary. If Jesus and His apostles agreed with the contemporary Jewish leaders in Israel regarding the Jewish canon, then it is likely that these leaders either accepted deuterocanonanonical texts or had reached no conclusion concerning them.

In this section we have seen a number of reasons why the ‘original Hebrew canon’ theory fails to provide an objective listing of the Old Testament scriptures binding on Christians, and therefore fails to answer the Canon Question. There is no historical basis to conclude that any one Jewish group had the authority to pronounce and close the canon for other Jewish groups, or that any one of them could conclude the canon for Christianity. We find not one of the early Church Fathers adopting a 39-book Old Testament canon. In addition, the New Testament identification of the Old Testament cannot be the basis for the Protestant Old Testament canon because it proves too much and too little. The New Testament has many texts which quite probably are references to the deuterocanon, and also identifies as “scripture” a line of text the source of which is still completely unknown. The New Testament does not identify five books which Protestants do treat as canonical. The historical evidence also indicates that the deuterocanonical texts were still accepted at the time of Christ. We have no evidence that there was an ‘original Hebrew canon’ matching the 39-book Protestant canon.

C. NEW TESTAMENT APOSTOLIC AUTHORSHIP:

Another proposed canon test, this one tailored for the New Testament texts, maintains that the proper test for canonizing the New Testament is apostolic authorship, or at least apostolic origin. For example, William A. Sanderson and Carl Cassel have concluded that “the test of canonicity applied by the early church was apostolic authorship.”98 According to Ridderbos:

For the communication and transmission of what was seen and heard in the fullness of time, Christ established a formal authority structure to be the source and standard for all future preaching of the gospel.99

On this point the Catholic heartily will agree. And Ridderbos acknowledges that Jesus appointed an apostolate for this purpose.100 He goes on to make the claim:

we can establish that the apostles’ role in the history of redemption was unique and unrepeatable. Because they not only received revelation but were also the bearers and organs of revelation, their primary and most important task was to function as the foundation of the church. To that revelation Christ binds His church for all time; upon it He founds and builds his church.101

With some of this the Catholic will agree. The Apostles, in accord with their commission from Christ, were to be the foundation of the Church. So they were, in one sense, unique and unrepeatable. But for Ridderbos, the Apostles were only to “function as the foundation of the Church.” The Apostles themselves are not the foundation of the Church; they are mere receptacles of a message that is the foundation. This is similar to the error made by Calvin that I addressed above in Section II.A., in which he saw the “teaching” of the prophets and Apostles as the foundation of the Church. To Ridderbos, then, the divine message received by the Apostles is the only thing that they were to pass on to the Church. For Catholics and Orthodox, by contrast, Christ also gave to the Apostles an authority to preach and teach in His Name, and with His authority, as His representatives. And this missional and magisterial authority can be, and is, passed down through the laying on of hands by the Apostles or those whom they have ordained.

For Ridderbos, Christ founded His Church upon revelation, rather than upon the Apostles themselves. Ridderbos’ position implies that authority within the Church was restricted only to the divine message delivered by Christ, wherever that message was communicated. Relevant at present is the implication this view has on the test for canonicity. If the revelation qua revelation were our authority, and the Apostles were (historically) simply its “bearers and organs,” then authority within the Church passed with the communicated revelation, leaving no authority with the succesor bishops whom the Apostles put in place.

This suggests the following answer to the Canon Question: those books which contain the authoritative revelation given to the Apostles belong to the canon. Some have gone to extensive lengths to prove that the New Testament corpus is from the Apostles either directly or via an amanuensis.102 But Ridderbos rejects this answer to the Canon Question, “because we can no longer establish with historical certainty what in a redemptive-historical sense is apostolic and what is not.”103 The nature of apostolicity was not limited to the twelve Apostles, and we are uncertain of the number or identity of persons who were in some way or other ‘apostolic.’ According to Ridderbos, as “historical judgments cannot be the final and sole ground for the church’s accepting the New Testament as canonical,” this method will not do.104

But Harris and Bruce both argue that Apostolic authorship is a necessary criterion of New Testament canonicity.105 Harris states, “The Lord Jesus did not, in prophecy, give us a list of twenty-seven New Testament books. He did, however, give us a list of the inspired authors. Upon them the church of Christ is founded, and by them the Word was written.”106 But this position faces two insurmountable problems.

First, its primary premise is incorrect. Christ did not give us a list of inspired authors, as Harris claims. Harris may have in mind the synoptic Gospels’ listings of “the twelve apostles,” but these listings do not, of course, include the Apostle Paul. Besides this, the synoptics do not identify the Apostles as “inspired authors.”107 If they did, or if we are to assume this attribute of apostolicity from reason, then it would seem that all of the Apostles’ writings were inspired, not just some of their writings. If that were the case, then we would have already lost some of Scripture, since we can be sure that there were other Apostolic writings besides those that have been canonized. For example, Paul wrote a letter to the Church at Laodicea which is no longer extant.108 Because there is no God-given list of “inspired authors” just as there is no God-given list of the New Testament books, the Protestant can only reach the conclusion that the twelve Apostles were inspired authors through the use of reason or extra-Biblical sources.

Second, this position, that Christ gave a list of inspired authors who wrote out the Word, must be able to prove Paul’s actual apostolicity in order to defend his epistles as having apostolic authorship. But Paul’s apostolicity cannot be settled without resort to Tradition. This position also must defend the ultimate apostolic origin of Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, James, and Jude, books whose apostolic authorship is known only through Tradition. For the sake of brevity I will give an example of a Reformed defense of just one of these books. Harris notes that many scholars doubt the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, which “has less external evidence in its favor than do any of the other books.”109 However, he notes, “there is no evidence that it is not by Peter, except debatable questions of style, and eventually the ancient church was convinced of its authorship.”110

But from the absence of evidence that 2 Peter was not written by Peter, we cannot reach the conclusion that 2 Peter was written by Peter, unless we resort to reliance upon Tradition. If Harris means to rely upon Tradition, as his words about the eventual conviction of the ancient Church imply, then without being ad hoc, he would also need to accept the deuterocanonical books. This is because the ancient Church eventually came to the conviction that the deuterocanonical books were canonical, as shown by the determinations of the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, already discussed above. Also, and of note, Origen, on whom Harris places great weight in concluding that the Protestant rendering of the Old Testament canon is correct, notes wide doubts in his day about 2 Peter’s Petrine authorship.111 Harris is being ad hoc by using Origen when it suits him, and rejecting Origen when it does not. This wide doubt abut 2 Peter’s authorship is itself “evidence that 2 Peter was not by Peter,” which evidence Harris denies exists (“there is no evidence that it is not by Peter, except debatable questions of style”). Also, because Origen wrote in the first half of the third century A.D., we can see how late in time the “eventual conviction” on which Harris relies was in coming.

It is striking that Harris would look to the eventual conviction of the ancient Church. If the ancient Church did not have a conviction about 2 Peter’s canonicity at the point in time closest to that epistle’s composition, then its later-reached conclusions would only become less reliable with the passage of time. Memories of actual authorship would have faded, and opportunities for the inclusion of ‘urban legend’ would have expanded exponentially. That is, the Church’s Traditions would have become less reliable unless the Holy Spirit gave a special grace to the Church to be preserved from error. But if this is Harris’s position, it is again a resort to the ad hoc, because as a Reformed theologian he would deny that the Holy Spirit preserved the Church from error in any other area.

As Ridderbos notes, the position that the early Church accepted what was of apostolic origin “fails to explain why the Epistle to the Hebrews was (again) finally accepted in the West, in spite of the fact that its Pauline authorship was most strongly doubted just by those who were most instrumental in gaining its acceptance, that is, by Jerome and Augustine.”112 That is, Ridderbos admits that during the original process of the formation of the New Testament canon, the criterion of Apostolic origin was not being applied. He also notes that this criterion cannot account for the rejection of the Didache, which was widely accepted in the early church and claimed apostolic origins for itself.113 Finally, the spurious letter of Paul to the Laodiceans “had a place in many manuscripts in the West and apparently around A.D. 600 was still accepted as Pauline by Pope Gregory.”114 For these reasons, this test of canonicity cannot be employed objectively without resort to “debatable” “historical judgments” as the “final and sole ground for the church’s accepting the New Testament as canonical.”115

As we have seen in this section, ‘Apostolic origin’ as a criterion of canonicity for the New Testament fails to provide an adequate answer to the Canon Question. It requires the use of extra-Biblical historical evidence in determining the canon, because Scripture does not list which ‘apostles’ wrote canonical books, does not list Paul with the listing of other Apostles, ad does not guarantee the apostolic authorship of a number of New Testament books. This answer to the Canon Question is not what Jerome and Augustine applies when they simultaneously accepted Hebrews’ canonicity and denied its Pauline authorship. The Apostles, and not merely the message deposited with them, were the foundation of the Church. But the ‘Apostolic origin’ canon criterion makes the assumption that the books containing the Apostolic message are the foundation of the Church and as such belong to the canon. Unless we rely upon tradition and fallible historical judgments to define the canon, we cannot prove with certainty which books are of apostolic origin, or which persons possessed the nature of apostolicity such that their writings would be canonized. For these reasons, this answer to the Canon Question is unreliable and, given the Reformed assumption that whatever authoritatively testifies to the canonicity of Scripture must be more authoritative than Scripture, places Scripture ‘under’ fallible extra-Biblical evidence.

D. WIDESPREAD ACCEPTANCE BY THE EARLY CHURCH:

A fourth criterion used in Reformed and evangelical writings on the canon is that widespread reception of a text by the early Church infallibly establishes its canonicity.116 This reception or acceptance, these scholars maintain, is evidence that the Holy Spirit specially and infallibly led the Church to accept a text as canonical.117 According to Harris, Bruce would even have it that the canon of the New Testament was first settled by a general consent of the whole Church, and recognition of inspiration of the scriptural texts only came later as a “corrollary” of canonicity.118 Ridderbos addresses the Church’s acceptance of the canon this way:

Within the history of Protestant dogma as well, certain utterances have been made that appear to imply ecclesiastical infallibility with respect to the acceptance of the canon. It has been argued . . . that the church received a special gift of the Holy Spirit to enable it to establish the canon by infallibly distinguishing inspired from noninspired writings.

. . . .

Another Protestant viewpoint is that the church’s consensus about the canon arose of itself and so is the clearest proof that in establishing the canon, the church was guided by special providence; history itself, so to speak, offers the evidence for the canonicity of the New Testament. That consensus of the church, or rather that absolute authority acquired by the writings of the New Testament everywhere and without dispute, is then thought to guarantee the canonicity of these [New Testament] writings.119

It would be ad hoc to claim that the “church” infallibly established the canon through widespread acceptance while otherwise being unable to arrive at any infallible conclusions, without a principled basis for affirming infallibility in the one case and denying it in all others. If the Church was not infallibly preserved from error in its early teachings on ecclesiology, iconography, justification, etc., there is no reason to believe it was so preserved from error when its canon came into widespread acceptance. To maintain otherwise would be a textbook case of special pleading. Ridderbos himself rejects this answer to the Canon Question, writing:

From the standpoint of the Reformation . . . reference to the church’s infallibility clearly was never intended to be understood as a basis for the canonicity of the New Testament. The very fact that such infallibility or inspiration is accepted solely with respect to the establishment of the canon and is thus to be qualified as an ad hoc inspiration or infallibility proves that the real order here is just the opposite.120

That is, according to Ridderbos, claiming that the “church” could infallibly establish the canon by widespread acceptance denies the traditional Reformation understanding that the canon is the basis for any infallibility enjoyed by the Church. If the traditional Reformed view that the Church is infallible only insofar as it teaches Scripture is true, then the Church cannot infallibly declare (by widespread acceptance or otherwise) what is Scripture. Either the Church has authority to reach binding doctrinal conclusions, such as the extent of the canon, or it lacks this authority across the board, and thus cannot make any binding determination on the canon.

Besides this logical error, there are other problems within a sola scriptura framework with claiming as a criterion for canonicity that we accept those texts that received widespread acceptance by the early Church. Even if wide acceptance and liturgical use by the early Church would indicate a text’s canonicity, according to Ridderbos, considerations of historical acceptance were not used in the original process of forming the canon.121 He returns from this assertion to his premise that the books were accepted because the Church was certain that these “particular books had been received from the hand of the Lord himself.”122 He says elsewhere:

Yet it is absolutely incorrect historically to imagine that the process of selecting certain writings and of rejecting others took place automatically without argument and debate and so bears visibly the mark of a divine work. It is an undeniable fact, for example, that James, Hebrews, and 2 Peter could not acquire general recognition until the fourth century, that until the sixth century the Syrian church rejected Revelation and of the Catholic Epistles accepted only James, 1 Peter and 1 John, at the same time giving an apocryphal third epistle to the Corinthians a fixed place in the ecclesiastical canon. [Et cetera.]123

There simply was no single corpus of texts universally accepted by the Christians of the early Church. The famous Vincentian canon, “that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all,” cannot be of avail to Protestants in defining the canon, because before or after the Reformation there has never been universal acceptance of the Protestant canon.

Bruce, in his section “Tests in the Apostolic Age” from his chapter “Criteria of Canonicity,”124 sums up what appears ultimately to be his answer to the Canon Question this way:

By an act of faith the Christian reader today may identify the New Testament, as it has been received, with the entire ‘tradition of Christ.’ But confidence in such an act of faith will be strengthened if the same faith proves to have been exercised by Christians in other places and at other times–if it is in line with the traditional ‘criteria of canonicity.’ And there is no reason to exclude the bearing of other lines of evidence on any position that is accepted by faith.125

That is, like Ridderbos, Bruce believes that the Protestant canon as it stands should be accepted as an a priori. But he is also willing to make use of any other evidence that will support the act of faith by which one initially recognizes the Protestant books as belonging to the canon. The prerequisite to using a supplemental canon criterion, including that which has been believed by “Christians in other places and at other times,” seems to be that it yield the conclusion that the canon as it stands in the Protestant Bible is correct. The measure of universal (or at least widespread) acceptance does not tell us which Christians, and from what times, get a vote in this election which is used as “evidence” to prop up confidence in the Protestant canon. It cannot explain why the views of Jerome or Origen should count toward ‘widespread recognition,’ whereas the views of Augustine, or the councils of Hippo and Carthage should not. It cannot explain without resort to ad hoc stipulation why widespread acceptance by the fourth century (or some other early time) is authoritative while the consensus of today’s 1.5 billion Catholic and Orthodox Christians regarding the deuterocanon is not.

E. THAT WHICH PREACHES CHRIST: A CANON WITHIN A CANON:

Lastly I will consider Luther’s own answer to the Canon Question, as well as other early Lutheran permutations. Luther answers the Canon Question by looking internally at the teachings of candidate books themselves. “‘What preaches and urges Christ’ was for Luther the criterion of apostolicity and canonicity.”126 That is, Luther started with Christ, the heart of the Gospel (or his own understanding of Him) and then reflected upon various texts to determine whether or not they preached and urged Christ. If so, they were canonical.

But Luther’s canon criterion has problems too. Objectively applied, this test would seem to allow ancient Christian art to be “canonical,” so long as it urges Christ. However, to give a more familiar shape to the outcome of this test, Luther relies on the Holy Spirit’s movement in his heart to perceive what is ‘preaching Christ.’ In this way, Luther’s view is similar to the theory in section II.A. addressed above. But if Luther’s canonicity test is a version of the Reformed view presented in section II.A., Luther’s application of it, as I shall now show, should be especially disturbing to proponents of Calvin’s view.

Luther spoke boldly against the value and even reliability of certain books that all Protestants treat as canonical. Within the Old Testament, Luther found Christ preached with special clarity in Genesis, Psalms, and Isaiah.127 However, according to Bruce, when challenged by the passage in 2 Maccabees supporting prayers for the dead, “that they might be delivered from their sin,”128 Luther “found a ready reply in Jerome’s ruling that 2 Maccabees did not belong to the books to be used ‘for establishing the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas”129. Bruce goes on to quote Luther thus: “I hate Esther and 2 Maccabees so much that I wish they did not exist; they contain too much Judaism and no little heathen vice.”130 Notice Luther’s special animus toward Esther; if the Spirit’s movement in his heart to see Christ preached is the measure of canonicity, there would be no principled basis for accepting Esther and rejecting Second Maccabees. Notice also that Jerome, while excluding 2 Maccabees, did accept Esther as fit for establishing doctrine. So if Luther “found a ready reply” from Jerome, it was only in an ad hoc fashion. It is worth recalling here that Calvin believed that “Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.”131 To explain Luther’s animus toward Esther, among other books, Calvin would either have to deny that the Holy Spirit was aiding Luther in seeing black from white, or would have to admit that the canonicity of at least some texts is not as plain as black is from white or sweet is from bitter.

If Luther’s perception of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit about some New Testament texts were the measure of canonicity, the New Testament too would have to be altered. He said of Revelation that it “lacks everything that I hold as apostolic or prophetic.”132 Further, he said of Revelation, “For myself, I think it approximates the Fourth Book of Esdras; I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.” Readers may be familiar with Luther’s description of James as a “right strawy epistle.”133 Because at some point in his life Luther did not see the Divine character of several books included in the New Testament canon, if his perception of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit were the measure of canonicity, several books have been wrongly included in the New Testament.

His German New Testament prefaces also set off Hebrews and Jude as lesser books, for he “did not recognize in them the high quality of ‘the right certain capital books.'”134 This view of a collection that gets at the heart of the Gospel, and lesser books that do not, naturally results in a “canon within the canon.”135 For Luther, as for Lutherans today, “the ‘inner canon’ is a Pauline canon,” along with the Gospels.136 This test, coupled with Luther’s opinion against certain books, raises a difficulty for the canon-within-a-canon position. There is no principled standard to determine when a dispute about a book’s getting at the heart of the Gospel, or doing so in a lesser or disputed way, puts a text outside of the inner canon. Even if there were such a standard, it would be extra-biblical and, from the perspective of sola scriptura, effectively superior to the canon. That is because this procedural mechanism has the power, through its narrowness or broadness, to control what will and what will not be in the canon.

The Lutheran theologian W. G. Kümmel follows Luther’s approach. To him, the New Testament books are canonical only to the extent that each is in accord with the norm of the Christian faith, which is the “central proclamation” of the New Testament.137 This position gives rise to a circularity problem: the canon is defined by what preaches Christ, and we know Christ through the canon of Scripture. For this theory to work, we first have to know Christ from some other source besides the Scriptures in order to determine the canon. Hence comes the need for special revelation of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the individual considering whether a given text preaches Christ. As Ridderbos says of the canon-within-a-canon view:

The final decision as to what the church deems to be holy and unimpeachable does not reside in the biblical canon itself. Human judgment about what is essential and central for Christian faith is the final court of appeal.138

That is, by basing the canon on a human determination of what is “holy and unimpeachable,” the human determination is placed above the Bible. Scripture is relegated to a position secondary to human judgment. This characteristic of Luther’s answer to the Canon Question is indistinguishable from the supposed position of the Catholic Church, which depends on the judgments of the Church to determine the canon. For this reason, ‘that which preaches Christ’ as a criterion of canonicity also fails to provide an objective answer to the Canon Question.

III. AUTHORITY TO ANSWER THE QUESTION.

In our quest to determine how we know which texts are divinely revealed, we have found no answer to the Canon Question that does not itself violate sola scriptura by using some criterion external to Scripture to establish which books belong to Scripture. But even if one of the considered criteria could objectively yield a canon without resorting to extra-biblical evidence, the Protestant position suffers a deeper deficiency. As I shall argue, the advocate of sola scriptura, by the terms of his own doctrine, lacks the authority even to give an answer the Canon Question.

The doctrine of sola scriptura maintains that the Bible is to be the Christian’s sole infallible authority. The sine qua non (‘that without which’) of the Reformation is that no Church or other human judgment can be placed over Scripture. Power over the canon is power over Scripture itself because it is the power to eradicate a necessary part of the canon or to add a spurious part to Scripture. So the Reformed position is not any more compatible with the Church or other human judgment being placed over the canon than it is compatible with their placement over Scripture itself.

But the very act of answering the Canon Question inherently involves an extra-Biblical fallible human judgment, unless one is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. This fallible human judgment, by defining the criterion of canon, exercises power over the canon itself. And as I just noted, power over the canon is power over Scripture. Therefore, absent the Holy Spirit’s preserving one from error, to answer the Canon Question is to exercise power over Scripture, and to place one’s judgment over Scripture. So to answer the Canon Question is to violate the doctrine of sola scriptura by placing something over the Christian’s sole infallible authority. If Protestants see the Catholic Church as placing herself ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, so too they should see answers to the Canon Question culled from human reason or extra-Biblical evidence as being ‘over’ Scripture. Since Protestants see the former as violating sola scriptura, there is no principled reason not to see the latter as a violation of sola scriptura.

If I propose a test for determining the canon of Scripture, I must have some basis for the claim that my test is objectively true. Analogously, first-century Christians could not address the question “Is Jesus the Messiah?” without first knowing how, or by what measure, the Messiah would be recognized. And that measure had to have some foundation before it could be accepted. Indeed, this foundation for measuring whether a person was actually the Messiah was established through the revelation of prophets, who themselves had to be tested for reliability and accuracy.139 Likewise, the test that a given Christian community uses to define its canon of Scripture must have a reliable basis. The Catholic or Orthodox Christian will point to the work of the Holy Spirit in the visible Church as the basis for his articulation of the canon, which work is seen in sacred tradition.140 But because the Protestant system rejects basing the canon of Scripture on tradition or any other authority, and rejects that the Holy Spirit works infallibly through the visible Church, it must find some other basis for whatever test or criterion leads to the 66-book canon. If the basis for the Protestant articulation of a canon test is man’s reasoning, then the canon produced is no more reliable than the fallible reasoning that is at its base.

R. C. Sproul has recognized this rationale. He famously has stated that the classical Protestant position does not see the Church as having infallibly defined the canon. According to Sproul, unlike the Catholic position, which maintains that we have an infallible collection of infallible books, and unlike the modern critical scholars’ position, which maintains that we have a fallible collection of fallible books, we actually have “a fallible collection of infallible books.”141 He reasons that because the Church is fallible, “it’s possible that wrong books could have been selected,” but he doesn’t “believe for a minute that that’s the case.”142

Sproul’s own personal confidence, the source of which he does not articulate, does not solve the fundamental problem his understanding of the “historic Protestant position” presents to spiritual descendants of the Protestant Reformation. If it is possible that wrong books were included in the canon, then it is also possible that right books could have been omitted. In this theological environment, our confidence in and obligation to submit to any scriptural text extends only as far as our confidence in the propriety of the text’s inclusion in the canon in the first place. In other words, we can have no more confidence in the infallibility of the content included than we have in the process by which it was included. But in the Protestant scheme, because the process which yielded the canon is fallible, Protestantism cannot have complete confidence in the content of its canon.

A fallible collection of infallible books cannot function as a binding authority, for “what can be more absurd than a probable infallibility, or a certainty resting on doubt?”143 I am reminded of my recent purchase of a “1080” pixel television. I learned that my old DVD player sends out something like 480 pixels. Just as my 480 pixel DVD player cannot yield a 1080 pixel image on my TV, so too my fallible collection of Bible books cannot yield infallible assurance. Again, the text of Scripture can be no more binding than is our conclusion of which texts are to be included. The irony is that the Protestant Reformation was originally premised on Scripture’s ultimate demand for submission, which submission was supposed to lead to certainty and orthodoxy.144

Like Sproul, Ridderbos rejects the Catholic view that the Church has the authority to define the canon. He attempts to maintain the fallibility of the Church without admitting to the fallibility of the canon as Sproul did. First, Ridderbos admits that “Catholic theology explicitly distinguishes the authority of the canon quoad se (“as to itself”) and quoad nos (“as to ourselves”), that is, the authority of Scripture in itself is not dependent on that of the church; only our acceptance of that authority, including recognition of the canon, is.”145 The Catholic Church does not take merely pious texts and convert them to authoritative, divine texts, but rather it determines, in a way that is binding on the faithful, what is already of divine origin, and as such, authoritative. By recognizing the quoad se/quoad nos distinction early on, Ridderbos means fairly to avoid the false claim that the Catholic Church believes Scripture’s authority to be dependent on, and subsidiary to, the authority of the Church.

But what he admits with the one hand, he seems to take away with the other. His objection to Catholic theology is that “the church exceeds its competence by placing itself beside, if not above, the canon.”146 He tells us that if we take Augustine’s famous quote, “I would not have believed the gospel, unless the authority of the Church had induced me,” to mean “that the recognition of the canon by believers rests on the authority of the church, then the church, in fact, usurps the place that properly belongs to the canon alone, thus, at the very least, equating its authority with that of the canon.”147 But a believer’s confidence in the canon resting on the authority of the Church does not place the Church beside or above the canon any more than a believer’s confidence resting on his subjective reflection upon the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit in his heart places his heart beside, if not above, the canon. Therefore, if Ridderbos’s critique of the Catholic Church’s relationship to scripture is accurate, then his own view of canonics would be subject to the same critique.148

The Church does, with its authority, lead believers to accept the Bible, and this in no way places the Church’s authority ‘above’ the canon’s authority. If a mother explains to a child that he is to obey his father as head of the household, the mother has not thereby usurped her husband. If a captain of soldiers instructs his men to obey a particular order of their General, he has not thereby equated his own authority to the General’s authority. Likewise, if we believe the authority of Scripture on the basis of the Church’s authority, the Church has not thereby equated its authority to the Bible’s divine authority.

Returning now to the solution the Protestant must seek out, he must put forward an objective canon criterion having an authority above man as its foundation. The problem for Reformed theology with accepting that recognition of the canon rests on the authority of the Church flows from its preceding rejection of apostolic succession. As Ridderbos puts it:

The Roman Catholic idea is really that apostolic authority has been transmitted to the church and that the church is empowered by its head to make pronouncements about the canon, as well as tradition, that are themselves apostolic and canonical pronouncements. This notion we hold to be again in direct opposition to the history of redemption, in which apostolic power is entirely unique in character and is not capable of repetition or succession.149

But this claim that apostolic power is incapable of repetition is unsubstantiated. The original Apostles shared the characteristics of having been instructed by Christ personally, and having been sent, or commissioned, by Christ. It is true that the group of people who personally were instructed by Christ cannot increase in size today. In that sense, the original Apostles were a unique group, not capable of succession as ‘original Apostles.’ But if this explains Ridderbos’s conclusion, that “apostolic power is entirely unique in character and not capable of repetition or succession,” then he has glossed the distinction between being an ‘original Apostle’ and possessing ‘apostolic power.’ The authority that flows from being sent by Christ is an authority capable of repetition or succession, and can be bestowed on those who were not immediate disciples of Christ. That this distinct apostolic power can be handed down is thoroughly supported by Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers, as shall be discussed here in great detail in subsequent articles.

The canon did not fall from the sky as one collection, of course. As I argued in section II, under sola scriptura, the canon could not be the product of criteria that rely upon evidence external to Scripture, for such evidence would thereby be placed over the canon. And even if the Reformed system could articulate a canon criterion that did not rely upon extra-Biblical evidence, the very process of articulating a canon criterion would violate sola scriptura by subordinating Scripture to an extra-Biblical criterion. The fundamental problem, then, for the sola scriptura position is that it is left without any way of determining the canon that is faithful to its own paradigm of authority.

IV. CONCLUSION

Before Christians can ask the world to accept the Bible as God’s perfect revelation of truth, we must be able to answer the Canon Question: “By what criterion do we know what comprises the Bible?” But, as I have argued, Reformed theology is intrinsically incapable of answering this question. In spite of partially relying on a supposedly objective element–the self-attesting quality of true Scripture–the classical Reformed answer to the Canon Question ultimately depends upon the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit in the heart of each believer to resolve disputes where the objective measure does not produce agreement. For this reason, given the classical Reformed answer to the Canon Question, it is the subjective inward testimony of the Holy Spirit that must ultimately give assurance of a text’s canonicity. But since any two Christians who enjoy the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and who are new to Scripture, might not agree that a given text is canonical, this test is too subjective to be reliable. And because the inner-testimony criterion of Scripture is not reliable, it cannot be our final guide to determining the canon of Scripture.

In this article, I have considered a variety of proposals for reformulating the classical Reformed position to be more objective. But whether measuring Scripture by the ‘original’ Hebrew canon, by the books which are of Apostolic origin, or by those books which received widespread acceptance in the early Church, the criterion would necessarily rely upon extra-Scriptural evidence. I have also here examined Luther’s view that Scripture can be identified as that which preaches Christ; this criterion too necessarily relies upon extra-Scriptural evidence, namely, the individual determination of what preaches Christ. The Protestant critique of the Catholic Church’s view of its relationship to Scripture is that the Catholic Church effectively places itself ‘over’ Scripture by having the power to define the canon. But this critique would apply with equal force to any criterion that measures Scripture by extra-Biblical means. The means would be placed ‘over’ Scripture, and thus violate the doctrine of sola scriptura, which allows no other infallible authority besides Scripture itself.

Finally, the very process of answering the Canon Question violates sola scriptura. That doctrine permits no infallible authority in the Christian’s life save Scripture. But a person answering the Canon Question must employ fallible human judgment to craft the rule by which Scripture’s contents are to be selected. This judgment is extra-Biblical, and is placed over Scripture because it defines the canon. By placing this judgment above the sole permitted infallible authority, the process of answering the question violates sola scriptura.

A canon criterion that judges the canon based on Scripture’s internal attributes will always be of dubious reliability because it depends on subjective human judgment. A canon criterion that judges the canon based on evidence external to Scripture violates sola scriptura, or the Reformed assumption that necessarily accompanies sola scriptura that whatever authoritatively testifies to the canonicity of Scripture must be more authoritative than Scripture, by placing extra-Biblical evidence effectively above the Bible, which is to be the believer’s sole infallible authority. Therefore, every criterion available to Reformed theology to answer the Canon Question will either be of dubious reliability or in violation of sola scriptura (and hence not available to Reformed theology). The fundamental problem, then, for the sola scriptura position is that it is left without any way of determining the canon that is faithful to its own paradigm of authority.

I finish with a challenge, and one I offer with a heart longing for Christian unity. Approach your pastor, or the most knowledgeable Reformed teacher or theologian you know, and ask him how he is certain that the Protestant canon is correct. Ask him which answer to the Canon Question he follows, and why he chose that theory over the others. Wrestle together with him until you have found an answer that both yields the 66-book Protestant canon, and does not rely on subjective bosom-burning or extra-Biblical canon criteria. Let us pray to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit from the depth of our hearts for Christian unity.

  1. Belgic Confession of Faith, art. 2, available here. []
  2. Westminster Confession of Faith [hereinafter WCF], ch. I, sec. 1. []
  3. Id. []
  4. See 1 Peter 3:15. []
  5. Examples of some other variants are given in Ridderbos, p. 1. E.g., Johann Salomo Semler, author of Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Kanons (1771-1775), determined from his studies that what is canonical is “the list of books that might be read [by the early church] in public worship, the books that the bishops thought were the most suitable and in the best interests of good order.” Hermann Diem taught that the test of canonicity is that which “permits itself to be preached.” Ridderbos, p. 6. Ernst Käsemann sees the New Testament texts as contradictory and not the Word of God until such time as the Holy Spirit uses them to lead believers, “in an always new and contemporaneous way,” to gospel truth. Id. quoting Käsemann, Begründet der neutestamentliche Kanon die Einheit der Kirche? (1951-1952), p. 21. []
  6. Harris, pref. []
  7. Cited in F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (1988) [hereinafter Bruce], p. 275. []
  8. Harris, p. 178. []
  9. Id. []
  10. As another example of using a plurality of criteria of canonicity, Bruce uses the “subsidiary criteria” of antiquity and orthodoxy to measure what he views as the original criterion of canonicity–apostolicity. Bruce, p. 255-256, 259. Since apostolicity as a criterion of canonicity is not testable in the present day, because we cannot decisively conclude of which texts the apostles approved, Bruce needs both “subsidiary criteria” to identify the canon. This leaves Bruce in the same place as Harris, i.e., determining the canon by following ‘two lines of approach.’ []
  11. Belgic Confession, art. 5; WCF ch. I, sec. 5. []
  12. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion [hereiafter Institutes], book I, ch. 7, sec. 5. []
  13. Institutes, book I, ch. 7, sec. 2. []
  14. Id. []
  15. However, the question is infrequently taken up elsewhere. As Harris noted, “It is rather strange that more attention has not been given in theological studies to questions of canonicity.” R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures (A Press, 1995) [hereinafter Harris], p. 123. []
  16. Belgic Confession of Faith, art. 5. []
  17. Westminster Confession, I.V. []
  18. See Section III.D. below. []
  19. See Section III.D (discussing the lack of universal agreement in the early church), and III.E (noting Martin Luther’s inability to detect the influence of the Holy Spirit in the book of Revelation). []
  20. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, book I, ch. 7, sec. 1. []
  21. First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Ch. 2, Para. 7. []
  22. Dei Verbum, ch. 3, para. 11. []
  23. St. Augustine, Contra Ep. Fund., V, 6. []
  24. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, book I, ch. 7, sec. 2, quoting Ephesians 2:20 (emphasis added). []
  25. Herman N. Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1988), intro ix. []
  26. Ridderbos, p. 35, emphasis added. []
  27. Ridderbos, p. 9. []
  28. Cf. Belgic Confession, art. 5. []
  29. Although, were it so simple, this position would seem strikingly similar to the canon falling from Heaven. []
  30. See Dei Verbum, art. 11; St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 45; St. Irenaeus, Adv. Her., bk. 2, ch. 28; St. Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, bk. 3, ch. 16. []
  31. Fr. Henry G. Graham, Where We Got the Bible? Our Debt to the Catholic Church (Tan, 2004), p. 38-39. []
  32. See Ellen Flesseman-van Leer, cited in F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, p. 275. []
  33. Ridderbos, p. 9. []
  34. See section III.D. below for more on Luther’s view. []
  35. John Calvin, The Epistle to the Hebrews, the Argument. []
  36. See Christian Cyclopedia, Canon, Bible (Concordia Publishing House, 2000), available here. []
  37. Ridderbos, p. 10. []
  38. Ridderbos here admits that “Calvin’s reasoning may be open to criticism.” Id. []
  39. Bruce, pp. 281-282. []
  40. Ridderbos, p. 35. []
  41. (A Press, 1995.) []
  42. Harris, p. 130. []
  43. Id. []
  44. Harris, pp. 130-133. []
  45. See supra, part III.A. []
  46. For a discussion of the Jewish authority that likely existed to rule on the canon in the early days of Christianity, see the Catholic Encyclopedia article, Canon of the Old Testament, available here. []
  47. Harris, p. 182, quoting William H. Green, General Introduction to the Old Testament, the Canon (New York, Scribner, 1899), p. 124. []
  48. Harris, p. 182; Bruce, p. 40. []
  49. Bruce, p. 41. []
  50. The deuterocanon is that collection of canonical Old Testament writings in the Catholic Bible which Protestant writers commonly refer to as the “apocrypha.” By “apocryphal” here, I mean texts which both Protestants and Catholics would agree are outside the canon. As no original manuscript of the Septuagint exists, scholars have the burden of reconstructing its original contents through later manuscripts, most importantly the Codex Vaticanus (See here), Codex Alexandrinus (See here), and Codex Sinaiticus (See here). []
  51. Harris, p. 182-183. []
  52. Harris, p. 183. []
  53. Id. []
  54. Id. []
  55. Bruce, p. 50. []
  56. Harris, p. 183. []
  57. Cf. Bryan Cross, Ecclesial Deism, Called to Communion. “Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy. Ecclesial deism is not the belief that individual members of the Magisterium could fall into heresy or apostasy. It is the belief that the Magisterium of the Church could lose or corrupt some essential of the deposit of faith, or add something to the deposit of faith.” []
  58. Harris, p. 184. []
  59. Harris, p. 186. []
  60. Harris, p. 185. []
  61. Origen, Letter to Africanus, available here. []
  62. Harris, p. 187. []
  63. Bruce, p. 97. []
  64. Id. []
  65. Bruce, p. 35. That is, “withdrawn, probably, from the synagogue calendar of public readings,” which could not be done to true divine prophecy. Id. []
  66. Harris, p. 154, ff. []
  67. Harris, p. 171. []
  68. Harris, p. 173. []
  69. Harris, p. 178. []
  70. The Vulgate prologues are available here. []
  71. Id. []
  72. Against Rufinus II.33 [A.D. 402]. []
  73. Cf. Harris, p. 131. []
  74. Id. []
  75. Bruce, p. 75. []
  76. Id. []
  77. Bruce, p. 71. []
  78. Bruce, p. 79. []
  79. Bruce, p. 81. []
  80. Id. []
  81. Id. []
  82. Id. Peculiarly, he includes these with his New Testament books! []
  83. Id. []
  84. Theodore of Mosuestia, Catholic Encyclopedia. []
  85. Bruce, p.84. This ‘Septuagintal plus’ is Bruce’s term for the Greek writings that are not part of the Palestinians’ Hebrew text. []
  86. Id. []
  87. Harris, p. 139; Bruce, p. 39. []
  88. Bruce, p. 39. []
  89. Bruce, p. 89. []
  90. Harris, p. 136. []
  91. Harris, p. 288. []
  92. Harris, p. 136. []
  93. Bruce, p. 52. []
  94. Further examples are available here. []
  95. Harris, p. 136. []
  96. Availablehere. []
  97. Bruce, p. 41. His preceding paragraphs discuss the views of the Essenes and Samaritans on the Jewish canon, so the “then” seems misplaced. []
  98. Harris, pref. []
  99. Ridderbos, p. 13. []
  100. Id. []
  101. Id., emphasis added. []
  102. E.g., Harris, p. 260, ff. []
  103. Ridderbos, p. 31. []
  104. Ridderbos, p. 32-33. []
  105. Harris, p. 233, ff.; Bruce, p. 256, ff. []
  106. Harris, p. 247. []
  107. Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16. []
  108. Colossians 4:16. []
  109. Harris, p. 240. []
  110. Id. []
  111. Harris, p. 270. []
  112. Ridderbos, p. 45. []
  113. Id. []
  114. Id. []
  115. See Ridderbos, p. 32-33. []
  116. E.g., Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001), p. 319. []
  117. Id. []
  118. Harris, p. 124. []
  119. Ridderbos, p. 34, emphasis added. []
  120. Ridderbos, p. 34. []
  121. Ridderbos, p. 43. []
  122. Id. []
  123. Ridderbos, p. 35. []
  124. Bruce, p. 255. Note the plurality of tests in these titles. []
  125. Bruce, p. 283. []
  126. Ridderbos, p. 3. See also Bruce, p. 102; Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 1966), p. 83. []
  127. Bruce, p. 102. []
  128. 2 Maccabees 12:45 ff. []
  129. Bruce, p. 101, citations omitted. []
  130. Id. []
  131. Institutes, book I, ch. 7, sec. 2. []
  132. Quoted in Bruce, p. 244. []
  133. R. Laird Harris, pp. 57-58. This was said in the preface to his 1522 edition of the New Testament. Luther, comparing James to the ‘main’ books of the New Testament, said it was “really an espistle of straw, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel in it.” Ridderbos, p. 3. []
  134. Bruce, p. 243. Here Luther shows a favor for the what-preaches-Christ criterion of canonicity over the ‘widespread acceptance’ criterion, since he does not set off 2 Peter or 2 and 3 John in the same way. Bruce, p. 244. []
  135. See Ridderbos, p. 4. []
  136. Bruce, p. 244. []
  137. Ridderbos, p. 5, quoting W. G. Kümmel, Notwendigkeit und Grenze des neutestamentlichen Kanons (ZTK, 1950), p. 312. []
  138. Ridderbos, p. 7. []
  139. Cf. Deuteronomy 18:21-22: “If you say to yourselves, ‘How can we recognize an oracle which the Lord has spoken?,’ know that, even though a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if his oracle is not fulfilled or verified, it is an oracle which the Lord did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously, and you shall have no fear of him.” []
  140. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1117. []
  141. R. C. Sproul, Now That’s a Good Question! (Nelson, 1996), p. 81-82. []
  142. Id. []
  143. John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (U. of Notre Dame Press, 1989), p. 80. As if responding directly to R. C. Sproul’s qualifying statement that he doesn’t “believe for a minute that” wrong books were selected, Cardinal Newman went on rhetorically: “I believe, because I am sure; and I am sure, because I think.” []
  144. Here the words of Catholic convert Peter Burnett, California’s first governor, are worth noting:

    But it did seem to me that those who reject Tradition, under the idea of attaining greater certainty, did, indeed, increase the uncertainty; not only by destroying a part of the law itself, but by attacking the credibility of the only proper and reliable witness to the inspiration and authenticity of the entire canon of Scripture. Peter Hardeman Burnett, The Path Which Led a Protestant Lawyer to the Catholic Church, p. 36.

    []

  145. Ridderbos, p. 33. []
  146. Id. []
  147. Id. []
  148. See also Neal Judisch, Calvin on ‘Self-Authentification’, Called to Communion. []
  149. Ridderbos, p. 33-34, internal citations omitted. []
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  1. […] The Canon Question | Called to Communion. Share: […]

  2. Thanks for all the work you put into this article, Tom. I’ve read all the top hits when you search for Apocrypha on Google. You pretty much countered every argument I read.

    I am trying to understand how the Catholic position is better than the Protestant position. Basically the question is, how do you know what declarations/decisions/teachings of the Magisterium are infallible/inspired/God-breathed, and which are not?

    For instance, I am confused about the difference between Trent and the earlier councils of Hippo and Carthage. How was and how is a council determined to be infallible? And is the “council” at Jerusalem (recorded in Acts) determined to be infallible, or not? (The reason I ask about Jerusalem is that it doesn’t show as one of the 21 Great Ecumenical Councils on NewAdvent).

    How do we know what the declarations of the infallible councils really were? I am asking for a formal answer, but also a practical one – there are a couple of websites that record the texts of the councils (like this one: http://www.piar.hu/councils/ecum01.htm), but where is an authoritative version, and why?

    Along these lines, how does the Orthodox Church determine which books are in the canon?

    A further question is how do we know what is the correct interpretation of the Magisterium’s teachings? Are the teachings of the Magisterium considered perspicuous, unlike scripture? For instance, I have read Exsurge Domine, but I find it really difficult to understand which of the statements are errors in themselves being condemned, and which statements are actually corrections of Luther’s errors. (Exsurge Domine may not be considered infallible, so that may be a bad example).

    I am hoping you have straightforward answers to these questions.

    Also, this isn’t entirely on topic, – so I will be happy with a pointer to an earlier or later article if a long response isn’t due on this thread.

  3. Dear Jonathan,

    Thanks for reading, and for the comment. It sounds like you don’t take umbrage with my critique of the Reformed position on the canon so much as you are concerned that a tu quoque reply may be in order. You said, “I am trying to understand how the Catholic position is better than the Protestant position. Basically the question is, how do you know what declarations/decisions/teachings of the Magisterium are infallible/inspired/God-breathed, and which are not?”

    I attempted to demonstrate how the Reformed position cannot answer the Canon Question within the Reformed system’s own framework and limitations, viz. sola scriptura. Bearing that in mind, a primary difference between the positions, and a reason why the Catholic position is able to answer the Canon Question where the Reformed position is not, is that the Catholic Church can answer the Canon Question within its own framework. The Catholic Church does exist in a doctrinal environment which rejects as a source of infallible authority anything but Scripture. Therefore, the Catholic Church can articulate the scope of the canon without resting on fallible human determinations. Rather, it can make the bold claim that the Holy Spirit has actively guided the Church to a determination of the canon without admixture of error. The Reformed can make this claim too, and some do as I noted in section II.D, but this claim is ad hoc in that it denies the possibility that the Church was preserved from error in any other regard.

    Then, I think you are asking, how do we know which of the Catholic Church’s teachings are infallible? How is it that the Catholic avoids the same position of building a claim of infallible truth (i.e., the Bible’s contents) on a fallible human judgment (i.e., the determination of the Bible’s scope)? Because the Catholic Church believes that certain determinations of the Magisterium are preserved from error. And unlike the Reformed system, this teaching authority can itself articulate which teachings are infallible and which are not.

    About which council teachings are infallible, and about Orthodoxy’s answer to the Canon Question, I will need to answer these questions tomorrow evening (I’m at the airport about to catch a flight), or leave it to one of my fellows to answer.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  4. This Canon question is so foundational, I’m very happy to see it being addressed it in such a substantive manner. As a new convert myself (April ’09) I can say that the Canon issue was very pivotal in my learning to understand the need for a living Magisterium, and to appreciate how that Magisterium has functioned, down through the centuries, to guard the truth and to proclaim it.

    Kudos, and keep up the good work!

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff Holston

  5. It is a question (i.e. the canon issue) that I find fascinating, even though I am no longer a Christian, and in fact no longer a believer at all. It is similar to the issue of authority in a political context, which has even to this day has not been definitively resolved to the satisfaction of many.

  6. Hi Tom,
    You certainly put a lot of work into this on the canon.

    Footnote # 72, Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]

    The reference looks like 11. There is no “11” or I cannot find it. Could you tell us where you get this reference? I cannot find “Against Rufinus 11” at ccel nor newadvent.

    Sincerely,
    Ken Temple

  7. Ken,

    It should be II as in Book 2 chapter 33. Thanks for pointing that out.

  8. Ken and Tim,

    Thanks for pointing that typographical error out and getting to the bottom of it. I’ve corrected the document accordingly. Ken, it’s nice to think that some people really do check out our citations! They take effort, but make a world of difference in the final product.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  9. Jeff, thank you for the kind note. I agree that this is a pivotal issue, and I hope that our Reformed readers will take note.

    If you are Reformed and want to understand better why some of us have chosen to “Pope,” or if you want to challenge others to stop them from doing so, I believe you would be spending your time well to read up on this matter of the canon.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  10. I feel like I stepped into the Great Canon Debate when I started checking my RSS feeds today! This here and a Reformed/Calvinist perspective over at Parchment and Pen.

    Tom, I was trained at a Nazarene university and came to the same conclusions you have here. I’ve not figured out how so many of my Protestant brothers and sisters have come to other conclusions. This issue, among others, led me from Protestantism to Anglicanism. I have not yet made the leap to the Catholicism — a few nagging issues keep me from it.

    Thanks for the well-written and well-cited post!

  11. Tom,

    Excellent article. I don’t know how you were able to summarize every reformed theory of the canon and prove it to be unworkable without writing a 300 page book. Every self consciously reformed Christian needs to read this. Personally, you’re point about Calvin inserting the word “teachings” into Ephesians 2:20 was extremely helpful. You’re right, the text says “they” were the foundation, but to Calvin it was merely their teachings.

    Great work! Jeremy

  12. Tom,

    Question: Why is the Catholic’s claim that “the church determines the canon” NOT tantamount to placing the church above Scripture, while the Protestant’s claim that “the Spirit’s inward testimony determines the canon” IS tantamount to placing that testimony above Scripture?

    In other words, if a Catholic can say that Scripture is above the church, why can’t the Protestant say that Scripture is above the Spirit’s inward testimony?

  13. Hi Tom,

    Yes I am wondering if a tu quoque argument is in order. Or, rather, I’d like to understand why not.

    “The Reformed can make this claim too, and some do as I noted in section II.D, but this claim is ad hoc in that it denies the possibility that the Church was preserved from error in any other regard.”

    Another way of saying it – I am trying to understand why the Catholic belief is less ad hoc. I don’t completely understand the boundaries of the infallibility of the Magisterium, but whatever those boundaries are, are not those boundaries also ad hoc?

    Why, for instance, are the pope’s statements infallible only when meeting certain criteria (e.g. the statement must define a matter of faith of morals). Why is it only the pope who makes infallible statements, and not just any bishop of the Church? Are not all these boundaries ad hoc? How did the Church come to the conclusion that these boundaries of certainty were correct, without Christ establishing the boundaries in the first place? (Or did He?)

  14. […] (Reformed Baptist Protestant apologist) James White, inviting him to engage the arguments of the Canon of Scripture article at CalledToCommunion.com: Dear Mr. […]

  15. […] Okay, start here: […]

  16. Dear Jason,

    Thanks for contributing. You asked:

    Why is the Catholic’s claim that “the church determines the canon” NOT tantamount to placing the church above Scripture, while the Protestant’s claim that “the Spirit’s inward testimony determines the canon” IS tantamount to placing that testimony above Scripture?

    I’m not attempting to argue that there is such a distinction, since I don’t see a need for the distinction in my overall argument. I imply this through a qualification I made in a few places, including this preface:

    There, I shall argue that, given the Reformed assumption that whatever authoritatively testifies to the canonicity of Scripture must be more authoritative than Scripture, each of them necessarily places extra-biblical evidence above Scripture in its effort to objectively identify the canon.

    The assumption to which I referred is seen in various places in the article, for example, in the quotation accompanying footnote 26. I am speaking of an assumption made by the Reformed that does not exist within Catholicism. Like I said in the article, “If Protestants see the Catholic Church as placing herself ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, so too they should see answers to the Canon Question culled from human reason or extra-Biblical evidence as being ‘over’ Scripture. Since Protestants see the former as violating sola scriptura, there is no principled reason not to see the latter as a violation of sola scriptura.”

    In this way, there is no need to make a distinction between the Catholic and Reformed views about which you were asking. My point is not that there is a distinction, but that the Reformed view is internally inconsistent or is ad hoc to see the the Catholic Church as placing herself “over” Scripture while denying that its own methodology of determining the extent of the canon is “over” Scripture.

    It may help to add why the Catholic Church does not see itself as being “over” Scripture for having deliberated upon the extent of the canon. This is because the Catholic Church sees herself as having cooperated with the Holy Spirit in articulating the canon. Please see the text accompanying footnotes 21 – 23 for more on this. As she sees herself cooperating with the Holy Spirit, being guided into truth, the Catholic Church does not have the power to add or subtract from the canon, because to do so would exceed her power. (This is analogous to Pope John Paul II’s declaration that the Church has no authority to ordain women. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.)

    I hope this clears up the question for you. Please let me know if not.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  17. Tom,

    Thanks for your reply. You write:

    My point is not that there is a distinction, but that the Reformed view is internally inconsistent or is ad hoc to see the the Catholic Church as placing herself “over” Scripture while denying that its own methodology of determining the extent of the canon is “over” Scripture.

    But are really only saying that the Reformed view, while as plausible as the Catholic one, suffers from a silly inconsistency? Can this whole thing be resolved if I simply grant that the Catholic view preserves Scripture’s authority over the church, but it’s just that I don’t agree with it, but prefer my own equally valid position?

  18. Jason,

    Hope I’m not intruding. If the Reformed view suffers from inconsistency then it is not as plausible as the Catholic view because the Catholic view is consistent.

  19. Hey Tim,

    OK, but if we sheepishly acknowledge our inconsistency, are we good? During this season of ecumenicity, there’s no reason to unnecessarily celebrate our differences, right?

  20. Gentlemen,

    Reformed guy becoming Catholic here. For the sake of clarifying what is the issue here, Tom, is your charge that the Reformed accusation against Catholics–that Catholics put something external over the Scripture in determining the canon–is inconsistent, since they replace the Magisterium with internal testimony of the Holy Spirit? Or is it that the Reformed position on the canon–i.e., Scripture’s self-authenticating nature, with the Holy Spirit testifying with and by the word–is inconsistent with the facts of history/personal experience?

    Jason, which of these do you hear Tom saying? Neither of these but something else?

    Just trying to understand the exchange here.

    Pax,
    Barrett

  21. Dear Barrett,

    Thanks for engaging in the conversation. My reply to Jason involved the first of the two arguments you noted, though both appear (though in slightly different form and wording) in my article.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  22. Jason – sorry I didn’t see what you were driving at. I’ll lay low and let you and Tom hash it out for a bit :-)

  23. Dear Jason,

    You said the following in reply to my comment that the Reformed position is either internally inconsistent or ad hoc:

    But are really only saying that the Reformed view, while as plausible as the Catholic one, suffers from a silly inconsistency? Can this whole thing be resolved if I simply grant that the Catholic view preserves Scripture’s authority over the church, but it’s just that I don’t agree with it, but prefer my own equally valid position?

    I am ‘really’ saying that the Reformed position is either internally inconsistent or ad hoc. I am not saying that the Reformed view is “as plausible as the Catholic one.” I think you mistook this for what I did say, which was: “I’m not attempting to argue that there is such a distinction, since I don’t see a need for the distinction in my overall argument.

    Further, I deny that (if granted) this is a “silly inconsistency.” The Reformation is built on the foundation of sola scriptura, specifically, that the Bible is the Christian’s highest or ultimate authority on all matters of the faith. The Reformers rejected their (human) ecclesial authorities because, in the Reformers’ opinion, those ecclesial authorities had usurped Scripture. I have argued that if consistent and not ad hoc, the Reformed system would also need to reject whatever methods it has used to articulate the content of the canon of Scripture, because these methods would similarly usurp Scripture. Without a measure or determinant of the canon there can be no known corpus of Scripture, and without a known corpus of Scripture, there can be no sola scriptura. Without sola scriptura, once one has rejected sacramental ecclesial authority, one is left with no ecclesial authority at all. That is why I do not see it as a silly inconsistency, but as a critical one.

    Regarding your question of whether “this whole thing be resolved if [you] simply grant that the Catholic view preserves Scripture’s authority over the church, but it’s just that [you] don’t agree with it, but prefer [your] own equally valid position?”, I say that the Catholic system does not preserve Scripture’s authority over the Church, but rather that Catholic ecclesiology preserves a proper understanding of the Church’s cooperative relationship to Scripture.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  24. Dear Jonathan,

    A tu quoque response is not in order because the Catholic position is not internally inconsistent or ad hoc with regard to the determination of the canon, whereas the Reformed position is internally inconsistent or ad hoc. I see now that your concern is with the latter possibility: “I am trying to understand why the Catholic belief is less ad hoc.”

    If we assume for the sake of discussion that out of these two possibilities the Reformed position is ad hoc, then let me reiterate in what way it would be ad hoc. It would be ad hoc for the Reformed position to maintain that “no evidence outside of Scripture can determine the canon,” as it necessarily must, but simultaneously to allow extra-Biblical criteria such as the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, or conclusions about the widespread acceptance of the early Church, to determine the extent of the canon.

    Contrariwise, the Catholic Church is not ad hoc in its method of determining the canon. The Catholic Church believes that she was aided by the Holy Spirit in deliberating upon those texts that were claimed to be divinely inspired, and in selecting the correct ones from that set. She believes that her bishops have authority from Christ to reach such theological conclusions. Since the Catholic method of determining the canon is entirely consistent with the Church’s own ecclesiology, the Church is not being ad hoc in allowing for this deliberative process and conclusion about the canon. Note here that it is not the fallibility of the Reformed method that makes it subject to the inconsistency-or-ad-hoc criticism, so any supposed fallibility within the Catholic position would not thereby make it ad hoc.

    You did ask about infallibility, though, so let me touch on that here. When the boundaries of infallibility are determined, they are determined by the Catholic Church. This is entirely consistent with the Catholic Church’s view of the teaching authority given to her by Christ. The boundaries are not always clearly defined, and in many areas of theology are still open to debate. The boundaries do not need to be clearly defined in all areas, because it is the episcopate, not its “teaching,” that holds authority over Christians. (Recall my discussion in section II.A. of Calvin’s insertion of “teaching” to Ephesians 2:20.) The faithful can look to their bishop, and trust in his absolution of sin, for their assurance of being in a state of grace. This is their concern, not formulaic accession to infallible teaching.

    For more on the subject of infallible teachings and the Catholic Church, I know at least one good reference: Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

    The pope is not the only agent of the Magisterium who can teach infallibly – the Bishops when speaking in a General Council can also do so. In either case, this only occurs when addressing immediately revealed truths, as Ott addresses in much greater detail. Note that their articulation of such Truth is not necessarily an infallible and perspicuous articulation – it could possibly be said better, but is truth nonetheless. These teachings on the teaching of Truth are not themselves ad hoc because their articulation is within the teaching authority that the Catholic Church understands herself to have been given by Christ. To be ad hoc, the Catholic Church would need to believe that she only had authority to teach in a way that binds consciences on theological subjects A, B, and C, but then also to teach in a binding way on her own teaching authority.

    Last, you asked: “How did the Church come to the conclusion that these boundaries of certainty were correct, without Christ establishing the boundaries in the first place? (Or did He?)” By way of the Church, Christ did establish boundaries of certainty, because He gave the Church its teaching authority when he commissioned and anointed the Apostles. Because their episcopal successors can act in persona Christi in leading the Church, the Church is not ad hoc when it does the likes of defining the canon, or defining what is infallible revelation, binding dogma, common teaching of the faith, mere theological opinion, etc.

    I hope this has been a helpful start at cracking the surface of this topic. A separate post may be in order, and certainly I hope that we will tend to these matters in more depth in a future article.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  25. It would be ad hoc for the Reformed position to maintain that “no evidence outside of Scripture can determine the canon,” as it necessarily must, but simultaneously to allow extra-Biblical criteria such as the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, or conclusions about the widespread acceptance of the early Church, to determine the extent of the canon.

    Tom,

    You have raised lots of issues in your lengthy essay, but for now let me just address this one. You seem to be understanding us to say that the internal evidences are all that should be used to determine canonicity outside the context of the Church. But we do believe that it was the Church who made just these sorts of judgments. When the Church received the canon she did not flip coins to determine which books were in and which were out. The books that were received by the Church really did have the stamp of Apostolicity and the Church saw this and received them. There were internal evidences for the books because God inspired them, and the Church then by the Spirit’s power recognized them.

    The exact books of the canon are not defined in Scripture but this does not obviate the general principle of sola scriptura. As an analogy take the US Constitution. We believe that the Constitution is the final bar of authority for all legal/civil matter in the US. We thus believe in sola-constitution so as to speak. Now if someone were to ask me how the elements of the constitution were determined I would appeal to the process by which the Founding Fathers defined the Constitution. But I would not use the Constitution to determine the elements of the Constitution, would I? But the fact that I in some sense appeal to something outside of the Constitution does not obviate my principle of sola constitution. The Constitution is still the final bar of authority even though I do not appeal to the Constitution when determining the elements of the Constitution. OK so far? All right, then the same basic idea holds for the Bible. I believe insola scriptura. in that the Scriptures is the final bar of authority for spiritual matters, but that does not mean that I am violating sola scriptura. by appealing to something (i.e. the Church) outside the Scriptures to determine the elements of Scripture.

    Your Calvin quotes should not be taken as an all encompassing apologetic. If you are going to look for a specific apologetic against Catholicism I would go to someone whose purpose this was. I think you would better off quoting someone like Mathieson as Bryan did in the last big essay. From my standpoint both Protestant and Catholic appeal to the Church as the vehicle God used to form the canon. Four conceptual possibilities here are:
    1) An infallible God worked through an infallible Church to produce the canon
    2) An infallible God worked through a fallible Church to produce the canon
    3) A fallible God worked through a fallible Church to produce the canon
    4) A fallible God worked through an infallible Church to produce the canon.

    I hope no sane person would choose option #4. Liberals often adopt or lean towards #3. Conservative Protestants generally understand #2 to be correct, while conservative Catholics see #1 as being true.

    Now I now you will disagree with #2, but I would point out that #2 will produce an infallible canon just as much as #1 will. For this reason I would say that the Church being infallible is superfluous if what we are aiming for is assurance and infallibility of the canon. Note I am not arguing here that the Church is not infallible at this point, only that she does not need to be infallible for the canon to be infallible. The adoption of position #2 above does not (and has not) produced an epistemological crisis among the Reformed.

    …the premise that all Protestants agree on the canon is false.

    Yes, I agree. In fact most protestants don’t agree on the canon and don’t even care about the canon. However, in previous threads I have argued that there is no disagreement among the Reformed on the canon. And actually I think it could be argued that there is no disagreement among Evangelicals on the matter. For all the epistemological problems that Evangelicals have in other areas, on the canon they are solid. At least I cannot remember ever hearing of an Evangelical scholar who expressed any sort of doubt on this matter.

  26. RCIA candidate here. Grew up in the Church of Christ. I was talking about the canon issue a while back with my brother, and he asked me, “You may know what books belong in the canon because the Catholic Church tells you, but how do you know you can trust the Catholic Church?” For some background information, my brother, I think, doesn’t really believe in the Reformed view that, as you explain, “the Holy Spirit [working in an individual person] is our immediate assurance of the canon’s truth.” But he does believe (or at least the Churches of Christ as a whole seem to believe) “that the reliability of Scripture appears from within Scripture itself,” in the sense that the Bible canon can be proven through its fulfilled prophecies, endorsement from Jesus or the Apostles (which you responded to in your article), historical accuracy, etc. Basically, he’s asking (and I’m asking): If one has to have a teacher to tell him what the right canon is (since reason alone isn’t enough and results in different conclusions and subjectivity), does he not also have to have someone to tell him to trust the teacher? It seems like perhaps a never-ending cycle. I have thought of responses, but they’re all pretty vague. What would you say about this issue?

  27. Dear Mateo,

    Fellow RCIA candidate here. Thanks for your involvement here. You asked:

    If one has to have a teacher to tell him what the right canon is (since reason alone isn’t enough and results in different conclusions and subjectivity), does he not also have to have someone to tell him to trust the teacher? It seems like perhaps a never-ending cycle.

    In a few of my responses above, I’ve touched on distinctions between my critique of sola scriptura and the Catholic view. I want to be clear that the reason-alone-isn’t-enough-and-results-in-different-conclusions-and-subjectivity point you raised, while a problem for sola scriptura, is not a problem to the Catholic. I wonder if what I wrote to Jonathan in #24 above explaining why this is not a problem for the Catholic clears up the issue for you. If not, please just let me know which part there isn’t clicking or seems wrong.

    The Catholic can trust the successors of the Apostles. They are successive bearers of the testimony of the Truth of Christ that the Apostles themselves once bore and took to the nations. We can trust them as our teachers, and we can have confidence in their remaining in the truth, because they were sent and anointed by Christ. There is no vicious cycle in this understanding. I can believe the successor bishop today just like I could have believed the Apostle John nearly 2,000 years ago.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  28. Hi Andrew,

    I wouldn’t push the Constitution analogy too far. The Constitution was not written inerrantly under divine inspiration (pace some people I know!), and it is revisable under certain conditions. The ultimate bar of authority (in theory) is not the Constitution but the people of the United States, as the Constitution itself says in the Preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” I think you’ll see from this why I get very nervous about comparing the composition and function of the Constitution to the Church’s recognition of the canon. Also, “sola constitutione” isn’t quite right even within the analogy, not only because the Constitution is founded on the authority of the people, fallible, and revisable, but because there exists a (very fallible!) “living magisterium” of sorts to interpret it authoritatively—the Supreme Court. In any event, I don’t think the Constitution analogy is going to get us very far.

    Now for the important part. You wrote:

    From my standpoint both Protestant and Catholic appeal to the Church as the vehicle God used to form the canon. Four conceptual possibilities here are:
    1) An infallible God worked through an infallible Church to produce the canon
    2) An infallible God worked through a fallible Church to produce the canon

    And then:

    Now I now you will disagree with #2, but I would point out that #2 will produce an infallible canon just as much as #1 will. For this reason I would say that the Church being infallible is superfluous if what we are aiming for is assurance and infallibility of the canon. Note I am not arguing here that the Church is not infallible at this point, only that she does not need to be infallible for the canon to be infallible.

    You are, of course, correct that “#2 will produce an infallible canon just as much as #1 will.” I take it that Tom would readily agree that this is possible. But Tom has shown that, while internally consistent, this is ad hoc. So pointing out that #2 is a possibility without showing that it is not ad hoc does not really engage Tom’s argument.

    To be a little tongue-in-cheek, I’d find #2 more convincing if I opened Matthew 28 and read, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and produce an infallible New Testament of divinely inspired writings, then infallibly collect them,” or if I read in John 16, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to the infallible identification of the canon of Scripture.” Failing that, I think Tom’s right: #2 is certainly possible, but it’s ad hoc.

    in Christ,

    TC
    1 Cor 16:14

  29. > 3) A fallible God worked through a fallible Church to produce the canon

    That is a funny statement. In defense of liberal Christians, I don’t know any who believe in a “fallible” God! But it would probably be correct to say that many liberals believe that an _infallible_ God worked through a fallible Church to produce a _fallible_, (but inspiring) canon.

  30. Tom, thank you for the further explanation in #24.

  31. Dear Andrew,

    You pulled out a quote of mine from this combox, and then said: “You have raised lots of issues in your lengthy essay, but for now let me just address this one. ” And then you levied a criticism: “You seem to be understanding us to say that the internal evidences are all that should be used to determine canonicity outside the context of the Church. But…”

    Please consider reading the full article, or at least the portions of my article where I raise the one issue you think you are addressing. You should at least read Sections I and III, as well as the sub-section of section II that applies to the perspective you intend to defend or address — in this case I believe that is section II.A. In this case, you misapprehend what I “seem to be understanding” based on the statement of mine from the combox. In the article, I go in depth into addressing the classical and confessional Reformed position, and how it consists of both an objective and a subjective element. I argue from there in a way that leads up to my statement that you quoted, but I won’t repeat all that here.

    As for your Constitution analogy, I embrace the analogy, and see your understanding of its as false. You said:

    We believe that the Constitution is the final bar of authority for all legal/civil matter in the US. We thus believe in sola-constitution so as to speak. Now if someone were to ask me how the elements of the constitution were determined I would appeal to the process by which the Founding Fathers defined the Constitution. But I would not use the Constitution to determine the elements of the Constitution, would I?

    As “TC” noted, the Constitution is not the “final bar of authority” in the United States. He noted that the Constitution was formed by the People. I would add that the Constitution has an Article III creating a judiciary that within the first generation came to interpret the Constitution over the other branches of government, and more importantly for our purposes has an Article V that allows for amendment by the Congress or a convention raised by the states. What you can amend at will you are superior to. So the Constitution cannot be the final bar of authority where it has an authority that can amend it. Further, the Constitution is a discrete unitary writing, not composed of “elements” (as you say) like the Bible is comprised of disparate texts written by many authors, some unknown, over the course of many centuries and even in several languages. The Constitution identifies itself (see, e.g., the Supremacy Clause), and is unmistakable in its scope. So you would use the Constitution to identify itself, because you have one piece of paper that says at the top: “We the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.” I like the analogy to Scripture, because both are discussions of the relationship between an authoritative text and a system of governance. But in all these ways that I have noted, the Constitution does not and cannot lend support to the idea of sola scriptura.

    You also criticized my sourcing, although you did not demonstrate where I misrepresented the Calvinist apologetic against Catholicism. Since I don’t know which Calvinist argument I should have included, I can’t tell how many more sources you would have me read. You said:

    Your Calvin quotes should not be taken as an all encompassing apologetic. If you are going to look for a specific apologetic against Catholicism I would go to someone whose purpose this was. . . . I think you would better off quoting someone like Mathieson [sic] as Bryan did in the last big essay.

    Again, please do read the essay. You will see that I not only made use of Calvin, but also heavily relied upon Ridderbos, Harris, and Bruce. Each of these authors addressed the Catholic view, but you will kindly note that I am not arguing against the Reformed critique of Catholicism. I am critiquing the Reformed view of the canon. So to an extent their critique of Catholicism is irrelevant to my premise. I left Mathison out because it added nothing to my argument, and was extensively covered in our last article, as you noted. I left out other Protestant authors whom I have read on the canon as well, because at some point you have to limit citations.

    You said: “Four conceptual possibilities here are: . . . ” Please review the section where I discussed R. C. Sproul’s view on the fallibility of the canon. He takes up your possibilities in his work, which I cited.

    You said: “For all the epistemological problems that Evangelicals have in other areas, on the canon they are solid. At least I cannot remember ever hearing of an Evangelical scholar who expressed any sort of doubt on this matter.”

    Let me repeat here what I said about this in the article, because it may be worth repeating:

    Today’s average Protestant does not study why he has the Protestant 66-book canon, and does not independently decide if the Bible handed to him is correct. Rather, he accepts as an a priori of his Protestant faith that the 66-book canon is correct. Belief that the 66-book canon is right is part and parcel with the small cluster of unifying evangelical Protestant beliefs. Since it is a unifying principle for most Protestants, we would hardly expect to see anything but universal agreement; thus we can draw no lessons about the canon from this widespread agreement. (See supra section II.A.).

    I realize it’s a long article, but that had to be, because so many issues can spin off from my single argument. I hope you will get a chance to sit down and read it all.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  32. Tom,

    Thanks for writing this article. I can tell you’ve really put thought and work into it, and it’s quite helpful in addressing most of the Reformed arguments concerning the canon. Being Reformed myself, I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion you come to, but I think your critiques of the arguments are good. There is one argument that (forgive me if you’ve addressed this and I somehow missed it) I don’t think was covered in the article that I’m wondering what you think of. It was articulated by Dr. James White in his Scripture Alone, and it basically goes like this: we have certainty about the canon of Scripture based on God’s purposes in giving it. Scripture tells us that God’s Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11) and we know from the use of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers that the Word of God is intended to be used by the people of God. If God has inspired various books for the encouragement and instruction of His people, then it necessarily follows that He would guide His people (the Church) to recognize these books. Thus, we have certainty in our knowledge of the canon based on God’s purposes, and not the Church’s recognition of the canon. In his view, the declarations of the canon by the Church hierarchy were only later official recognitions of what God’s people had already been led to realize.

    I can see a few holes in this view (though not nearly so much as in some other Reformed views on the canon), but I’m wondering what you think of it. It’s somewhat unique; I don’t think I’ve seen it used anywhere else.

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  33. Tom,

    You definitely answer part of my question when you say, “Since the Catholic method of determining the canon is entirely consistent with the Church’s own ecclesiology, the Church is not being ad hoc in allowing for this deliberative process and conclusion about the canon.” The fact that the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is more consistent with regard to the canon (and many other areas, like doctrine and Church governance) than many or all Protestant Churches helps us to have a basis for having faith in the Bible, the written Word.

    The other aspect of my question may even be slightly off topic. While we have a basis for believing in the Bible, what basis do we have for believing in the Catholic Church? For my brother especially, we avoid subjectivity with regard to the Bible (i.e., there is one, definitive Catholic canon as opposed to differing, individual, non-definitive views about the canon as there were with the reformers), but the question of which church is the right one is still up in the air. How can we know that the Catholic Church really does go back to Jesus without having to rely on our own, personal, subjective judgment (which is what we’re criticizing them, the Protestants, for doing with regard to the canon? Or are we?)?

  34. Spencer,

    The theory you are proposing in no way leads us to believe that the Protestant 66 book canon is correct. If God did lead the Church into selecting the correct canon, which we believe He did, then it is the 73 book canon that the Church has always affirmed. (See our arguments under the “Nature of the Church” in our Note to Readers .

  35. Mateo,

    The basis for believing the Catholic Church is, aside from our ecclesiological arguments that I referred to in #34, apostolic succession. We will have a lead article on that topic in a few months, but we believe in the Church which is in objective succession from the apostles, i.e. the rightful heirs to the gospel. The critique of the Protestant claim does not apply to our recognition of the Church because our recognition has objective criteria that in no way depends on our private interpretation of Scripture.

  36. Tom,

    You pulled out a quote of mine from this combox, and then said: “You have raised lots of issues in your lengthy essay, but for now let me just address this one. ” And then you levied a criticism: “You seem to be understanding us to say that the internal evidences are all that should be used to determine canonicity outside the context of the Church. But…”

    I went through your points but I cannot answer everything in your essay without giving an essay length answer back. If we cannot break your essay down then I cannot explain where I think you have gone wrong. I was trying to speak to your 2.A point which is what I think you were focusing on in post #24. If I have to answer all your points at once, then I give up.

    You and TC are reading way too much into my analogy. The Constitution calls itself the “supreme law of the land.” Now if someone where to ask me about the appropriate elements of the Constitution I would refer him to something outside the Constitution. If he were to tell me I was being inconsistent by appealing to something outside the Constitution if the Constitution was the supreme law of the land, I would say that he has misunderstood the concept of the supreme law of the land. So likewise I say that the Bible is our supreme law spiritually or is the final bar of authority. Now if someone asks me what the appropriate elements (books) of the Bible are I would appeal to something outside of the Bible. If they tell me I’m being inconsistent I tell them that they don’t understand the concept of being the final bar of authority (sola scriptura).

    OK, so maybe that’s not a helpful analogy for you – fine. So let me just state bluntly that sola scriptura does not obviate the appeal to something outside scripture. The Church received the canon. We have no issues stating this. We are appealing to a source outside of Scripture but we are not contradicting sola scriptura. I hope this makes sense why this is true, but if not ask me.
    I did read all of your Calvin quotes.

    I did not want to comment on them all one by one because my point was the same with all of them. Calvin was not attempting a comprehensive apologetic to Catholics here. He has a Protestant audience here, and even when he speaks of Catholics he is speaking to Protestants with assumptions that none of us Reformed folks are going to question. But you are raising issues concerning the relationship between the Church and the canon that are not at issue when Protestant speaks to Protestant. They are good questions but Calvin does not address them. It would be the similar situation if an atheist read Calvin. He would think that Calvin was crazy and he would think that your answer to Calvin was crazy too. You and I share a great many assumptions concerning God, his revelation to us, etc that the atheist would reject. So we must have a different approach to the atheist when he asks us about Scriptures. And likewise Protestants need a different approach to the question of canon when we speak to Catholics than when we are writing to teach and encourage other Protestant about Scripture (which is what Calvin does in The Institututes and other works). I don’t mind talking about the other writers, but let’s do Calvin first.

    I would not use Sproul as representative of the Reformed position. We have talked about his position here a number of times. It’s just not the way the Reformed go about the question in general. If you don’t believe me try asking some of your Reformed friends who have thought through the canon question.

    It would be ad hoc to claim that the “church” infallibly established the canon through widespread acceptance while otherwise being unable to arrive at any infallible conclusions, without a principled basis for affirming infallibility in the one case and denying it in all others. If the Church was not infallibly preserved from error in its early teachings on ecclesiology, iconography, justification, etc., there is no reason to believe it was so preserved from error when its canon came into widespread acceptance.

    This point does sort of get to my cases #1 through 4 which I hoped you might take up. It is not ad hoc to hold that the production of the Scriptures in infallible while other action of the Church are not. God promised that the production of the Scriptures were theopneustos so our claiming infallibility for the Scriptures via the agency of the Church stems from God’s promise that Scriptures are His words. But he never said that tradition was theopneustos and the RCC does not claim that tradition is inspired. There is a distinction between Scripture and tradition and thus we distinguish the work of the Church in receiving the canon and her forming traditions outside of Scripture. Could there be any more principled distinction than that God distinguishes the Scriptures? Now you may be able to come up with some reason why you think that de fide pronouncements of the Church are infallible, but I think you can hardly say that there is no principled distinction between the Church’s work in receiving inspired books and her work in writing uninspired traditions.

  37. Spencer,

    The theory is OK. It does seem to lead to a 73 book cannon. If you don’t want a 73 book cannon that is a problem. The other feature of the argument is there are close parallels that can be draw with other doctrines. For example, the papacy and apostolic succession. To make the argument work you need to either accept generally that whenever God guides His people to recognize doctrine X that becomes strong evidence that X is true. It makes a lot of sense. But if you accept this principle and you know history it is going to make you Catholic. It is very close to the catholic notion of sacred tradition.

    So I find it interesting that James White adopts this position. He must know that he is basically adopting Catholic thinking when he appraoches the cannon question that way. He has been invited to participate in this discussion. I hope he does.

  38. Spencer,

    Following up on Tim’s reply, I would also argue (against James White’s claim) that knowing which “Church” God revealed the true canon to is problematic since the two most ancient Churches, the Catholic and the Orthodox, have different canons and the set of Protestant Communities have yet another (different) canon.

    Why would God allow his children to get the canon wrong for 1500 years?

  39. Andrew,

    The Church received the canon. We have no issues stating this.

    Andrew, we agree with you. But your “Church” is “whoever agrees with what I believe about the bible” and so is it any wonder that the “Church” in your mind received the Protestant canon?

    This article is built on the arguments we made for the nature of the Church. Your conception of Church was refuted in the ecclesiological arguments referenced above. Please refer to those and if you disagree with us, then refute our arguments on those threads.

  40. Andrew, I am mostly just a reader (not a commentor) at C2C. But I just want to quickly ask you one brief question. In your last comment you wrote:

    Could there be any more principled distinction than that God distinguishes the Scriptures?

    “Which Scriptures are valid Scriptures?” Is the question here, correct? Is your query, then, not a textbook case of begging the question? Are you not assuming “the Scriptures” to be what you hold them to be despite the fact that “what the Scriptures are” is the very thing in question?

    Any clarification would be deeply appreciated.
    herbert

  41. Spencer, (re: #32)

    Thanks for your comments. Perhaps I can help answer your question. You wrote:

    There is one argument that […] I don’t think was covered in the article that I’m wondering what you think of. It was articulated by Dr. James White in his Scripture Alone, and it basically goes like this: we have certainty about the canon of Scripture based on God’s purposes in giving it. Scripture tells us that God’s Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11) and we know from the use of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers that the Word of God is intended to be used by the people of God. If God has inspired various books for the encouragement and instruction of His people, then it necessarily follows that He would guide His people (the Church) to recognize these books. Thus, we have certainty in our knowledge of the canon based on God’s purposes, and not the Church’s recognition of the canon.

    The argument is (roughly) the following :

    (1) If we know God’s purposes in giving the canon, then we can have certainty regarding which books belong to the canon.

    (2) We know God’s purposes in giving the canon.

    Therefore,

    (3) We know which books belong to the canon. [from (1) and (2)]

    Then the conclusion is:

    (4) The 66 books of the Protestant Bible, and only those books, belong to the canon.

    There are at least three problems with this argument, for a Protestant.

    First, you can’t get to (3), from (1) and (2), unless you fill in more precisely what you know about God’s purposes in giving the canon. If, for example, you know that one of God’s purposes in giving the canon was to give the 66 books, and only the 66 books, found in Protestant Bibles , then you could go from (1) and (2), to (3), and from (3), to (4). But, then there would be no point of the argument, because you would have loaded the conclusion into the second premise, and so the argument would be question-begging.

    If, however, you don’t know that giving the 66 books (and only those books) found in Protestant Bibles was one of God’s purposes in giving the canon, but instead know that God gave the inspired books (whichever ones those are) for the purpose of instructing His people, that does not entail (3). Nor does (4) follow.

    Second, if given what we know about God’s purposes in giving the inspired books “it necessarily follows that He would guide His people (the Church),” then Protestants will need to abandon ecclesial deism. It would be ad hoc to maintain that God will guide His Church to recognize the canon, but not guide His Church to recognize orthodoxy from heresy between 451 to 1517. (There is plenty even before 451 in the Church’s belief and practice that Protestants reject, as I point out in my ecclesial deism article.)

    Third, if given what we know about God’s purposes in giving the inspired books “it necessarily follows that He would guide His people (the Church) to recognize these books”, then the books recognized would be the Catholic canon, not the Protestant canon. The criterion used at Trent was primarily: Which books are used in the liturgy in the universal Church? In the liturgy, after each reading the lector says, “The Word of the Lord.” So the question was, which books are used in the liturgy (as the “Word of the Lord”) throughout the Church universal? And the answer to that question is the canon declared infallibly at Trent. Those books had been used in the liturgy of the universal Church for over a thousand years. So if, given (1) and (2), “it necessarily follows that He would guide His people (the Church) to recognize these books”, then the conclusion of the argument would not be (4); rather, it would be the Catholic canon.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Tom,
    Your main point in the OT Apocrypha section (mostly on Jerome) was that no church father held to the exact 39 book canon of the Protestant OT. It must be pointed out that Trent’s (1545-1563) decision on the Apocrypha was the first ecumenical church wide council decision on the canon, and that it also disagreed with Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). ( on the issue of 1-2 Esdras) The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges the differences and says that Trent “definitely removed it from the canon”, “it” meaning the material found in the LXX version of 1 Esdras. (Volume II: 396-397) 2 Esdras was the real Ezra and Nehemiah together; and Jerome corrected that mistake and separated them into separate books. In Trent, 1 Ezdras is Ezra and 2 Esdras is Nehemiah; but the LXX and Augustine and Hippo and Carthage included other additions that were deemed not canonical by Trent. How could Trent infallibly declare to be non-canonical what popes a thousand years earlier had accepted?

    But, many early church writers/fathers disagreed with most of the current RCC Apocrypha – Athanasius, Jerome, Origen, Melito of Sardis, and also Gregory bishop of Rome wrote that Maccabees is not canonical and Cardinal Cajetan also.

    Regarding Jerome, below are the two clearer statements about most of the RCC Deutero-canonicals (Apocrypha). These are clearer statements from Jerome than the ones you reference from prefaces to Tobit and Judith. There, Jerome seems to be saying he is submitting to the bishops orders to translate them into Latin, not that they are canonical.

    In his commentary on Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus,(In the Preface to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) Jerome states:

    “As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures , so let it also read these two Volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vii.iii.x.html
    (In the Preface to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, 393 AD)
    This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a “helmeted” introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. “

    From Jerome’s Preface to Samuel and Kings:
    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vii.iii.iv.html

    (Emphasis mine)

  43. Dear Spencer,

    Thank you for bringing up Dr. White’s position. It is similar to some of the views I addressed in the paper, and is prone to some of the same criticisms. I rest on Bryan’s able response, and look forward to hearing what you think.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  44. Dear Andrew,

    You said, “If I have to answer all your points at once, then I give up.” Okay, if you read my section II.A., then my response to your statement that I “seem to be understanding [you] to say that the internal evidences are all that should be used to determine canonicity outside the context of the Church” is this: that is not what I am saying, or what I seem to be saying. I said that:

    The classical and confessional Reformed answer to the Canon Question stresses that the Holy Spirit is our immediate assurance of the canon’s truth, and also notes that the reliability of Scripture appears from within Scripture itself.

    And this:

    Ridderbos provides a modern Reformed articulation of the confessional view. In line with Calvin, he argues that canonical texts are self-attesting (or self-witnessing) to the reader who is aided through faith by the Holy Spirit to see Scripture for what it is.

    And this:

    From this we see that his view consists of two elements: (1) that Scripture is self-attesting, (2) via the Holy Spirit leading the reader to recognize it as canonical.

    So the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit is intrisic to the process. I argue this at length in section II.A. The role of the Church is taken up in section II.D. I noted in the preface to section II that the theories were not mutually exclusive.

    I don’t think I did read way too much into the Constitution analogy, but attempted to show why it was helpful as a model of text-defining-culture. Maybe it proves too much against your view, but I did not take it too far. As I said, the Constitution identifies itself for what it is, unlike the Bible.

    You said: “So let me just state bluntly that sola scriptura does not obviate the appeal to something outside scripture. The Church received the canon. We have no issues stating this. We are appealing to a source outside of Scripture but we are not contradicting sola scriptura.”

    I’m glad to understand your view here, because it helps narrow in on our point of disagreement. You disagree with Herman Ridderbos, then. I addressed your statement in the following paragraph. Could you please tell me with which premise or conclusion you disagree? That would help me to focus my response:

    But the very act of answering the Canon Question inherently involves an extra-Biblical fallible human judgment, unless one is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. This fallible human judgment, by defining the criterion of canon, exercises power over the canon itself. And as I just noted, power over the canon is power over Scripture. Therefore, absent the Holy Spirit’s preserving one from error, to answer the Canon Question is to exercise power over Scripture, and to place one’s judgment over Scripture. So to answer the Canon Question is to violate the doctrine of sola scriptura by placing something over the Christian’s sole infallible authority. If Protestants see the Catholic Church as placing herself ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, so too they should see answers to the Canon Question culled from human reason or extra-Biblical evidence as being ‘over’ Scripture. Since Protestants see the former as violating sola scriptura, there is no principled reason not to see the latter as a violation of sola scriptura.

    Again, I look forward to focusing in on the part of this paragraph about which we are not in agreement. If your point on “theopneustos” will come to bear, I will take it up then, otherwise please remind me I still owe a response. I’m short on time at this moment.

    Regarding Sproul’s position not being a Reformed position, I agree to an extent, which is why I started with the classical Reformed position. However, I think Sproul’s position may gain popularity. I note that Sproul is Reformed, and is ordained in one of the more conservative Reformed denominations in the U.S. (the PCA). A recent “Parchment and Pen” blog post has staunchly supported the view as well. There is no one monolithic Reformed view, of course. I can take on the classical Reformed view, and I’m happy to interact with your Reformed view, but I can’t say Sproul’s view is un-Reformed, just that it is not the classical Reformed view.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  45. Bryan,

    Thanks for the response. You said:

    First, you can’t get to (3), from (1) and (2), unless you fill in more precisely what you know about God’s purposes in giving the canon. If, for example, you know that one of God’s purposes in giving the canon was to give the 66 books, and only the 66 books, found in Protestant Bibles , then you could go from (1) and (2), to (3), and from (3), to (4). But, then there would be no point of the argument, because you would have loaded the conclusion into the second premise, and so the argument would be question-begging.

    The argument doesn’t assume the number (or identity) of the canonical books in the premises; the purpose of the argument is to demonstrate that we need not accept the infallibility of the Church to know the canon with certainty.
    Your summary of the argument is good, and I think Dr. White’s point is to show that God’s purposes in giving Scripture are sufficient to assure us that the canon was recognized correctly by the Church. Of course, this leads to the problem you pointed out, which is that the canon recognized by the Church seems to be the Catholic canon (Dr. White addresses this in his book a few pages later, but doesn’t exactly make the case that the early church rejected the Apocryphal books in any widespread way).

    Second, if given what we know about God’s purposes in giving the inspired books “it necessarily follows that He would guide His people (the Church),” then Protestants will need to abandon ecclesial deism. It would be ad hoc to maintain that God will guide His Church to recognize the canon, but not guide His Church to recognize orthodoxy from heresy between 451 to 1517. (There is plenty even before 451 in the Church’s belief and practice that Protestants reject, as I point out in my ecclesial deism article.)

    Scripture is the guide of the Church, and it is what makes Christians sufficient, trained for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God guides the Church–but He does so through Scripture. It is a misstatement of this argument to say, “God granted the Church infallibility on the canon, but then didn’t do it after that.” That would indeed be ad hoc. The argument, though, is not centered on what the Church is doing but on Scripture and God’s guiding the Church to recognize it.

    To offer my own criticism of the argument, as you and other commenters have pointed out, the argument seems to fail primarily because it doesn’t square with the actual facts of what happened in Church history. I am not certain whether or not it is completely logical, but Dr. White’s ideal situation of the Church being led to recognize the canon is not what happened. At least some people in the early Church (such as St. Augustine) saw 1 & 2 Maccabees as being canonical. There was some uncertainty, at least early on, about whether or not Revelation, 2 & 3 John, and a few others books, were canonical. A Protestant could argue that the Church’s gradual recognition of these books fulfills Dr. White’s argument that the Church, though not infallible in herself, would be led by God to recognize the canon, but the Church also recognized (at various times) the Apocryphal books. Even if it can be shown that some, or even most, Christians rejected the Apocryphal books, the fact that there was uncertainty and debate for so long (Dr. White quotes Cardinal Cajetan as denying the canonicty of the Apocrypha, or at least casting doubt on it) doesn’t speak well of this view. And even if the reception of the Apocryphal books was a minority view, that would hardly prove that they are not canonical for the Protestant, given that the Protestant view on so many other things (baptism, justification, etc.) is certainly the minority view in Church history. The eventual rejection, too, of books like the Gospel of Peter and the Shepherd of Hermas, held to be canonical by some in the early Church, doesn’t seem to prove (from this argument, at least) that they were uncanonical–according to the Reformed view, the Church very early strayed from New Testament polity and doctrine on the sacraments and justification. I can certainly see the strength of the position that is being advocated in this article.

    However, I have another question (my apologies if I seem inconsistent on kind of arguing both sides…) about the Catholic position. The Council of Trent was the first ecumenical council summoned under the Pope to recognize the canon, wasn’t it? And if so, how would the Christians before Trent know with certainty what the canon was?

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  46. Ken,

    How would Trent infallibly declare to be non-canonical what popes a thousand years earlier had accepted?

    Which popes and where and in what capacity, exactly, did they do such a thing? Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that you’re right – if an ecumenical council doesn’t have the authority to do such a thing, then how did Martin Luther have the authority to do it? (Note: a pope getting the canon wrong is perfectly compatible with Catholic theology. I know you know this; just not sure why you’re bringing it up.)

    At best your argument is an appeal to several individuals, none of whom, including the pope, carry the full authority of the Church. The lack of convergence among individual Catholics in the early Church is a well known fact, and the article mentions this. All the more reason to believe in the Catholic canon – it was delivered to us by the Church and not the university (unlike the Protestant canon).

  47. So the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit is intrisic to the process.

    Tom,

    The way I would state this is that Protestants will speak of the various internal evidences that demonstrate that it is the Word of God. The books of the Bible were not just picked at random, they really do evidence the hand of God on them and we can see it. There certainly is quite a bit of discussion of such things in Reformed and Protestant literature. If an author has no reason to be discussing it, the role of the Church may not be mentioned. But we fully realize that if a Muslim or an atheist or a Catholic reads such a passage he will have objections over things that would not have been a point of contention with a Protestant reader. So you as a Catholic are bringing up the specific issue of the Church and we should not then talk about the internal work of the Spirit in His Word unless we also speak of the role of the Church. I think F.F. Bruce does this. He speaks of the various internal evidences of the Scriptures, but he then moves to the fact that these evidences were used by the Early Church to authenticate the various canonical books. So when you as a Catholic ask me about how we got the canon I would not want to refer you to a Protestant work that only spoke about the internal evidences of divine authorship unless the author placed these evidences within the context of the Church.

    You disagree with Herman Ridderbos, then.

    Here is Ridderbos from his work, Revelation and the Bible:
    “The Church cannot “make” or “lay down” its own standard. All that the Church can lay down is this, that it has received the Canon as a standard and rule for faith and life, handed down to it with absolute authority.”

    Ridderbos teaches here that it is the Church who receives the canon. I’m not sure about the quote from Ridderbos that you refer to. Perhaps he was critiquing another position? At face value it would seem to contradict what I have just quoted from him, but I don’t have access to the work you cite. Anyway, I agree with what Ridderbos says in my quote of him above.

    But the very act of answering the Canon Question inherently involves an extra-Biblical fallible human judgment, unless one is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. This fallible human judgment, by defining the criterion of canon, exercises power over the canon itself. And as I just noted, power over the canon is power over Scripture. Therefore, absent the Holy Spirit’s preserving one from error, to answer the Canon Question is to exercise power over Scripture, and to place one’s judgment over Scripture. So to answer the Canon Question is to violate the doctrine of sola scriptura by placing something over the Christian’s sole infallible authority. If Protestants see the Catholic Church as placing herself ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, so too they should see answers to the Canon Question culled from human reason or extra-Biblical evidence as being ‘over’ Scripture. Since Protestants see the former as violating sola scriptura, there is no principled reason not to see the latter as a violation of sola scriptura.

    Well again, if it’s a matter of our individual judgment over the canon then we are all going to have different canons. But if like Ridderbos in my quote, we see that the Church received the canon and received it with absolute authority then we will reject the concept of each of us making our own judgment on the matter. And to qualify the statement about absolute authority, from my standpoint the difference between Catholic and Protestant is just where the locus of this absolute and infallible authority lies. Does it lie with the Church herself or does it reside just with God who works through the Church?

  48. Herbert says this: “Which Scriptures are valid Scriptures?” Is the question here, correct? Is your query, then, not a textbook case of begging the question? Are you not assuming “the Scriptures” to be what you hold them to be despite the fact that “what the Scriptures are” is the very thing in question?

    Herbert,

    I assume you are speaking of the differences between Catholic, EO, and Protestant on the canon. I did not want to get into that with Tom because it seems like at the outset we can simplify the matter somewhat if we are just speaking of the Protocanonicals. But concerning what you would speak of as the Dueterocanonicals, it appears to us that while they did enjoy popularity in some geographies such as North Africa, there is little consensus during the Medieval Era as to the canonicity of these works. Tom talks about Jerome not arguing for the exact same canon than the Protestants, but there is little unqualified support for these additional books at this point and really through the Middle Ages.

    So we can talk about the Protocanonicals as standing unquestioned after the time of Athanasius, but we cannot say the same of the Apocrypha/Dueterocanonicals.

  49. Thanks Tom and Tim for some interaction.

    the question should have been “could” —

    How could Trent infallibly declare to be non-canonical what popes a thousand years earlier had accepted?

    I guess I was assuming that some Popes did approve of the canons of Hippo and Carthage later in the fourth and fifth Centuries. Roman Catholic apologetics claim there was a council of Rome in 382 where Pope Damasus approved of the same canon as Hippo and Carthage.

    Was there a council of Rome in 382?

    If 1 Esdras was wrong at Rome, Hippo, and Carthage, and corrected by Trent, doesn’t that prove the whole infallibility of the Pope doctrine wrong?

    Maybe the question should have been, “how could Trent declare to be non-canonical what some popes and earlier councils had accepted?”

    The point is, Trent changed the earlier canons of Hippo and Carthage, on the Esdras issue, and that, according to RCC theology means that God was not guiding the Church infallibly for many centuries on that issue.

    if an ecumenical council doesn’t have the authority to do such a thing, then how did Martin Luther have the authority to do it? In RCC theology the ecumenical council does have that authority; but not in Protestant theology. Truth is more important than the person/position/office itself, for humans. Neither Popes nor councils are infallible; only the word of God, the Scriptures are infallible.

    Note: a pope getting the canon wrong is perfectly compatible with Catholic theology. I know you know this; just not sure why you’re bringing it up.)

    Actually, I did not know that that would be compatible with Catholic theology. If a Pope is speaking in his pastoral capacity / office as Shepherd of the Church, and on the faith and moral issues, it would presumably be an ex cathedra statement, right?

    Anyway, the main point is that you are claiming that God is guiding infallibly the church all through history, according to your view, isn’t that Ecclesial Deism when he let 1 Esras go for so long as thought to be canonical?

    And wasn’t that Ecclesial Deism when the Arians were in charge for 60 years ??

  50. Bryan wrote:

    It would be ad hoc to maintain that God will guide His Church to recognize the canon, but not guide His Church to recognize orthodoxy from heresy between 451 to 1517. (There is plenty even before 451 in the Church’s belief and practice that Protestants reject, as I point out in my ecclesial deism article.)

    If God allowed the Arians to get control and promote heresy for 60 years ( after 325 – 400 ?? I am not taking time to look it all up; you know what I mean); then who’s to say He cannot allow RCC doctrines and practices and heresies to be promoted from 451 to 1517?

  51. Spencer,

    The Council of Trent was the first ecumenical council summoned under the Pope to recognize the canon, wasn’t it? And if so, how would the Christians before Trent know with certainty what the canon was?

    The councils of Rome and Carthage, though not ecumenical, were ratified by a pope and did affirm the 73 books of the Catholic canon in the 4th century.

    The canon, for the early Christians, simply meant the books which were allowed to be read in the liturgy. The canon never has been a collection of books to base the faith on. Christianity is not a ‘religion of the book’ like Islam or Judaism. This is an important point because had sola scriptura actually been believed in the early Church, we would have expected that the very first thing the Church would ever do is to clarify the canon, but this barely seems to be on their radar. Given sola scriptura, how could the Church hold a council on the Trinity when they didn’t know which books, alone, were inspired and authoritative ?

  52. Spencer,

    I would add to Tim’s reply that the Ecumenical Council of Florence in the 1400s [NB: before the Reformation] also listed the canon, though it did not dogmatically decree it (as Trent did a century later).

  53. Ken,
    Actually, I did not know that that would be compatible with Catholic theology. If a Pope is speaking in his pastoral capacity / office as Shepherd of the Church, and on the faith and moral issues, it would presumably be an ex cathedra statement, right?
    He needs to be intending to bind the consciences of all Catholics on the matter. Most teaching, even in papal encyclicals, does not meet this criteria.

    Anyway, the main point is that you are claiming that God is guiding infallibly the church all through history, according to your view, isn’t that Ecclesial Deism when he let 1 Esras go for so long as thought to be canonical?
    If 1 Esras was a central point of the faith that would be a problem. I don’t see it. It does not prove Ecclesial Deism when the church struggles to reach clarity on a matter. God can let us struggle and not let us fall.

    And wasn’t that Ecclesial Deism when the Arians were in charge for 60 years ??
    It sure looked bad than. But we often are tempted towards deism whne troubles arise in our personal lives. It is not surprising that some might be tempted to believe that when troubles arise in the life of the church. But we believe God is in charge as a matter of faith. History bears this out. God does preserve His church through any storm. The storm ends up proving Him faithful.

  54. Ken,

    You said:

    In RCC theology the ecumenical council does have that authority; but not in Protestant theology. Truth is more important than the person/position/office itself, for humans. Neither Popes nor councils are infallible; only the word of God, the Scriptures are infallible.

    You said the “scriptures are infallible” which just begs the very thing in question in this article. Which Scriptures and how do you know? Given Protestant theology, the only way you can know which Scriptures are infallible is through fallible means, hence the inconsistency we’re pointing out. Instead of showing why your position is not inconsistent, you’re trying to show a contradiction in Catholic theology. Even if you succeed, you are still left with the problem of inconsistency.

    If a Pope is speaking in his pastoral capacity / office as Shepherd of the Church, and on the faith and moral issues, it would presumably be an ex cathedra statement, right?

    Yes, if he pronounces it as binding on all of the faithful. If you can show that the pope did this regarding the inerrancy of a book that Trent rejected as errant, then you will show him to be in contradiction with Trent. Also note that “canonical”, especially at that time, did not mean “part of the book which alone is inerrant and constitutes the sole basis for our faith,” but rather meant that it was eligible to be read in liturgy.

    I’m not saying one way or the other because I’m just not very studied on the subject, but it is quite possible, maybe even probable, that they were answering two very different questions in regards to the canon at Trent and the earlier councils.

    And wasn’t that Ecclesial Deism when the Arians were in charge for 60 years ??

    We don’t believe in Ecclesial Deism; we don’t believe God ever left His Church nor will He.

  55. Yes, if he pronounces it as binding on all of the faithful.

    How does the RCC determine that? The precise definition was created in 1870 right? At the time of their decisions, pronouncements, encyclicals, etc. – they always intended everything to be binding on all Roman Catholics. Otherwise, why would they write a bull or encyclical? What is the purpose if it is not binding and not spoken from “the chair of Peter”? The explanation of the Papal doctrines and dogmas doesn’t make sense at all.

    Take Boniface VIII’s statement in Unam Sanctum in 1302 AD- “It is necessary for salvation for every living creature to be submitted to the Roman Pontiff.” Sounds pretty binding.

    Those conditions about intentions being read back into history honestly seem to be an “escape hatch” to justify anything in the past that might not be true in the future upon further investigation.

  56. Ken,

    This thread is about the canon; we need to cut off the papal infallibility conversation. Please see Newadvent, for example, on infallibility if you want to research it.

    I think we need to re-stress that our posts shouldn’t be taken as open invitations to attack the Church in every area where one think she’s wrong. They are invitations to dialogue on the particular issues at hand, in this case the canon, and to mutually pursue truth. I’m not saying that your comments were totally irrelevant – I’m just trying to steer the conversation back on track. If I continue to answer these questions, then we’ll get far off topic. Thank you for understanding.

  57. I second Tim’s request for the thread to remain as directly on topic as possible. With all of the work that you guys have done in dividing up the arguments between Protestants and Catholics into easily digestible chunks with well-defined segues between them, there is no need for our attentions to meander through seemingly-related but (for the moment) tangential issues. At issue is (a) whether there is a contradiction between sola scriptura and certainty regarding the canon, and less importantly, (b) whether the actual Protestant canon was built through any of the rules by which its apologists claim it was, or whether there are exceptions to each of these rules making the exact choice of books ad hoc.

    I believe that Tom has conclusively answered both (a) and (b) in the affirmative, and it remains to the Protestant interlocutors to: (1) delve into the details of his argument without introducing general attempted tu quoques that can only be answered in the later articles that have not yet been posted on this site (or answered through some research of your own — come on guys!), and (2) to discuss the related spiritual and ecclesiastical (or maybe even personal) ramifications of Tom’s article. Both (1) and (2) are interesting and on topic — I applaud that which has appeared in those categories thus far.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  58. Tim and all –
    Ok, I will try to stick to the issue of the canon, but you guys are too restrictive, in my opinion; as all of these issues relate to each other. Your criterion for what is relevant and what isn’t relevant is very difficult to follow, because of the nature of how these issues are historically inter-related in church history and Roman Catholic vs. Protestant issues.

    My post still awaiting moderation is on the canon and Jerrome’s statement on the superiority of the Hebrew over the LXX (end of Book II, 34, Apology for himself against the books of Rufinus)

    and

    On Book II, 33 – that “the judgment of the churches” Jerome is talking about is about using the Theodotian version rather than the LXX of Daniel.

  59. Dear Ken,

    I’m sorry that I’ve been away from internet access for two days. If you have any questions about Tim’s concerns, or about our desired scope of this combox, please e-mail me at any time. You said:

    Your main point in the OT Apocrypha section (mostly on Jerome) was that no church father held to the exact 39 book canon of the Protestant OT. It must be pointed out that Trent’s (1545-1563) decision on the Apocrypha was the first ecumenical church wide council decision on the canon, and that it also disagreed with Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).

    Speaking technically, it is irrelevant to my main point what Trent decided. Trent post-dated the Reformation, of course, and my argument is about the canon and the Reformation. Please note that I do not have an “Apocrypha” section. Also, you treat the Aprocrypha as if it is a discrete set of texts that neatly go together. There is no such set. There is a set of deuterocanonical texts, but I am not sure if this is the exact set of texts to which you refer when you discuss the Apocrypha.

    Regarding the Church Fathers you noted who did not accept the Catholic canon, including your take on Jerome, I rest on what I said to you by e-mail:

    My primary contention is that it offends the doctrine of sola scriptura to define the canon by an extra-Biblical measure. Under this doctrine, one should reject a canon criterion that essentially measures the canon by fallible, extra-Biblical historical evidence. I agree completely with Ridderbos on this point.

    You seem intent on proving that some of the early Church Fathers, and the later Cardinal Cajetan (a popular talking point for Protestant apologetics), did not stand behind the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. That’s not relevant to my point that sola scriptura cannot essentially depend on fallible, extra-Biblical historical considerations, so I believe that getting into that historical debate would only distract us from the more fundamental point dividing us Catholics and Protestants on the canon of the Bible.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  60. Dear Andrew,

    We’ve been discussing my argument in this article that, from the classical Reformed view, the Holy Spirit is intrinsic to the canon-formation process. You responded:

    The way I would state this is that Protestants will speak of the various internal evidences that demonstrate that it is the Word of God. The books of the Bible were not just picked at random, they really do evidence the hand of God on them and we can see it. . . . So you as a Catholic are bringing up the specific issue of the Church and we should not then talk about the internal work of the Spirit in His Word unless we also speak of the role of the Church. I think F.F. Bruce does this. He speaks of the various internal evidences of the Scriptures, but he then moves to the fact that these evidences were used by the Early Church to authenticate the various canonical books. So when you as a Catholic ask me about how we got the canon I would not want to refer you to a Protestant work that only spoke about the internal evidences of divine authorship unless the author placed these evidences within the context of the Church.

    I think your canon criterion is that evidence of canonicity, including (but not limited to) the role of the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, should only be discussed within the context of the role of the Church in determining the canon. Also, I think you are challenging my summarization of the classical and confessional Reformed position by saying that I read books meant for other Reformed people who already understood the broader context, so I wound up taking them out of context.

    The works I cited in this article were not so limited in their scope or their intended audience. Besides, I come from the Reformed position, so am familiar with the context of these readings—I speak the language, if you will. Please note that I separately addressed in section II.D. the position that the determinations of the early Church define the canon. There I cited Bruce as an advocate of this position, just as you have cited him here in the combox. Since my response to that position (that the widespread acceptance of the Church defines the canon) is contained within the article, I will not repeat it here.

    How would you describe the relationship between the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit and the eventual “widespread acceptance” of the early Church? My opinion, which I laid out in the article, is that the classical and confessional Reformed view cannot use the testimony of the Holy Spirit as mere supporting evidence of the determination of the Church.

    Your quote from Ridderbos does not demonstrate that he believed the Church to reflect upon various evidence, including the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, and then to determine the canon. In that quote he is only saying that the Church “received” (in the passive voice) the canon, as if it came in one piece. So he is not saying that the Church played a part in determining the canon. As I showed from his writings from several places (and I hope you can read the source some day, to see that it is not taken out of context), he believed that using “the gradually developing consensus of the church” to justify the canon “goes beyond the canon itself” and thus “posits a canon above the canon” contra “the order of redemptive history and the nature of the canon itself.” (Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures, p. 35.)

    You said that if “the Church received the canon and received it with absolute authority then we will reject the concept of each of us making our own judgment on the matter.” Not to be a ninny, but the use of the passive voice when discussing the Canon Question can lead to confusion. From what or whom did the Church receive the canon? If we can simply assume that the Church ‘did receive’, then we’ve side-stepped the Canon Question completely.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  61. Dear Ken,

    You said: “Your criterion for what is relevant and what isn’t relevant is very difficult to follow, because of the nature of how these issues are historically inter-related in church history and Roman Catholic vs. Protestant issues.”

    In the context of addressing an argument, I define relevancy as that which makes a proposition more or less likely to be true. For example, if I argue that sola scriptura is invalid for the reasons given in this paper, then the truth or fallacy of papal infallibility is not relevant because papal infallibility does not make any of my premises more or less likely to be true. I agree that these things are all related in that the Reformation arose from the context of Catholicism, but that doesn’t make any particular point about Catholicism related to every particular argument against Protestantism. I hope that helps clear things up.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  62. Ken (re: #50),

    In response to my comments in #41, you wrote:

    If God allowed the Arians to get control and promote heresy for 60 years ( after 325 – 400 ?? I am not taking time to look it all up; you know what I mean); then who’s to say He cannot allow RCC doctrines and practices and heresies to be promoted from 451 to 1517?

    I recommend that you read the ecclesial deism article. Christ’s remaining with His Church, the pillar and bulwark of truth, and the Spirit guiding her into all truth, does not mean that no individual person, parish, diocese or group of dioceses can fall into error. It means that the universal Church will never believe or teach [either in ecumenical council or by the one holding the keys of the Kingdom] as definitively to be believed or held, an error in matters of faith or morals. While many bishops were favorable toward Arianism in the fourth century, Arianism was never taught by the Church universal or by the Pope, as definitively to be held by all Catholics, nor was it ever believed by the Church universal, even though it was believed in certain parts of the Church.

    By contrast, many of the Catholic beliefs and practices that Protestants rejected in the sixteenth century had been believed by the Church universal for over a millennium, and some had been taught by the Church universal as definitively to be held by all the faithful. For this reason, insofar as Protestantism rejects such beliefs and practices, it presupposes ecclesial deism.

    As I pointed out in my previous comment, the criterion used at Trent to determine the canon was primarily: Which books are used in the liturgy in the universal Church? In the liturgy, after each reading the lector says, “The Word of the Lord.” So the question was, which books are used in the liturgy (as the “Word of the Lord”) throughout the Church universal? And the answer to that question is the canon declared infallibly at Trent. Those books had been used in the liturgy of the universal Church for over a thousand years. To reject those books, is therefore to presuppose ecclesial deism, because to reject those books, one must believe that Christ allowed the universal Church, for a thousand years, to declare falsely in the liturgy that these books were “the Word of the Lord”. Doubting the faithfulness of Christ in the ordinary Magisterium of the Church is no less a sin against faith than doubting His faithfulness in the extraordinary Magisterium. And that’s why it is consistent that Protestants deny the authority of both the ordinary and the extraordinary Magisterium. (For an explanation of the difference between these two, see paragraph 25 of Lumen Gentium.) This (objective) sin of rejecting the Church and her teaching and governing authority is an (objective) sin against faith. The reason why rejecting the Church is rejecting Christ (Lk 10:16), is precisely because ecclesial deism is false. And the reason why it is a sin to reject the Church and her divinely-appointed authority, is because doing so is to disbelieve what Christ has promised to do in and through His Church, never leaving her or forsaking her, being with her to the end of the age, preserving her as the pillar and bulwark of truth, and never allowing the gates of hell to prevail against her.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  63. Hi Tom, (and Tim and Bryan and other CtoC blogmasters)

    Tom – Thanks for your answers and emails! They are thorough and clear and I appreciate you taking time to answer me.

    You wrote:
    Speaking technically, it is irrelevant to my main point what Trent decided.

    It honestly seems that any point I seek to make is deemed as irrelevant.

    Your main point is that the Protestant views of how we know which books belong in the canon depends on fallible human, subjective things like historical evidence and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit:

    1. The internal witness of the Holy Spirit. (you cited Calvin, WCF, Belgic Confession for this) But, this is a principle derived from Scripture – “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me.” John 10:27ff

    I John 2:27 seems to teach this also, that believers have an anointing of the Holy Spirit to be able to discern truth from error (because John taught them and they have at least some, if not most of the written Scriptures) are able to recognize the truth and don’t need an extra teacher in an infallible sense to make decisions for them, when they can read and understand the truth from Scripture themselves. They need teachers/pastors/elders to expound the word (Ephesians 4:11-12, I Timothy 3, 2 Timothy, I Peter 5:1-5; Titus), but they don’t need a teacher in the RC sense of an “infallible Magisterium” to tell them dogmatically what is the truth, because they have the truth, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and can discern. If we are growing spiritually and submitted to the Spirit, 1 Cor. 2:14-16 says we have discernment and the mind of Christ. Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:16 also teach us that we have the Holy Spirit and He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. If we are His children, His sheep, then we can hear His voice in the Scriptures and discern what is God-breathed and what is not. Whatever is God-breathed is canon/standard/rule/criterion.

    2. Early church testimony/ historical evidence (ie. Matthew is from apostle Matthew; Mark wrote for Peter ( Papias, Irenaeus, Eusebius) and statements such as Tertullian proposing that Barnabas wrote Hebrews (because he was a Levite (Acts 4:36 – details of the temple, chapters 7-10), “son of encouragement” – with 13:22 – brief letter of exhortation; and the fact that Barnabas is called an apostle in Acts 14:4; 14:14. That Luke wrote under Paul’s apostolic authority, etc. That John actually wrote Gospel of John, 3 letters, Revelation, and Peter wrote 2 epistles, etc. Jude and James were eventually accepted because of their internal qualities of being “God-breathed” and because they were the brothers of Jesus and James was the first bishop of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and he is called an apostle in Galatians 1:19 and I Cor. 15:7. We don’t mind depending on the early church for this information, because we have no other evidence that contradicts this; unless one wants to become liberal and give up faith in Christ, which is impossible for a true believer. (John Henry Newman seemed to talk about this in one of his essays – become either RC or unbeliever; he said Protestantism is no middle ground. By the way, does anyone know where that is? I cannot find it again, I forgot where I read it.)

    3. Apostolic authorship or association with an apostle or under an apostle’s direction or approval. We know this from # 2 mostly, but also from internal indicators.

    4. Internal self-attestation of the books themselves being “God-breathed”. They have the inherent quality of being Theopneustos. (“God-breathed”- 2 Timothy 3:16) This, along with no. 1, are usually used together for Protestants.

    You are saying those 4 (or others that other Protestants may have come up with) are fallible means of knowing, (because 1 and 4 are subjective and 2 and 3 are the historical evidence/early church testimony, which is outside of Scripture itself; ie, not actually written out explicitly in the text for every 66 book of the Protestant canon.

    Therefore, your claim is that it violates Sola Scriptura, because Sola Scriptura is the view that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the church, but we use fallible means like historical evidence and the early church testimony (RCC = “tradition”) and fallible human subjective means like, “the Holy Spirit tells me in my heart”.

    Do I understand you right?

    My answer to that is that Sola Scriptura, as understood by Luther, Calvin, the WCF and other Reformed and conservative Protestants all the way to today have never claimed that Sola Scriptura included within it the requirement that all historical background knowledge about a book had to be written out explicitly in the text of a book. For example, Paul identifies himself in all his letters, but he doesn’t always write in every book, “This whole letter is the God-breathed word of God.” Matthew does not say, “I, Matthew-Levi, the former tax-collector and disciple of Jesus Christ, am writing this to you.” Mark does not say in his text, “I am John Mark, writing down the sermons of the apostle Peter and this is God-breathed Scripture and therefore canon”, etc.

    Your demands on the texts of the Bible are too high, and they were never part of the definition of Sola Scriptura. Historical evidence and sound reason and the testimony of the Holy Spirit are good enough, because our knowledge is always fallible because we are fallible humans, and our faith is human faith and trust in an infallible God and a perfect Christ and an inerrant/infallible text of Scripture. We don’t need infallible knowledge or certainty because we don’t trust in ourselves. We are trusting with mustard seed faith in the infallible God who wrote the infallible texts.

    Trent post-dated the Reformation, of course, and my argument is about the canon and the Reformation.

    But Trent was the RCC response/reaction to the Reformation, right? It seems pretty connected to me.

    My point is that Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397) and the so called “Council of Rome” in 382 under Damasus had a different canon than Trent did of those disputed books ( Apocrypha or Deutero-canonicals). (I Esdras) Trent changed what was understood by some parts of the Church and some leaders of the Roman Catholic Church for centuries, and we are all admitting that it was not clear to everybody at the same time, because of the statements that I showed you from Jerome, and Athanasius ( he clearly called most of the books of the current RCC Deutero-canonicals, “good for edification, but not in the canon” – Festal letter 39); just as Jerome did. They accepted those 3 sections of Daniel (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and the Prayer of the 3 Hebrew Children) because the manuscripts available to them at that time had them embedded in the text; and Baruch because the LXX Greek was attached to the LXX Jeremiah. ( I suppose. It is well known that the LXX of Jeremiah is very bad and no credible scholar relies on it over the Hebrew.) The others (Tobit, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach) were rejected by Jerome and Athanasius, Melito of Sardis, Origen, Gregory the Great (601) (maybe only Maccabees, I don’t know what Gregory thought about the others), and Cardinal Cajetan (1520s, at the time of Luther). There are others, but I mention only a few of the more prominent ones.

    Please note that I do not have an “Apocrypha” section.

    True, I was just calling it that myself without having to go back and spend time on your exact title of your section. Ok, I was talking about the “B. THE ORIGINAL HEBREW OLD TESTAMENT” section and the area where you have three footnotes, about Jerome and the references to Daniel (Apology for himself Against the books of Rufinus), Tobias, and Judith. The section where you discuss Jerome and footnotes 70, 71, and 72.

    Also, you treat the Aprocrypha as if it is a discrete set of texts that neatly go together. There is no such set.

    Enlighten me on exactly what you are getting at; as you may be thinking of a few minor points of different set of books, that both RCC and Protestants reject; or NT Apocrypha, or the Pseudopigripha, etc.

    There is a set of deuterocanonical texts, but I am not sure if this is the exact set of texts to which you refer when you discuss the Apocrypha.

    It is the same thing, right? – those books, written in the Inter-testamental period, (400 BC- around the time of Christ) accepted by Hippo and Carthage and were later pronounced at Dogma as “Deutero-canonicals” at Trent; minus 1 Esdras. Protestant call them “the Apocrypha” and Roman Catholics call them “Deutero-canonicals”; right?

  64. Dear Ken,

    Thank you for taking up the points in my section II. My main point is not that Protestants depend on subjective things to determine the canon, but that is close. I summarized my point in the article’s penultimate paragraph – I refer to reliability vice subjectivity as a problem. I will take up your comments on my section II in turn, but I also refer you to my critical section III, in which I argued that even to answer the Canon Question violates sola scriptura.

    1. You defended the internal-witness-of-the-Holy-Spirit canon criterion as itself being derived from Scripture. You mentioned, “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me” and the passage in 1 John 2 about our knowing truth from the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

    As I argued, this method of determining the canon lacks reliability, and has been refuted by historical experience. If I told you that I believe the Book of Wisdom to be God-breathed (which I do), how would you refute this? Is the Holy Spirit leading me to its truth, or merely permitting me to believe it to be true? The Protestant 66-book canon did not appear until the 16th century. If that is the true canon, and if the Holy Spirit leads true believers to the canon, then we would have to conclude that God the Holy Spirit had a reason to wait for over 15 centuries before leading us into this important truth.

    2. I think that you defended the canon criterion that accepts that which received widespread acceptance from the early church Early or that which was written by an apostle by stating generally that historical evidence supports the books in the Protestant Bible. That the testimony of the Church Fathers supports the likes of Mark’s writing for Peter is not in dispute. But how do you respond to my argument that, within the framework of sola scriptura, the use of such extra-Biblical testimony to define the canon places something outside of Scripture above Scripture? If you’re going with apostolicity, who were official “apostles” for this purpose, and how do you know? With what degree of confidence can you demonstrate that Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, James, and Jude were apostolic? If this is the measure of canonicity, we can only be as confident in the canonicity of these texts as we are in their apostolic authorship.

    3. If your #3 was distinct from #2, I’m not sure what you were arguing in #2.

    4. Finally, you argue that the Biblical books themselves possess the inherent quality of being God-breathed. I took this up in #1 above.

    You then restated my position and asked if you had it right. Except that I spoke of reliability vice subjectivity, I think your restatement is accurate.

    You said:

    My answer to that is that Sola Scriptura, as understood by Luther, Calvin, the WCF and other Reformed and conservative Protestants all the way to today have never claimed that Sola Scriptura included within it the requirement that all historical background knowledge about a book had to be written out explicitly in the text of a book. . . .
    Your demands on the texts of the Bible are too high, and they were never part of the definition of Sola Scriptura. Historical evidence and sound reason and the testimony of the Holy Spirit are good enough, because our knowledge is always fallible because we are fallible humans, and our faith is human faith and trust in an infallible God and a perfect Christ and an inerrant/infallible text of Scripture. We don’t need infallible knowledge or certainty because we don’t trust in ourselves.

    Regarding whether the doctrine of sola scriptura includes within its reach the evidence considered when determining the canon, do you disagree with my definition of the doctrine of sola scriptura? I take it that your answer is “no”, since you say that my demands on the texts of the Bible are too high. You seem to be agreeing with R. C. Sproul in your belief that our knowledge of the contents of the infallible Bible rest on fallible human determinations. I addressed this in the article as follows:

    If it is possible that wrong books were included in the canon, then it is also possible that right books could have been omitted. In this theological environment, our confidence in and obligation to submit to any scriptural text extends only as far as our confidence in the propriety of the text’s inclusion in the canon in the first place. In other words, we can have no more confidence in the infallibility of the content included than we have in the process by which it was included. But in the Protestant scheme, because the process which yielded the canon is fallible, Protestantism cannot have complete confidence in the content of its canon.

    I would be curious to hear your response to this. How compelling is this view of the canon for non-Christians to whom we witness, and whose trust we hope to win?

    Quickly, regarding the canons of Hippo, Carthage, and Trent, Carthage and Hippo do not need to agree perfectly with Trent for my point to stand. They show that the 4th century Church did not use a Protestant 39-book Old Testament. Note that Trent’s attention to the canon wasn’t an exercise in futility; the previous councils had not been General (universal), so were not binding on the entire Church.

    Quickly, regarding the word “apocrypha,” its use can lead to confusion, as I am confused by yours. If you mean to refer to the texts accepted by Catholics but rejected by Protestants, it might help to refer instead to “the Catholic deuterocanon,” or even “the so-called deuterocanon” if you prefer. There are other texts that both Protestants and Catholic would call apocryphal. When the original KJV included apocryphal books (for edifiication), it included the deuterocanon plus other texts.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  65. Tom, you said:
    I think your canon criterion is that evidence of canonicity, including (but not limited to) the role of the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, should only be discussed within the context of the role of the Church in determining the canon.

    Tom,

    We all we have to address the issue of the role that the Church played in God’s work of writing of Scriptures and their collection in the canon. The Church’s role is inescapable and the Protestant who speaks of relying on his judgment to determine the canon is just being less thn intellectually honest IMO.

    Also, I think you are challenging my summarization of the classical and confessional Reformed position by saying that I read books meant for other Reformed people who already understood the broader context, so I wound up taking them out of context.

    Here I just wanted to point out that in many Protestant writings the role of the Church is not under consieration because there is no point of dispute to be resolved. For one Protestant speaking to another, if they are already in agreement about the role of hte Church in receiving the canon, the discussion will likely focus on the criteria that an inpried book demoinstrates or does not demonstrate. In such cases the writer is not trying to defend any and all critiques of the formation of the canon. We fully realize that a Muslim or an atheist or a Catholic will have objections which just are not being addressed in the work under consideration. So it’s not that I don’t think you should be considering Calvin for instance, just that you should note that what is there may not be camprehensive apologetic on the matter of the reception of the canon.

    How would you describe the relationship between the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit and the eventual “widespread acceptance” of the early Church?

    There is a very real sense in which the “proof” of the fact that God has inspired certain texts is that they do what God intended them to do. God has promied that His Word will accomplish certain things. If those promises never came true then these promises would be rather hollow. So God does impress on the life of the individual believer such proofs and these proofs are the same ones that believers have experienced for 2000 years. They are the same promises that we hear the ECF’s speak of so many centuries ago. But the methodology by which the texts were collected was not some sort of collective consciousness of all believers, it was by the peculiar work of the Church that God accomplished this. I don’t find any contradiction between speaking of God’s using the Bible to transform the life of the individual believer and His work in establishing the collection of the books that are inspired through the agency of His Church.

    You said that if “the Church received the canon and received it with absolute authority then we will reject the concept of each of us making our own judgment on the matter.” Not to be a ninny, but the use of the passive voice when discussing the Canon Question can lead to confusion. From what or whom did the Church receive the canon? If we can simply assume that the Church ‘did receive’, then we’ve side-stepped the Canon Question completely.

    This passive consturction was just what many of the ECF’s used to describe the role the Church played in the formation of the canon. Athanasius’ discussions on the matter come to mind.

  66. Hi Tom,
    For clarification –

    What does this mean?

    “I refer to reliability vice subjectivity as a problem.”

    vice ? I don’t understand this sentence and the way the word “vice” is used.

    Sincerely,
    Ken Temple

  67. Dear Ken,

    After I wrote my draft for this article, one of my editors told me to take out the word “vice” because it was a lawyer word, not used in regular parlance. I reluctantly agreed, but then neglected that advice in the combox. I guess he was right!!!

    By “vice” I mean “as opposed to” or “in place of.” It’s a minor point, but I was not simply critiquing the classical Reformed criterion for being subjective, but for being unreliable (specifically, for being subjective to the point of being unreliable).

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  68. Dear Andrew,

    I’m having a hard time pinning down the canon criterion you believe Christians (or the Church) have (has) properly applied. You told me that “We all we have to address the issue of the role that the Church played in God’s work of writing of Scriptures and their collection in the canon.” But I am not arguing about whether we have to address the role of the Church in the process. I agree that we do have to address it. My question is how do you address it? In other words, if someone were to ask you why Christians believe book X, Y, and Z are of the set of infallible books, what would your answer be?

    Based on a previous comment, I thought it was your view that a text is canonical if the Church came to accept it as canonical. But from your most recent comment, it seems that you rely primarily on the “proof” of inspiration that appears from texts doing “what God intended them to do” – that is, you rely on some internal quality of a text to attest to its own divine inspiration and thus canonicity. Is this your view, that the canon is measured primarily by its internal qualities, and secondarily by the Church’s recognition of those qualities?

    Thanks for the clarification of your point that I should note where source authors were not intending to be comprehensive. I rest on my earlier statement that the authors I cited were intending comprehensively to address the matter of the canon, either by writing a sort of survey on the topic or by writing very much with intellectual opponents in mind. In my reading of Calvin on the canon, I am left with the clear impression that he has the Catholic view, critique, or challenge in mind and is attempting to meet it with his own arguments. He was a lawyer, and the way he goes about writing on the canon is definitely a lawyerly way (e.g., “But a most pernicious error widely prevails…”). He is meeting what he understands to be the Catholic position head on. This part of our discussion is probably not helpful to the reading audience. What would be helpful is if you could show where I have misrepresented or underrepresented what is the full Reformed view of the canon.

    When I asked from what or whom did the Church receive the canon, you replied: “This passive [construction] was just what many of the ECF’s used to describe the role the Church played in the formation of the canon. Athanasius’ discussions on the matter come to mind.” This does not answer my question. I didn’t mean to criticize you (or Athanasius) for using the passive voice, but really, I’m curious who the actor is in these discussions about the Church having received the canon.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  69. Tom said:
    But I am not arguing about whether we have to address the role of the Church in the process. I agree that we do have to address it. My question is how do you address it?

    Tom – You have quoted a number of Reformed folks who have spoken of the internal testimony of the Spirit as evidence of the inclusion of a given book into the canon. And you seem to be treating these quotes as if the writer is presenting a comprehensve apologetic to you. So what I’m pointint first is that the role that the Church played may not be the subject under consideration in such disucssions, and second that we Protestants are not trying to avoid the role that the Church played in bringing the canon into formation.

    So on the “how” question – In the 4th paragraph in Section III. you say, The Catholic or Orthodox Christian will point to the work of the Holy Spirit in the visible Church as the basis for his articulation of the canon, which work is seen in sacred tradition. 140 But because the Protestant system rejects basing the canon of Scripture on tradition or any other authority, and rejects that the Holy Spirit works infallibly through the visible Church, it must find some other basis for whatever test or criterion leads to the 66-book canon. If the basis for the Protestant articulation of a canon test is man’s reasoning, then the canon produced is no more reliable than the fallible reasoning that is at its base.

    So I am disagreeing with your assessment of the Protestant mindset above. We also believe that God established the canon via the work of the Holy Spirit through the visible Church. The point of distinction between us from what I can see is where the locus of infallibility lies. Is it the Church which is given a special charism of infallibility or is it God who works infallibly through a fallible Church to produce an infallible canon? We see no reason to be ascribing infallibility to the Church to determine infallibility any more than we need to accord infallibility to the individual writers of the books. So for instance, Luke did not need to be infallible in his own person to write an infallible book if God who inspired Him is working through the process. So likewise the Church did not need to be infallible to comprehend God’s purpose in the canon if God who worked through the Church via the agency of the Holy Spirit is infallible.

    Now delving further into the “how” question we get all of the analysis of the criteria that the various theologians of the Early Church used to understand whether a given book should be understood to be part of God’s Word. F.F. Bruce goes into great detail as to what characteristic that ECF’s saw in the canonical texts to assure them that these books were what God intended to be part of the canon. There is a an internal testimony to these books, that is, they show the marks of God’s hand on them rather than just the hand of man. Another way of saying this is that ECF’s did not pick the texts of Scripture at random, they picked them because they had the umistakable hand of God on them. It is these internal criteria that often get discussed by Protestant writers.

    I’m curious who the actor is in these discussions about the Church having received the canon.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. The “actors” who did the receiving were the theologians of the Early Church.

  70. Hi Tom,
    I only have time to deal with some of what you wrote, I am dividing it in to manageable units for me, as I have to go out of town for my work/job.

    You wrote, (see below) following my reference to 1 John 2:27, that the Holy Spirit does give us discernment to know truth from error; so we can discern which books are true and which are not, but that does not discount hard study, historical research, backgrounds, language studies, sound exegesis, and spiritual maturity. Although all believers have the Holy Spirit, that is not an excuse for laziness or putting subjective “the Holy Spirit told me” over sound exegesis and context and historical background studies. And 1 Cor. 2:14-16 teaches that spiritual discernment is for the mature, and so the people of God still need godly teachers to teach them the Scriptures. (elders/pastors/teachers – Ephesians 4:11-12; I Timothy 3, Titus 1:5ff; Acts 14:23)

    You wrote,
    As I argued, this method of determining the canon lacks reliability, and has been refuted by historical experience.

    Actually, I think that the facts below show otherwise.

    If I told you that I believe the Book of Wisdom to be God-breathed (which I do), how would you refute this?

    The book of Wisdom claims to have been written by Solomon, and it was written sometime in 1-2 century BC; since Solomon lived around 931 BC, this makes it is a false writing because of this pseudonym. (see reference below – it is deceptive to claim the author is Solomon “Thou has chosen me to be king, and to build the temple”, etc. This makes it not “Theopneustos”.

    The Jews reported that prophesy stopped from around 430 BC (Nehemiah, Malachi and Chronicles being the last books written of the OT); and Christians believe it started back up with the ministry of John Baptist. The Gospels even use key verses from the book of Malachi for John’s ministry, as if to say “this is where prophesy left off; and we are starting it back up again” – Malachi 4:6 (Luke 1:17) and 3:1 (quoted in Mark 1:2 and Matthew 11:10, 14; Luke 1:76; 7:27)

    “Although the author’s name is nowhere given in the text, the writer was traditionally believed to be King Solomon because of references such as that found in IX:7-8, “Thou hast chosen me to be a king of thy people, and a judge of thy sons and daughters: Thou hast commanded me to build a temple upon thy holy mount…” The formulation here is similar to that of Ecclesiastes I:12, “I, Koheleth, was king in Jerusalem over Israel,” which also fails to denote Solomon by name, but leaves no doubt as to whom the reader should identify as the author. The early Christian community showed some awareness that the book was not actually authored by Solomon, as the Muratorian fragment notes that the book was “written by the friends of Solomon in his honor.” The traditional attribution of The Book of Wisdom to Solomon has been soundly rejected in modern times. Says the Catholic Encyclopedia: “at the present day, it is freely admitted that Solomon is not the writer of the Book of Wisdom, which has been ascribed to him because its author, through a literary fiction, speaks as if he were the Son of David.” Although the book of Wisdom is also called the Wisdom of Solomon, it was most likely composed centuries after the death of King Solomon.”
    Scholars believe that the book represents the most classical Greek language found in the Septuagint, having been written during the Jewish Hellenistic period (the 1st or 2nd century BC). The author of the text appears well versed in the popular philosophical, religious, and ethical writings adopted by Hellenistic Alexandria.” (Wikipedia entry on the Wisdom of Solomon) I don’t have time for deeper research into the book; and someone would need to show evidence that refutes what this article is saying.
    It may have devotional value and some general truth; but it does not seem to be “God-breathed”. I have not studied it in depth; I just looked at it again on line to get a feel for it.

    Is the Holy Spirit leading me to its truth, or merely permitting me to believe it to be true?

    If it is not “God –breathed” or canonical; then the Holy Spirit is not leading you to think it is truth. God is sovereign and permits lots of things to happen that are not His moral/prescriptive will.

    I am just asking the question, no offense is intended:
    Did you come to believe that the “Wisdom of Solomon” was inspired before you submitted to the Bishop of Rome as infallible, or afterward?

    If afterward, please don’t be offended, I am only asking questions; then you are probably following the supposed infallible judgment of Trent (and Vatican I) on this; in spite of the historical evidence. Is this true?

  71. Andrew/Ken,

    You both bring up interesting points (and I am glad you two have the tanacity to stick with these dialogues — I usually fade out after a few days).

    Andrew, my guess is that Tom will respond to your question, “Did Luke need to be infallible in his person in order to write an infallible gospel?” by saying something like, “No, he didn’t, and neither are we claiming the the bishops of the CC are infallible in their persons. In fact, we are saying the exact same thing about their infallibility as we are saying about Luke’s, namely, that it is only exercised under certain conditions (such as when each is acting in his official capacity).” That said, though, I think your overall point stands: God doesn’t need the human agent to be infallible in order for him to bring about his will infallibly. If he did, then wouldn’t every act of God’s providence require an infallible creature to bring it to pass? Was that sparrow that fell to the ground infallible?

    Ken: You’re pinpointing the exact concerns I and others have with Rome, namely, that they tend to dismiss objections by invoking a kind of Catholic VanTilianism. So if you say that the word dikaioo doesn’t mean what they say it means, but it means something like acquittal, they will say, “Well, we don’t go to pagan Jewish or liberal German lexicographers to determine what the words in OUR Book mean. We are the ones with the authority to determine what dikaioo means.” Same with many of the historical objections to Rome’s claims like, say, that popes after Honorius routinely declared him to be a heretic. I guess what I’m saying is that for all Rome’s claims about the benefits of being able to pinpoint via an appeal to history the bishops who still hold apostolic authority, they sometimes seem to dismiss the same kinds of historical inquiry when it fails to yield the conclusions they agree with.

  72. Dear Andrew,

    In the portion of my writing that you quoted, I was not speaking of a “Protestant mindset.” I was speaking instead of Protestant doctrine. If you believe that I have misstated or misinterpreted that doctrine, please let me know. I reached these conclusions in my article:

    (1) The Protestant system rejects that the Holy Spirit works infallibly through the visible Church.
    (2) The Protestant system cannot base the canon of Scripture on tradition or any other authority, because doing so would place such authority above Scripture.
    (3) We can only have as much confidence in the Protestant canon as we have in the process by which it was delivered to us.

    You said in reply that the canon comes through the Holy Spirit acting through the visible Church. The distinction you gave, as I understood it, was that God works infallibly through a fallible Church in giving us our canon. But as I said of R. C. Sproul’s position, we can have no more assurance in the canon than we have in the process by which it was delivered to us. I agree that God can deliver a work through the fallible Church that is free from error. But what is your assurance that this particular teaching was transmitted without error through the fallible Church? If we deny that the Holy Spirit preserved the Church from error when teaching us about the faith, it is ad hoc to claim that the Church was preserved from error in delivering the canon.

    I think your answer might be that we have “all of the analysis of the criteria that the various theologians of the Early Church used.” But their analysis is highly debatable, as you can see from my discussion with Ken about how to handle Jerome, or what conclusions to draw from Jerome’s works. F. F. Bruce does not solve this problem, and instead ultimately relies upon other criteria to settle disputes left in place after a survey of the early Church Fathers’ works. (I discussed Bruce’s treatment extensively; please let me know if you think I got him wrong). If you rely instead (or additionally) on the internal testimony of the canonical books, how do you respond to my comments about the inherent unreliability of this method (see, e.g., the text accompanying footnote 18 and the two paragraphs above that)?

    You said, “Another way of saying this is that ECF’s did not pick the texts of Scripture at random, they picked them because they had the u[n]mistakable hand of God on them.” If that is so, why is it that not one single early Church Father articulated a canon that matched the Protestant Old Testament? Does that not disprove your theory that the canonical books, unlike the non-canonical, bear testimony of the “unmistakable hand of God”?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  73. JJS,

    Plenty of Catholics accept that Honorius taught heretical doctrines. We just see absolutely no convincing evidence that he attempted to teach them infallibly. See Dom John Chapman’s work, the Condemnation of Pope Honorius:

    http://www.archive.org/stream/a620530200chapuoft#page/n5/mode/2up

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  74. Jason,

    I haven’t been following the dialogue closely between Andrew, Ken, and Tom, so maybe I’m missing something or re-stating something that has already been said, but the analogy you reference is insufficient. The problem isn’t whether or not God can effect an infallible process or inerrant result through (ordinarily) fallible means. I’m sure Tom never claimed that so I think you are beating up a straw man.

    The problem is inconsistency and a lack of several key principled distinctions. Protestantism says that we trust God to use the Church to recognize the canon, on which we will base our faith, but we will not trust anything else the Church says if we consider her, according to our private judgement, to contradict anything contained in that canon (which she told us about). The Catholic faith, in contradistinction, trusts both the Church, qua Church, and the canon. This is internally consistent.

  75. Dear Ken,

    I think that the Spirit-leads-believers-to-truth method of determining the true canon is unreliable and has been refuted by historical experience. I do not see how adding a layer about the Christian’s duty to study carefully solves this problem.

    You have found studies and apologetics on the canon, and know a good deal about the canon, but this does not change the fact that not one single early Church Father articulated a canon matching the Protestant 39-book Old Testament. That would leave someone taking your view in the position of choosing sides between you (a devout Christian studied in matter of canonics) and the early Church Fathers (presumably devout Christians, also studied in this matter, and much closer in time to the historical data upon which you rely).

    Also, if you are settling the debate by analysis of historical data, a critical problem arises. You have thereby placed analysis of historical data above the canon, and thus violated sola scriptura. I argued this at length in this article. Please let me know if you’re not sure what I’m getting at, or let me know why you think I am incorrect.

    Our example of the Book of Wisdom plays this thought process out. One could go with the presentation of historical evidence you gave, or one could accept the majority view of the early Church. But either way, from the Protestant point of view, one going through this process has placed historical analysis above the canon in order to determine the extent of the canon. This is Ridderbos’s view that I gave in the text accompanying footnote 26. I believe his is a conservative and traditional Reformed view.

    You talked about the history of the Book of Wisdom, and argued that it can’t be God-breathed because it is pseudonymous. Even if we were to agree here that the Catholic Church is left with trouble on its hands in defending its canonical books, this does not in any way free the Protestant system from the critiques I have articulated in this article and combox. I have to keep returning to this point, Ken: your paragraphs of historical facts and quotes do not address the argument I have made in my article. I think we can believe in Rome’s claims for ecclesiological and philosophical reasons as well as for historical reasons. But this is not the place for that historical debate.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  76. Jason,

    I am particularly intrigued that you invoke the criterion of scientific hermeneutics vis-a-vis the Church’s doctrine of justification. As the development of that science now stands, the classical Reformed construal of justification is the exegetical equivalent of Confederate banknotes. For example, one of the most respected exegetes in the field of NT studies has been cited to the effect that:

    Dunn (“The Justice of God,” 17) notes that appreciation for the OT and Jewish context of Paul’s thought “would have short-circuited the old Reformation disputes: … Is ‘the righteousness of God’ subjective genitive or objective genitive? … And does the equivalent verb ‘to justify,’ mean ‘to make righteous’ or ‘to count righteous’? … Once we recognize that righteousness and justification are the language of relationship it becomes evident that both disputes push unjustifiably for an either-or answer.” (Cited by Scott Hahn, Kinship by Covenant, 467.)

    The Catholic Church can definitely live with a both-and on this count (e.g., we never denied the legal dimension of justification).

    In connection with your claims about the Catholic Church’s appropriation of biblical scholarship, I have several times indicated what it is about the Church that renders her better equipped to discern the meaning of Sacred Scripture than any individual commentator or school of commentary. Yet you continue to put this kind of argument forward as though the Catholic appeal to principles of understanding the Word of God, over and above scientific commentary, were simply ad hoc. This is misleading. It is true that any Protestant appeal to knowledge of the Word of God over and above scientific exegesis would be ad hoc (e.g., confessionalism), given Protestant ecclesiology. But it is precisely the Catholic Church’s self-understanding and her teaching concerning the nature of the Church that renders her exposition of the truth of Scripture (over and above, and when necessary contrary to, the opinions of scholars ) non-question begging. The Church, as a whole, is the Body of Christ, having the mind of Christ, and therefore knows the things of Christ in a pre-eminent way. The Church’s apprehension of the Word is not reducible to human opinion, arrived at by means of critical historiography and critical exegesis of ancient texts, although it uses human opinions, and is conversant with them (e.g. the opinions of the best contemporary NT scholarship).

    Honorius is within the pale of Catholic dogma concerning infallibility. What he actually wrote in addressing the monothelite controversy was condemned by later councils, but his teaching was not formally heretical; instead it seems that he fundamentally misunderstood the issues and consequently misspoke, as described in the book to which K Doran referred earlier in this thread.

  77. Dear Jason,

    I hear you about staying with drawn-out and nuanced discussion. I hope we can both get our tenacity on! The nuances can be infinitely consequential, notwithstanding their being nuances.

    Similar to what I just said to Andrew, I agree with you that “God doesn’t need the human agent to be infallible in order for him to bring about his will infallibly.” My contention is not that God cannot deliver untainted truth through fallible actors. My argument is that we have no assurance reliable enough to bind our consciences that the Protestant canon is true. (I also argue that it is ad hoc, but I won’t repeat that here.)

    I’m not perfectly clear about your dismissal of the Catholic “VanTilian” view of authority and history. She believes what she believes, and is ready to stand or fall by her claims of truth. Would you have her rub her hands together when delivering a teaching and admit something like, “gee, we could be wrong about this?” I doubt that Protestants are any more open to historical evidence offered up against its own canon, e.g., historical evidence supporting the exclusion of Esther or Revelation from the canon.

    The Catholic Church does not insist, as some other religions do, that an opponent shut his mouth when raising an historical objection. I have a relative who was excommunicated from a particular Reformed denomination for questioning its teaching, but this heavy-handedness is not the Catholic way (and thankfully, this is very, very rarely the Protestant way). Instead the Catholic Church argues about and interacts with historical data. And these debates are out there for all to read, not hidden away. The Catholic Church highly espouses the principle of freedom of conscience, and would not bind any person’s conscience who could not accept her own view of history based on that person’s view of history. She instead works with such a person and prays with them and hopes they can come to agreement on whatever the dispute is. This has been my experience, and in large part explains why it has taken me six years to come around to entering the Catholic Church.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  78. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the good discussion!

    You wrote:
    Also, if you are settling the debate by analysis of historical data, a critical problem arises. You have thereby placed analysis of historical data above the canon, and thus violated sola scriptura. I argued this at length in this article. Please let me know if you’re not sure what I’m getting at, or let me know why you think I am incorrect.

    I understand your point; do you see my point? Sola Scriptura never required all historical facts and background of books to be in the text; so if a historical fact is true in real space and time, then that truth/fact is not over or above Scripture, it is merely knowable apart from the text itself. So, it does not violate Sola Scriptura. For example, that Mark wrote Peter is not explicity written out in the text of Mark. This is no problem for Sola Scriptura, because Sola Scriptura never required all historical background knowledge to be in the text. When Luther said at his trial at the Diet of Worms, “Unless I am convinced by Holy Scripture or evident reason, I will not recant, because Popes and councils have erred and contradicted one another” (my paraphrase from memory)

    He was pretty much assuming the same canon as Protestants. (with doubts about James as strawry as compared with Galatians and Romans; and doubts about Revelation and Esther, etc.)

    Sola Scriptura only says that Scripture is the only infallible source or authority for faith and practice; not that it is the only source of all knowledge. Studying the background of a book, etc. does not put those facts and evidences above Scripture, it merely confirms. If it is real history, it is true. So those facts about the historical background of different books, while not in the text, if true and historical are still true. Truth is truth; in Scripture, nature, history, space, mathematics, etc. There is a lot of truth that is not spelled out in Scripture.

    Sola Scriptura was that Scripture rules over Popes and councils decisions and interpretations and all the interpretations of doctors and early church father must be subjected again to the light of God’s holy word, the Scriptures.

    I will try to interact with more of what you wrote later.

  79. Dear Ken,

    I argued in the paper that for Protestantism to be consistent, it has to see any extra-Biblical evidence that is needed to define the canon as being above the canon, and thus as violating sola scriptura. This is because Protestantism faults Catholicism as placing herself over the canon by exercising a power to define the canon. If you exercise your judgment in a way that defines the canon, you are placing your judgment “over” the canon in the same way you would say the Catholic Church places herself “over” the canon.

    You said: “Sola Scriptura never required all historical facts and background of books to be in the text.” I’m not trying to claim that it ever did. I’m saying that to be consistent, an advocate of sola scriptura cannot tolerate defining the canon with evidence that is extra-Biblical, because by its own terms this would place that evidence above the canon. Ridderbos has this spot on.

    You said: “if a historical fact is true in real space and time, then that truth/fact is not over or above Scripture, it is merely knowable apart from the text itself. So, it does not violate Sola Scriptura.” But Ken, the real question is how do we know what is true, or perhaps how certain can we be of truth. History does not tell us what is in the canon. The canon of infallible writ is a theological construct. You cannot know that Esther is canonical in the same way you can know that General Lee fought at Gettysburg. You can know that the Book of Esther has a certain history, but this does not lead you to the theological conclusion that it is of God. You have to apply (1) human reason to (2) your criterion of canonicity to reach that conclusion!

    You said: “Sola Scriptura only says that Scripture is the only infallible source or authority for faith and practice; not that it is the only source of all knowledge.” Ken, I know this – I defined the doctrine this way repeatedly in my article (!). I am not arguing that you violate sola scriptura simply on account of Scripture being the “only source of knowledge.” I’m arguing that you violate the terms of sola scriptura by what you do to reach a canon in spite of Scripture not giving you a canon (explicitly)—when you apply human reason to your criterion of canonicity. Please reconsider the paragraphs around footnote 26, and this, from section III. Tell me, which premise or conclusion do you disagree with here?:

    The doctrine of sola scriptura maintains that the Bible is to be the Christian’s sole infallible authority. The sine qua non (‘that without which’) of the Reformation is that no Church or other human judgment can be placed over Scripture. Power over the canon is power over Scripture itself because it is the power to eradicate a necessary part of the canon or to add a spurious part to Scripture. So the Reformed position is not any more compatible with the Church or other human judgment being placed over the canon than it is compatible with their placement over Scripture itself.

    But the very act of answering the Canon Question inherently involves an extra-Biblical fallible human judgment, unless one is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. This fallible human judgment, by defining the criterion of canon, exercises power over the canon itself. And as I just noted, power over the canon is power over Scripture. Therefore, absent the Holy Spirit’s preserving one from error, to answer the Canon Question is to exercise power over Scripture, and to place one’s judgment over Scripture. So to answer the Canon Question is to violate the doctrine of sola scriptura by placing something over the Christian’s sole infallible authority. If Protestants see the Catholic Church as placing herself ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, so too they should see answers to the Canon Question culled from human reason or extra-Biblical evidence as being ‘over’ Scripture. Since Protestants see the former as violating sola scriptura, there is no principled reason not to see the latter as a violation of sola scriptura.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  80. Ken,

    To second what Tom is saying, he is _not_ arguing that Protestantism is inconsistent because it affirms knowledge from sources outside of scripture. He is arguing that Protestantism is inconsistent because it simultaneously faults Catholics for using extra scriptural sources (the authority of popes and councils) to define the canon, while Protestants themselves use extra-scriptural sources (history, scholarship) to define the canon. Both Protestants and Catholics use extra-scriptural sources to define the canon. If your definition of sola scriptura allows for the Protestant use of extra-scriptural sources to define the canon, then you must let Catholics use extra scriptural sources to define the canon. But if you will not let Catholics use extra-scriptural sources to define the canon, then you cannot let yourself use extra-scriptural sources to define the canon.

    So we leave you with the question: will you let Catholics use extra scriptural sources to define the very canon itself? If you will not, then why do you let your compatriots use extra scriptural sources to define the canon? If you will, then why won’t you let us use extra scriptural sources for anything other than defining the canon?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  81. K. Doran,

    Very well put! I remember one scholar (I do not recall who, why do I forget such things!!!) saying, “The Protestant Reformation did not do away with authority, it just shifted authority from the Church to the Academy.”

    I think that is a fair assessment, even though that was not the intention of the Reformers. The rejection of the Church’s authority created a vacuum and that vacuum was filled by the academy to come in and reconstruct and deconstruct Jesus, Paul, the early Church etc… and all to the whims of the guild that held sway at the time (how many quests for the historical Jesus are we up to now?).

  82. Tom,

    I agree wholeheartedly, and find it quite ironic watching Protestant apologists of the 20th century and our own times struggling against scripture’s and greater Nicene Christianity’s detractors, many of whom are themselves Protestants utilizing a methodology that is the logical result of Reformation principles and which the Protestants themselves, perhaps even more ironically, use to rebut the unique historical, biblical and systematic-theological claims of the Roman Catholic Church.

  83. Hey Tom,

    Thanks, and I hear ya. When I was a doubtful of the Church’s authority I always looked to other sources to replace it. The ideal non-magisterial sources are deep scholars who lead exemplary moral lives, and (if one believes in miracles) have experienced or mediated miracles of one sort or another. But too many of these ideal sources turned out to be Catholic saints who recognized Church authority themselves; so I couldn’t ignore Church authority any longer. Our separated brethren are right to look for some authorities in their lives, including authorities that can help them identify the all-important canon of scripture. Let’s pray that they will get to know the Catholic saints, and by these lesser authorities be lead to the greater authority of the magisterium itself. . . and by that greater light be lead more fully into the mystery of the one great light, our Lord.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  84. Ken,
    To second what Tom is saying, he is _not_ arguing that Protestantism is inconsistent because it affirms knowledge from sources outside of scripture.

    K. Doran, Actually, yes he is. Seems like it to me; right Tom?

    He is arguing that Protestantism is inconsistent because it simultaneously faults Catholics for using extra scriptural sources (the authority of popes and councils) to define the canon, while Protestants themselves use extra-scriptural sources (history, scholarship) to define the canon.

    Except the claim of the RCC is not just “using extra-biblical sources”, but it is claiming that these are infallible extra-biblical sources; and they give extra assurance, infallible certainty and knowledge and assurance. See how hard it is to discuss the issue without also bringing in the RCC claim of infallibility? I say we can find fault with the RCC because it has make mistakes, added false doctrines, and also claimed an authority to itself, late in history (1870) and then reads back into all history that claim and explains it under the canopy of “development of doctrine” ( Newman, etc.)

    Both Protestants and Catholics use extra-scriptural sources to define the canon. If your definition of sola scriptura allows for the Protestant use of extra-scriptural sources to define the canon, then you must let Catholics use extra scriptural sources to define the canon.

    You and your church can (and already has done – they have already defined these things as dogmas for themselves; and also make the claim over all human creatures – Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctum) do whatever you want; but not without criticism; I guess that is what you mean.

    But if you will not let Catholics use extra-scriptural sources to define the canon, then you cannot let yourself use extra-scriptural sources to define the canon.

    I disagree. It is not an equal analogy. We are fine with the early church history as history if nothing credible contradicts the facts. But yours is a claim to infallibility; and it is was a big claim, claiming infallibility is almost like claiming to be God. (Only God and His Word is infallible)

    So we leave you with the question: will you let Catholics use extra scriptural sources to define the very canon itself? If you will not, then why do you let your compatriots use extra scriptural sources to define the canon? If you will, then why won’t you let us use extra scriptural sources for anything other than defining the canon?

    Again, we don’t stop you from making it your case; you mean, I think, that we make an unfair argument. But, again, you left out that word infallible; a big claim; and so, your claim is much bigger than just wanting to be free from criticism for using extra-Biblical sources. Because it is more than that; your Church is actually claiming infallibility on the canon, and you are saying if that is true and if the early got it right on the NT, why no be unified and submit to all the other stuff? I.e. – that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth and we have to repent of our rebellion and submit to the Pope in order to be saved. (Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctum) I know Vatican 2 softened all that, (but it is a clear contradiction to the history of the anathemas and the tradition of “no salvation outside the church”, ) but that is the clear implication of all the RCC apologetics. And in order to be saved in RCC theology, one must believe all the dogmas, transubstantiation, Mary’s PV, IC, and BA, etc. To believe in any of those things, and other things like indulgences and treasury of merit, purgatory, and praying to Mary and relics and NT priests, etc. to us, is like going against Scripture, reason, and truth.

    Tom Reillo wrote:
    I think that is a fair assessment, even though that was not the intention of the Reformers. The rejection of the Church’s authority created a vacuum and that vacuum was filled by the academy to come in and reconstruct and deconstruct Jesus, Paul, the early Church etc… and all to the whims of the guild that held sway at the time (how many quests for the historical Jesus are we up to now?).

    I cannot understand this kind of argument – that kind of academic approach comes from no faith at all in God or the miraculous in Scripture and so, that is not even Christianity at all.

  85. Dear Ken,

    No, I am not arguing that Protestantism is inconsistent for affirming knowledge from sources outside of Scripture. Please read my previous comment to you, in which I explained this at length.

    Regarding your concerns over infallibility, the Reformers did not reject the Catholic Church because the Church claimed infallibility. The Reformers rejected the Catholic Church because they saw her as placing herself “over” Scripture. If you reject Catholicism because she makes claims of infallibility, you are having your own private Reformation, not the Reformation that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and their fellows had. Catholicism binds consciences with respect to the canon. Protestantism does this too whether or not it claims the canon is infallible.

    You said: “I say we can find fault with the RCC because it has make [sic] mistakes, added false doctrines, and also claimed an authority to itself, late in history (1870) and then reads back into all history that claim and explains it under the canopy of ‘development of doctrine’ ( Newman, etc.)” Ken, comments like this one are irrelevant to the point in discussion here, specifically my arguments about the doctrine of sola scriptura. Please refrain from this type of rhetoric, because I cannot rebut it here without steering the entire course of the discussion badly off course.

    Ken, what do you think of my point that history does not record the canon the way it records that General Lee was at Gettysburg? You appear still to be speaking of history as if it yields the canon. You then said: “claiming infallibility is almost like claiming to be God. (Only God and His Word is [sic] infallible).” Random House defines “infallible” this way: “absolutely trustworthy or sure.” If I tell you it is an infallible truth that the sun will rise tomorrow, I have said something absolutely trustworthy or sure. I have not thereby almost claimed to be God. Again, you are claiming a basis for rejecting Catholicism that differs from the Reformers’ basis for rejecting Catholicism.

    I still hope to hear your interaction with my previous comment, which is a partial repeat of the parts of my overall argument that applies to the position I think you are taking.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  86. Dear Ken,

    Many reformers do not believe that the Church’s definition of the canon should be used to provide certainty about the canon. They fear this would place the Church “over” scripture (we Catholics disagree, of course). But the same logic would declare that the use of historical analysis and the scholarship of professors to provide _certainty_ would place these authorities “over” scripture. If you are willing to concede that your use of historical analysis and the scholarship of professors leaves you with an uncertain, fallible table of contents, then we can move to a different stage of the argument. But if you believe that your scholarship has given you a completely certain, infallible table of contents, then we are left with the point that I made in #80, in summary of Tom’s argument.

    Do you believe that your scholarship has given you complete certainty about the table of contents of scripture? Compete certainty about every book that should be included and every word (even the ones that vary across early manuscripts) that belongs in every book? If yes, then By The Reformed Definition Of “Over” Scripture, you have made your scholarship “over” scripture as well. If you don’t believe that you have such complete certainty, then we are in the “fallible canon of infallible books” part of the argument, which I recommend you then read in Tom’s post above.

    I won’t have time to interact more, but I wish you the best in your search for truth!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  87. Ken,

    I am not sure what you cannot understand about what I wrote. I do not think it is a coincidence that the historical/critical approach, redactionary criticism, historical quest for Jesus etc… all began in the Protestant University especially in Europe. Better minds than mine have suggested that the Enlightenment also has its roots in the Protestant Reformation (again, in no way am I saying that Luther or Calvin intended this or thought this was going to happen, but the law of unintended consequences holds place). I think Bart Erhman is a good example of what happens when one does not have the support of the Church to define the faith. He was Moody trained and a self-described fundamentalist. He then went off to Princeton where he learned things contrary to his Moody training. Instead of having the foundation of the Church to support him, he, by his own admission, came to the place where he does not accept the claims of Christ, nor does he accept the canon established by the Church.

  88. Tom wrote:
    No, I am not arguing that Protestantism is inconsistent for affirming knowledge from sources outside of Scripture. Please read my previous comment to you, in which I explained this at length.

    Thanks Tom ( and K. Doran and Tom R.)

    I was just trying to keep it simple; I am not as smart in my words or formulation of arguments or logic as you guys are; you seem to have said that Protestantism violates the principle of Sola Scriptura because it relies on extra-biblical sources to even know what Scripture is; and that is inconsistent, in your view, with the principle of Sola Scriptura, right?

    Regarding your concerns over infallibility, the Reformers did not reject the Catholic Church because the Church claimed infallibility.

    They did, later, as a result of their rejection of what you write in your next sentence. You are right, but they rejected the infallibility claim as a result of your next sentence, which I think is true.

    The Reformers rejected the Catholic Church because they saw her as placing herself “over” Scripture.

    Yes, you are right on this, but wasn’t it both? They rejected the RCC as the final authority to interpret Scripture, since in the minds of the Reformers; they had added things and made wrong interpretations. (issues relating to justification, indulgences, penance, and then other things were questioned also, like purgatory and the treasury of merit and relics, etc.) Questioning the RCC’s interpretations on the issues of indulgences and justification caused questioning the authority of the church, which later led to asking questions about the canon. Don’t you think?

    If you reject Catholicism because she makes claims of infallibility, you are having your own private Reformation, not the Reformation that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and their fellows had. Catholicism binds consciences with respect to the canon. Protestantism does this too whether or not it claims the canon is infallible.

    Not trying to have my own private Reformation at all. The Reformation started over penance and indulgences, and the RCC defended herself and it grew from there; eventually resulting in questioning the infallibility of the church and pope, which was not formal dogma yet, but was growing and defended when questioned. Right? Justification issues of interpretation led to the authority and Sola Scriptura issue.

    You said: “I say we can find fault with the RCC because it has make [sic] mistakes, added false doctrines, and also claimed an authority to itself, late in history (1870) and then reads back into all history that claim and explains it under the canopy of ‘development of doctrine’ ( Newman, etc.)”
    Ken, comments like this one are irrelevant to the point in discussion here, specifically my arguments about the doctrine of sola scriptura. Please refrain from this type of rhetoric, because I cannot rebut it here without steering the entire course of the discussion badly off course.

    Ok, sorry, I am not trying to be harsh or spew “rhetoric”; but it does seem like where all this leads and that is the ultimate goal of RC apologetics, that is, creating doubt about the canon under Protestant Sola Scriptura thinking, which leads to the result that this argument would convince the Protestant/Evangelical to have to accept the 1870 dogma under the development theory and then cross the Tiber to conversion to the RCC. Newman said something like “there is no middle ground”, one either has to convert to Rome or become an atheist/agnostic/loose his faith. (something like that) Does anyone know where that is? I read somewhere at the Newman reader web site, but cannot find it again.

    But you are correct that defending that would require lots of time and space.

    Ken, what do you think of my point that history does not record the canon the way it records that General Lee was at Gettysburg? You appear still to be speaking of history as if it yields the canon.

    If something really happens in history, then it is truth and reality, (that it happened), right?

    I just don’t see any credible reason to doubt whether Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark under Peter’s apostolic authority or that Peter really wrote 2 Peter in real time and space history before he was executed in 67 AD under Nero; or that Peter wrote 1 Peter and had Silvanus clean up his grammar and/or Peter spoke it to him and Silvanus was his amanuensis. ( I Peter 5:12) or that Hebrews is “God-breathed”, whether written by Barnabas, Luke, Silas, or Apollos.

    I guess, the key is “in the same way” – I don’t know much about Gettysburg, except that is was the largest battle of the Civil War and took place in a field in Pennsylvania and it was the bloodies of all the battles.

    Do you mean that Gettysburg had lots of eyewitness testimony and many people writing it down as it happened, whereas the canon is testified by people years after the fact. Papias (died around 140) is testifying that Mark wrote Gospel of Mark for/under Peter; so that is almost 80 years later. And the record of that is from Irenaeus ( AD. 200); and then Eusebius (325 ) – I am guessing you are saying the way the historical records have come to us are different and not as reliable for the canon issues as for Gettysburg. Is that right?

    You then said: “claiming infallibility is almost like claiming to be God. (Only God and His Word is [sic] infallible).” Random House defines “infallible” this way: “absolutely trustworthy or sure.”

    I thought it was, “incapable of error”, “incapable of making a mistake”. To be fallible means we make mistakes, as shown by my bad grammar and typing errors by your [sic] additions. So, to be infallible is incapable of making a mistake.

    If I tell you it is an infallible truth that the sun will rise tomorrow, I have said something absolutely trustworthy or sure. I have not thereby almost claimed to be God.

    True; why the need for using the word “infallible” with respect to our subjective knowledge? This much doubting and skepticism leads to madness of the brain and obsession.

    This is the point that C. Michael Patton makes in his article on the canon at Parchment and Pen:
    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/01/why-i-believe-the-canon-is-fallible-and-am-fine-with-it/#more-3727

    “For example, I believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. I prepare each day with this belief in mind. Each night, I set my alarm clock and review my appointments for the following day, having a certain expectation that the next day will truly come. While I have certainty about the sun rising the next day, I don’t have infallible certainty that it will. There could be some astronomical anomaly that causes the earth to stop its rotation. There could be an asteroid that comes and destroys the earth. Christ could come in the middle of the night. In short, I don’t have absolute infallible certainty about the coming of the next day. This, however, does not give me an excuse before men or God for not believing that it will come. What if I missed an early appointment the next day and told the person “I am sorry, I did not set my alarm clock because I did not have infallible certainty that this day would come.” Would that be a valid excuse? It would neither be a valid excuse to the person who I was supposed to meet or to God.”

    Later, he talks about the character played by Bill Murray in the movie, “What about Bob?” – and shows how destructive too much doubting and skepticism brings. “how do you know for sure?” is what I hear all the time from RC apologists and my personal friend, Rod Bennett, author of Four Witnessess: The Early Church in Her Own Words (Ignatius, 2002). (he was one my groomsmen in my wedding in 1988; and became RC in 1996.

    Again, you are claiming a basis for rejecting Catholicism that differs from the Reformers’ basis for rejecting Catholicism.

    I answered that above; I agree with you on the initial reasons for the Reformation, and I agree with the Reformers; but I think that the second (rejecting infallibility) results from the rejection of the first (putting the church over the canon, and interpretations). And since the second results from the first, then they go together, right? And then the other issues are part of that whole cluster of issues; ie. Justification, Indulgences, purgatory, treasury of merit, prayers to saints and Mary, etc.

  89. Tom, is this what you are talking about in your previous comment?

    But Ken, the real question is how do we know what is true, or perhaps how certain can we be of truth. History does not tell us what is in the canon. The canon of infallible writ is a theological construct. You cannot know that Esther is canonical in the same way you can know that General Lee fought at Gettysburg. You can know that the Book of Esther has a certain history, but this does not lead you to the theological conclusion that it is of God. You have to apply (1) human reason to (2) your criterion of canonicity to reach that conclusion!

    I understand what you are getting at; ie, “how do we know what we know” – epistemology. Yes, we have to ultimately use human reason to make our decisions. But if the human reason is not helped by the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration, and then the process of renewing the mind, then that human reason is faulty. But our faith and decisions, if caused by God, are not bad in themselves. Remember John 10:27 and I John 2:27 – “Me sheep hear My voice” and “you have no one to teach you (infallibly), because you have the anointing of the Holy Spirit and He gives you discernment to know the truth.” (my paraphrase)

    I don’t think it places my reason or human power over the canon; it is merely the means/agency by which we connect to intellectual truths. You used your human reason to decide that the RCC was the true church and converted; fine; that is relying on your reasoning powers also. You will likely say, “that is the Tu Quogue “you too” argument, so we won’t allow it. I don’t understand why it cannot be allowed as relevant. It is not ad homeminem, just the fact that we all use our minds to exercise faith and make decisions. We all ultimately make our decisions by human reasoning and thinking. Having faith includes thinking.
    Even Romans 14:5 speaks of this, “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

  90. Dear Ken,

    We are going in circles a little bit. Please tell me with which premise or conclusion from my block quote in #79 you disagree. In answer to your question about what I am saying, I am saying this:

    I argued in the paper that for Protestantism to be consistent, it has to see any extra-Biblical evidence that is needed to define the canon as being above the canon, and thus as violating sola scriptura.

    We agree that the Reformers rejected the Catholic Church because they saw her as placing herself “over” Scripture. A lot of things happened as a result of this, certainly including the Reformers’ rejection of the Catholic claim to the charism of infallibility. But my point in that block quote in #79, is about the need for consistent rejection of things that are “over” Scripture. Until you address that part of my argument, I think talk of infallibility is a distraction.

    Ken, please note that I did not accuse you of spewing rhetoric. “Rhetoric” doesn’t have to be a pejorative term, and I didn’t mean it that way. I meant it this way: “the use of language.”

    You said about my Gettysburg example and people’s handling of history: “If something really happens in history, then it is truth and reality, (that it happened), right?

    This is key: the proper scope of the canon is not something that happened in history. You gave examples, like that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. That is something that happened. But you cannot get from [Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark] to [the Gospel of Mark is canonical] without an intermediate step. This step is not epistemology either (that’s another distracting point). The intermediate step is your having to apply (1) human reason and (2) your criterion of canonicity. If we found another letter by Mark, would you say that got wrongfully left out of the Bible? Why is Mark’s authorship a proof of canonicity? If we found out that someone other than Mark wrote that Gospel, would you exclude it?

    You said about recognizing the leadings of the Holy Spirit to determine the canon: “I don’t think it places my reason or human power over the canon; it is merely the means/agency by which we connect to intellectual truths.” Here, I think, is the inconsistency in rejecting the Catholic Church’s being “over” Scripture while simultaneously placing yourself “over” Scripture. If you are not “over” Scripture by studying the texts and their history, and by listening to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, of what is the Catholic Church guilty in determining the canon? She can equally claim that she has been a “means/agency by which we connect to intellectual truths.” You have simply replaced the Church’s judgment for your own. Note that I am not opposed to the use of human reason (as I used human reason in deciding to become Catholic, like you said). I am arguing that you can’t have it both ways, rejecting the Catholic Church for using human reason in determining the canon while permitting yourself to use the same. I have a reason to trust the Church over myself or any individual, because she was given certain promises and graces by Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  91. You mention circularity of the argument in the “preaching Christ” section. I think circularity can also be applied to self-authentication and to historical issues.

    Regarding self-authentication, if Scripture is the sole reliable source of infallible Truth on which Christianity is based (sola scriptura), then how can the authenticity of the content of scripture be measured if not by the standard of the Truth which it reveals? That is to say, Scripture is the source of the Truth which is the (objective) standard by which the authenticity of its content is measured.

    Another problem with self-authentication: without a definitive inspired table of contents, if we (only) know the canon of Scripture through self-authentication, then not only do the books currently recognised as Scripture need to be assessed to be certain they are authentic, so also every other book in existence needs to be assessed to be sure they are not scripture.

    Regarding recourse to historical sources, Protestants consider legitimate those historical sources with which they agree; they then go on to use these sources to legitimise their position. (Circularity.)

    “.. because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God.”
    “Those that the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, … ”
    The problem with relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit on this matter is that it either leads to something of the Catholic position of infallibility (but instead of Magisterium, you have Individuals), or else the Holy Spirit is redundant (since the Holy Spirit cannot guide unto falsehood).

  92. Tom and others, thanks for your patience and interaction. I could not spend time on this until now.

    Tom’s block quote from # 79:
    The doctrine of sola scriptura maintains that the Bible is to be the Christian’s sole infallible authority. The sine qua non (‘that without which’) of the Reformation is that no Church or other human judgment can be placed over Scripture. Power over the canon is power over Scripture itself because it is the power to eradicate a necessary part of the canon or to add a spurious part to Scripture. So the Reformed position is not any more compatible with the Church or other human judgment being placed over the canon than it is compatible with their placement over Scripture itself.
    But the very act of answering the Canon Question inherently involves an extra-Biblical fallible human judgment, unless one is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. This fallible human judgment, by defining the criterion of canon, exercises power over the canon itself.

    I don’t think recognizing the canon because of its existence as a collection of “God –breathed” books, is exercising power over it. It is just recognizing reality and truth that is already there. Each book was written separately to different communities, by several different authors. The Romans were persecuting them. Communication was very hard. Churches didn’t have all of them all at once. The Romans burned many manuscripts, especially from 250-312 AD. The historical process of getting them all under one cover is understandable. The codex was just coming into being; many scholars believe that the Christians invented the codex form. Before that they were scrolls and individual sheets of papyri and / or vellum (animal skins).

    And as I just noted, power over the canon is power over Scripture.

    I disagree with the premise; we don’t have power over the canon. Scripture is canonical because it is “God –breathed” ( 2 Tim. 3:16) “Canon” is a human category collecting all the God-breathed together under one cover or listing. It meant “standard”, “rule”, ‘criterion”.

    Therefore, absent the Holy Spirit’s preserving one from error, to answer the Canon Question is to exercise power over Scripture, and to place one’s judgment over Scripture.

    I disagree that to answer the Canon Question is to exercise power over Scripture. We just recognize and witness to and affirm and testify and discern and the early church discovered that it is “God-breathed”, because the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the canonical books. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

    So to answer the Canon Question is to violate the doctrine of sola scriptura by placing something over the Christian’s sole infallible authority.

    I understand why you think that; but I disagree that we violate the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

    If Protestants see the Catholic Church as placing herself ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, so too they should see answers to the Canon Question culled from human reason or extra-Biblical evidence as being ‘over’ Scripture. Since Protestants see the former as violating sola scriptura, there is no principled reason not to see the latter as a violation of sola scriptura.

    The early got some things right and some things wrong. It was the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit of Truth to teach the apostles all things, and guide the apostles into all the truth ( John 14:24; and 16:12-13) that shows us that the apostles wrote the Scriptures down. We agree with Athanasius in 367 AD on the canon of the NT; (and Origen probably also had the same canon in 250 AD.) We are just looking at the history and tradition and testing it by the word of God. Whatever agrees with Scripture is true, and whatever does not agree is not true.

    As Gregory of Nyssa wrote:
    “We make the Holy Scriptures the canon and rule of every dogma; we of necessity look upon that, and receive alone that which may be conformable to the intention of those writings.” ( From “On the Soul and Resurrection”)

    And Basil –
    “Therefore, let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth.” (letter 189)
    ===============================================================
    We are going in circles a little bit.

    That is the nature of apologetics.

    Please tell me with which premise or conclusion from my block quote in #79 you disagree.
    see above
    In answer to your question about what I am saying, I am saying this:
    I argued in the paper that for Protestantism to be consistent, it has to see any extra-Biblical evidence that is needed to define the canon as being above the canon, and thus as violating sola scriptura.

    No, it does not have to see that as above the canon, and it does not violate Sola Scriptura. Especially since the 27 did not drop from the sky in one “codex” or “book”. We acknowledge the process of the early history of the church.

    We agree that the Reformers rejected the Catholic Church because they saw her as placing herself “over” Scripture. A lot of things happened as a result of this, certainly including the Reformers’ rejection of the Catholic claim to the charism of infallibility. But my point in that block quote in #79, is about the need for consistent rejection of things that are “over” Scripture. Until you address that part of my argument, I think talk of infallibility is a distraction.

    Not trying to distract; rather pointing out that the RCC does not only use extra-biblical sources; but claims that they are also infallible, and that claim was not dogma until Trent and Vatican I, and it honestly seems like anachronism and as you mentioned, “drawing a circle” around something before you shoot at it and claim that already hit the target. Only the Scriptures are infallible, because they are God’s word. John 17:8; 17:17.

    Ken, please note that I did not accuse you of spewing rhetoric. “Rhetoric” doesn’t have to be a pejorative term, and I didn’t mean it that way. I meant it this way: “the use of language.”

    Sorry; I apologize. I didn’t mean it pejorative either. It appeared that I offended you by that statement.

    You said about my Gettysburg example and people’s handling of history: “If something really happens in history, then it is truth and reality, (that it happened), right?”
    This is key: the proper scope of the canon is not something that happened in history. You gave examples, like that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. That is something that happened. But you cannot get from [Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark] to [the Gospel of Mark is canonical] without an intermediate step.

    I see now. . . umm . . . I guess I would add, “Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark under Peter’s direction, who was carried along by the Holy Spirit to write it ( 2 Peter 1:20), so because it is God-breathed, it is canonical. Canon is a result of being “God-breathed”. It is self-attesting to those who have the Spirit and are mature – I John 2:27; John 10:27; I Cor. 2:14-16; Galatians 4:6.

    This step is not epistemology

    Seems like it to me, honestly.

    either (that’s another distracting point). The intermediate step is your having to apply (1) human reason and (2) your criterion of canonicity. If we found another letter by Mark, would you say that got wrongfully left out of the Bible?

    No, I don’t think it is a distracting point; it is the essence of the RCC apologetic argument to get Protestants to return to Rome. (Both epistemology and infalliblity and assurance for canon and the right interpretaion and unity of history and love of history; along with desire for deeper thought and rejection of shallowness of modern Evangelicalism)

    No, I don’t believe anything got left out or added wrongly. (of the 66 books that Protestants believe) That hypothetical of finding a letter by Mark is not really worth worrying about. Why waste time with “what if another letter by Mark was found?” That is similar to the overboard desire for infallible certainty like the “what about Bob?” syndrome that C. Michael Patton talked about.
    He wrote for Peter, an apostle; that’s good enough. The internal character and spiritual quality of the book of Mark (that it is “God-breathed”) is more important than the fact that Mark wrote it.

    Why is Mark’s authorship a proof of canonicity? If we found out that someone other than Mark wrote that Gospel, would you exclude it?

    As long as it is inspired / God-breathed, and under Peter’s direction, doesn’t really matter. We have testimony from Papias, Irenaeus, Eusebius, and probably others like Origen and Tertullian. That’s good enough. Again, this kind of extreme skepticism and need for infallible assurance in my own subjective opinion and “what if” stuff can be too introspective and damaging to faith, and sometimes waste time.

    You said about recognizing the leadings of the Holy Spirit to determine the canon: “I don’t think it places my reason or human power over the canon; it is merely the means/agency by which we connect to intellectual truths.” Here, I think, is the inconsistency in rejecting the Catholic Church’s being “over” Scripture while simultaneously placing yourself “over” Scripture. If you are not “over” Scripture by studying the texts and their history, and by listening to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, of what is the Catholic Church guilty in determining the canon?

    The Holy Spirit guided the early church on the NT; but it was not the Holy Spirit who lead Trent to define the OT deuteron-canonical books. Trent was reacting to Luther and Calvin and the Reformation. The OT canon took longer to come to the RCC making a dogmatic claim about those that are called “deteuro-canonical” books. But it seems clearer from earlier history, the three-fold Tanakh of the Jews and Jesus (Luke 24:44; 11:51-52); Josephus (Against Apion 1:8); Jerome, Athanasius, Melito of Sardis, Origen, Gregory, Cajatan, etc. and that Maccabees itself admitted the spirit of prophesy had ceased in Israel at the time of the Persians (around when Malachi and Chronicles were written); and the fact that Malachi ends with prophesies about the forerunner to the Messiah and they are some of the main quotes affirming John the Baptist’s ministry; – all this combined shows the Protestant canon is correct. The struggle with Esther (because God’s name is not mentioned) and inclusions of the embedded parts of Daniel in the LXX are understandable. Those that knew Hebrew knew the other books were not canonical.

    She can equally claim that she has been a “means/agency by which we connect to intellectual truths.” You have simply replaced the Church’s judgment for your own. Note that I am not opposed to the use of human reason (as I used human reason in deciding to become Catholic, like you said). I am arguing that you can’t have it both ways, rejecting the Catholic Church for using human reason in determining the canon while permitting yourself to use the same. I have a reason to trust the Church over myself or any individual, because she was given certain promises and graces by Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    I can have humble confidence that we are right on the canon over Trent, for Trent was reacting to Luther and Calvin and used their fallible human knowledge and fears to dogmatically put down the Reformation. Those promises and graces are for the people of God and local churches who hold to the Scriptures. When the RCC started neglecting Scriptural truths regarding justification and salvation and adding works and penance, indulgences, and water baptism as a justifying act, and Marian practices, and ideas about relics and visiting graves and praying to dead saints; they drifted from the Scriptures. Since they didn’t hold to the Scriptures, they could no longer claim those promises.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

    I wish you peace also – Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God . . . ” . . . Romans 5:9 “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
    John 14:27

    Romans 4:1-16

    Ken T.

  93. Dear T. Needham,

    Thanks for contributing. I’m not sure I completely follow you in your first point about self-authentification. Your second point on self-authentification, that all non-scriptural books need to be held to the same measure, doesn’t strike me as a problem for the Reformed. They can say that every book not in Scripture does fail to authenticate itself as being scriptural.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  94. Dear Ken,

    Thank you for the response, and do not concern yourself about having to tend to life for a few days.

    I’m glad that we got down to the premise of my argument with which you disagree. That helps hone this discussion a lot, as was evident from the first half of your reply. You said in essence that recognizing the canon is not exercising power over it. I argued that this exercise over Scripture occurs where one has the power to eradicate a necessary part or add a spurious part to Scripture. To avoid my scenario, you would have to maintain that no exercise of judgment is occurring. I think that is your claim (I’m not trying to corner you). You said, “It is just recognizing reality and truth that is already there.” So to you, Protestants do not exercise judgment (and thus power) over Scripture because they know it for what it is like you see red and know it’s red without applying judgment. I hope I am fairly characterizing your position.

    If there is no exercise of judgment to determine which books belong to the canon, and we just recognize the reality and truth of the Bible for what it is as it sits there on our lap, then your position seems indistinguishable from the “canon falls from Heaven” possibility that I mentioned in my paper. I’ll summarize my response from the article: the Church never used this method to define the canon until the time of the Reformation; and what is self-attesting and what is not self-attesting is too subjective to be reliable. Calvin himself employed a variety of fall-back arguments to support the Protestant canon when faced with this position of uncertainty.

    You answered my words (“for Protestantism to be consistent, it has to see any extra-Biblical evidence that is needed to define the canon as being above the canon, and thus as violating sola scriptura”) with this reply: “No, it does not have to see that as above the canon, and it does not violate Sola Scriptura. . . . We acknowledge the process of the early history of the church.

    You have not argued against my position, but merely contradicted it, which makes it hard to respond. (In all seriousness, and no offense intended, I grasped the difference between arguments and contradictions only after watching this silly, sarcastic video, especially from :30 seconds to the one minute mark: here.) Given your other comments, I think your argument against my claim of extra-Biblical evidence is that you are not looking to extra-Biblical evidence at all, but seeing Scripture for what it is. But I am puzzled by your saying that you acknowlege the process of the early history of the Church. In what way do you do that? If Scripture can by known by “just recognizing [the] reality and truth that is already there,” what place is there for historical evidence from the early Church? Could something appear to be Scripture, until writings from the early Church persuade you otherwise? Or vice versa? If so, that would appear to contradict your claim that you know Scripture by “just recognizing [the] reality and truth that is already there.”

    Regarding whether we can know the canon from history (like we can know that Gen. Lee was at Gettysburg from history), you said:

    I see now. . . umm . . . I guess I would add, “Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark under Peter’s direction, who was carried along by the Holy Spirit to write it ( 2 Peter 1:20), so because it is God-breathed, it is canonical.” Your addition does not allow us to know the canon from history like we know that something really happened from history. History doesn’t record that Peter was carried along by the Holy Spirit when having his amanuensis write, and history does not even record with certainty that Mark was Peter’s amanuensis. There is evidence of it from history, but if we rely on that, you’re right back to having to respond to Ridderbos’s argument about using a posteriori evidence to determine the canon.

    You asked: “That hypothetical of finding a letter by Mark is not really worth worrying about. Why waste time with ‘what if another letter by Mark was found?'” I am not worried about the possibility. I am asking the purely hypothetical question to see whether you are willing to follow your canon criterion–that whatever is apostolically written is Scriptural–whereever it takes you. My questioning is not “extreme skepticism” and not based on a “need for infallible assurance” but rather an effort to pin down exactly what measure you use to determine the canon. I am having a hard time finding precisely your answer to the Canon Question because you seem to shift to a different canon criterion when I raise arguments against any one you mention, or else you employ ad hominems against Catholicism for its acceptance of doctrines with which you disagree.

    You said: “The Holy Spirit guided the early church on the NT; but it was not the Holy Spirit who lead Trent to define the OT deuteron-canonical books.” How do you know this? You talked about what you think motivated the Catholic Church, but that doesn’t prove what the Holy Spirit was up to, both because you may be wrong about the Church’s motivations, and because the Holy Spirit could lead the Catholic Church to the right conclusion in spite of ill-founded motives. As I’ve said, there is not one single instance of the Protestant canon being articulated prior to the Reformation, so you would have to believe that the Holy Spirit led the Church into all truth in the 16th century, but not before, and for most Christians (stuck in Catholicism or Orthodoxy), not after.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  95. Ken,

    You wrote: “We acknowledge the process of the early history of the church. We have testimony from Papias, Irenaeus, Eusebius, and probably others like Origen and Tertullian. That’s good enough.”

    Tagging onto what Tom responded, why on earth should we accept the testimony of (some guys) named Papias, Irenaeus, Eusebius, and the others? These are 2nd and 3rd century folks, not Apostles. Who says that they were led by the Spirit; after all, they held to false teachings rejected by Protestants.

    You wrote: “When the RCC started neglecting Scriptural truths regarding justification and salvation and adding…water baptism as a justifying act,”

    Baptismal regeneration is found everywhere in the writings of the Christians in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. Yet you are saying we should accept the testimony of these same men to give us confirmation of the canon? Why should we? They got something as simple as symbolic-baptism wrong.

  96. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your reply. Maybe my first point wasn’t clear … tbh, maybe I’m not so clear on it myself, because as to how the books of scripture “self-authenticate” is somewhat unclear (to me at least). As far as I see it, the books of scripture contain information (inspired, infallible …). But for this information to be authenticated (as inspired, infallible, true etc.) then it must be assessed or measured against a standard (is this not so?). E.g. how can one say that the books of scripture contain infallible Truth (or how can one authenticate this), unless this Truth can be independently known, so that the contents of scripture can be measured against it. But for the Reformed, and those of a similar persuasion, the only source of such information is scripture itself. Any other source is fallible, and therefore no use in authenticating the infallible Truth that is taught in scripture. Therefore, in self-authenticating, only scripture can provide the infallible Truth by which the authenticity of this same Truth can be verified.

    If there is something wrong with what I have said, maybe you (or someone) could clear up how “self-authentication” works for the Reformed.

    As for your second point, “They can say that every book not in Scripture does fail to authenticate itself as being scriptural” – it is very true that they can “claim” this. But the question is, can they demonstrate that EVERY book not in Scripture has been tested? And I do mean EVERY BOOK (and letter) etc that has been written in the last two millenia. Maybe there is just one, somewhere, that has been missed? Is this demonstrable?

    God Bless,
    T. Needham.

  97. Tom,
    Thanks
    You wrote:
    “. . . or else you employ ad hominems against Catholicism for its acceptance of doctrines with which you disagree. “

    I thought ad hominem arguments were against people, not against a system or doctrine or set of dogmas.
    Please show me specifically how they are ad hominem.

    The Monty Python skit was very funny and I agree with that in principle. I am not offended.

    I am learning some new things, (Latin terms, argumentation terms – “tu quoque”, etc.) and I thank you for challenging me to think.

    I guess what I hear you saying is that I am employing a mixture of all the arguments that you addressed in your paper – the historical arguments that Protestants use ( I am summarizing from memory – too much to go back over and pressed for time right now – “Fallback arguments” – Calvin; and Harris) ; and the “self-attestation” argument or “the internal witness of the Holy Spirit” (WCF, Ridderboss).

    Is that what you are saying? That I cannot logically use both?

    _____________________________________
    Devin,
    Thanks for the question. That is the ultimate question for us Baptists who want to honor church history, right?
    When I do Biblical exegesis of the texts of the relevant passages in the Bible, believer’s baptism (disciple’s baptism; that is a person must understand they are a sinner and repent and trust Christ and all that He is in order to be saved; and then that person is baptized.) IMHO, the Baptist view is the most scriptural. But, one can see how later generations misunderstood texts like John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 ; Acts 2:38 and I Peter 3;21 to think it was baptismal regeneration. Baptist exegesis is better, but just a surface reading could lead them to interpret those texts that way. Justin Martyr around 150 seems to be the first. After that, if just took off. It seems clear that infant baptism became a tradition later and then more entrenched with the developed understanding of Augustine and inherited original sin.

    I don’t know why many in the Early Church got that wrong (that we have records of), but they do seem to believe in some kind of baptismal regeneration. I believe they got it right on the NT canon eventually; but were wrong on baptismal regeneration. I don’t know why and I cannot explain it. That is a question I have, and would like to study it further.

    I have been a missionary for 18 years and have seen people coming from another religion (Islam) to Christ, but they think that water baptism does something to them; they bring baggage from their ritual religion with them; it seems like a part of natural human thinking; that the get a blessing or grace or somehow the water cleanses their souls. (like the ex opere operato doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church) Human religion is like that. In Islam, as in Judaism, ritual washing is very important. ( Mark 7 / Matthew 15) Other religions are ritualistic also. Things like animism, Magic, superstition, saying formulas and rituals, washings, etc. are all part of human religions. All religion is like that. Maybe that is what Paul means when he talks about the “elementary principles of this world” ( Galatians 4:9; Colossians 2:20) The young believers in a missionary context coming to Christ from a religion that is very external oriented and legalistic and ritualistic need discipleship in the word of God; just as the Galatians and Colossians and Corinthians were in need of constant teaching.

  98. One such example: If Paul (or another apostle) wrote a letter to the Laodiceans –

    “And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the La-odice’ans; and see that you read also the letter from La-odice’a.” (Colossians 4:16)

    – can a Protestant demonstrate that this is/is not inspired scripture using a process of self-authentication? If this cannot be demonstrated, then this ‘letter to the Laodiceans’ cannot be ruled out as inspired scripture. It follows, then, that the extent of the canon cannot be known by a process of self-authentication.

  99. Dear Ken,

    Thank you for the sacrifices you have made as a missionary in non-Christian lands. I did not know that about you. I hope you and Devin find a chance to discuss religious practice, and whether it is inherently bad like you seem to think it is.

    You are right about ad hominems against people, so I should have said “employ ad hominems against Catholics for their acceptance of doctrines with which you disagree.” It is, as I think you know, an argument that attacks a premise based on a trait or (unrelated) belief of the person advocating the premise. So I am advocating as a Catholic believer that Protestantism cannot answer the Canon Question. You have made several replies like this one:

    When the RCC started neglecting Scriptural truths regarding justification and salvation and adding works and penance, indulgences, and water baptism as a justifying act, and Marian practices, and ideas about relics and visiting graves and praying to dead saints; they drifted from the Scriptures.

    I doubt you mean it this way, but this is an attempt to refute my premise (that Protestants can’t answer the Canon Question) by criticizing my (unrelated) beliefs. We all know that you believe Catholics and I drifted from the Scriptures. But it is irrelevant to the arguments I have presented in this paper. Therefore, I think it is a form of ad hominem. I’m not a philosopher either, so I might have this a bit off, but I’m certain that noting that Catholics visit graves is not going to get us further to resolving our differences over the Canon Question.

    Thank you for giving me a chance to clarify what I am saying about the mixture of the arguments. I am not saying that you cannot use more than one criterion to answer the Canon Question. I noted in section I of the article that the theories I cover are not mutually exclusive. But I had to take them up one at a time for clarity. I think we need to take them that way in this discussion too. I would like to stay on one claim, be it self-attestation, or historical proof, until we have gone down to the bones of our disagreement. It’s hard if when things get really contentious one of us gets to tack to another direction. I should note that I referred to Calvin as using “fallback” arguments because I believe they were not his primary tool for determining the canon, and believe he would deny that these fallbacks would affect his canonical conclusions reached by using his primary method–the testimony of the Spirit revealing self-authenticating Scripture.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  100. Dear T. Needham,

    Consider the hypothetical that the Gospel of Mark says in Mark 1:’46’: “this book is canonical. That would be a strong step toward self-authentication. The Reformed know, of course, that no book in the Bible says something like that of itself. But they emphasize the virtuous qualities of the Biblical books, their perfection, how they all work together, etc. In their view, these qualities implicitly say for a text what my example about Mark 1:46 would have said explicitly.

    But you say “aha, that’s no authentication, that’s just a claim that an external source needs to verify!” Here, and I go into this in section II.A., but here, the classical and confessional Reformed add that the Holy Spirit bears inward testimony to those of faith that allows them to perceive Scripture with the above qualities as being Scripture.

    If we are on the same page to this point, I’ll just note that this is where I step in with my argument, that this method of reliance on the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit is unreliable to verify the canonical from the non-canonical. It also (in theory) requires a special revelation to each believer.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  101. Ken,

    I appreciate the humility and honesty your exhibited in your response to my comment. I don’t want to pull the thread off the topic of the canon, so I may respond to your comment more fully on my blog at some point in the near future. If I do, I will post back here with a link to the post so that we can discuss it more over there if you desire.

    In Christ,
    Devin

  102. Dear Tom,

    I understand better now. Thanks. Regarding “self-authentication”, I think I was expecting something a little more rigorous. I suppose they claim that this process (inward testimony) also “verifies” that the canon is complete without being able to formally rule out all other works, such as the above mentioned “letter to the Laodecians.”

    Thanks for clearing up the confusion,

    God Bless,

    T. Needham

  103. Tom,
    Thanks for clarifying on ad homimen. I would humbly maintain that those issues that I(and other Protestants) bring up about RCC theology and practice are still issues of truth, the gospel, sound doctrine and right practice, and not arguments against people. Your point about the canon is the linchpin of RC apologetics that seeks to get Protestants to come to unity with the RCC and the Pope. I cannot go there down that path; ie, I cannot agree that just because the early church got the NT canon right, that they got everything else right about indulgences, penance, ex opere operato, sacerdotal powers, icons, statues, prayers to Mary, dogmas of Mary (PV, IC, BA), treasury of merit, purgatory, baptismal regeneration, Trent on justification, Apocyrpha (Deutero-canonicals), Pope, Newman’s development of doctrine, etc. – I cannot agree because of all those issues that I bring up are unbiblical and wrong. Obviously, to us; and we sincerely believe we are right. It is a matter of truth vs. unity. We don’t want unity at the expense of truth. We sincerely see the desire for this unity with the Pope as compromising on truth. Unity is important (John 17; Ephesians 4) but Biblical unity is always “unity around the truth”.

  104. Ken,

    My article presents my argument about the Canon Question, and this comment box is a place to refute or support my argument. When your responses to my arguments include your belief that Catholic theology is wrong on issues like Marian devotion or Baptismal regeneration, I conclude that you are attempting (at least in part) to refute my argument by noting other perceived errors in Catholic theology. If you are meeting my argument by listing perceived errors, whether you mean it or not, you are arguing against me (a person). And that is an ad hominem. Mind you, an ad hominem is no crime, but because debates in comboxes are naturally long and problematic, I think we should avoid them.

    My argument is not an apologetics “linchpin . . . that seeks to get Protestants to come to unity with the RCC.” As an argument, it can seek nothing. It’s just an argument, and it can either be refuted or not. While we’re at it, replying to the argument by saying that the argument is being made to convert Protestants is an ad hominem. It’s not relevant to the argument why I’m making the argument.

    You said: “I cannot go there down that path; ie, I cannot agree that just because the early church got the NT canon right, that they got everything else right about indulgences, penance, ex opere operato, sacerdotal powers, icons, statues, prayers to Mary, dogmas of Mary (PV, IC, BA), treasury of merit, purgatory, baptismal regeneration, Trent on justification, Apocyrpha (Deutero-canonicals), Pope, Newman’s development of doctrine, etc.” I note that this is the fourth comment to mention Mary, but my argument has nothing to do with Mary or these other Catholic teachings you find troubling. I think you’re saying that because you find a slew of wrong teachings within Catholicism, you can’t go down the path of considering my argument on the Canon Question. But I am not asking you to accept all those Catholic teachings because the early Church got the canon right. I am saying that the Protestant doctrine cannot answer the Canon Question within its own framework. It is irrelevant to the question of whether sola scriptura can answer the Canon Question that you believe Catholic teachings are unbiblical.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  105. Ken,

    You need to get clear about the fact that some Protestants believe that the Catholic Church places itself “above” scripture by binding its members to believe in the particular Catholic canon.

    Do you agree with these Protestants? If so, then what is the Catholic Church doing that the Protestant bodies are not? Why does our team of Bishops denigrate scripture’s authority by marking the boundaries of the canon, while your team of protestant historians and academics elevates scripture’s authority by marking the boundaries of the canon? I would like an answer to the question that doesn’t mention Mary or indulgences. Are you an apologist, or are you here to understand? If the latter, then please give a forthright answer to the main question, as it has been repeatedly stated to you.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  106. […] follow like Purify Your Bride. He seems to be the last person trying to refute the argument. We had this interesting exchange which I wanted to highlight over here so that it did not pull the thread off-topic over […]

  107. While I am way late to this discussion, I would suggest a slight correction:

    The original article states: “Athanasius includes Baruch and the deuterocanonical additions to Daniel.”

    This should be corrected to also include another book, the Letter of Jeremiah, as his “39th Festal Letter” clearly states: “Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book;”
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2806039.htm

  108. Dear K. Doran,
    Thanks for the spirited challenge!
    You wrote:
    You need to get clear about the fact that some Protestants believe that the Catholic Church places itself “above” scripture by binding its members to believe in the particular Catholic canon.
    I realize that officially, the Roman Catholic Church denies that it puts itself “over” the Bible. “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. “ CCC, 86.
    However, it does seem to put itself over Scripture in a practical way, for it claims that it birthed the NT, caused the NT, decided which books were canon, etc. and that it has final and sole authority to interpret the Scriptures.
    “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.” CCC # 85 (My emphasis) 85 seems to contradict 86.
    Also many Roman Catholics and apologists do seem to say this. Peter Kreeft in his apologetics wrote: “Sola Scriptura violates the principle of causality, that an effect cannot be greater than its cause”, “for the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the Church, decided on the canon, the list of books to be declared scriptural and infallible . . . If the Scripture is infallible, then its cause, the Church, must also be infallible.” (Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith, p. 274-275; cited in Geisler and McKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences; p. 183.
    Rod Bennett, in his book, Four Witnesses, several times implies and suggests this when saying that the Bible did not exist in the early decades of Christian history; and to me, gives the impression, just like Dan Brown does in his Da Vinci Code and other books, that the canon suddenly appears in 325 or 367 (Athanasius) or by 400 AD. They fail to mention that most of the NT books are mentioned separately early on in the earliest records, beginning around 100 AD. “The Bible was still being born”, and “the Bible was not even finished in their time” (especially pp. 259-260) While technically accurate, leaving out the fact that they were written early on ( 45-68 AD) separately, gives people the wrong impression. They were individual scrolls written to different places separately, different contexts. It took a while to get them all under one codex or “book cover”. But they were already inspired when they were written and so they were already “canon”.
    Pontificator, (Al Kimel), on his blog claimed that it didn’t matter if Ephesians and 2 Peter were not written by Paul or Peter and written around 125 or 150, etc. because the Roman Catholic makes them Scripture, so it didn’t matter to him. I wish he still had that article up; apparently he took it down.
    “The anonymous author of Hebrews probably was not an Apostle. John of the Apocalypse probably was not John, son of Zebedee. And then we have to acknowledge the critical problem of pseudonymity. The Apostle Matthew may not have written the gospel attributed to him. The Apostle Paul may not have written Ephesians and the Pastorals. The Apostle Peter may not have written his two letters; etc. The question of authorship of many books of the New Testament is a hotly contested matter in scholarly circles. Surely Atwood knows all of this, but without mention.”

    “If the historical evidence leads us to conclude that God employed the convention of pseudonymity in his sacred writings, who are we to complain? who are we to judge? I stand by the Word of God as confessed by his one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
    Do you agree with these Protestants? Yes; it seems the Magisterium’s authority is a claim to be over the Scriptures in a practical way.
    If so, then what is the Catholic Church doing that the Protestant bodies are not?
    We say that the canon existed when each book was written (about 45 AD – 68 AD) [I believe all the NT books, except Jude (80 AD) were written before 70 AD, even John, Revelation, and his 3 epistles], even though they were not collected under one codex or book cover. When they were written they were inspired, God-breathed, therefore they were “canon” because they were inspired. They already existed long before Irenaeus and Tertullian and Athanasius quoted from them.
    Why does our team of Bishops denigrate scripture’s authority by marking the boundaries of the canon, while your team of protestant historians and academics elevates scripture’s authority by marking the boundaries of the canon?
    Because the RCC claims to have decided what was canon and not; and the Protestants say we merely discovered what was already canon.
    We believe that Jesus Himself marked the boundaries of the canon – the OT – Luke 11:51-52 – “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah the priest” (from Genesis to Chronicles) Luke 24:44 – Law of Moses, Prophets, and the Psalms (Poetic books, writings) – Scripture itself ends in Malachi with prophesies about John the Baptist and it picks up again in the NT with John Baptist, quoting from Malachi. (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6 quoted in Luke 1:17; Mark 1:2; Matthew 11:10, 14; Luke 1:76; 7:27)
    Josephus confirms the Protestant OT canon in Against Apion 1:8. Romans 3:2 points to the advantage of the Jews and that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
    Jerome confirms most of it. He clearly rejected Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom as canonical. He acknowledged the sections of Daniel that were not found in Hebrew.
    I just found something new:
    “But among other things we should recognize that Porphyry makes this objection to us concerning the Book of Daniel, that it is clearly a forgery not to be considered as belonging to the Hebrew Scriptures but an invention composed in Greek. This he deduces from the fact that in the story of Susanna, . . . But both Eusebius and Apollinarius have answered him after the same tenor, that the stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are not contained in the Hebrew, but rather they constitute a part of the prophecy of Habakkuk, the son of Jesus of the tribe of Levi. Just as we find in the title of that same story of Bel, according to the Septuagint, “There was a certain priest named Daniel, the son of Abda, an intimate of the King of Babylon.” And yet Holy Scripture testifies that Daniel and the three Hebrew children were of the tribe (p. 493) of Judah. For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew. And in this connection I am surprised to be told that certain fault-finders complain that I have on my own initiative truncated the book. After all, both Origen, Eusebius and Apollinarius, and other outstanding churchmen and teachers of Greece acknowledge that, as I have said, these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and that therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture.” (my emphasis, Jerome’s Preface to Daniel, translated by Gleason Archer. I left out some stuff because of space, discussion of Greek words, See
    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/jerome_daniel_02_text.htm)
    Also cited in Geisler and McKenzie: Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences; Baker, 1995; p. 170.

    So it seems Jerome even rejected those sections of Daniel embedded in the Greek LXX of Daniel.
    John 17:8 gives the principle for the NT, the words of the Father were committed to Jesus and Jesus commits them to the apostles and He sends the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them into all the truth. ( 14:16-17; 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-13; 16:14-15)
    I would like an answer to the question that doesn’t mention Mary or indulgences.
    The RCC seems to put itself over the Scripture, even though it officially claims it does not. The Protestants maintain that the church must obey and submit to Scripture, and is under Scripture.
    Are you an apologist, or are you here to understand? Both. I Peter 3:15 commands me to be an apologist as does Jude 3 and Philippians 1:6. I would be lying if I said I was not. All Christians are supposed to be involved in apologetics to some degree. I have to be in defending the faith against Islam. But I also learn a lot from interaction with serious and intelligent and sincere Roman Catholics like yourselves and I do sincerely seek to understand.
    If the latter, then please give a forthright answer to the main question, as it has been repeatedly stated to you.
    I hope these answers are forthright enough for you.

  109. K. Doran and Ken,

    I think the last comment from K. Doran challenging Ken started steering away from the argument in this article. Specifically, if the discussion comes to be about whether the Catholic Church is right or wrong in her view of the role of the episcopate in the formulation of canon, then the discussion is off topic. This article is about whether the Protestant system and sola scriptura are consistent with the Protestant measuring of the canon and Protestant formulation of criteria by which to measure the canon. Please do what you can to steer your comments back on the course of this argument. Thanks!

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  110. Tom,

    Ken seems to hold simultaneously that the Catholic method of formulating the Canon violates sola scriptura and that the Protestant method of formulating the canon does not violate sola scriptura. He has defended the latter in ways that have little to do with your actual argument. Thus, I thought to emphasize this by asking him to explain how the Catholic could possibly be violating sola scriptura (in the formulation of the canon). Anything he claims that Catholics do with our episcopal magisterium to violate sola scriptura in canon formulation is just something that Protestants do with their academic magisterium, and thus they violate sola scriptura as well. I don’t know why this isn’t clear. You can’t claim that A implies B when Catholics Bishops do it but A does not imply B when Protestant scholars do it. For whatever reason, Ken still thinks we are talking about: (a) whether the Catholic bishops got the canon right, or (b) whether the words some Catholic apologists have used suggest that we place ourselves over scripture. We are talking about neither of these things. Ken: we are talking about whether the protestant formulation of the canon by your academic magisterium violates sola scriptura. It is obvious to me that it does. If it is not obvious to you that it does, maybe you can ask yourself why you believe that a bunch of Catholic bishops sitting down and formulating the canon violates sola scriptura. Any reason you give for the latter is bound to be a reason to believe that Protestants have violated sola scriptura in formulating the canon as well. Tom: I’m not trying to steer Ken towards (a) or (b) above, but away from those. If I am being ineffective, just let me know and I will say no more.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  111. Dear K. Doran,
    Thanks for the continued interaction.

    You wrote:
    Ken: we are talking about whether the protestant formulation of the canon by your academic magisterium violates sola scriptura.

    No; we don’t have an academic magisterium. That is your wording.

    The books are “canon” (criterion, standard, rule, measuring rod) because they are already “God-breathed” and already existed, already written, revealed by 70 AD or 96 AD. They did not have to be collected together under one book cover in order to make them “canon”, but they were through the historical process of sifting and discerning, and discovering. The Romans were persecuting them and burning the Scriptures. It is understandable why some are not mentioned as often as others in the earliest decades after the apostles.

    So, we Protestants share in the history of the early church; we are “catholic” with a little c, in that sense. But, we do have the advantage of history and; we believe that the NT books are clear and self-authenitcating. (as I wrote a lot about that above, from I John 2:27; John 10:27; and I Corinthians 2:14-16) The OT books are also self – authenticating, using all the information above. (Jesus, Malachi ‘s prophesies being quoted in the NT about John the baptist, the Jews, Josephus, Jerome, etc.)

    We don’t violate Sola Scriptura, because Sola Scriptura never said that we cannot use historical background investigation and knowledge to understand when and by whom a book was written. SS never said that it was the only source of knowledge.

    The RCC violated SS by elevating itself over Scripture as the sole final authority and infallible interpreter and determiner of what is right and wrong (Mary, indulgences, etc.) and adding the deutero-canonicals at Trent. (and Augustine mistakenly thought they were inspired and canonical – he didn’t know Hebrew and didn’t like Greek either) Others quote from them sometimes; but 200 years from now, reading scholar papers that quote both from the Scriptures and other works and what other scholars say does not mean the author treats them all equally or as inspired ( ie, the scholarly quotes or using other books)

    The early church was not Roman Catholic; the canon consensus by folks like Jerome and Athanasius did not violate SS, but they actually were following the principles of SS to arrive at their conclusions.

  112. Ken,

    You’ve basically just asserted the opposite of what the article argues; you haven’t refuted any of the arguments. e.g. Your argument regarding Augustine’s lack of Hebrew ability as a cause for his believing the DC books were inspired – if you had read the article carefully, you would know that Origen already refuted that error (that only books where we possess the original in Hebrew were canonical) against Africanus. Furthermore, this is the fourth time you’ve mentioned Mary on a post that doesn’t have anything to do with her.

  113. Ken,

    I don’t think you’re interested in having a conversation, in learning anything, or in evaluating critically your own position. You are gaining nothing from my interaction, so I will sign off. I wish you the best.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  114. Was Jesus’ audience confused about which books he meant he when he told them to “search the Scriptures”? Not at all. There is no indication anywhere in the New Testament that anyone ever questioned which books made up the Hebrew canon. Was there a secret dispute among the Jews of Jesus’ day about which books constituted the Scriptures? There is not even a hint of such an important controversy in the New Testament.

    In Luke 24:44 Jesus said, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” What is interesting about Jesus’ three-fold division of the Old Testament (OT) is that it totally agrees with the extra-biblical first century testimony of Josephus; and that, in turn, agrees with the official count of OT books the early church fathers unanimously accepted over the next few centuries. According to this reckoning, there were 22 books in the Hebrew canon: one for each letter of their alphabet, wherein the minor prophets were grouped as “the twelve” and twelve other books were combined in pairs. Suggestions that the Hebrew canon was uncertain in Jesus’ day are without Scriptural or historical basis.

    It is true that the names of the canonical OT books listed by different church fathers vary slightly, but that’s because in trying to list 22 books they sometimes forgot which books were paired, occasionally leaving out Esther and listing another book in its place. How many people do you know who would not forget the name of at least one OT book when trying to list them? Moreover, how many would always remember the specific books paired by the Jews? Occasionally, a church father separated a couple of the pairs and listed 24 books in the Hebrew canon – but no one before Augustine ever counted more books than that.

    So why late in the fourth century did Augustine suddenly count the deuteros as Scripture? By what criteria did he justify these additions? He decided that canonicity should be based on how many churches in his day accepted a particular book (On Christian Doctrine 2.8). Depending on where one lived or with which churches one had contact, the answer varied. Perhaps that explains why there have been so many different canons since Augustine’s day. Until the Council of Trent the Vulgate was produced with varying numbers of books (Cardinal Cajetan is just one example of a late Catholic bishop who defended the early church fathers’ canon). Even today, different Eastern Orthodox churches use different canons. Taking a vote among churches is not a reliable way to define the canon of Scripture.

    Augustine also suggested that books like the Maccabees should be accepted “on account of the extreme and wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs.” However, as Norman Geisler observed: that would qualify Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to be counted as Scripture! Augustine’s criteria for canonicity are not persuasive.

    The article gives the impression that the Septuagint (LXX) was a fixed collection of books that included all of the deuteros and that the Roman Catholic Old Testament canon is the same as that of the LXX. Not true. In fact, the original LXX (ca. 280 B.C.) included only the Pentateuch. Furthermore, none of the earliest extant LXX MSS include 2 Maccabees, yet 4 Maccabees appears in the codex Sinaiticus. If, on the other hand, one argues for the full so-called Alexandrian Jewish canon, then the Council of Trent left out several books that the Eastern Orthodox have preserved in their canon(s)! The argument from the Septuagint either proves too much or too little. That the Samaritans had a truncated canon only confirms the Jews’ assessment of their spiritual deterioration.

    The Essenes had copies of the books of Enoch and Jubilees, as well as Tobit and Sirach, but none of the other deuteros. What does this tell us? merely that the Greek-speaking Jews kept eclectic collections of their literature. The Essene collection of books suggests that they recognized more than one kind of canon. The Community Rule was highly authoritative for life at Qumran, but it was not considered to be Scripture. The presence of the books of Enoch, Tobit, and Sirach at Qumran don’t mean that they considered these books to be Scripture. One could say that the Essenes recognized three canons: Scripture, the “Community Rule” (a forerunner of the various monastic “rules” that flourished in later centuries), and a wider literary canon encompassing books that were of cultural or historic value.

    It can be argued that a similar distinctions of canons were developed in the early Church: a Scriptural canon; an ecclesiastical canon (which included the Odes and other works, such as the Apostolic Constitutions of Hippolytus, as well as the canons of the Ecumenical Councils); and a broader literary canon, including the deuteros, the Shepherd of Hermas, etc. For example, Rufinus wrote: “But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not ‘Canonical’ but ‘Ecclesiastical:’ that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. … These they would not have read in the Churches” (Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed, 36). Jerome’s Preface to the Book of Kings lists these books as “amongst the Apocryphal writings.” Yet, Jerome, a model churchman, obeyed his superior’s command to translate the deuteros into Latin, without changing his opinion about them being outside of the Scriptural canon. Athanasius charitably wrote that the deuteros were “appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness.” Origen’s opinions are not to be trusted since he was condemned for unorthodoxy. John of Damascus wrote: “These are virtuous and noble, but are not counted nor were they placed in the ark.” The point is that the early church allowed and even encouraged the reading of the deuteros while distinguishing them from the canon of Scripture. The fact that certain church fathers and New Testament passages allude to or quote the deuteros does not prove their Scriptural canonicity any more than Paul’s quotes from Greek poets or a Cretan prophet argue for their canonicity.

    What happened at the Council of Trent? The final vote at Trent on the canon was: 24 yea, 15 nay, and 16 abstentions. The Council of Trent just used Augustine’s voting strategy, substituting bishops for churches, and the result was not an impressive confirmation of the leading of the Holy Spirit! But Trent also did not finish the task: they didn’t even vote on 3 & 4 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, or the prayer of Manasseh, all in the LXX canon. Furthermore, IF as the article argues, Church councils approved by the Bishop of Rome determined which books were inspired by the Holy Spirit, the historical fact that there were many versions of the Vulgate (including those agreeing with Cardinal Cajetan’s canon) demonstrate that the Church had no fixed canon for fifteen centuries! So the Roman Catholic canon of Scripture did not exist for 1500 years and the one proclaimed by Trent was not final! Hence, the assertion that only a church council approved by the Bishop of Rome is able to infallibly recognize which books were inspired by the Holy Spirit begs the question.

    Also problematic is the tension between the accepted inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit and the choice of certain books by Augustine and the Council of Trent. There can be no falsehood in God-breathed Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). But the deuteros don’t measure up. For example, the Wisdom of Solomon bears false witness against Solomon that he wrote the book (in Greek, by the way, centuries after Solomon died), and it teaches heretical views (e.g., the pre-existence of the human soul, a late Hellenistic philosophical opinion). Furthermore, the additions to Daniel and Esther are condemned by Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God is tested . . . do not add to His words lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar.” The additions to Esther call Haman a Macedonian, in direct contradiction to the authentic Hebrew text which identifies Haman as an Agagite (from a totally different region of the world). Careful study of the deuteros yields more examples that fall under the judgment of Proverbs 30:6. So not only is the Roman Catholic canon not final, it also calls fallible books infallible. So much for infallible authority.

    Finally, we can have high confidence in the canonicity of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible based on the following objective criteria: 1) the book was recognized as Scripture by Christ and/or the apostles; OR 2) the book has an authentic apostolic connection (written by an apostle or a trusted church leader in apostolic times); AND 3) the work reliably teaches God’s truth, not contradicting other Scripture; AND 4) the book has been continuously preserved for use by the Church. These criteria are attested to by both Scripture and church history.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  115. Tim,
    What exactly would an Evangelical Protestant who believes that Sola Scriptura is true, have to write in order for it to be a valid refutation of what this article is claiming? (as all RC apologetics does – start with the canon and go from there. )

    I gave the quotes from Scripture that show that God’s people hear His voice and have discernment and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. (John 10:27; I John 2:27; I Cor. 2:14-16)

    I showed Jerome’s quote on the Greek LXX sections in Daniel. (see above, I reproduce part of it here)

    “. . . as I have said, these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and that therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture.”

    I also showed that the quotes in the NT from Malachi (the last writing prophet of the OT era, around 430 BC; also Chronicles written about that time – harmonizes with what Jesus said about the OT canon in Luke 11:51-52 – “all the prophets”, “from the blood of Abel (Genesis) to the blood of Zechariah the priest” (Chronicles). The quotes from Malachi are the last verses in the book and the last verse in the OT – Luke 1:17 – John the baptizer fullfilled that prophesy. Josephus confirms the OT canon in Against Apion 1:8, etc.

    I admit that we share the same early church history. Luther and Calvin never meant SS to mean that all knowledge has to come directly from Scripture, or that the early church was completely wrong on everything. We love the saints, the martyrs, Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, and great writers like Tertullian and Origen (although some heresies); and great leaders like Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine and Jerome too! They got some things right and some things wrong.

    We believe the NT canon and the doctrine of the Trinity are Biblical and the early history is important and shows us where they got things wrong and what things they got right when we compare with Scripture. What’s wrong with that?

    If the NT books were written from 45 AD – 70 or 96 AD; and they were “God-breathed” at the time of writing (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21), why is process of discovering that, given the nature of the books being letters written to specific locations and gospels for specific locations (and Acts for Theophilus; and Rev. for 7 churches in Asia Minor) ; given the persecution of the church for the first 3 + Centuries and burning of scrolls by the Romans and difficulty of copying at that time, etc. why are all these factors taken together not a good argument for our position?

    Some of the NT books show us the importance of the apostolic principle of writing down the gospel and truths so that future generations would have the records of the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” – some of the writers make it clear that they write, in order that they may know for sure and have confidence about what happened and know that they have eternal life ( Luke 1:4; I John 5:13) and Peter writes so that after he dies the believers will be able to remind themselves in the truth ( 2 Peter 1:12-21; 3:1 – If Peter was really a universal Pope in the RC sense, seems he would have included this info in his letter before his death. Nothing on it. He called himself “fellow -elder” in I Peter 5:1) and Paul writes so that Tim. would know how to lead the church and they would know how a local church should behave and have elders, etc. ( I Tim. 3:14-15).

    Paul, in writing Galatians, when he says, “I now say to you again” ( Galatians 1:8-9) is saying “by writing, I am saying” with apostolic binding Scriptural authority. These statements are scriptural indications that SS is true; and is also taught in principle in Scripture. We acknowledge the historical process of human discovery and collecting the individual books and letters into one “cover” (codex) – Many scholars believe that it was the Christians who invented the codex.

    All of these things together point to Sola Scriptura, and the canon existence (48-70 or 96 AD) vs. the canon discovery process (150 Muratorian Canon; 200 Tertullian and Irenaeus (most of NT); 250 Origen’s list; 367 Athanasius) does not violate SS, because it never said all background knowledge and historical knowledge must be contained in Scripture explicitly. Why is accepting that the early church got it right on the NT canon and the Trinity, but wrong on some other things a problem? They were not perfect, as you admit, and the infallibility doctrine came along much much later and is read back in history by the DD of theory of Newman (we sincerely believe this; I am not trying to be ad hominem or “mean”).

    Anyway, I tried.

  116. Tim,
    I will go back and look at what you said about Origen and Hebrew and Africanus. I don’t remember that part; but I did read the whole thing; and I even printed it out so I could read it better – I don’t well with 30-40 page paper on computer screen.

  117. Ken,

    What exactly would an Evangelical Protestant who believes that Sola Scriptura is true, have to write in order for it to be a valid refutation of what this article is claiming?

    He would need to show that either the premises are false, or that the conclusions do not follow from the premises.

    What you appear to be doing in this latest reply is arguing the case for sola scriptura (which is the same as solo scriptura as shown in this article) but Tom is not arguing against sola scriptura.

    Anyway, I tried.

    What are you trying to do? It seems to me that you’re trying to show that the Protestants have good reasons for their canon. We know you have (what you believe to be) good reasons. Marcion could give a lot of good reasons for his canon as well.

    But are you trying to critically evaluate your own position? When I was a Protestant, my biggest hurdle intellectually was that I knew the Bible was true, but I also knew that I couldn’t give any good answer for why I knew that. I couldn’t give an answer for the canon. Protestantism doesn’t have such an answer (as this article shows). But Catholicism does.

  118. Ken,

    The books are “canon” (criterion, standard, rule, measuring rod) because they are already “God-breathed” and already existed, already written, revealed by 70 AD or 96 AD.

    But if the bishops of the early church themselves didn’t hold this rationale for canonicity, then it’s a bit dodgy when we Protestants use it. In other words, we can’t come up with a theory to justify our canon, and then import it back into the early church. If those guys were laboring to determine which books should be recognized as canonical, then it’s not fair for us to simply say, “The books were canonical the moment they were written, full stop.”

  119. Jason,
    Thanks for joining in the conversation!

    How do we know they did not use that as a reason? “That”, meaning, “the existence of a written document from an apostle or under an apostle’s authority or direction that has the quality of being ‘God-breathed’ “, etc.? What I mean is that early Christian writers say things like “it has come down to us that Mark, wrote a gospel for Peter, interpreting his sermons”, etc. If it really happened in history that Mark wrote for the apostle Peter in say, 45-50 AD, and Peter was a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ and had His word ( John 17:8) and Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to bring to their remembrance all things and lead them into all the truth(John 14, 16) , then Mark’s gospel was God-breathed, therefore, “canon” ( criterion, rule, standard, principle). Same for Matthew, Luke-Acts, John, Paul’s letters, Peter’s letters, James, Jude, Hebrews (Barnabas or Apollos or Silas or Luke ?), John’s letters, Revelation. They belong in the list/collection because they were the written inspired record of what Jesus promised to reveal to them. ( John 14:16-17; 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:12-14; 17:8)

    It is a difference between

    existence ontologically in real time and space (God-breathed when written, if God-breathed when written, then it was “canon (1)” at the time it was written); 45-70 AD or 45-96 AD

    vs. historical process —
    when it was discovered or discerned or witnessed to as canon (canon 2) – process of discerning through trials of persecution and burning of books by the Romans and –

    responding to Marcion’s heresy (140-150 AD); Montanism (about 135-177 AD), Muratorian canon (140-150 AD); Irenaeus – quoted most of the NT books as Scritpure (200 AD); Tertullian ( around 200-220 AD – also quoted most of the NT books as Scripture); Origen (250 AD – same as our 27 NT books); Eusebius – 325 AD; Athanasius – 367 AD – 27 NT books.

    I don’t understand why you think that is “import[ing] it back into the early church”- Didn’t they mostly discern them based on
    1. existence with # 2-4 also true,
    2. claim to be by an apostle or under an apostle’s authority,
    3. internal consistency with the “rule of faith”/sound doctrine/ truth/ inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
    4. wide acceptance by churches and communities.

    Gnostic gospels and other books were in existence, but they did not have the internal characteristics of truth or inspiration or being God-breathed. They knew they were not true by the Gnostic teachings (for example, Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Judas and Apocalypse of Peter)

    Aren’t those the general reasons that the early church gave for “canon” ?

  120. Dear “lojahw”,

    Thank you for your contribution. While it was filled with historical detail, it was only in your last paragraph that you touched on the Protestant method of determining the canon. This is what my article and this discussion are about. You said we can have “high confidence” in the Protestant canon based on four criteria (with a confusing use of conjunctives). But (1) you did not take up my argument in section III, that even to craft the criteria by which we determine the canon in fact violates sola scriptura because you are thereby exercising a power over the canon by choosing which criteria to apply and how to apply them. Also, (2) I take your “high confidence” language as a partial concession to my argument in section II and these comments, that the commonly used Protestant criteria for determining the canon are not reliable enough to bind our consciences. “High confidence” does not bind consciences, and if our consciences are not bound by the (external) scope of the canon, they cannot be bound by the (internal) contents of the Bible. Furthermore, (3) while I argued against the consistency with sola scriptura of your four proposed criteria in section II, you did not address any of my arguments. Finally, (4) you did not even propose the classical and confessional Reformed position, that the self-authenticating nature of Scripture, in conjunction with the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, allows us to identify Scripture. This leaves you defining the canon via a method not used by the fathers of the Reformation, but still reaching their same conclusion, as if by post hoc rationalization. It also leaves you subject to Ridderbos’s critique:

    Every attempt to find an a posteriori element to justify the canon, whether in the doctrinal authority or in the gradually developing consensus of the church, goes beyond the canon itself, posits a canon above the canon, and thereby comes into conflict with the order of redemptive history and the nature of the canon itself. (Ridderbos, p. 35.)

    This is all what I’ve said in my article, but I’m repeating it here because you either did not read or follow the article, or you chose not to address my arguments in this combox but instead to use the combox for your own historical critique of the Catholic canon.

    You stated that there is no scriptural or historical basis for suggesting that the content of the Hebrew canon was uncertain in Jesus’s day. This is incorrect. Please read my section II.B., in which I discuss the mutually exclusive views of certain Jewish groups regarding the content of the canon. You yourself noted the Pentateuch-only premier version of the Septuagint from 280 B.C. I also noted in section II.B. the way that Reformed scholars have addressed these facts.

    You mention Cardinal Cajetan and the early Church fathers’ canon as if it aligns with the Protestant Old Testament. But as I described in the article, not one of these figures gives us the Protestant Old Testament, their various ways of getting to the number 22 notwithstanding.

    I think you are making a tu quoque argument, that Augustine used an unreliable method to determine the canon (i.e., basing canonicity on widespread acceptance). This, of course, does not relieve the problem of the unreliability of the Protestant method(s) of forming the canon. But as for St. Augustine, the Catholic canon is not formed on St. Augustine’s canon, nor on St. Augustine’s criterion, but instead on the determination of the Magisterium. If one accepts the proposition that the Holy Spirit guides the Magisterium into Truth on matters of doctrine and morals, then this is perfectly reliable. If one rejects the proposition, then it is not relevant to argue further that Augustine’s method was unreliable.

    You said that my article gave you the impression that the Septuagint was fixed and in line with the Catholic canon, and then showed my claim not to be true. But you attack a straw man. My very first mention of the word “Septuagint” noted the Diaspora Jews’ use of the Septuagint that included deuterocanonical and apocryphal texts. I treated this all at length in section II.B. The argument I am making is that Protestants who would determine the canon based on the “original Hebrew” are left either with “too much” or “too little” (to use your words). I am not arguing that the Septuagint’s scope supports the Catholic canon, so I am not left having proved too much or too little.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  121. Tom,

    Every attempt to find an a posteriori element to justify the canon, whether in the doctrinal authority or in the gradually developing consensus of the church, goes beyond the canon itself, posits a canon above the canon, and thereby comes into conflict with the order of redemptive history and the nature of the canon itself. (Ridderbos, p. 35.)

    “goes beyond” – all historical background knowledge does not have to be in the written text itself. Sola Scriptura never said all historical knowledge about the books must be in the books themselves. Sola Scriptura never rejected all tradition; only that all tradition must be held up to the light of Scripture and tested by Scripture.

    “posits a canon above the canon” – I don’t see that – that is like your “power over the canon” – it does not follow that the list or discovery of all the books is somehow “above” the canon or “has power over the canon”.

    how does it come into conflict with the order of redemptive history?

    how does it conflict with the nature of the canon itself? What does Ridderboss mean by “the nature of the canon itself” ?

    What were the reasons that the early church gave that are not “a posteriori” (does Ridderboss mean “arguing after the facts; “from after”; “from effect to cause”?

    Did they not say their reasons were
    1. apostolic authority (written by an apostle or under an apostle’s authority or by a close associate with the apostles and/or Jesus. James and Jude are half brothers of the Lord.
    2. Inspiration or Internal doctrines / according to the rule of faith ( pre-Nicean/apostles creed summary – Irenaeus; Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius. When they say Gnosticism in them, those were rejected.
    3. acceptance by the churches spread throughout the empire

    In a sense all historical research into causes are “a posteriori” arguments – arguing “from afterward” – that is the nature of history.

  122. Dear Ken,

    For Ridderbos, the offense is not in going beyond the canon itself [alone]. He uses that phrase there because if the element justifying the canon came from the canon itself, it would not go beyond the canon. The trouble is both that the elements are extra-Biblical and canon-defining. They are above the canon because they are canon-defining. An artist or author has power over (and is thus ‘above’) his work because he has the power to add a part or take a part away or modify any part of his work. Same with a lawmaker drafting a piece of legislation. Same with anyone with the power to take away from or add to the Bible.

    I know sola scriptura never said that all historical knowledge about the books of the Bible must be in the books themselves. It says that Scripture is the final authority for all matters of the faith. But if you are using historical evidence to define the canon–if you are using historical analysis as your criterion of the canon–you have justified the canon with something extra-canonical. As we’ve talked about already, the trouble here is that history does not tell us “Mark is canonical” like it tells us “Lee fought at Gettysburg.” To get to “Mark is canonical” you apply (1) your human reason to (2) your criterion of canonicty, which apparently makes great use of historical evidence. Note that neither the (1) nor the (2) are historical evidence themselves. It is these things, not the historical evidence that become the “canon above the canon.” They put you above the canon.

    You said the following:

    “posits a canon above the canon” – I don’t see that – that is like your “power over the canon” – it does not follow that the list or discovery of all the books is somehow “above” the canon or “has power over the canon”.

    If the Catholic Church is ‘over’ Scripture simply by articulating the canon of Scripture, then how is the power to define the canon (by articulating the criterion by which certain books are in or out) not also a power ‘over’ Scripture? You say that “discovery” of the books is not necessarily “above” the canon; the Catholic claim is essentially that the Church “discovered” the canon through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But the Reformers left the Catholic Church precisely because they believed that the Catholic Church had placed itself “above” Scripture. I think you have to maintain either that no one is “over” Scripture by having the power to articulate the canon (or “discovering” the canon), or that both Catholics and Protestants have placed themselves “over” Scripture for having this power (or making this discovery).

    Ridderbos’s use of “canon” is nuanced, so hard for me to recreate well here. He uses it both to refer to the canon of Scripture and to the rule of faith. He is a faithful Reformed theologian; I highly recommend his work for anyone trying to understand this issue better. I gave my interpretation of what Ridderbos means by “a posteriori” in the article.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  123. Dear Tom,

    You seem to have misunderstood my post. The history I described was intended to show that you have over-simplified the facts related to how the canon of Scripture has been recognized in and by the Church. You cannot simply dismiss the 22 book Hebrew canon because it doesn’t fit your model, nor can you ignore the historical facts related to the variants used by the Church throughout its history. The canon published by Council of Trent represents just one variant of several that persist in the global Church. Can you explain why using the original Hebrew proves too little or too much?

    In response to your assertion that there are no objective criteria from Scripture itself on the canon, I listed a few. Your assertion in section III that such criteria violates sola scriptura is just as mistaken as a Protestant’s assertion that Urban VIII’s condemnation of Galileo conflicts with the doctrine of papal infallibility. The definition of sola scriptura does not address the boundaries of the canon, but rather it focuses on how the Church should use the Scriptures it has received from the prophets and the apostles.

    You wrote:

    even to craft the criteria by which we determine the canon in fact violates sola scriptura because you are thereby exercising a power over the canon by choosing which criteria to apply and how to apply them.

    On the contrary, since Scripture itself identifies certain books as Scripture, affirming their canonicity is required by (not in violation of) sola scriptura. Please note that the verb form of the noun for “Scripture” is translated “it is written” – hence, wherever the New Testament quotes the Old with this phrase, it should be understood: “it is inscripturated.” Surely you don’t call this criterion ad hoc: it is the basis for most of the canon. What the prophets and apostles called the word of God and/or Scripture has never been open for debate by either adherents of sola scriptura or any other orthodox Christian. Please explain why you think this would not be binding on Christians?

    Furthermore, Scripture explicitly teaches certain attributes of Scripture that must be affirmed by anyone who practices sola scriptura. For example: Scripture teaches that Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), true and free from falsehood (Psalm 119:160; Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17), unbreakable (Isa. 55:10-11; John 10:35; Tit. 1:2), and lasts forever (Isa. 40:8; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:25). On what basis do you call these criteria ad hoc? Which of the church fathers did not associate these attributes with canonical Scripture? Again, why would these definitions given by the Word of God not be binding on Christians?

    Moreover, it can be inferred from Scripture that authentically preserved teachings of the apostles and prophets (upon whom the Church is founded), i.e., such books that exhibit the attributes listed above are canonical books. On what grounds do you call this criterion ad hoc? Which of the church fathers did not accept the books received from the prophets and apostles as canonical (cf. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1)? Your mention of spurious forgeries and lost books has no bearing on the authentic canon. No one ever claimed that everything ever written by the apostles and prophets was canonical, just as no one ever claimed that all papal writings have been infallible. Whatever books have been lost were by definition non-canonical, for the apostle Peter agreed with the prophet Isaiah that “the word of the Lord endures forever.” What therefore was lost cannot be counted with “the word of the Lord.”

    What I’m saying is that Scripture explicitly identifies most of the canonical books as well as the attributes of canonical books in general. Based on these objective criteria, we can have high confidence that certain books are or are not canonical. You have not refuted my arguments against the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. Augustine himself testified against the canonicity of some of deuterocanonical works: “the purity of the canon has not admitted these writings, not because the authority of these men who pleased God is rejected, but because they are not believed to be theirs” (cf. Civitas Dei 18.38). The “Wisdom of Solomon” was not written by Solomon nor were the additions to Daniel written by Daniel – hence, these should not be considered canonical (cf. Proverbs 30:5-6, regarding adding to God’s “tested” words).

    You chide me for not defending your selected quotations from certain Reformers re: the canon; however, their subjective statements were not meant so much to define the canon as to affirm the divine inspiration of the Bible. Calvin rightly questioned which Ecumenical Council defined the canon of Scripture; he accepted the same Old Testament Law and Prophets and Psalms (a synecdoche representing Josephus’ 4 books of “hymns to God”) that Jesus and his first century contemporaries recognized as canonical. (BTW – your article glosses over the objective statement from the Belgic confession: “they prove themselves to be from God. For … the things predicted in them do happen”) Defining the canon is not the same as affirming the inspiration of the books contained in it. Yet, even if such statements are used by some to define the canon (as Mormons do), any ultimate appeal to the Reformers or to such subjective arguments would be a violation of sola scriptura. Rather, I am being consistent with sola scriptura by appealing to the teaching of Scripture which the Reformers recognized as the highest authority.

    Section IIB of your article is simply not consistent with the historical facts. The history I recounted (which you have not refuted) vindicates my arguments. The Jews and the Church did develop more than one kind of canon: one for Scripture and others for community and literary purposes. You conflate the various functional canons. The so-called LXX “canon” you appeal to is an ivory-tower construct representing a range of books found among the many manuscripts that have survived, covering multiple functions within the faith communities of its day. The use of the LXX “canon” in Christian Bibles prior to the Council of Trent is anything but consistent (the list of books among the copies varies noticeably). Luther and King James included the deuteros in their Bibles and Calvin referred to them in his Institutes, but none of them considered the deuteros equal to Scripture. In other words, neither quoting nor including the deuteros in an edition of the Bible supports their canonicity.

    If you insist that a universal council approved by the bishop of Rome was required to define the canon, there never was one (Trent was not Ecumenical). I recommend that you read some recent scholarship on this topic, e.g.,: Bible manuscripts: 1400 years of scribes and scripture, by Scot McKendrick and Kathleen Doyle (2007), and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, by Bruce Metzger (1981).

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  124. Dear “lojahw”,

    You claim to have provided objective criteria by which the scriptural canon can be known. But none of your methods are reliable enough to have produced the Protestant canon, at least until the time of the Reformation. If a method is truly objective and reliable enough to bind the believer’s conscience, surely it would have produced the Protestant canon before the time of Luther. I take all of the disputes about the scope of the canon that went on until after Luther as evidence that methods at least up until that time were not objective, not able to produce a canon with enough reliability to bind consciences.

    In your first comment you noted that early scholars of the Church all listed 22 books, though sometimes they forgot which books were paired. I replied that not one of them gives us the Protestant canon. You also mentioned other historical points, like about Augustine and Trent. Augustine was unreliable, you said, beacuse he simply took a vote of the churches around him to see which texts were accepted as canonical. I replied that your criticism of Augustine doesn’t relieve your problem of the unreliability of the Protestant canon. Trent was unreliable, you implied, because of a high number of negative votes and abstentions when the Catholic canon was under vote. But Trent occurred after the Reformation, of course, so can’t be relevant to my arguments and conclusions. You said that Scripture does not record people being confused over what Jesus meant when he discussed searching the Scriptures. I referred you to the part of my article in which I explained that there was great uncertainty in the time of Christ amongst Jewish groups about what constituted “Scripture.” You said that I give the impression that the Septuagint was fixed and Catholic. Now you have raised the point again that I am appealing to a fictitious or “ivory tower” view of the Septuagint. But I had already responded to this complaint by noting that my very first reference to the Septuagint defines it in a way so as to avoid the mistake you made. Please refer back to my previous comment if you missed my reply there. Please help me to avoid all of this repetition. We are not covering ground because you are not reading my responses with any care, but looking to score points in favor of your talking points.

    Now you say that I misunderstood your post, the history you described, and that I have oversimplified the canon process, that I have “simply dismiss[ed] the 22 book Hebrew canon because it doesn’t fit [my] model.” Unless you are claiming that the 22-book Hebrew canon aligned with the modern Protestant Old Testament, I’m not sure what you mean. I have dismissed nothing. I am happy to point you to the sources I used in reaching the conclusion that not one single source from the Church until the time of the Reformation used an Old Testament that aligns with the Protestant Old Testament. What do the “historical facts related to the variants used by the Church throughout its history” have to do with it? See, this is a problem for the descendents of the Reformation, who have nothing but the Scripture to look to as their ultimate authority. This is not a problem for the Catholic Church, who believes that she has teaching authority enduring through and transcending variants of the Bible used by the Church throughout her history. For Protestantism, the mere existence of variants throughout the history of the Church presents a critical problem.

    You asked me to explain why “using the original Hebrew proves too little or too much.” This was in response to my previous comment, in which I said:

    The argument I am making is that Protestants who would determine the canon based on the “original Hebrew” are left either with “too much” or “too little” (to use your words). I am not arguing that the Septuagint’s scope supports the Catholic canon, so I am not left having proved too much or too little.

    This is because “The New Testament has many texts which quite probably are references to the deuterocanon, and also identifies as “scripture” a line of text the source of which is still completely unknown. [That would be too much for the Protestant.] The New Testament does not identify five books which Protestants do treat as canonical. [That would be too little for the Protestant.] The historical evidence also indicates that the deuterocanonical texts were still accepted at the time of Christ. We have no evidence that there was an ‘original Hebrew canon’ matching the 39-book Protestant canon.” (Section II.B., above, for this quote and a full explanation of its claims.)

    You said in response to my conclusion that sola scriptura does not leave the Protestant with enough room even to craft a criterion by which the canon is defined: “The definition of sola scriptura does not address the boundaries of the canon, but rather it focuses on how the Church should use the Scriptures it has received from the prophets and the apostles.” I think my definition of sola scriptura is uncontroversial, that “Scripture is the sole infallible authority of the faith.” This doctrine doesn’t focus on anything, but defines contra Catholicism that the Bible alone is our final and infallible authority on matters of the faith. So while you’d be right to say that it does not emphasize the boundaries of the canon per se, this is no reason to claim that the doctrinal act of defining the scope of the canon is exempt from the reach of sola scriptura. The scope of the canon is a matter of the faith, and therefore must ultimately come from Scripture or be subordinate to Scripture (but Scripture can’t be subordinate to Scripture).

    You said that “since Scripture itself identifies certain books as Scripture, affirming their canonicity is required by (not in violation of) sola scriptura.” I agree that it is a matter of faith that the Pentateuch is scriptural, and this needing to be based on nothing more than New Testament references. But Scripture’s identification of “certain books” as scriptural does not get you to the 66-book canon, and does not get you to a closed canon. You talked about the “it is written” test — what of my argument about James 4:5 that I make in section II.B.? Regarding the claim that what is identified as scripture by the prophets or apostles is Scripture, you said “Please explain why you think this would not be binding on Christians?” I think that because, given James 4:5, your claim would require us to admit that a portion of Scripture has been lost!

    You said, “You have not refuted my arguments against the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books.” Nor will I in this combox, because your argument is not relevant to my premises or conclusions, that is, even if your arguments were true, they would not make my points more or less likely to be true. It would do this combox a disservice to derail the arguments I have raised by getting into arguments you want to raise. Such arguments are contrary to our commenting guidelines, and you would be kind to refrain from raising them with each comment.

    And wrapping up a few final matters, I did not chide you, and I did not selectively quote Reformed authors. I want to the summit of Calvin’s work on the canon, and poured over four of the best Reformed works on the canon that exist. They handle the same passages from Calvin’s Institutes to talk about the Reformed view on the Canon. You tell me I “glossed over” a part of the Belgic Confession in my article. I find this frustrating because I quoted in block quotation the very line you claim I glossed over — I wonder if in fact you find it a “gloss over” because I failed to exposit that line in the way you would care to see. Finally, you said, “Section IIB of your article is simply not consistent with the historical facts. The history I recounted (which you have not refuted) vindicates my arguments.” You recounted no history that I did not refute, at least none relevant to the arguments or conclusions of my article. I’m not certain what you are talking about here.

    I’m going to sea later this week for a while and won’t have computer access from the ship. I hope I have time to address your reply before I leave, but beg your patience if I don’t.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  125. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your kind response. Please allow me to address a few of your points:

    Your emphasis on the exactness of the canon gives the impression that because Scripture itself does not explicitly identify every book in the canon there is nothing to bind the conscience of a sola scriptura Protestant. I beg to differ. At a minimum, every book that Scripture affirms as Scripture is binding on the Protestant’s conscience – and those books are extremely important for all Christians.

    You say that there are 5 OT books that cannot be verified as canonical by Scripture? I disagree, but for the sake of argument, can you tell me which doctrines necessary for salvation are lost without those books?

    Regarding the 22 book Hebrew canon, you assert a wider “Alexandrian canon” which is sheer fiction (see F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 1988; also Roger Beckwith’s, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 1985). Your assertion of “great uncertainty” in the time of Christ is based on the existence of books for which there are no affirmations of authority in the first century, any more than the presence of the Epistle of Barnabas or 2 Clement in the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus MSS affirms their Christian canonicity. On the contrary, the mix of canonical and noncanonical books points to the importance of the Scriptural criteria for distinguishing between them.

    The Church’s unanimous witness to the 22 book canon (27, when counting the double Hebrew letters) for several centuries is undeniable, even though errors arising from copies (we don’t have the originals) and/or mental lapses occasionally dropped Esther. For example, Eusebius records Origen’s canon as 22 books, but only lists 21. Where was the error made? Not likely in Origen’s original? In Eusebius’ copy? Perhaps in a later scribe making one of the derivative copies of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History? What do Protestants lose doctrinally if Esther is left out of the canon?

    I’ll grant that the LXX version of the book of Jeremiah found probably included Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah, but there is no evidence that Jesus and the Apostles considered these additions to be canonical: they are not quoted as Scripture, and quotes from Jeremiah in the NT follow the Masoretic text (cf. Matt. 2:18; 1 Cor 1:31; etc.). Regardless, there is no combination of OT books within the universally recognized formula based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet that would encompass the deuteros as the Council of Trent did.

    I disagree that James 4:5 is a reference to lost scripture. The Greek text can be interpreted in two ways: 1) “the spirit that dwells in us desires in accordance with envy” (this agrees with the context in James 4 re: conflicts caused by envy; see Exod. 20:17 or Num. 5:14, re: “a spirit of jealousy,” or Prov. 6:34, “for jealousy enrages a man”); or 2) “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us” (cf. Exod 34:14; Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; 32:16, 21; Josh 24:19; Psa 78:58; Psa 79:5). So instead of referring to lost Scripture, James 4 could refer to multiple passages of Scripture depending on how one interprets the Greek. Your argument breaks down wherever more than one passage of Scripture could be the source of a NT quotation (which is not really all that rare).

    Regarding NT quotes of the deuteros, can you give any clear example of one that identifies a deutero as canonical? Of the many so-called deutero quotes I’ve seen, they’re either quotes like those of Paul from non-canonical sources or they have clearly canonical antecedents.

    What you call a critical problem for Protestants does not seem to be critical when you consider what both history and Scripture can tell us about the canon.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  126. […] Questions of canon 2010 March 3 tags: Canon, Catholicism, Reformed by Richard Tom Brown from over at Called to Communion has posted a very thought provoking article interacting with the Reformed view of canonicity. It can be found here. […]

  127. Dear “lojahw”,

    I’m not sure what you mean about my “emphasis on the exactness of the canon.” If the canon is not known exactly, you have a grave problem, for you may include a text that is spurious, or leave out a text that is canonical. As a Calvinist, I followed the classical Reformational hermeneutic that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture. If you don’t have an exact canon, given that hermenutic, this would call into question any Protestant effort at biblical exegesis. A missing text could give an essential qualification to a text you are using; or you could be using a spurious text to qualify a part of Scripture. That’s the problem also with your claim that “At a minimum, every book that Scripture affirms as Scripture is binding.” That’s the problem with you asking, “What do Protestants lose doctrinally if Esther is left out of the canon.” You seem to be following, are at least tolerating, the canon-within-a-canon approach, which I discussed in section II.E. You have the Protestant equation backwards when asking ‘what do you lose doctrinally?’ — the doctrine follows the canon, not the canon follows the doctrine. That’s critical. You couldn’t be sure what you’ve gained or lost unless you were certain about the scope of the canon.

    You said: You say that there are 5 OT books that cannot be verified as canonical by Scripture? I disagree, but for the sake of argument, can you tell me which doctrines necessary for salvation are lost without those books?

    Please see my text accompanying footnote 95. I list them there and discuss how Harris treats the matter. I’ll use this point to reply to your comment that while the Septuagint included Baruch, there’s no evidence that the Septuagint-quoting Jesus or Apostles accepted Barch as Scriptural. Likewise, there’s no clear evidence they accepted the five uncited books I mention in my article.

    You said: “Regarding the 22 book Hebrew canon, you assert a wider “Alexandrian canon” which is sheer fiction.”

    Please see my text accompanying footnote 50, and continuing on in that section. There I take up in detail Prof. Harris’s treatment of what he refers to as the Alexandrian canon, and his explanations for why there were extra books beyond what appear in the Protestant Bible. Also, I take up elsewhere Bruce’s own attempt at addressing what he calls the “Septuagintal plus” — the Hebrew portions that are in the Protestant Old Testament plus books the Protestants consider apocryphal. You discussed the absence of proof that the “plus” books were ever considered authoritative — that means we’re back to our discussion of whether the Protestant or the Catholic position is strengthened by doubt about the scope of the canon in the early Church. My premise has been that there was debate and dispute in the early Church about the scope of the canon. You can read the conclusions I reach from the premise in the article.

    I’m not sure you answered my question about whether you are claiming the 22 books to be equivalent to the Protestant Old Testament. If so, I wonder what you make of my assertion that not a single source until the Reformation took that view of the Old Testament? You use arguments to explain away the Fathers not listing your books as the 22 books. I already addressed in my article, like that mental lapses explain away the omission of texts you consider canonical. But does it not seem like a stretch to say that not one single Father got it right — that they all had problems like mental lapses?

    Your claim that James 4:5 is a quotation of some passage of Scripture or other, though we’re not sure which passage, and that it could be one of a variety depending on how we translate the Greek, is puzzling. You do not seem to be claiming that it’s a direct translation of the extent text we have of any of yor “confer” references. So we either have a misquotation in James or a proper quotation in James of a text that has not properly survived to the modern day. Could it not be that James uses the word “scripture” in a looser sense than we would mean the term now (and looser than the sense in which the word ‘scripture’ is used elsewhere)? I don’t think you can say that, though, since you’ve tied the identification of the canon to places in Scripture that refer to ‘scripture’.

    Regarding the deuterocanonical texts, please see my text accompanying footnote 94 and following, and also note the source I mention within my footnote 94. From your comment I think a reminder is in order. The Catholic Church does not identify the canon based on what Christ cited, so these possible references to the deuterocanon are not given to establish with certainty that the deuterocanon is scriptural. These possible references to the deuterocanon show that the Protestant method of treating as Scripture that to which Christ and the Apostles refer leaves uncertainty.

    You said: “What you call a critical problem for Protestants does not seem to be critical when you consider what both history and Scripture can tell us about the canon.”

    Let’s review. My premise has been “that Reformed theology is intrinsically incapable of answering the Canon Question.” It’s classical way of answering the question is not reliable, and the other methods I discussed all rely upon evidence that is not in Scripture, so placed ‘above’ Scripture to whatever extent the Catholic Church is seen as ‘above’ Scripture. You have not answered the Canon Question in a way that leads one reliably to the 66-book Protestant canon, you have not explained how you have the authority to articulate a criterion by which the canon is measured, and you have not avoided the problem that using your interpretation of historical evidence to define the canon places something outside of Scripture (viz., your interpretation) above Scripture. You are thus left subject to Ridderbos’s able critique, which I address at length in the article.

    I regret that I will be departing in the morning for an 8-day trip, so please excuse any delay in my response.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  128. Dear Tom, Welcome back from your voyage!

    Regardless of whether or not any doctrine depends on the book of Esther, it has an important place in the Hebrew canon because it documents God’s sovereign protection of His chosen people (including the Messiah’s lineage). Therefore, leaving behind my foolish question about Esther, let’s consider how Scriptural criteria demonstrate that the 39 books complete the Old Testament canon and avoid spurious texts.

    First, Scripture tells us that the “oracles of God” prior to Jesus were entrusted to the Jews (Rom. 3:2). Aside from our theological differences with the Jews, we cannot deny that they have done an amazing job of preserving God’s Word bequeathed to them by the OT prophets. Josephus, a first century Jew sympathetic to Jesus, wrote the following:

    For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who reigned after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. Against Apion 1.8

    As I said in my first post: Jesus’ audience knew which books He meant by “the Scriptures.” It is elementary to identify Josephus’ four books of “hymns to God” (Psalms) and “precepts for the conduct of human life” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). According to Josephus, the 13 OT canonical books covered the time from the death of Moses until Artaxerxes (when Esther was written). The deuteros were written centuries later. Knowing that the Jews paired the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Judges/Ruth, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Jeremiah/Lamentations, and grouped “the Twelve” minor prophets, the remaining books, including Esther (which Josephus attests to elsewhere), exactly fill out the Protestant and Jewish OT canon.

    Since Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all the truth, there should be no doubt that they handed down the entire canon of OT Scripture in the 39 (22) books. None of the “oracles of God” were lost. You assert that a wider “Alexandrian canon” existed in Jesus’ day; however, no document containing such a “canon” exists – so you appeal to three Christian codices from the fourth and fifth centuries that include a variety of non-canonical books, such as 3&4 Esdras, 3&4 Maccabees, Psalm 151, the Odes, and the Epistle of Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Psalms, as well as the deuterocanonical books, 1&2 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Psalms of Solomon. If one insists that any of these three codices constitutes a “canon,” either the “canon” falls short of the 46 books claimed by Rome, or it includes too many (and the deutero texts vary considerably). Regardless, a diverse collection of books from the fourth and fifth centuries in no way constitutes a canon, much less a first century canon.

    Consider this analogy: a sister inherited some valuable jewelry and keeps it along with some cheap jewelry she picked up over the years. She even wears both kinds of jewelry at the same time, but she always knows which pieces are the “real thing.” So it was with the LXX: it was a Greek translation, first of the Pentateuch, and later of both canonical books received from the prophets, to which were added non-canonical books written in the last two centuries before Christ. But as Josephus demonstrates, there never was any doubt which were the “real jewels.” The “Palestinian canon” – which was a real canon, because it was actually published – testifies to the books that Jesus’ disciples recognized as the OT Scriptures. In the ensuing centuries there were ambivalent attitudes in the Church toward the deuteros: some renounced them altogether, others quoted from them freely; some forbid them to be read in the Churches, some allowed them. Regardless of one’s personal feelings about the deutero’s, however, it is a terrible mistake to assume (as Augustine did at one point) that the expanded collections under the auspices of the Greek LXX replaced the original inspired Hebrew canon.

    Melito, Origen, and Jerome all heeded the Scriptural criterion by going to the Jews to ask which books belonged in the Old Testament canon. Moreover, this “rule” or “canon” of the Old Testament was consistently followed by the church fathers until Augustine – and beyond – notably by John of Damascus, Cardinal Cajetan, and the Reformers. Human errors in copying the various lists (e.g., listing 21 of 22 claimed books, including Esther and leaving out “the Twelve”) and other misunderstandings (e.g., regarding the “inspiration” of the Greek LXX) cannot supercede the authority of the “oracles of God” entrusted to the Jews. There were at least nine church fathers from the second through the fourth centuries who endorsed the shorter canon: six explicitly listed Esther, including Jerome and Rufinus, who agreed book-for-book with the Protestant canon. On the other hand, there is no document containing the so-called 46 book “Alexandrian canon” promoted by Rome. The late fourth century Councils of Hippo and Carthage only list 43 of the 46 books (and add “Psalms of Solomon”), and neither Augustine nor the Council of Rome list all 46 books.

    Re: spurious texts, Scripture teaches that “God-breathed” books (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21) are true and free from adulteration (Psalm 119:160; Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17), unbreakable (Isa. 55:10-11; John 10:35; Tit. 1:2), and last forever (Isa. 40:8; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:25). The deuteros were never recognized by the Jews as “divine” books; all of them fail one or more of these criteria, and hence must be excluded from the canon. (E.g., How is it possible to bind one’s conscience to the assertion in the additions to Esther that Haman was a Macedonian and to the Hebrew text claim that he was an Agagite?)

    BTW: James 4:5 is one of many NT quotes which are not word-for-word equivalents of the original OT reference. It is not surprising that a Jewish writer from Galilee like James would give a free translation of a familiar Hebrew text into Greek for the audience of his epistle. In addition, paraphrasing or summarizing OT passages in the NT is not unusual (e.g., compare Matt. 5:33 with Deut. 23:21-23). On the other hand, allusions or quotes not identified as Scripture could be from any source – whether the deuteros or Jude’s quotes from Enoch or Paul’s quotes from pagans.

    The debated books are called “deuterocanonical” because they constitute a second “canon” or a list added onto the original canon. To claim otherwise is to rewrite history; and to claim that the Holy Spirit has guided the Roman and the Orthodox Church regarding them is to suggest that the Holy Spirit is the author of confusion since West and East never have agreed on the canon. Only the Protestant OT canon is consistent with both the Scriptural criteria of canonicity and the consensus of the early church fathers.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  129. Since Tom is gone at present, if anyone else can answer this question it would be helpful. I’m sorry if this has already come up in the discussion, I haven’t read every post. But how did a Jewish man before the time of Christ know that 2 Chronicles (for instance) was canonical? Would you say that the Jewish church was infallible, or did he only have a fallible knowledge of the canon?

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  130. Spencer, check out the sola/solo thread beginning at comment 733. Dr. Liccione and Dr. White discuss this very issue.

  131. Tim,

    Thanks for the reference. Dr. Liccione and Dr. White were not primarily talking about the canon, though; the only time that I noticed it being explicitly referenced was when Dr. Liccione said:

    Until the Pharisee/Sadducee/Essene split developed in the century or so before Christ, the two primary matters of dispute were how to apply the Law when in cases where it was not explicit, and how much weight to give the post-Mosaic “prophets” and the “wisdom literature.” Such disputes could not be resolved in the OC, which is why the Jews never developed a biblical “canon” beyond the Pentateuch until the challenge of Christianity caused them to.

    Would you agree with this? And if this was the case under the Old Covenant, how could Jesus refer to the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms as Scripture (Luke 24:44-45)? I mean, He Himself would know, being divine, but He seems to assume that His disciples already viewed these as Scripture. Or do you agree that there was not a certainty about the canon in the OC like there is in the NC?

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  132. Spencer,

    Sorry, I was thinking their discussion involved the canon more. I agree with Dr. Liccione’s statement. A couple of things need to be considered in relation to that question. One is that the Jews under the OC thought of the Scriptures in a different sort of way than Protestants or even Catholics do now.

    I would argue that the way the Jews approached the canon issue was something similar to the way the early Church did. You’ll notice, as I pointed out in my post on Nicaea and the canon, that the question of the canon wasn’t even on the table until several centuries after Christ. This is inconceivable given modern western thought on the subject.

    For the early Church, and (I suspect) for the OC Jews, the ‘canon’ was simply those books which could licitly be read in liturgy. For the Jews, this was the synagogue, and for the early Christians, it was the Synaxis. The canon was not as neatly defined because in both cases, the visible people of God was so clearly identifiable that there was really no need. Even with the Pharisee/Sadducee/Essene split, there was never any confusion about the actual nation of Israel.

    For the Jews, worship wasn’t merely the synagogue – or else the canon would have been more important. Worship was centered around the temple cult, except for the Essenes. Likewise, for the early Christians, the Synaxis wasn’t the pinnacle of Christian worship; it was (and is) the Eucharistic liturgy.

    So in short, I think the answer of how an OC Jew could be certain of the canonicity of a particular book will evade us because the question itself is anachronistic.

  133. […] ad hoc, as Tom Brown (and I) claim that the Protestant position is? Here are Tom’s responses: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/#comment-6190 […]

  134. Tim,

    Sounds a lot like the Orthodox approach to canonicity. In general, its a non-issue. Special circumstances, e.g., the growing influence of the sect of “Christians” for the first-century Jews and the schismatic movements in Western Christendom during the 16th century, call for special consideration of such things. Otherwise, its more like canonicity by osmosis.

  135. Lojahw wrote:As I said in my first post: Jesus’ audience knew which books He meant by “the Scriptures.” It is elementary to identify Josephus’ four books of “hymns to God” (Psalms) and “precepts for the conduct of human life” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs).

    Chaka replies:Even if i were to agree with you that Jesus’ audience knew which book He meant by “the Scriptures” ,you still have not demostrated the twenty two books Josephus had in mind are the only scriptural books accepted by Jesus ‘audience or are even identical with the 39 books accepted by Protestants.The Fourth book of Ezra written btw the close of the first century AD and early second century AD demonstates that not all Jews of Josephus’ day believed that the inspired writings was limited to twenty four books:

    ” But if I have found grace before Thee, send the Holy Spirit into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in Thy law, that men may find Thy path, and that those who will live in the latter days may live.”… And when thou hast done, some things shalt thou publish, and some things shalt thou show secretly to the wise. Tomorrow this hour shalt thou begin to write.”.. In forty days they wrote two hundred and four books.And it came to pass, when the forty days were fulfilled, that the Highest spoke, saying, “The first that thou hast written publish openly, that the worthy and unworthy may read it. But keep the last seventy, that thou mayest deliver them only to such as be wise among the people; for in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the stream of knowledge.” [14:22.26.44-47]

    While the Mishnah demostrates that there were disputes among first century Palestinian Jews over the canonicity of the book of Ecclesiastes, Songs of songs and Esther.For example in Mishnah Yadayim we find the following quote:

    “All Holy Scriptures defile the hands. Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes defile the hands. Rabbi Judah says, ‘Song of Songs defiles the hands but there is a dispute regarding Ecclesiastes.’Rabbi Jose says, ‘Ecclesiastes does not defile the hands, and there is a dispute about Song of Songs.’ Rabbi Simeon says, ‘[The status of] Ecclesiastes is one of the lenient rulings of the School of Shammai, and one of the strict rulings of the School of Hillel.’ Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai said, ‘I have a tradition from the seventy-two elders (of the Sanhedrin) that on the day when Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed head of the Academy, it was decided that Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes defile the hands.’Rabbi Akiva said, ‘God forbid! No one in Israel disputed about Song of Songs, saying that it does not defile the hands. For all of eternity in its entirety is not as worthy as the day on which Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy, but Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies. And if they disputed at all, they disputed only regarding Ecclesiastes.’ Rabbi Yohanan ben Joshua the son of Rabbi Akiba’s father-in-law said, ‘As according to Ben Azzai, so did they dispute and so did they determine [that both Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes are included in the canon].'”[3:5]

    Lojahw wrote:”Melito, Origen, and Jerome all heeded the Scriptural criterion by going to the Jews to ask which books belonged in the Old Testament canon”

    Chaka replies:Melito’s list is not identical with the the 39 books accepted by Protestants.Esther is not mentioned in it while it includes the Book of Wisdom(See Eusebius’ Chuch History 4.26.13-14).On Origen view on the deuterocanonical ,I will suggest you read his leter to Africanus.There you will see that Origen knew of the Church having an Old Testament canon larger than that accepted by the Jews.That canon includes the deuterocanonical books and of course Origen accepted those books.For example,look at the following quote from that letter:

    “. You begin by saying, that when, in my discussion with our friend Bassus, I used the Scripture which contains the prophecy of Daniel when yet a young man in the affair of Susanna, I did this as if it had escaped me that this part of the book was spurious. You say that you praise this passage as elegantly written, but find fault with it as a more modern composition, and a forgery; and you add that the forger has had recourse to something which not even Philistion the play-writer would have used in his puns between prinos and prisein, schinos and schisis, which words as they sound in Greek can be used in this way, but not in Hebrew. In answer to this, I have to tell you what it behooves us to do in the cases not only of the History of Susanna, which is found in every Church of Christ in that Greek copy which the Greeks use, but is not in the Hebrew, or of the two other passages you mention at the end of the book containing the history of Bel and the Dragon, which likewise are not in the Hebrew copy of Daniel; but of thousands of other passages also which I found in many places when with my little strength I was collating the Hebrew copies with ours”[2]

    “. And in many other of the sacred books I found sometimes more in our copies than in the Hebrew, sometimes less”[3]

    ” But probably to this you will say, Why then is the History not in their Daniel, if, as you say, their wise men hand down by tradition such stories? The answer is, that they hid from the knowledge of the people as many of the passages which contained any scandal against the elders, rulers, and judges, as they could”[9]

    On St.Jerome.I think someone has already commented on him accepting the deuterocanonical books in an earlier post.

    Lojahw wrote:Moreover, this “rule” or “canon” of the Old Testament was consistently followed by the church fathers until Augustine – and beyond – notably by John of Damascus, Cardinal Cajetan, and the Reformers.

    Chaka replies:Many passages from Church authors from the first four centuries could be quoted to show that they accepted the deuterocanonical books as Scripure.For Example,see the following quote from St.Irenaeus,a second century father, in which he treats the History of Susanna as a part the book of Daniel:

    “. Those, however, who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts, and, do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt towards others, and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat, and work evil deeds in secret, saying, No man sees us, shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance (secundum gloriam), nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words, to be found in Daniel the prophet: O you seed of Canaan, and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you, and lust perverted your heart. You that are waxen old in wicked days, now your sins which you have committed aforetime have come to light; for you have pronounced false judgments, and have been accustomed to condemn the innocent, and to let the guilty go free, albeit the Lord says, The innocent and the righteous shall you not slay. Of whom also did the Lord say: But if the evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming, and shall begin to smite the man-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day that he looks not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers”. [Against Heresies 4.26.3]

    Peace with love from Africa,
    Chaka

  136. Please accept my apologies, but post 128 following my comments about Esther should be replaced as follows (got caught in cyber traffic):

    Let’s consider how Scriptural criteria demonstrate that the 39 books complete the Old Testament canon and avoid spurious texts.

    First, it is important to recognize that Scripture teaches a number of “non-negotiables” about itself. The Apostles affirmed that all Scripture is “God-breathed,” that in the Scriptures “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). “Thus says the Lord” and similar phrases throughout Scripture remind us of this truth. Scripture also claims to be wholly true and without error (cf. Psalm 119:160; John 17:17), as well as free from adulteration and false pretense: “Every word of God is tested … Do not add to His words lest He reprove you and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6; cf. Tit. 1:2). Scripture is also unbreakable: it never fails, it cannot be denied, and it cannot be contradicted (Isa. 55:10-11; John 10:35). Finally, the word of the Lord lasts forever (Isa. 40:8; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:25). The above criteria may be applied objectively to various sources of evidence in order to confirm or reject a particular book’s canonicity. For example, when Scripture quotes a book that has been lost, it can be concluded that the lost book is not Scripture because it did not last forever. Likewise, if a text contradicts a book that meets all the above criteria, that text cannot be “God-breathed.” Moreover, adulterated texts (such as the additions to Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah) are disqualified from the canon based on the teaching of Proverbs 30:5-6 and Titus 1:2.

    Secondly, Scripture tells us that the “oracles of God” prior to Jesus were entrusted to the Jews (Rom. 3:2). Aside from our theological differences with the Jews, we cannot deny that they have done an amazing job of preserving God’s Word bequeathed to them by the OT prophets. Josephus, a first century Jew sympathetic to Jesus, wrote the following:

    For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who reigned after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. Against Apion, 1.8.

    Jesus’ audience knew which books He meant by “the Scriptures.” It is elementary to identify Josephus’ four books of “hymns to God” (Psalms) and “precepts for the conduct of human life” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). According to Josephus, the 13 OT books of the prophets covered the time from the death of Moses until Artaxerxes (when Esther was written). The deuteros were written centuries later. Knowing that the Jews paired the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Judges/Ruth, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Jeremiah/Lamentations, and grouped “the Twelve” minor prophets, the remaining books, including Esther (which Josephus attests to elsewhere), exactly fill out the Protestant and Jewish OT canon.

    Since Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all the truth, there should be no doubt that they handed down the entire canon of OT Scripture in the 39 (22) books. None of the “oracles of God” were lost. The so-called “Alexandrian canon” did not exist in Jesus’ day, nor is there any document listing such a “canon.” Instead, some appeal to three Christian codices from the fourth and fifth centuries that include a variety of non-canonical books, such as 3 Esdras, 3&4 Maccabees, Psalm 151, the Odes, and the Epistle of Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Psalms, as well as the deuterocanonical books, 1&2 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Psalms of Solomon. If one insists that any of these three codices constitutes a “canon,” either the “canon” falls short of the 46 books claimed by Rome, or it includes too many books (and, please note that the deuterocanonical texts vary considerably). Regardless, a diverse collection of books from the fourth and fifth centuries in no way constitutes a canon, much less a first century canon.

    Consider this analogy: a sister inherited some valuable jewelry and keeps it along with some cheap jewelry she picked up over the years. She even wears both kinds of jewelry at the same time, but she always knows which pieces are the “real thing.” So it was with the LXX: it was a Greek translation, first of the Pentateuch, and later of both canonical books received from the prophets, to which were added non-canonical books written in the last two centuries before Christ. But as Josephus demonstrates, there never was any doubt which were the “real jewels.” The “Palestinian canon” – which was a real canon, because it was actually published – testifies to the books that Jesus’ disciples recognized as the OT Scriptures. In the ensuing centuries there were ambivalent attitudes in the Church toward the deuterocanonical books: some renounced them altogether, others quoted from them freely; some forbid them to be read in the Churches, others allowed them. Regardless of one’s personal feelings about these books, however, it is a terrible mistake to assume (as Augustine did at one point) that the expanded collections under the auspices of the Greek LXX replaced the original inspired Hebrew canon. The so-called “Alexandrian Canon” is a red herring that ignores the fact that the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem made all binding decisions in Judaism. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 destroyed all their records, but not the knowledge of their canon as repeatedly attested by Josephus and Jews through the following centuries.

    Melito, Origen, and Jerome all heeded the Scriptural criterion by going to the Jews to ask which books belonged in the Old Testament canon. Moreover, this “rule” or “canon” of the Old Testament was consistently followed by the church fathers until Augustine – and beyond – notably by John of Damascus, Cardinal Cajetan, and the Reformers. Human errors in copying the various lists (e.g., listing 21 of 22 claimed books, including Esther and leaving out “the Twelve”) and other misunderstandings (e.g., regarding the “inspiration” of the Greek LXX) cannot supercede the authority of the “oracles of God” entrusted to the Jews. There were at least nine church fathers from the second through the fourth centuries who endorsed the shorter canon: six explicitly listed Esther, including Jerome and Rufinus, who agreed book-for-book with the Protestant canon (Rufinus attested to the canonicity of Lamentations – but not Baruch – in his commentary on the Apostle’s Creed). On the other hand, there is no document listing the so-called 46 book “Alexandrian canon” promoted by Rome. The late fourth century Councils of Hippo and Carthage only list 44 books (omitting Lamentations and Baruch, but mentioning 5 books of Solomon, which might include the Psalms of Solomon listed in the Codex Alexandrinicus). Furthermore, Augustine and the Council of Rome also list only 44 books (omitting Lamentations and Baruch). Interestingly, Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, which addresses the criteria of canonicity, was written after the Councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage, and never even mentions councils.

    Taking all of the above into consideration, the deuterocanonical books were never recognized by the Jews as “divine” books, and all of them fail one or more of the criteria defined in scripture about scripture (e.g., How can it be true that Haman was a Macedonian, according to the additions to Esther, yet an Agagite, according to the original Hebrew text?). Therefore, these books must be excluded from the canon.

    Finally, the debated books are called “deuterocanonical” because they constitute a “second canon” or a list added onto the original canon. To claim otherwise is to rewrite history; and to claim that the Holy Spirit has guided the Roman and the Orthodox Church regarding them is to suggest that the Holy Spirit is an author of confusion since West and East never have agreed on the canon. Only the Protestant OT canon is consistent with both the Scriptural criteria of canonicity and the consensus of the early church fathers.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  137. Dear “lojahw”,

    Thank you for your patience in awaiting my response. I’m back on dry land now.

    You mentioned a variety of characteristics that Scripture attributes to itself, and then claimed that they could be objectively applied “to various sources of evidence in order to confirm or reject a particular book’s canonicity.” Without being circular, how does the criterion that “all Scripture is God-breathed” yield a canon of Scripture? You said that “adulterated texts (such as the additions to Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah) are disqualified from the canon based on the teaching of Proverbs 30:5-6 and Titus 1:2.” I’m not sure what these verses show in this discussion.

    You mentioned yet again that the Church Fathers described an enumeration of 22 books in the Hebrew Bible. But you still have not answered my question about whether you think the books to which they were referring are identical to the modern Protestant Old Testament canon.

    You said: “Since Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all the truth, there should be no doubt that they handed down the entire canon of OT Scripture in the 39 (22) books.

    I do not at all see how your conclusion follows from your premise, or exactly what your conclusion means. Please explain. I don’t follow your further argumentation about the absence of a settled canon in later centuries after Christ’s life. Do you believe that the “all truth” to which Christ referred had to have been fulfilled within the lifetime of the Apostles? That is, do you believe any non-repeat truth-claim made after the time of the Apostles to be spurious? Wouldn’t that then include any articulation of a canon that followed the death of the last Apostle, as well as any articulation of doctrine about Scripture itself?

    You said: “The so-called “Alexandrian Canon” is a red herring that ignores the fact that the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem made all binding decisions in Judaism.

    Please note my section II.B., in which I discuss at length what you call a “fact.” For example, I said: “there is no historical basis to conclude that any one Jewish group had the authority to pronounce and close the canon for other Jewish groups, or that any one of them could conclude the canon for Christianity.” Where does Scripture tell you that the Sanhedrin teachers made such decisions binding on all of Judaism, and what of my historical claims that all of Judaism was not so bound?

    You said: “Finally, the debated books are called “deuterocanonical” because they constitute a “second canon” or a list added onto the original canon. To claim otherwise is to rewrite history [etc.]

    If you mean this as a critique of included deuterocanonical books, I’m not sure where you’re getting your facts, or at least how you’re handling them. The term does not mean that the texts included within the deuterocanon were “added onto the original canon” any more than “New Testament” means a list improperly added onto the original canon. It means those books which are not protocanonical. It means second (not secondary) like 2 Corinthians means the second letter of St. Paul to the Church at Corinth. It does not mean of secondary importance, or secondary to the real deal, any more than 2 Corinthians is of secondary importance, or secondary to the real epistle, of 1 Corinthians. It’s a Catholic term originally, so I fail to see ‘history-rewrite’ that occurs in my taking up this view.

    My brother, we’ve been around and around, and I’m beginning to wonder whether you’ve been reading my replies, whether you’ve read my article, and whether you are interacting here in the spirit of mutual pursuit of Truth. I can’t help but think that my last thoughts in my last comment to you need to be repeated again:

    Let’s review. My premise has been “that Reformed theology is intrinsically incapable of answering the Canon Question.” It’s classical way of answering the question is not reliable, and the other methods I discussed all rely upon evidence that is not in Scripture, so placed ‘above’ Scripture to whatever extent the Catholic Church is seen as ‘above’ Scripture. You have not answered the Canon Question in a way that leads one reliably to the 66-book Protestant canon, you have not explained how you have the authority to articulate a criterion by which the canon is measured, and you have not avoided the problem that using your interpretation of historical evidence to define the canon places something outside of Scripture (viz., your interpretation) above Scripture. You are thus left subject to Ridderbos’s able critique, which I address at length in the article.

    Until you’re prepared to address this thesis, these points, I don’t see what fruit will be borne for our readers, for you, or for me, from this endless wrangling over your take on Josephus, Cardinal Cajetan, and other selected figures from early Church History. That’s how I see things now; I’d like to learn how you’re seeing things.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  138. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your comments. I’m responding while a bit compromised from having surgery on my ankle today: 3 breaks & a severe dislocation, 9 screws and a plate.

    What I’ve posted has been intended to respond to your challenge for objective criteria of canonicity from Scripture. The function of a canon is two-fold, to include and exclude. Scripturally defined attributes provide criteria for recognizing what books are legitimately part of the canon. “All Scripture is God-breathed” is just one of a number of attributes Scripture identifies about itself. Therefore, Rom. 3:2, Prov. 30:5-6, and other passages about Scripture provide non-circular objective criteria for assessing what is Scripture and what is not.

    Please reread post 136. The 22 books of the Hebrew Bible as described by Josephus and the church fathers are indeed identical to the Protestant OT Canon. The five books of Moses have always been recognized as: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. It is easy to correlate these and other OT books with NT quotes of OT scripture (an objective process). Josephus listed 13 books written by those he identified as the “prophets who reigned after Moses” covering the time “from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes.” These books cannot have included any of the deuteros since the latter were written centuries after Artaxerxes. By reviewing the Hebew canon and the lists from Melito, Origen, and Jerome, these 13 included: Joshua, Judges/Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Esther, Job, Ezra/Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah/Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and “the Twelve” minor prophets. Jerome and Rufinus listed these books explicitly as canonical. The remaining 4 books of hymns and precepts for the conduct of living are the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

    You wrote:

    Do you believe that the “all truth” to which Christ referred had to have been fulfilled within the lifetime of the Apostles?

    I do. Otherwise, Jesus’ promise would not have been fulfilled. Tertullian said the same thing 1800 years ago. The canon is not an additional truth, but a recognition of the divine revelation passed down by the Apostles to the Church, which sufficiently teaches all the truth necessary for the salvation of all generations after Christ.

    You wrote:

    “there is no historical basis to conclude that any one Jewish group had the authority to pronounce and close the canon for other Jewish groups, or that any one of them could conclude the canon for Christianity.”

    On what basis do you deny that the Sanhedrin had the authority to pronounce and close the canon for all Jews? Furthermore, on what basis do you deny that the Sanhedrin had the authority to pronounce and close the canon in Palestine where Jesus and His disciples lived and in which the Church was born? The NT leaves no doubt about the authority of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ day (cf. many references to “the Council” of chief priests and elders in the Gospels as well as Acts 4, 5, 6, 22, 23).

    You wrote:

    You have not answered the Canon Question in a way that leads one reliably to the 66-book Protestant canon,

    I have only dealt with the OT canon so far, which is the area that is debated, and I have demonstrated how one reliably recognizes the 39 OT books. The article implies that because different church fathers did not articulate exactly the 39 Hebrew books, that the method is not reliable. I have answered that the method is reliable, but individuals made mistakes.

    you have not explained how you have the authority to articulate a criterion by which the canon is measured,

    I yield to the authority of Scripture, not my own authority. Using Scriptural criteria defining the attributes of Scripture, anyone can examine the historical and textual evidence and conclude that the 39 books in the Protestant canon are canonical. Likewise, using the same Scriptural criteria, anyone can examine the historical and textual evidence and conclude that there are no other books that belong in the canon.

    you have not avoided the problem that using your interpretation of historical evidence to define the canon places something outside of Scripture (viz., your interpretation) above Scripture.

    Do you not recognize the difference between criteria and evidence? The criteria are defined by Scripture, the evidence (both internal and external) do not have “power over Scripture.” The criteria for murder are defined by the law, the evidence in any particular case involving murder is not “over” the Law.

    I will post some comments about assumptions separately.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  139. Dear Tom,

    I’d like to comment on some assumptions.

    In contrast to the article’s focus on alleged Protestant subjective criteria of canonicity, the Belgic Confession identifies objective criteria by which the Scriptures are shown to be divinely inspired: “they prove themselves to be from God. For … the things predicted in them do happen.” Indeed, the NT writers again and again point to the fulfillment of OT prophesies attested to by eyewitnesses as objective proof that what they write as well as the OT prophecies themselves are of divine origin. On this basis, the early church fathers were able to declare NT books as divinely inspired Scripture long before any formally approved canon existed. Similarly, Protestants are justified in recognizing those books as having divine authority independent of a canon formally approved by any particular church authorities. Two millennia of objective scrutiny has upheld the authenticity of the books included in the Protestant canon and affirmed the objective judgments against those books that are not included. Protestants affirm both the objective bases of canonicity, as presented in both the Belgic Confession and in Scripture itself, and the subjective witness of the Holy Spirit. There is no conflict. Protestants, like the church fathers, recognize the binding authority of the scriptures apart from any formal or final canon approved by church authorities. If, however, the issue is that this criteria does not result in a complete canon, read on.

    You wrote:

    As a Calvinist, I followed the classical Reformational hermeneutic that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture. If you don’t have an exact canon, given that hermenutic, this would call into question any Protestant effort at biblical exegesis. A missing text could give an essential qualification to a text you are using

    Your theory is not entirely true. Although there are passages of Scripture that are open to further qualification (e.g., what it means that God made the heavens and the earth in six days), there are also truths taught by other passages of Scripture that are not open to essential qualification. For example, there are passages in Scripture that clearly teach that God is One, and that He created all things. There are also passages about Christ that allow no “essential qualification” (e.g., that Christ was crucified, died, and was buried, and that He was bodily resurrected on the third day). While the Scriptures do not exhaustively teach these truths, they are sufficiently clear to “bind our consciences,” just as the second-century “Rule of Faith” was binding on churches which claimed to be apostolic centuries before the Council of Nicea and subsequent councils officially adopted the Creed. Moreover, the essential truths of Trinitarian faith can be shown to be clearly taught by the books that meet the objective criterion of the Belgic Confession.

    Re: Luther’s “canon-within-a-canon,” Jesus and the Apostles recognized a canon of the Law as well as a canon of the Prophets (canons within the greater canon of Scripture). Different passages of Scripture address different subjects. For example, the genealogies in Numbers don’t add or take away from passages of Scripture that teach about Christ’s resurrection. The purpose of Luther’s canon-within-a-canon was not to exclude books from the greater canon of Scripture but to identify what he called “apostolic” books within the canon which he thought clearly “teach Christ.” Hence, a “canon-within-a-canon” view simply makes distinctions within the canon based on subject matter, as Jesus and the Apostles did. Likewise, there are even larger literary “canons” of both Jewish and Christian works beyond the bounds of Scripture. The Essenes, the early Christian codices, and other literary works claimed by Jews and Christians throughout their histories attest to such larger canons, if such collections can rightly be called “canons,” since they were open to future additions from their respective communities. The article fails to distinguish between the general Greek literary canon of the Jews and the OT canon (maintained by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, whose records – but not the understood boundaries of the OT canon – were utterly destroyed in A.D. 70).

    BTW: James 4:5 is one of many NT quotes which are not word-for-word equivalents of the original OT reference. It would not be surprising for a Jewish writer from Galilee like James to give a free translation of a familiar Hebrew text into Greek for the audience of his epistle. In addition, paraphrasing or summarizing OT passages in the NT is not unusual (e.g., compare Matt. 5:33 with Deut. 23:21-23; and 1 Cor. 2:9 with Isaiah 64:4). In Rom. 12:19 (quoting Deut. 32:35), Paul even uses an Aramaic targum on the verse in Deuteronomy. On the other hand, allusions or quotes not identified as Scripture could be from any source – whether the deuteros or Jude’s quotes from Enoch or Paul’s quotes from pagans.

    I believe that the 66 books recognized by Protestants sufficiently teach the essential truths of the faith (cf. CCC 188-193) and that arguments against that canon are simply speculative and/or partisan.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  140. Dear Chaka,

    Greetings from the USA! A few comments on your post:

    Re: 4 Esdras. This is an apocryphal Christian era book not even written by a Jew. It has never had much credibility, so any quote from it might as well have come from the Da Vinci Code.

    On what basis do you think your reference to the Mishnah is first century? There are no extant copies of the Mishnah that go back that far. Debates among diaspora Jews centuries later are not unlike debates between Roman Catholics and Orthodox about the canon today.

    Re: Melito’s canon, I addressed that in other posts. Origen’s response to Julius Africanus on Greek additions to the Hebrew text shows an unfortunate gullibility – but don’t forget that Origen was condemned by the Church for some of his unorthodox teachings. I wouldn’t recommend using Origen as a reliable source of truth (his historical testimony about people and events is of value, but his theological perspective is often questionable).

    Re: church father quotes of non-canonical texts. Quotes alone do not imply doctrinal authority as Scripture. Irenaeus does not call his quote “Scripture.” Paul quoted pagans in the NT to illustrate a point, just as Irenaeus did. That said, I think the Greek church fathers were at a disadvantage relying on Theodotion’s and other Greek versions of the OT books, not realizing what texts were significantly altered from the Hebrew originals. Remember Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God is tested … Do not add to His words lest He reprove you and you be found a liar.”

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  141. Dear “lojahw”,

    I am sorry to hear of your injury and pray for your speedy recovery.

    You have not demonstrated that Scripture’s articulation of characteristics of Scripture can also act as criteria of canonicity. You have not demonstrated that the Truth “all Scripture is God-breathed” shows us which texts are God-breathed. It is a circular claim, because the articulation of a characteristic (e.g., Scripture is God-breathed) presupposes a knowledge of what exactly is Scripture. I more than imply in my article that the absence of any single Church father articulating the Protestant canon disproves the theory that we can know the canon objectively and reliably from history. You claim that the 22-book canon of Josephus et al. matches the Protestant Old Testament. But not one single early figure articulated a Protestant Old Testament canon, as I explained in the article, and as all of the Reformed canonics scholars I surveyed agreed. Certainly if any of them thought that Josephus or any Church Father articulated the Protestant Old Testament canon, they would have used that in support of their Protestant view. But none of them do, because they all recognize what you seem unwilling to concede: that not one single source from the early Church articulated an Old Testament canon that matches the Protestant Old Testament. You say your method is reliable even though “individuals made mistakes” — how is a method reliable (and your results sound) if no figure in the early church reached your results? Explaining away that they were all in error hardly makes your method seem objectively reliable. It seems like post hoc rationalization. If “anyone can examine the historical and textual evidence and conclude that the 39 books in the Protestant canon are canonical,” then why is it that no one (without mistakes) was able to do so until the time of the Reformation?

    When you responded about the idea of Christ leading the Apostles into “all truth,” you said two conflicting things. First you said this reaching of all truth had to have happened within the Apostles’ lifetime, but then you said that the Church later ‘recognized’ the truth of the canon. I see no distinction between a gradual leading into all truth, and an eventual recognition of truth. You seem to conflate public revelation with the leading into all truth, which I would maintain was gradual and was a process of recognition not a process of revelation. Christ did lead the Church into all truth concerning the canon, but this truth was not reached until well after the death of the last Apostle. Either way you’re viewing things here, I fail to see your conclusion that “there should be no doubt that [the Apostles] handed down the entire canon of OT Scripture in the 39 (22) books.”

    Regarding Jewish authority, I stand by me evidence in the article, which showed three different Jewish groups with three different accepted canons. I’m not sure why you’re asking me on what basis I deny the Sanhedrin’s authority over all of then-Judaism, since it was orginially my assertion. It is incumbent upon you to show my assertion false, not incumbant upon me to show the cause of my denial (which, besides, I have already shown in the article). On what basis do you claim that the Jews who happened to have jurisdiction over the lands in which Christ and the Apostles primarily dwelled also had authority over all of Judaism? It does not follow. Likewise, you could not say that the Roman government had secular authority over Japan because the Roman government had secular authority over the lands in which Christ and the Apostles primarily dwelled.

    Regarding your query about whether I know the difference between evidence and criteria, I referred to “your interpretation of historical evidence,” and not evidence simpliciter. It is your interpretation of which texts have characteristics such as “God-breathed” that is in practice your criterion of canonicity. It is this, your interpretation, your applied criterion, that has power over the canon, because (if not applied in a post hoc fashion) it has the power to add to or detract from sacred writ. And by the way, the law defines the “elements” of murder, not the criteria. Anyone with the power to define and redefine the elements of murder has power over the lawProtestants affirm both the objective bases of canonicity, as presented in both the Belgic Confession and in Scripture itself, and the subjective witness of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, you are right. Now you’re coming around to my secion II.A. Please read my argument there to find out what is deficient about this view, specifically about the subjective element collapsing into the supposedly objective when scrutinized.

    Your claim that some passages of Scripture are not subject to qualification (so we needn’t worry even if some other passages of Scripture were missing) is puzzling. The Protestant in me sees your position as an extreme outlier, an affront to the Reformed belief in the necessary unity and completeness of the Word of God. If we only had James and the Gospels, but no Pauline epistles, you might be inclined to say that James 2:24 (“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”) allows for no “essential qualifications.” No, the classical Reformed hermeneutic cannot work with an incomplete canon.

    Luther’s view of the canon within a canon absolutely does not “simply makes distinctions within the canon based on subject matter,” as if it is some exercise in taxonomy. Lutherans believe, as I discussed in the text accompanying footnote 36, and in my section II.E., that the undisputed books can be used for the development of doctrine, while the others cannot. So for the purpose of doctrinal formulation — a critical purpose — Lutherans do indeed exclude books from the “greater canon.”

    Were it a different subject matter, I would find humorous your charge that disputes over the canon are speculative or partisan. This would be humorous because it was this issue that changed my “party” (so my motives could not have been partisan). I changed because I realized that the classical Reformed position was internally inconsistent.

    What do you hope to accomplish here? You seem steadfast in the claim that criteria like “all Scripture is God-breathed” lead believers objectively and reliably to your 66-book canon. You seem steadfast in the claim that the early Church fathers, while none of them articulated the Protestant Old Testament canon, all believed in the Protestant Old Testament canon. I present evidence or arguments against your claims, but you revert back to your claims. I think for whatever reason we lack a mutual desire for the pursuit of truth in this conversation, and therefore question its utility. We are wearing down our keyboards, and I am wearing down my wife’s patience, but still we make no progress. Do you want to score points in this discussion, or do you want to pursue the truth? I want to pursue the truth. I spent probably a few hundred hours writing this article which exposes all of my canonical analysis that I went through as I chose to leave my previously held Reformed beliefs and enter the Catholic Church. I have spent years pursuing truth on this topic, and herein lies my conclusions. So I can only reach further for the truth if my premises or conclusions here are directly confronted. The hallow claim that I found boiled down to “we know Scripture when we see it” brought me to this place, so it’s certainly not going to get me out of this place now.

    And this may be the last time I say it, but I would still today walk away from Catholicism if I could find a way to see sola scriptura as true. I have come to love the Catholic Church, but if sola scriptura were true, as truth, I would love it more than what I admire about Catholicism (which would have to be false if sola scriptura were true). I hope that similarly, for the sake of truth, you would be willing to consider becoming Catholic if you came to believe that sola scriptura is false.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  142. […] Tom Brown over at Called to Communion has an honest quote: And this may be the last time I say it, but I would still today walk away from Catholicism if I could find a way to see sola scriptura as true. I have come to love the Catholic Church, but if sola scriptura were true, as truth, I would love it more than what I admire about Catholicism (which would have to be false if sola scriptura were true). […]

  143. Hi Tom
    I can’t do as well as lojawh- but I took a crack at your article here if you want to come over and comment. I was hoping to run into you at Devin’s blog again, but you disappeared!
    God bless,
    Garret

  144. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your kind words & prayers – I’m facing 6 months of recovery, trusting in the Lord.

    I can assure you that my desire is to seek the truth. In that pursuit of the truth, I would appreciate your responses to the following:

    1) I gave 2 examples of church fathers who exactly identified the Protestant canon. Have you read Rufinus’ canon? Have you read Jerome’s Preface to the book of Kings (OT canon) and his letter to Dardanus (NT canon)? Jerome explicitly articulates the Protestant canon, and was routinely appealed to by Reformers and others, including Cardinal Cajetan, for more than 1000 years. Why do you continue to ignore them and berate me for accepting a canon which “no church father” ever articulated? And have you no response to the evidence I’ve provided that your cited sources of longer canons were no better than the shorter OT canons?

    2) I have repeatedly listed a group of Scriptural criteria of canonicity, which you keep truncating to “God-breathed” and call it a circular argument. That’s not being honest with what I gave you. The qualifying criteria cannot be separated from the initial claim of “God-breathed” – but you insist on ignoring the qualifying criteria altogether.

    Re: your assertion that these criteria require interpretation, can you be more specific? I have quoted Proverbs 30:5-6 many times (“Every word of God is tested … Do not add to them lest He reprove you and you be found a liar?) – what personal interpretation of that text would exercise authority over Scripture?

    Re: evidence vs. criteria. Please explain how the qualifying passages of Scripture alluded to in support of “God-breathed” confuse evidence and criteria. For example: Proverbs 30:5-6? Or Isaiah 40:8 (with respect to “lost books”)?

    3) I have based my responses on primary sources – you continue to argue from secondary sources: what someone has said about the Septuagint or what a certain Protestant has said about the canon. Where are your primary sources that provide the canon you claim existed in the first century? I followed all your footnotes and they provided no primary sources from the first century. I gave you Josephus and NT attestation for the Hebrew canon and the basis of authority for the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Can you show primary sources that refute them? If not, you are entitled to your opinion, but you should not claim more than that (unless you want to appeal to the authority of your partisan position).

    You wrote:

    You seem to conflate public revelation with the leading into all truth, which I would maintain was gradual and was a process of recognition not a process of revelation.

    Do you argue that Jesus’ Apostles did not know and pass down all truth necessary for salvation? How is recognition by later generations of what was passed down by the Apostles a “new truth”? Poor communication during centuries of persecution complicated the process, but there was no new revelation of truth centuries after the fact.

    Re: essential qualification of passages of Scripture. I think you misunderstood my point. The unity of the Scripture affirms the consistency and coherence of all that it teaches, the completeness affirms that it covers all truth necessary for salvation. My point was that within the completeness of doctrine there are many individual doctrines which are articulated not by every passage of Scripture, but sufficiently by a few, e.g., that One God created all things. Ever since the second century orthodox Christians have summarized the essential doctrines in a Rule of Faith or a Creed. The point is that affirmation of those truths does not depend upon every passage of Scripture; and that those passages which proclaim them do so unequivocally. Hence, adding more text to Scripture cannot make essential qualifications of those truths. (BTW- this relates to the perspicuity of Scripture. It doesn’t take a divinely authorized interpreter to realize that the Bible teaches that Jesus died on a cross, was buried, and rose again bodily on the third day.)

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  145. Dear “lojahw”,

    1) I did not notice your two examples of Church Fathers exactly identifying the Protestant canon. You had me confused with your talk of 22 book lists — sometimes it seemed you meant that to be synonymous with the Protestant Old Testament canon, and other times it seemed you recognized that while the number 22 was common for scholars, it didn’t necessarily equate to the Protestant Old Testament.

    First, let me repeat what I just recently said:

    But not one single early figure articulated a Protestant Old Testament canon, as I explained in the article, and as all of the Reformed canonics scholars I surveyed agreed. Certainly if any of them thought that Josephus or any Church Father articulated the Protestant Old Testament canon, they would have used that in support of their Protestant view. But none of them do.

    These authors dealt in Jerome and Rufinus too, so I am skeptical that you have found the Protestant 39-book Old Testament canon where these Reformed scholars missed it. As for Jerome, I took this up in my article. You have not rebutted what I said in the article, but separately (here in the combox) proffered your own theory that Jerome supports your canon. Then you demand my response to your theory. As a procedural matter, I think you should be interacting with my article in this combox, as opposed to me interacting with theories you put forward. Here’s what I quote from Jerome in my article, and you can read my analysis and other quotes in the surrounding text:

    What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us.”

    Besides, even if you had one scholar in the fourth century who suggested the Protestant Old Testament canon, how does that show that your canon is self-identifying? What of the many others scholars, and many centuries (before and after Jerome), that were without Jerome’s canon?

    2) I have not kept truncating your criteria to “God-breathed” but have given it as an example — a fine examplar of your overall criteria. How am I being dishonest with what you gave me? I’m not sure which “qualifying criteria” you think I am ignoring.

    How do your criteria require interpretation? Well, it’s like this. You cannot get from “All Scripture is God-breathed” [or whatever other criteria you want to use] to “James is canonical” or “Esther is canonical” without at least one intermediate step, and that step will inherently involve interpretation. That interpretation ultimately holds the trump. Please note that adding other criteria to the equation will not eliminate the need for analysis. Unless the criteria is “James is canonical” then there will always be interpretation of the criterion involved before you can reach the conclusion “James is canonical.” Try this out: explain in a few sentences to a hypothetical non-believer how they can be assured that James is a part of the Christian Bible. The explanation will involve either deference to another’s interpretation, your own interpretation, or a combination of the two.

    I don’t understand your evidence vs. criteria question, since you were asking if I knew the difference between the two, and now you are asking about how I could think you are confusing the two. I’m confused.

    3) It’s a cop-out to say that I am basing my arguments only on secondary sources. First, I have quoted and cited heavily from primary sources (once even in this comment). Second, I am using your Reformed theologians as secondary sources to make sure that I am treating the specifically Reformed handling of the primary sources in a fair way. I had to do this to avoid being accused of criticizing a straw man. Troublingly, you asked me: “Where are your primary sources that provide the canon you claim existed in the first century?” This is troubling because it shows that you are arguing against my claim of a certain canon in the first century, even though I have never made this claim. To be clear, let me state: I do not believe that any canon, or even the concept of a Christian canon, existed in the first century. Such a claim would be absurd, since the Gospel of John was likely written close to the year 100 AD.

    You said: Do you argue that Jesus’ Apostles did not know and pass down all truth necessary for salvation? How is recognition by later generations of what was passed down by the Apostles a “new truth”?

    This is getting off topic. My point (on topic) is that the Apostles did not hand down a canon, because one did not exist at that time. So while Christ did lead His Church into “all truth” by eventually having the Church recognize the canon, it did not happen within the Apostles’ lifetimes (many were dead by the time the last of the New Testament was written). Your question inserted “necessary for salvation” to the discussion we had been having. Of course they passed down “all truth necessary for salvation” — they didn’t withhold that last key element necessary for salvation. Recognition by later generations of what was passed down is not a “new truth”, but a recognition. This is ‘doctrinal development’ properly understood, so I commend you and our agreement. But remember your original claim that sparked this strand of conversation: Since Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all the truth, there should be no doubt that they handed down the entire canon of OT Scripture in the 39 (22) books. Why is the canon something that had to be revealed as necessary for salvation, and not something that could have been recognized by later generations?

    Last, regarding your discussion of perspicuity and the unity of Scripture, I appreciate the Reformed view that “within the completeness of doctrine there are many individual doctrines which are articulated not by every passage of Scripture, but sufficiently by a few” But this leaves you right back facing my original complaint. If you could have an incomplete canon in your hands, then you can’t form doctrine from that collection of texts under the Reformed hermeneutic, because an omitted part could qualify another part in an essential way.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  146. Dear Tom,

    If you’ll bear with me, I’m trying to understand what you mean by:

    You cannot get from “All Scripture is God-breathed” [or whatever other criteria you want to use] to “James is canonical” or “Esther is canonical” without at least one intermediate step, and that step will inherently involve interpretation. That interpretation ultimately holds the trump.

    The crux of your argument seems to be the possibility of relying on a human interpretation of some criteria not articulated by Scripture. In other words, an honest and capable person might choose “yes” or “no” on the basis of some criteria which Scripture does not use to define itself. An example might be Augustine’s reason for accepting the Maccabees: “on account of the extreme and wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs” (City of God 18:36). Of course, nowhere does Scripture give this as a criterion for its contents, and I would agree with you that this is not a reasonable approach to discerning Scripture.

    But you also seem to dismiss historical record as a valid mechanism to evaluate whether a particular book or books meet the criteria that Scripture defines. I don’t understand why, for example, if Scripture says the “oracles of God” prior to Christ were entrusted to the Jews, that you will not admit the historical record of what Jews in Jesus’ day and in the centuries following both published (as Josephus did) and told Christians about the canon of those “oracles of God.” Apart from impeaching the historical witnesses, the words of Josephus and the church fathers do not admit the kind of “interpretation” that you suggest is necessary. Moreover, it shouldn’t matter how many “steps” one takes to ascertain whether or not something Scripture says about itself is true of a particular book. It is legitimate to question the basis of one’s human judgment, but once the reasonable objections have been answered, to accept the use of human judgment (we are, after all, commanded to love God with all our minds as well as our hearts, souls, and strength). Surely you do not suggest that all intellectual processes are excluded from applying sola scriptura?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  147. Lojahw wrote:4 Esdras. This is an apocryphal Christian era book not even written by a Jew. It has never had much credibility, so any quote from it might as well have come from the Da Vinci Code.

    Chaka replies:4 Esdras is a Jews apocalyptic book with Christain additions.The passage which i quoted from that work is of Jewish orgin.The catholic encyclopedia has this to say about that book in its acticle on it:

    “The main portion (iii-xiv) is undoubtedly the work of a Jew — whether Roman, or Alexandrian, or Palestinian, no one can tell; as to its date, authors are mostly widely at variance, and all dates have been suggested, from 30 B.C. to A.D. 218; scholars, however, seem to rally more and more around the year A.D. 97”

    When you talk of credibility I dont really understand what you have in mind.If by credibility you mean that the author was not really the Prophet Ezra or was not really written in the Prophet Ezra’s time then I agree with you that the work is not credible in this sense.But this in no way rules out the possibility that the religious views expressed in that work where shared by some of the authors kinsmen/countrymen in those times.Thats what my argument was about in quoting that work. That the work “demonstates that not all Jews of Josephus’ day believed that the inspired writings was limited to twenty four books”.

    Lojahw wrote:On what basis do you think your reference to the Mishnah is first century? There are no extant copies of the Mishnah that go back that far. Debates among diaspora Jews centuries later are not unlike debates between Roman Catholics and Orthodox about the canon today

    Chaka replies:The passage I quoted has nothing to do with “Debates among diaspora Jews centuries later “.Rather,it has to do with debates among the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai.Both schools dates back to first century Judaism.But i guess you doubt the historical testimony of that passage.Now,leaving aside whether the mishnah reflects first century Jewish beliefs or not.You would agree with me that the saying of the early rabbis which are found in the Mishnah where collected in the second century AD/Early third century.In this way,even if the sayings in the mishnah does not go back to the first century AD they atleast shows that in the second century/early third century AD they were still debates among the Jews on which book belongs to Scipture.

    Lojahw wrote:Melito’s canon, I addressed that in other posts. Origen’s response to Julius Africanus on Greek additions to the Hebrew text shows an unfortunate gullibility – but don’t forget that Origen was condemned by the Church for some of his unorthodox teachings. I wouldn’t recommend using Origen as a reliable source of truth (his historical testimony about people and events is of value, but his theological perspective is often questionable

    Chaka repies:I was not the one who first put Origen foward “as a reliable source of truth” but you when you wrote:”Melito, Origen, and Jerome all heeded the Scriptural criterion by going to the Jews to ask which books belonged in the Old Testament canon”.I ony pointed out to you with quotes from Origen that, contrary to your claim,he accepted the Deuterocanonical books.I guess if I were to point out to you with quotes from Jerome that ,contrary to your claim,he too accepted the Deuterocanonical books you would likewise say that Jerome’s statement in such passages ” shows an unfortunate gullibility” .Why do you think it is the ancients that are gullible and it is not you that is wrong?

    Lojahw wrote:church father quotes of non-canonical texts. Quotes alone do not imply doctrinal authority as Scripture. Irenaeus does not call his quote “Scripture.” Paul quoted pagans in the NT to illustrate a point, just as Irenaeus did.

    Chaka replies:My brother read that passage again carefully.In St. Ireanues eyes the History of Susanna is part of the book of Daniel.Or do you want to argue that St.Ireanues does not consider the book of Daniel as a Scriptural book?You also sounded like one who would believe that the early fathers accepted the Deuterocanonical books if only passages could be presented from the works of the fathers in which they call passages from the Deuterocanonical books “Scripture”.Numerous quotes of this kind can be made from the writtings of the fathers.Take a look at this few examples.

    “At this stage some rise up, saying that the Lord, by reason of the rod, and threatening, and fear, is not good; misapprehending, as appears, the Scripture which says, ‘And he that feareth the Lord will turn to his heart'[Sirach 21:6]”[Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor ,I:8 ]

    “[H]aving heard the Scripture which says, ‘Fasting with prayer is a good thing'[Tobit 12:8].”[ Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 6:12 ]

    “But the case stands not thus; for the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner. But they make use also of other testimonies, and say, Thus it is written: ‘This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of Him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob His servant (son), and to Israel His beloved. Afterward did He show Himself upon earth, and conversed with men'[Baruch 3:25-38].” [Hippolytus, Against the Noetus, 2]

    “But that we may believe on the authority of holy Scripture that such is the case, hear how in the book of Maccabees, where the mother of seven martyrs exhorts her son to endure torture, this truth is confirmed; for she says, ‘ ask of thee, my son, to look at the heaven and the earth, and at all things which are in them, and beholding these, to know that God made all these things when they did not exist'[2 Maccabees 7:28].” [Origen, Fundamental Principles, 2:2]

    “But he ought t0 know that those who wish to live according to the teaching of Sacred Scripture understand the saying, ‘The knowledge of the unwise is as talk without sense'[Sirach 21:18], and have learnt ‘to be ready always to give an answer to everyone that asketh us a reason for the hope that is in us'[1 Pt 3:15].” [Origen, Against Celsus, 7:12 ]

    “And thus Holy Scripture instructs us, saying, ‘Prayer is good with fasting and almsgiving'[Tobit 12:8].”[ Cyprian, Treatise 4,32 ]

    “Holy Scripture teaches and forewarns, saying, ‘My son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in righteousness and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation'[Sirach 2:1,4]. And again: ‘In pain endure, and in thy humility have patience; for gold and silver is tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.[Sirach 2:5].”[ Cyprian, Treatise 7,9 ]
    “But listen to the divine oracles: ‘The works of the Lord are in judgment; from the beginning, and from His making of them, He disposed the parts thereof. He garnished His works for ever, and their principles unto their generations'[Sirach 16:24-25].” [Dionysius the Great, On Nature, 3]

    “[D]oes not the scripture say: ‘Burden not thyself above thy power'[Sirach 13:2]?” [Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 108 ]

    Lojahw wrote:That said, I think the Greek church fathers were at a disadvantage relying on Theodotion’s and other Greek versions of the OT books, not realizing what texts were significantly altered from the Hebrew originals.

    Chaka replies:The Greeks were not alone.The latin Church fathers,like the Greeks,treated the addition part of Daniel and other Deuterocanonical books as Scripture.See for example Tertullian who considered the book of Baruch as part of the book of Jeremiah:

    “For they remembered also the words of Jeremias writing to those over whom that captivity was impending: ‘And now ye shall see borne upon men’s shoulders the gods of the Babylonians, of gold and silver and wood, causing fear to the Gentiles. Beware, therefore, that ye also do not be altogether like the foreigners, and be seized with fear while ye behold crowds worshipping those gods before and behind, but say in your mind, Our duty is to worship Thee, O Lord'[Baruch 6:3]. ” [Tertullian, Scorpiace, 8 ]

    Good’ol Origen was it making up things in the third century when he pointed out to Africanus that Deuterocanonical books such as the History of Susanna can be found in every Scripture used in every Church of Christ.

    Peace with love,
    Chaka

  148. Dear “lojahw”,

    I’m glad we at least partially agree that it is not reasonable (or reliably effective) to pick a criterion for determining the canon, and then deciding “yes” or “no” for each candidate text. And thanks for the chance to explain a little more about my meaning when I said that you need an intermediate interpretive step. Specifically, you wonder why I “dismiss the historical record,” and you seem to be under the impression that history can answer questions where interpretive judgment might be unreliable. This reminds me of the discussion I was having with Ken at #79 and following, where I discussed Gettysburg. I do not dismiss the historical record at all, but it does not alleviate you of your use of private judgment in analyzing whether, based on your criterion, a given book is canonical.

    You mentioned this:

    I don’t understand why, for example, if Scripture says the “oracles of God” prior to Christ were entrusted to the Jews, that you will not admit the historical record of what Jews in Jesus’ day and in the centuries following both published (as Josephus did) and told Christians about the canon of those “oracles of God.”

    First, notice that you are using interpretive analysis to decide what texts the critereion ‘oracles of God entrusted to the Jews’ would have us include in the canon. You have concluded that the Jews in the centuries following the days of Christ could still bear testimony about the canon that is binding upon Christians. This is intermediate anlaysis. (And note that I addressed this matter of post-Christ Jews directly in my section II.B.)

    Second, notice that to the criterion you choose to use from Scripture, you have added an element or two so that the criterion makes a little more sense. You added “prior to Christ” because your judgment informs you that you need that element for the rule you see there to make sense. This is because as you are reading the verse about the oracles of God, the verse cannot mean to include oracular statements in the time following Christ. Also, I think you implicitly added that “oracles” means “written Scripture” even though it could simply be a reference to the Prophets, who very clearly were entrusted to the Jews.

    I’m not sure why you noted that it doesn’t matter how many steps need to be taken, as I said nothing about that. My point is that you are taking interpretive steps. James is not canonical because the Bible says “James is canonical” — it is canonical, I think you would say, because the Bible says things about what books are canonical, and you have interpreted those things in such a way that James winds up included. Do that in one step or eight, my point remains the same, viz., that you are interpreting your criteria. Sure, interpretation and use of reason is permissible. Catholicism loves these things. My point is that your interpretation holds the trump. If you say the Catholic Church is “over” Scripture because it has power to add or subtract from the canon, then you are “over” Scripture because you have power to add or subtract from it based on your individual interpretation of your criteria when deciding which books are in and which are out.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  149. Dear Tom,

    In section II, you assert, based on a quote from Jerome’s response to Rufinus:

    From this we see clearly that Jerome, for all his studies with Hebrew scholars, did not hold to a 39-book Old Testament canon that matches the Protestant canon.

    Your quote(s) of Jerome need be interpreted in light of his own canon (Preface to the Book of Kings) and the contexts of the quotes you gave. First, Jerome used the term “hagiographa” to mean “biographies of saints” (hagios is the Greek word for saints). Biographies of saints are not in an of themselves authoritative for doctrine. Indeed, Josephus, in the first century wrote the following about the books after the reign of Artaxerxes, including the hagiographa of which Jerome spoke:

    It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time … [but with respect to the twenty-two books] during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them. Against Apion

    Jerome’s comments on the books of Tobias and Judith as “hagiographa” do not challenge the Jews’ lower esteem for them than for the “twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine.” As for the reference to the Nicene Council, it published no canon of Scripture nor is there any record from it indicating acceptance of Judith as canonical. At best, Jerome’s comment about Nicea (which was before his time) might indicate that someone at the Council might have considered Judith as canonical. Moreover, a number of church fathers after the Council of Nicea, including Gregory Nazianzus, Athanasius, Jerome, and John of Damascus did not regard Judith as canonical.

    More telling, however, is what the context of the quoted text Against Rufinus says:

    In reference to Daniel my answer will be that I did not say that he was not a prophet; on the contrary, I confessed in the very beginning of the Preface that he was a prophet. But I wished to show what was the opinion upheld by the Jews; and what were the arguments on which they relied for its proof. I also told the reader that the version read in the Christian churches was not that of the Septuagint translators but that of Theodotion. It is true, I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ; but the fault was not mine who only stated the fact [that the LXX version was condemned], but that of those who read the version [i.e., the fault was of those who read the expanded version as if it were the original]. We have four versions to choose from: those of Aquila, Symmachus, the Seventy, and Theodotion. The churches choose to read Daniel in the version of Theodotion. What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us. Apology Against Rufinus, II.33

    Observations: Jerome was facing accusations from multiple quarters. 1) Jerome references his Preface to the book of Daniel, which is important for interpreting what Jerome is saying against Rufinus; 2) Jerome clearly says: “the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ.” When Jerome then says, “What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches,” the antecedent for “judgment” is “the right judgment of the churches of Christ” which condemned the LXX variants. Jerome’s final statement: “the man who makes this a charge against me” cannot refer to his endorsement of the LXX. It may refer back to the first line: “my answer will be that I did not say that he [Daniel] was not a prophet … but I wished to show what was the opinion of the Jews” [that Daniel was a prophet]. To interpret Jerome’s final phrase: “I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us,” requires reading what he wrote in his Preface to the book of Daniel (which he cites above in Rufinus, II.33):

    But among other things we should recognize that Porphyry makes this objection to us concerning the Book of Daniel, that it is clearly a forgery not to be considered as belonging to the Hebrew Scriptures but an invention composed in Greek. This he deduces from the fact that in the story of Susanna, where Daniel … [employs] a wordplay appropriate to Greek rather than to Hebrew. But both Eusebius and Apollinarius have answered him after the same tenor, that the stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are not contained in the Hebrew … For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew. And in this connection I am surprised to be told that certain fault-finders complain that I have on my own initiative truncated the book. …. And since all the churches of Christ, whether belonging to the Greek-speaking territory or the Latin, the Syrian or the Egyptian, publicly read this edition with its asterisks and obeli [indicating that it is not in the original], let the hostile-minded not begrudge my labor

    In other words, Jerome translated into Latin the full LXX text including the stories of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon, but noted those sections “with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew.” Some then complained that Jerome’s Latin translation truncated the book of Daniel because the readers in the churches skipped over the sections marked with the critical symbols. Let the reader beware when a text is not in the original (cf. Prov. 30:5-6). Going about to Against Rufinus II.33, “I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us,” now makes sense: Jerome explained in his Preface “what they commonly say against us,” i.e., he explained that he did not truncate the Greek additions, but rather he marked them to forewarn the reader that these sections were not original. Jerome apparently did not want to force his opinion on those who read his translation, but he did want them to know that the additions were not in the Hebrew.

    In conclusion, none of the quotes cited by the article show that Jerome considered the “Septuagint plus” to be canonical.

    In Section II you also wrote:

    Not one single source from this period [first four centuries]articulates the Protestant canon.

    I provided separately the canons of Jerome and Rufinus which refute this statement. In light of these 2 early witnesses to the Protestant Canon, and the testimony of Josephus plus nine early church fathers supporting the 22 book OT canon with minor variations, your arguments against the Protestant canon need to be rethought. The church fathers before (and after) Augustine, as well as the Reformers rightly heeded Romans 3:2 in following what has clearly been the Jews’ OT canon for at least two millennia. I would appreciate your comment.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  150. Dear Chaka,
    You wrote:

    If by credibility you mean that the author was not really the Prophet Ezra or was not really written in the Prophet Ezra’s time then I agree with you that the work is not credible in this sense.But this in no way rules out the possibility that the religious views expressed in that work where shared by some of the authors kinsmen/countrymen in those times.

    Similarly, should we consider the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas as credible alternatives to the Gospels of Matthew or John? Was there a possibility that the religious views expressed in the apocryphal gospels were shared by some of the authors’ kinsmen/countrymen in those times? Yes! Someone kept these so-called gospels in circulation for a long time. The possibility of people believing in various “urban legends” (and their equivalents) does not turn a story-telling forger into a credible source. Josephus, on the other hand has always been considered a credible first century Jewish historian, apart from his tendency to present an idealized picture of his people, the Jews. Admittedly Josephus’ statement stretched the truth a little: “but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these [22] books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them.” There are always some people on the fringe of any group; so, yes, it is possible that some Jews did not “immediately from birth esteem” only those 22 books as divine. Still, which person is more credible: Josephus, who used his real name and is a widely respected authority on Jewish history and culture or the faker story-teller who falsely used a famous prophet’s name as a platform for publishing his personal fantasies?

    the saying of the early rabbis which are found in the Mishnah where collected in the second century AD/Early third century.

    The text you quote is from the Megillah 7a in the Babylonian Talmud, which dates to the fifth century, not the second or third (the Palestinian Talmud does date to the time you claim). Also, it is debated whether or not it was intended to have any impact on the Jewish canon. The fact that the schools of Hillel and Shamai existed for many centuries doesn’t tell us when the rabbis in your quote lived. My source places Rabbi Judah in the late third century, but like the quote from 4 Esdras, this quote is irrelevant to what books Jesus and His Jewish disciples recognized as Scripture. The most reliable historical source closest to their time and place, Josephus, is a more reliable witness than a rabbi who lived in the diaspora more than 200 years later.

    I ony pointed out to you with quotes from Origen that, contrary to your claim,he accepted the Deuterocanonical books.

    Please forgive me for not directly responding to your quotes last time. The quotes from Origen only relate to the Greek additions to Daniel, not to the seven deuterocanonical books. And, as I said previously, Origen was a complex character. His correspondence with Julius Africanus on this subject did not change his own canon of 22 books, but it does provide insight into the usage of the LXX translation of the OT in the Greek-speaking churches of his day. Jerome, a century later commented that Origen agreed that the tale of Susanna and the fable of Bel and the Dragon were not in the original Hebrew. In view of that fact, Origen’s response to Africanus is very odd: “Are we to suppose that the same Providence that in the sacred Scriptures has ministered to the edification of all the Churches of Christ, had no thought for those bought with a price, for whom Christ died … that with Him He might freely give us all things? ‘Thou shalt not remove the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set.’” Ep. Africanus 5. It is odd that Origen recognized that the Greek text was significantly different than the original, yet he said: “Thou shalt not remove the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set” (quoting Prov. 22:28). In other words, Origen placed more weight on the recent history of the LXX than on the original Hebrew from which it came, with additions. He seems to be saying, “Don’t upset the churches that are used to reading this Greek version with its additions; God will preserve them from error.” Jerome, a century later, was caught in a similar controversy, and his answer (regarding his Latin translation) was that he included the extra stories with asterisks and obeli so that the reader would know which texts were authentic and which were not (keeping the ancient boundaries). Still, Jerome was criticized by some Latins for “truncating” the book of Daniel because readers in their churches skipped over the added stories when they saw the asterisks and obeli markings. Remember Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God is tested …. Do not add to His words lest He reprove you and you be found a liar.” Origen should have heeded both of Solomon’s warnings: 1) not to move the ancient boundary (the Hebrew text); and 2) not to add to God’s words.

    2 summary thoughts:
    1) Quoting a work does not imply canonical authority. I often say: “as Augustine (other some other writer) wrote…” without implying that I consider him of equal authority to Scripture. Quite a few church fathers quoted the deuteros, but do not mistake those quotes to mean that they have “like authority” to the Scriptures.

    2) How could the Church consistently omit 7 “divine” books for four centuries, and then decide that those books which Josephus placed among the books “not of like authority” to the 22 should suddenly be called “divine books”? It is the consensus of 9 successive church fathers through the fourth century publishing 22 book OT canons from the Jews (cf. Rom. 3:2) that agrees with the Protestant canon. As I wrote earlier: Jerome and Rufinus exactly articulated the Protestant canon. How do you argue that they were wrong?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  151. My brother Lojahw,
    It seems we are going in circles here so I would concentrate alone on your two(2) summary thoughts .

    Lojahw 1st Summary:Quoting a work does not imply canonical authority. I often say: “as Augustine (other some other writer) wrote…” without implying that I consider him of equal authority to Scripture. Quite a few church fathers quoted the deuteros, but do not mistake those quotes to mean that they have “like authority” to the Scriptures.

    Chaka relies:No one is saying quoting a work does imply canonical authority.We have to look at the way and manner these works are quoted.Now when the fathers were quoting Scritures they use formulas such as :”the scriptures says”,”it is written”,”the Lord says”,”the divine oracles says”,”the Lord says through the prophet”,”the prophet of the Lord says”.If we turn to the works of the Early fathers who lived in the first three centuries it would be discovered that they use these formulas for both the duetros and protos(See some of the quotes in my earlier post).Futher more,in their works the fathers qouted the deutros in between the protos in a way which suggests that they considered them as being of equal footing with the protos.See for example this qoute from St.Clement of Rome in which passages from the book of Wisdom are quoted in between the book of Job and the book of Psalms:

    “Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird He shows us the mightiness of His power to fulfil His promise ? For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, “Thou shalt raise me up, and I shall confess unto Thee; ” and again, “I laid me down, and slept; I awaked, because Thou art with me;” and again, Job says, “Thou shalt raise up this flesh of mine, which has suffered all these things.” Having then this hope, let our souls be bound to Him who is faithful in His promises, and just in His judgments. He who has commanded us not to lie, shall much more Himself not lie; for nothing is impossible with God, except to lie. Let His faith therefore be stirred up again within us, and let us consider that all things are nigh unto Him. By the word of His might He established all things, and by His word He can overthrow them. “Who shall say unto Him, What hast thou done? or, Who shall resist the power of His strength?” [Wisdom 12:12,ll:22]When and as He pleases He will do all things, and none of the things determined by Him shall pass away? All things are open before Him, and nothing can be hidden from His counsel. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy- work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. And there are no words or speeches of which the voices are not heard.” Since then all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil desires; so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. [St.Clemment of Rome,Epistle to the Corinthians 26-28:1]

    Lojahw 2nd Summary:How could the Church consistently omit 7 “divine” books for four centuries, and then decide that those books which Josephus placed among the books “not of like authority” to the 22 should suddenly be called “divine books”? It is the consensus of 9 successive church fathers through the fourth century publishing 22 book OT canons from the Jews (cf. Rom. 3:2) that agrees with the Protestant canon. As I wrote earlier: Jerome and Rufinus exactly articulated the Protestant canon. How do you argue that they were wrong?

    Chaka replies:The Church did not consistently omit 7 “divine” books for four centuries.I have told you and have shown you with some examples that the fathers of the first three centuries considered the duetros as Scripture.Yes they were doubts in some sections about the canonicity of some Old testament books but the same applies to several New Testament books such as the Apocalypse of John,Epistle of Jude,Epistle to the Hebrews,Second and Third John.Would you say because several fathers in the first four centuries were in doubt about the canonicity of those New Testament books that you would not consider them as Scripture?On what basis do you accept the Church’s judgment on New Testament canon and reject her judgment on the books of the Old Testament canon?

    On a passing note when Origen wrote:“Thou shalt not remove the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set” (quoting Prov. 22:28).I think he was refering to the fact the duetros such as the addition of Daniel have always been accepted by Christains before his time so it would be wrong to now remove them from the Scripture that is in use in the churches because they cannot be found in the Scripture that is in use in the Synagogue.
    Peace with love.Your brother in Christ ,
    Chaka

  152. Dear “lojahw”,

    Thank you for your patience in awaiting my reply to your comment about St. Jerome. My premise about St. Jerome was not quite that he (in your words against me) “considered the ‘Septuagint plus’ to be canonical.” What I did say was this: “But even granting the widely recognized authority of St. Jerome, his concerns about the deuterocanonical books do not indicate that the Church of his day accepted only the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament.” While I do not deny that St. Jerome expressed his scholarly opinion against the deuterocanonical texts, I maintain that his final measure of the canon was to accept the judgment of the Church (which had accepted the deuterocanon).

    But note this. I fear we are headed into a lengthy, familiar, and perhaps tired discussion of St. Jerome’s views of the canon, the significance of his having been influenced by Hebrew-Jewish scholars, etc. (And then maybe a discussion of Rufinus, influenced by his once-beloved Jerome.) I’ve seen this played out before, and I imagine you have as well. My fear is based on my opinion that this will shed little or no light on the present discussion of the Canon Question. In that spirit, let me concede to you for the purposes of this discussion the following. Let us suppose that in his academic opinion, Jerome believed that the Old Testament canon was properly constituted only of the 39 books presently in the Protestant Old Testament.

    Where would that leave you, with respect to the Canon Question? What is it to you if one Hebrew scholar of the fourth and fifth centuries held an opinion against the Septuagint? What if I am wrong that ‘not one single scholar supported the Protestant canon’ — and instead one scholar did? Nine fathers with minor variations hurt your cause, not help it, because your cause maintains that Scripture is self-attesting, black-from-white, etc. If they all got it wrong, albeit just slightly wrong, it makes it appear that Scripture is not quite as self-attesting as we might hope. Why did no one before Jerome get it right? Why did Jerome accept the additions to Daniel that you now reject? Where did he stand, or where do you stand, with respect to disputed passages like John 8 (let he who is without sin cast the first stone)?

    My claim that not one pre-Reformational scholar advocated the Protestant Old Testament went to the weight of my argument against the Protestant canon criteria that looks to the original Hebrew Old Testament. It was not the crux of my argument by any means.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  153. A very well written, thorough critique. However, it seems to me that your charge of subjectivity is not entirely balanced, nor does it take into account the full position of the WCF. In WCF I:5 the other factors (besides the inward testimony of the Spirit) that “move and induce” us to a “high and reverent esteem” for the Scriptures are to be given their due weight. They are mentioned in WCF not to dismiss them but to include them as things that support and help interpret the inward testimony of the Spirit. This factors into your hypothetical situation of two new believers who have no experience with the Scriptures likely ending up with different judgments about what is canonical. Such a first encounter with the Scriptures, even if it is with the Spirit’s inward testimony, does not happen in a historical vacuum or without any supporting evidence/guidance from the believing community. Just as the teaching of the church is a normal means for understanding Scripture, yet such teaching does not displace the primacy of Scripture itself, so it seems the teaching of the church may be an aid for discerning the canon without being that which determines the canon. None of this, in my view, detracts from the Holy Spirit’s testimony being the determinative factor. On one hand you caricature the Reformed position on the Spirit’s testimony as almost a direct, supernatural event in a historical vacuum, but surely the Spirit’s work takes place through means, by teaching, etc., in many such contexts. On the other hand you end up at a position where the Spirit’s testimony is an entirely subjective and therefore irrelevant thing, having almost no place in canonical discernment, but the Spirit’s work is still objectively real even when disagreements remain due to our lack of knowledge or Christian maturity. I truly enjoyed this piece and found it thought provoking, but I also think you may not have given a full, balanced view of the WCF’s position. In any case, thank you for a good, engaging post! I’ll be visiting here more often.

    WCF I:5
    We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

  154. CJ, welcome to CTC and thanks for the comments. It seems to me that your response is to Tom’s (secondary) subjectivity critique rather than to his primary critique of the Protestant approach to the canon, namely that in order to define the canon with binding authority, one must use extra-biblical sources thereby violating the premise of sola scriptura. Catholicism is not subject to this same critique because the Catholic Church has never affirmed sola scriptura.

    The recent podcast on the canon might be helpful to catch the summary of Tom’s argument. I’ll let him respond to your critique of his secondary argument but I hope you’ll take the time to either re-read the article and respond to the primary argument or listen to the podcast and do likewise.

  155. Dear C.J.,

    Thank you for the comment, and for the compliments, and for the thoughtful critique. I look forward to hearing your reaction to my response.

    You are critical that my charge of subjectivity lacks a full consideration of the Westminster position. Specifically, you note that the Westminster Confession provides what you call “other factors” to aid us in recognizing Scripture. First a procedural point, second a substantive one:

    Procedural Point. I think I did give the classical Reformed position a full airing, even on this point. The article is not, of course, an exposition of the Westminster Confession, but of Reformed thinking on the canon (to the extent that reasonable length limitations permit). In my article I quoted in full the nearest parallel portion of the Belgic Confession to what you cited of the Westminster Confession. (Text accompanying footnote 16.) I had both in mind, and cited your section I.V. itself, but used the Belgic for two reasons: (1) I grew up in the CRC, and (2) I wanted to avoid over-pandering to the Westminster/PCA segment of our reading audience. Also, and bearing in mind that Calvin was forging the “classical Reformed” position long before the Reformed Confessions were written, I quoted from Calvin some ideas that I believe worked their ways into the portion of the Westminster you quoted (e.g., his argument for the authority of books recognized from the church’s inception). (Text accompanying footnote 37 ff.)

    Substantive Point. Let me start by repeating the quote you are addressing:

    We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts. (WCF, I.V.)

    As I read you, I think your point is this: the new believer does not come to Scripture in a spiritual vacuum such that merely some kind of bosom burning guides him to what is canonical. These “other factors” guide him too. These things, you say, do not displace the primacy of Scripture, or of the determinative necessity of the Holy Spirit’s testimony. I hope this is a fair characterization of your argument.

    First, I note that in the Westminster’s own language, while the ‘other factors’ evidence what is the Word of God, them “notwithstanding”, to reach infallible assurance we need the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. Where are you left without this inner testimony, which was the focus of my argument? Under the terms of the Westminster, you are left with something short of a “full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority” of the 66 books in the Protestant Bible. If that is so, then you do not have a collection of books that can bind the conscience of other believers or of yourself.

    Second, and similarly, I rest on the comments I made against Calvin’s arguments that I referred to as “fall-back arguments” in the article. Regarding “the testimony of the Church,” it is an appeal to an external fact outside of Scripture that is used to define the canon, so is contradictory to sola scriptura. Regarding “the heavenliness of the matter,” “majesty of the style,” etc., these are simply characteristics of Scripture that my hypothetical new believer should be able to see and recognize and thus reach the same conclusions as others. So my hypothetical stands under the full light of the Westminster, perhaps with the exception that the new believer depends on “the testimony of the Church” to reach the right conclusion. If that is determinative — if that explains why some got it right and others got it wrong, then it is determinative. And if the testimony of the Church is determinative of the canon, then the Church of your ecclesial perspective is as much “over” the canon as you see the Church of the Catholic ecclesial perspective as being “over” the canon.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  156. First, I have been reading on this subject recently and this is one of the best articles I’ve seen. Thanks!

    Second, it seems to me that most of the RC arguments that work well against Protestant views do not narrow the field much further for seekers. Here, for example, if one agreed that the canon issue is sufficiently troublesome for Protestants that it excludes them from consideration among the branches of the Christian faith, how would this aid them in picking from Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, or perhaps even Anglicanism? I realize this is not precisely the topic here, but since other branches have different canons from Roman Catholicism as well as Protestantism, do you think the canon question can settle these disputes as well?

    P.S. Hi Andrew! Greetings from NC. :)

  157. Hey Doug! I re-found your blog a while back and have enjoyed reading it. The irenic, RC–Protestant discussions at Soul Device are exemplary.

    For anyone who likes this kind of thing, and you know who you are, I recommend a bit that Doug, as a Protestant contributor, had published in the book, The Best Catholic Writing 2006:

    The Existence of Chuck Norris

    My take on your question, which is a biggie, is bound to be inadequate, or at best incomplete, but here it is anyway:

    The canon question does not, in itself, exclude Protestants from being a particular church, the lack of apostolic succession (which deprives them of the Eucharist) does.

    As to disagreements among particular churches (or putative particular churches), I would check to see if there are any, among the churches you named, that considers itself to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded. Then I would check to see if any among those churches, claiming to be the one Church, features a functioning Magisterium, which still settles disputes in the old way; namely, by convening an Ecumenical Council and promulgating definitive teaching, stated as binding upon everyone, everywhere, for all time.

    As far as I can tell, there is only one church that has been doing that (or even claiming to do that) during the last millennium. So, as regards the canon question and “aid … in picking from” RC, EO, etc., it is at least noteworthy that the Catholic Church alone (you know, the one that the man on the street calls “the Catholic Church”) has promulgated definitive teaching on this disputed matter.

  158. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your response. May I summarize re: the OT canon? (I can address the NT canon separately)

    In section III, you state: “The Catholic or Orthodox Christian will point to the work of the Holy Spirit in the visible Church as the basis for his articulation of the canon, which work is seen in sacred tradition.” Because there are undeniable inconsistencies between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons, the above statement lacks credibility. Truth taught by the Holy Spirit is coherent and consistent.

    Ridderbos needs to find evidence for the contents of the canon that is located in or derived from the canon itself.

    With respect to the OT canon, Romans 3:2 testifies that “the oracles of God were entrusted [aorist passive, completed action]” to the Jews. Moreover, the “oracles of God” as cited in Hebrews 5:12 refers to the whole of divine revelation (not just the prophets), just as the citations by Jesus and the other NT writers refer to all three divisions of the Hebrew canon. Furthermore, the first century testimony of Josephus refutes the assertion that there was no standard OT canon in Jesus day: ““but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these [twenty-two] books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them.” Josephus likewise excludes all other Jewish books from the canon, describing them as “not of like authority” to the twenty-two books. Moreover, that Josephus listed the number and not the names of these books indicates that they were widely recognized, as were Paul’s epistles in the early church, when cited by number and not by name in the NT canons. Furthermore, the identity of the twenty-two books with the 39 books in the Protestant OT canon is virtually certain based on common knowledge of the Jewish books available in the first century.

    When we think of Jesus and his Palestinian apostles, then, we may be confident that they agreed with contemporary leaders in Israel about the contents of the canon. [but] … We cannot say confidently that [Jesus and his disciples] accepted Esther, Ecclesiastes or the Song of Songs as scripture, because evidence is not available.

    To the contrary, the inescapable conclusion from the testimony of Josephus and other Jews and church fathers is that the above mentioned books were among the “twenty-two” books to which the church fathers attested, just as Titus and Philemon were understood to be among the thirteen epistles of Paul. Esther was numbered among Josephus’ prophets, and Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs were among Josephus’ books containing “precepts for the conduct of living.” There are no reasonable substitutes from the Jewish collection of the day that satisfy both the time frame (between Moses and Artaxerxes) and the subject matter specified in Against Apion.

    Also, the well-established structures of Jewish authority in the time of Christ belies the assertion that the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem lacked the authority to fix the Hebrew canon. For example, Acts 5:21 witnesses to “the Council, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel.” The “center of gravity” theory given by the article is no more than a strawman. Finally, the article’s ad hominem argument against the Hebrew canon linked to “the Pharisaic leaders from Jerusalem, some of the very ones who had Christ put to death” is shown to be false by Josephus’ own favorable report of Jesus.

    The evidence I have provided here indicates that, at the time of Christ, Samaritan, Essene, and Alexandrian Jews used a canon different from the 39-book Protestant canon.

    There is no evidence “at the time of Christ” of any Jewish “canon” other than the one published by Josephus, and that canon is consistent with the Protestant canon. The books recognized by the Samaritans are irrelevant. Indeed, Jesus told the Samaritan woman: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (cf. John 4:24). I have explained elsewhere that the Essene collection of books can hardly be considered a canon (e.g., the Community Rule and other books used by the Essenes had authority, but not for doctrine). Finally, the Alexandrian Jews never published a single canon, and until the fourth century no codex was able hold all of their books, so the notion that Jews anywhere used an authoritative “canon” containing the deuterocanon is purely speculative. To the contrary, both Scriptural and historical testimony strongly indicates that the Hebrew OT canon of the first century as described by Josephus was the canon used by Jesus and His disciples. The musings of two or three rabbis well over a century after Christ are irrelevant to the canon question: history records that from Josephus forward, the Jews have consistently identified the same OT canon without any variation.

    “Not one single source from this period [the early centuries of the Church] articulates the Protestant canon.”

    As I wrote elsewhere, the canons of Jerome and Rufinus clearly refute this claim. Moreover, the minor variations in the other seven early church canons are miniscule compared to the unprecedented addition by Augustine in the late fourth century of 7 books that simply don’t fit into any twenty-two book OT canon. In fact, Calvin comments on the testimony of at least nine early church fathers from Melito to Jerome in his Acts of the Synod of Trent with the Antidote 4, where he contrasts the “consensus of the ancient church” against Trent’s “promiscuously” incorporating the deuterocanonical books into the canon.

    the Septuaginst contained the deuterocanon as well as other texts beyond the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament”

    The notion that the LXX “contained the deuterocanon” overlooks the fact that no codex (book) was able to contain that many books until the fourth century. One might have a copy of the Greek Pentateuch (the original LXX), a copy of the major Prophets in Greek, a copy of the Psalms in Greek, etc., without ever reading any of the deuterocanonical books. The fact that the Old Latin text was poorly translated (and thus “mistrusted,” as the article says) is no reason to question the Hebrew originals. As seen above, there is no basis for the claim that Greek speaking Christians used the Greek translations of all Jewish books as Scripture.

    “Christians’ use of the Septuagint indicates their conviction that it was authentically divine, and therefore authoritative”

    The historical conviction that the LXX was divinely inspired only applied to the original translation of the Pentateuch. There were at least four widely divergent Greek OT versions in the days of the early church, and not all churches used the same version: there was no one Greek version that was considered to be “the inspired” version for all fifty-two or more books of the “Septuagint-plus.” Moreover, there have always been distinctions between the authority of the books included in the “Septuagint-plus.” For Roman Catholics to argue otherwise is self-defeating, vis a vis 3 & 4 Maccabees, the Odes, 3 & 4 Esdras, and other books not recognized by them. With respect to the book of Daniel, Jerome wrote: “I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ.” If the churches of Christ rightly condemned the Septuagint version of books that differed from the original Hebrew books, on what basis do Roman Catholics support them today?

    On the other hand, the church fathers often encouraged Christians to read the deuteros for private instruction (cf. Rufinus, Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 36), and some even allowed them to be read publicly in churches (cf. Jerome’s Preface to the Books of Solomon). Regardless, as Jerome and the other church fathers consistently testified: these books are “not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.”

    If even a majority of the Church’s leaders had rejected those books, their inclusion in the canon by St. Augustine (b. 354) and the North African councils would have created an uproar. But history records no such reaction.

    There was no uproar for the simple reason that the church fathers did not “reject” those books, but often accepted them as “not of like authority.” Moreover, Augustine was such a towering figure in the late fourth century Church that his opinion swayed two or three local councils. Those who did accept the deuteros with “like authority” to the proto-canonical books apparently forgot the “rule” articulated by the earlier Muratorian canon (ca. A.D. 170) which said that late-coming books, regardless of how edifying or inspirational they were, “cannot be read publicly to the people in church . . . among the prophets, whose number is complete. . . . .” As Josephus and others testified, the OT prophets were counted from Moses to the time of Artaxerxes (cf. 1 Macc. 4:46; 9:27; 14:41), and regardless of how edifying other books might be, such books were “not of like authority” with the earlier writings. Consistent with Eph. 2:20, this criterion eliminates all OT books written after the fifth century B.C. Malachi, the last OT prophet, concludes with a prophecy that points directly to the first prophet in the NT: John the Baptist (cf. Mal. 4:4-6; Matt. 11:14; 17:11-12; Mark 9:11-13). Any writing between Malachi and John the Baptist does not belong “among the prophets, whose number is complete.”

    Either the deuterocanonicals always were God’s Word and the Jews mistakenly never recognized them as such, or the Jews were right to exclude them and it was Augustine who was mistaken centuries later to consider them among the “God-breathed” books. Four centuries of consistent testimony by the church fathers supports the latter judgment: the Jews were right. As Proverbs 22:28 says: “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set.”

    We have evidence that many early Church figures, including St. Augustine himself, supported the inclusion of the deuterocanonical texts within the canon. …

    As I’ve stated previously: mere usage/acceptance of other sources by church fathers does not connote “like authority” with the Scriptures. Furthermore, if any particular person might appear to indicate deuterocanonical authority, how could such private judgment settle the matter? It’s ironic that the article cites a condemned heretic (Theodore of Mopsuestia) for rejecting several canonical OT books. His private judgment carries no weight here. It is also strange that the scholars consulted for the article not only overlook the OT canons of Jerome and Rufinus, but also conclude that “only some include Esther,” when, in fact, the church fathers in this period who included it outnumbered those who did not two-to-one!

    As mentioned earlier, until the fifth century Codex Alexandrinus, no extant copy of the OT includes all of the deuterocanonical books listed by the Council of Trent – yet that codex also includes 3 & 4 Maccabees, 1 & 2 Clement, etc. By what objective criterion are texts counted or excluded from the “deuterocanon”? Since no published canon prior to the Council of Trent lists 46 OT books, was there no valid OT canon until the sixteenth century? And, since the Council of Trent did not even vote on all of the books in the LXX, is the question of the OT canon still unresolved? No credible Christian authority would agree with that, yet the East accepts the books that Trent set aside for a future vote.

    The article makes an effort to position Jerome on the side of the deuterocanonical books. However, as mentioned previously he never regarded them as “of like authority” to Scripture, and, except for Tobit and Judith, he never translated any of the other deuterocanonical texts, including the additions to Esther. A careful reading of Jerome’s prologue to Tobit gives the impression that he considered his translation to be a professional favor rather than an act of ecclesiastical obedience to two otherwise obscure bishops. His quote about the Nicene Council accepting Judith is surely mistaken since the Council published no comment on Judith and the de facto leader of the Council, Athanasius, denied Judith’s canonicity. (“Hagiographa” are biographies of saints, which convey no intrinsic canonical merit.) As I wrote re: Jerome’s comments on the additions to Daniel, he clearly marked them with asterisks and obeli in the Vulgate to distinguish them from the original text, enabling the churches to use them as appropriate, but “not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.”

    from section II.A: the Catholic position is that Scripture has divine authority because it is God-breathed, the Holy Spirit having inspired the texts’ authors.

    We agree on this; however, Protestants consider a number of things about the deuterocanonical texts to be incompatible with the “God-breathed” character of Scripture. “God-breathed” Scripture would not contradict itself like the additions to Esther contradict the original Hebrew (Haman could not have been both a Macedonian and an Agagite). It is also inconceivable that a forgery written many centuries after Solomon could be considered “God-breathed” (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 9:7-8,). Moreover, no “God-breathed” Scripture would falsely teach: “Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good” (Sirach 42:14). Etc. Protestants cannot reconcile such things with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    In conclusion, the great preponderance of evidence favors the Protestant OT canon based on the Hebrew canon published in the first century by Josephus, which agrees with the consensus of the early church and the teaching of the Scriptures.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  159. Dear Doug,

    It is good to hear from you. I appreciate the compliment, and hope this work will draw more attention, study, and writing to the subject.

    You noted (and I think, in a nice sense of the word, complained) that my critique of the Protestant view of the canon didn’t also show why the conclusion for the seeker would be Catholicism. You also asked if I thought the Canon Question can settle the disputes of Anglicans, Orthodox, and Catholics.

    I did not argue for becoming Catholic in this article because I did not want to blur issues. Discernment is difficult, and part of the difficulty comes from the conflation of various decisions. In my own discernment, consideration of the canon was very much part of a bifurcated process. I started by realizing that my own answers and views on matters of authority were based on a canon that I could not defend within my own framework.

    Then I had to face the similarly daunting task of deciding what to do from there. Realizing that to stay Christian without sola scriptura I was left with episcopal choices, I considered all three of the episcopal ecclesial bodies you mentioned. But that decision had nothing to do with whether the Reformed could answer the Canon Question. Any one of the apostolic traditions, if true, did not have a problem answering the Canon Question. So I would not use the Canon Question both to criticize the Reformed faith and to ‘prove’ Catholicism. I do not think an argument needs to be able to do both in order to be worth discussing.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  160. Andrew / Tom,

    Thanks for responding guys. I was not trying to get into an entire religion-choosing discussion but I realize that’s how it sounded. :) Nor was I trying to critique the article for not doing so (even in a nice way!). I guess I am seeing if the conversation can be extended to the other branches. If all you desired was to point out Protestant deficiency, then I think you did an excellent job. I am wondering how a person would look at the other branches who make similar claims to apostolic authority but then have their own canons. I guess, following Andrew, that it would have to be decided on other grounds.

    My main issue is that I am looking at whether or not an appreciation for the role of the early church drives one to Roman Cathoilicism (as many seem to argue), or whether it only succeeds in arguing against Protestantism.

  161. Dear Doug,

    I think you would need to decide between apostolic ecclesial bodies on grounds other than the Canon Question, although it can shed light on the matter. Would a look at the early Church tend to lead one to Catholicism? I think so, but the degree of similarity between Catholicism and Orthodoxy should tell you something about how difficult it would be to look to the Fathers and go, “aha, Catholicism is true!” or “aha, Orthodoxy is true!” More helpful to me was an exploration of how Catholicism and Orthodoxy have played out over history, in light of their claims about themselves.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  162. Dear “lojahw”,

    It is my opinion that we have only gone in circles, and my opinion that further blow-by-blow refutations of each other’s claims will not be helpful to the readers. So I will let your last comment be the last substantive word on the matter, and for those looking for a reply, will merely point readers to my article proper, and to my comment #152.

    I’m sorry we didn’t make better progress for all the ink spilled. I really am.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  163. Tom,

    Don’t feel bad about the lack of progress. I think “lojahw” is supposed to stand for “Let’s Only Just Advance Hypothetically Weekends.” So I think you can anticipate making more headway come Monday.

    (Okay, really, really stupid joke. It’s tired and I’m late. But I made me laugh, and that’s the main thing.)

  164. Dear Tom,

    Since my previous post on the NT canon was dropped, please accept the following. Post 158 addresses the OT canon.

    Ridderbos needs to find evidence for the contents of the canon that is located in or derived from the canon itself.

    The Belgic Confession cited by the article does not fully explain how one discerns the canon; however, it does attest to the following Scriptural criteria of canonicity by which the canon can be identified:
    1) The text is an authentic and authoritative witness of the apostles and the prophets upon which the Church has been built (Article 3; cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; Eph. 4:11; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Most of the books of Scripture are self-attesting and cited as divine revelation by the prophets and apostles in the books themselves.
    2) The text is true in every respect: “we believe without a doubt all things contained in them . . . because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God and they prove themselves to be from God . . . [for] the things predicted in them do happen” (Article 5; cf. Psalm 119:160; Prov. 30:5-6; Isa. 55:10-11; John 10:35; John 17:17; Tit. 1:2). Moreover, “Whatever does not agree with the canonical books must be rejected” (Article 7; note: Article 4 lists the 66 canonical books, about which “there can be no quarrel.” Article 6 encourages reading and learning from other sources “as far as they agree with the canonical books”).
    3) The text, after God “commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit this revealed Word to writing” (Article 3; cf. Exod. 34:27; Jer. 30:2; Rev. 1:11), has always endured, for “the Word of the Lord abides forever,” and “it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God” (Article 7; cf. Isa. 40:8; Prov. 30:5-6; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet 1:25; Rev. 22:18-19). Corollary: so-called “lost scriptures” must be excluded from the canon; they did not “abide for forever.”

    Re: Section II.A, Self-attestation and the Holy Spirit.
    Most of Scripture is self-attesting (claiming to communicate God’s words), and it is authenticated by eyewitness testimony in either the same book or in other books of Scripture. This evidence is “located in” the canon itself. For example, the NT routinely identifies contemporary events as the fulfillment of OT prophesies, which are therein cited. Moreover, evidence confirming Jesus’ own prophesies concerning His passion, resurrection, and ascension is found in the Gospels and Acts. Such NT prophesies are evidence that “God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, . . .” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Prophets were indeed appointed in the church, distinct from the OT prophets. Moreover, this fact relates directly to the teaching that the church has “been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (cf. Eph. 2:20). It can therefore be concluded that the Gospel writers, including Mark and Luke, were among the prophetic witnesses upon whom the church has been built. Because of the divine authorization of the prophets and apostles, we can be confident that the teaching they transmitted is of divine origin.

    Similarly, evidence of canonicity is also derived from Scripture by means of authoritative citations in the self-attesting books which identify other books as Scripture. For example, Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would guide His apostles into all the truth applies to Peter’s recognition of Paul’s letters as Scripture (cf. John 16:13; 2 Pet. 3:15-16). The Apostle Paul in turn recognizes the Gospel of Luke as Scripture (cf. Luke 10:7; 1 Tim 5:18). Moreover, authoritative citations of OT books by Christ and the apostles and prophets provide further evidence of canonicity. Based on self-attestation, authentication, and authoritative citations in other books, the vast majority of the sixty-six books of the Bible can be recognized as canonical.

    Yet, the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for subjective acceptance of divine revelation. The “natural man” does not accept divine revelations because “they are foolishness” to him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14-16). However, when moved by God’s Spirit, objective declarations and fulfillments of divine revelation evoke subjective responses of faith. As the Westminster Confession states: “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of Scripture], is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” However, in contrast to Mormon practice, this statement in no way undermines the objective basis of the subjective response of faith. The Bible is the authoritative story of God’s revelation of His glory and His redemption in history: it is “His story”; but not everyone accepts it.

    Re: Section II.C on New Testament Apostolic Authorship:

    the Protestant can only reach the conclusion that the twelve Apostles were inspired authors through the use of reason or extra-Biblical sources.

    If your definition of sola scriptura excludes reason or extra-Biblical sources, you misrepresent it. The Westminster Confession (1.7) commends the use of “ordinary means” in order to sufficiently understand what is necessary for the faith – including recognizing the canon.

    Since Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all the truth (John 16:13), and Eph. 2:20 tells us that the church has been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and since Scripture itself identifies apostles beyond the twelve, we therefore confidently accept the books written by the apostles: Matthew, John (5 books), Peter (2 books), Paul (13 books; “called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” cf. Acts 9:15; 1 Cor. 1:1; etc.), James (an “apostle” and a “pillar of the church,” cf., 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19; 2:9), and Jude (one of the twelve; cf. Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 1:13; 1 Cor. 9:5; Jerome, Letter 53.9). To affirm the book of James is to accept the writings of an “apostle” and a founding “pillar of the church.” At this point, 26 NT books have been shown to share in the divine authorization of the prophets and apostles.

    Note: Harris’ assertion that Jesus “gave us a list of the inspired NT authors” is justified in that the authority of Luke’s list of the twelve extends to his attestation of the apostles Paul and Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4, 14). Moreover, any Scripture that attests to the NT authors, including Mark and Luke (cf. Acts 12:12, 25; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 1:24; 1 Pet. 5:13), can rightly be attributed to Jesus since the Spirit of God is identified with the Spirit of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:9). The historical testimony of the early church fathers is an example of the “ordinary means” by which the identities of the NT authors is verified. Thus, the testimonies of Papias, Justin Martyr, and the Muratorian Canon verify the identities of all NT authors except for Hebrews and 3 John. Hebrews will be addressed below; the internal evidence of John’s Gospel, together with his epistles confirms that 3 John is indeed the apostle’s work.

    the position that the early Church accepted what was of apostolic origin “fails to explain why the Epistle to the Hebrews was (again) finally accepted in the West, in spite of the fact that its Pauline authorship was most strongly doubted just by … Jerome and Augustine.”

    The above statement mistakenly assumes that if Paul didn’t write Hebrews it could not be apostolic; but Paul was not the only apostle who could have written the Epistle. Indeed, if it were written by the apostle Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4, 14), as often suggested, its apostolic origin is still valid. Moreover, it is not necessary that the actual writing be done by an apostle, as Paul’s frequent use of an amanuensis shows (cf. Rom. 16:22). The majority of the church fathers accepted a Pauline origin (including Augustine, cf. On Christian Doctrine 2.8), some suggesting that the style indicated that perhaps Luke translated Paul’s thoughts from Aramaic into Greek. The church fathers considered “interpreters” of the apostles to be valid apostolic sources. For example, Origen wrote: “If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle [Paul], but the diction and phraseology are those of someone who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s” (Ecclesiastical History 6.25.13). Clement of Alexandria and Jerome noted that some disputed Pauline authorship because “it is not titled with his name,” to which they replied that it was better not to tout the name of “the Apostle to the Gentiles” in a letter to the Hebrews. Because the testimony of the church since the first century has affirmed the apostolic authority and authenticity of Hebrews, the uncertainty about the exact identity of its author should not be held against it any more than OT books such as Judges and Kings (called “former prophets”) should be rejected because of the anonymity of their authors.

    As demonstrated above, the three broad criteria listed at the beginning of this post have been used to identify all 27 books of the NT canon. Moreover, these criteria also can be used to show that non-canonical texts, such as the Didache, 1 &2 Clement, and the spurious Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans, should not be considered “of like authority” to the “God-breathed” books of Scripture.

    But from the absence of evidence that 2 Peter was not written by Peter, we cannot reach the conclusion that 2 Peter was written by Peter, unless we resort to reliance upon Tradition.

    Since 2 Peter is introduced with the words: “Simon Peter, a bond servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,” to deny Peter’s authorship it is to call 2 Peter a forgery. Moreover, the early church, beginning with Clement of Rome accepted 2 Peter as genuine. Also, the church fathers beginning with Papias mention at least two “interpreters” of Peter: Mark and Glaucias. The most reasonable explanation for the textual differences between 1 & 2 Peter is that Peter used an “interpreter” during his last days in Rome not used for his first epistle. Relying on historical testimony is different than relying on doctrinal traditions that arose long after the apostles were gone.

    Yes, questions were raised in the third and fourth centuries about some of the NT books, prompting Eusebius and other church fathers to list such books as antilegomena (disputed books). But truth is always questioned: each question must be examined on its own merits. For example, some Eastern third century clerics took personal issue with Revelation because of its teaching on the millennial reign of Christ. But the canonicity of a book is not subject to personal theological biases, including those of Martin Luther! Others avoided Revelation because of Montanist abuses of it. Following that logic, Paul’s epistles should be excluded because of their abuse by Marcion! Since first and second century church fathers attest to the authenticity of books such as the Epistle to the Hebrews and 2 Peter, we would do well to avoid chronological snobbery, and to heed the proverb: “do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). Arguments against the canonicity of the NT books inevitably fall short upon careful examination.

    You also raised a question about the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11. Although neither Mark 16:9-20 nor John 7:53-8:11 are found in the earliest manuscripts, both passages have survived with notations about their questioned authenticity (following the practice of Origen and Jerome, who used asterisks and obeli to identify LXX passages not found in the Hebrew). However, unlike the LXX additions to Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah, these NT passages do not contradict the Gospels and they are present in some ancient Greek manuscripts, whereas the LXX additions are highly inconsistent with the originals and never appear in any Hebrew manuscript. As long as these passages are not used for establishing doctrine, their annotated presence in the Bible does not violate the practice of sola scriptura.

    Re: Section II.D The relationship between acceptance and canonicity must be examined on a case by case basis and is therefore well beyond the scope of this thread. As for the infallibility of the Church (which I believe is a mistaken notion), I do not think infallibility is necessary for recognizing infallible divine revelation. When Scripture says: “Thus says the Lord,” and demonstrates the fulfillment of such a prophesy, there are no reasonable grounds to deny such a word from God is infallible. Lacking any credible demonstration that the 66 book canon is flawed, I am satisfied that it is the authentic and authoritative Word of God handed down by the Apostles and Prophets to the Church. Indeed, as the Belgic Confession asserts: none of the major branches of Christ’s Church quarrel about the 66 books.

    Re: Section II.E on a canon-within-a-canon. I won’t argue about this theory because it was never widely adopted by the Reformation or by Reformed theology.

    In Section II.A, you wrote:

    apart from Magisterial guidance concerning the canon, it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for all believers independently to come to complete agreement about the canon without each believer receiving miraculous enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.

    Human agreement never guarantees truth. Furthermore, even those who have pledged allegiance to your Magisterium have not always agreed that everything it teaches is true (e.g., Humanae vitae). Since there has never been a particular canon of Scripture agreed to by the whole Church, the pertinent question is not how to get “all believers” to agree, but rather how to discern the true canon. I have given one answer.

    In the conclusion to your article you wrote:

    “By what criterion do we know what comprises the Bible?” But, as I have argued, Reformed theology is intrinsically incapable of answering this question.

    In response, I have refuted your arguments and have shown that the 66 book Protestant canon is sufficiently ascertained by Scriptural criteria that are consistent with the Reformers’ confessions. If you think I have erred, please explain.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  165. Dear “lojahw,”

    You have now provided two lengthy treatises on how you would determine, by Testament, the canon. With them, I will let you have the last substantive word. I am generally opposed to using the comment box to provide lengthy alternate or competing theories on the topic that is at hand. I prefer to have it as a place to engage critically with the articles premises or conclusions. We are not breaking new ground than is already addressed in the main article or the comments. I again rest on the article proper and the comments above.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  166. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your response. Given the concluding statement from your article blockquoted above in the context of my posts, it would seem that I indeed “broke new ground” that was not covered in the article. My lengthy responses were the most appropriate way I could think of to address the numerous premises and conclusions of your article.

    Your silence in response to my invitation for you to show how my posts have erred seems to indicate that I have successfully refuted your premises and conclusions.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  167. Dear “Lojahw”,

    I left room for misunderstanding when I said we were not breaking new ground. I meant to say that we are not covering new ground as we try to resolve your disagreements. Truly novel ground vis-a-vis the topic of the canon belongs elsewhere than in this article’s comment box. It belongs in a separate article.

    We are recovering the same ground as we attempt to talk trough your critiques. The responses I have to give you now I have already given you, or I have met your points directly in the article proper. That’s why I thought it was well time simply to let you have the last word and be done with it. Saying that you choose to interpret my “silence” as proof of your “success” in ‘refuting’ my arguments is immodest of you. I did not cry silence, but explicitly rested on all the previously spilled ink. If you are here to score points, or chock up a victory, you are in the wrong forum. My colleagues and I, and many of our readers, are here to explore truth by peeling back layers of disagreement one by one to get to the truth. In our exchange, I’m afraid I had come to the point of running through the motions of this repetitious exchange for the sake of denying you the opportunity to claim victory from my silence, which, when I chose to give it up, is precisely what occurred.

    I’ll let readers go back through the exchange and decide whether I left some valid point on the table. If one is found, please let me know and I would be happy to try to clear the air.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  168. It is interesting to me that you begin your paper with a quote from Augustine, who actually spoke in certain instances quite clearly about how the church should discern the canon. Below is an example. If the modern Catholic view of papal authority is true, why did Augustine have to develop a multifaceted approach like this? Why did he even feel the liberty to theologize or speculate about such a critical issue? In my opinion, when one actually reads the church fathers they will discover that the theological method(s) of that age are distinguishable and operate on a different set of assumptions than modern Catholic apologists typically suggest.

    “Those which are accepted by the whole of catholic churches will be placed before those writings which some (churches) do not accept. Concerning the issue of books which are not universally accepted, those which are admitted by the largest number of churches and the most important churches will be placed before those which are admitted by fewer churches and churches of lesser authority. Finally, there are certain books which are accepted by the majority of churches and some others which are accepted by important churches, in these cases I deem that both must be given the same authority.” – Augustine, On Christian Doctrine (2.8.12)

  169. Dear Matthew,

    Were you able to read the Canon Question article, or are you just commenting based on the title and the Augustinian quote at the top? It’s hard to know what your qualm is with either the article or Augustine’s approach based on what you’ve written. I can tell you don’t care for the Catholic view on the development of doctrine, but that is quite another discussion entirely. (One at which I’m sure we’ll arrive one day, Lord willing.)

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  170. Not to get into an irrelevant “tit-for-tat” dual over St. Augustine quotes, specifically from the work cited by Matthew, but in “On Christian Doctrine” (Book 2, Chapter 8), St. Augustine lists the books of the Old Testament that he considers inspired and canonical and makes no distinction between them in regards to “rank” of inspiration.

    “Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:— Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles— these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:— Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books. That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following:— Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul— one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John.”

    It should be noted that Baruch was considered part of Jeremiah for the most part as well. So, I’m not sure how relevant the earlier quote, taken from the same work by the same Father and Doctor of the Church plays into this discussion.

    For that matter, neither quotes, I think, are relevant to the thrust of Tom Brown’s article in the first place, since, ultimately, this is about the authority of the Church in regards to the Canon of Scripture. No doubt, St. Augustine would not have schismed from the Church because of a disagreement with the Canon as solidified at Trent had he lived that long. The point of the quote that Tom chose to prefix his article was to show that it was the authority of the Church to which St. Augustine understood as the authority that he submitted to… and any of his writings suggest that he did not view the Sacred Scripture alone as the authority of the Church. If that quote by St. Augustine was an honest one, then any dispute over the canon in his time would not be the cause of his separation from the Church, for it was the visible Apostolic authority of the Church that he recognized and submitted to.

    Basically, making attempts to turn St. Augustine into a Protestant because of Tom’s choice to use St. Augutine to prefix his article is irrelevant to the article itself and completely misses the point.

    Hopefully, we can move beyond focusing on the St. Augustine Red Rover game and focus on the actual points made in the article.

  171. This brief exchange on Augustine and the Church brings up some interesting points for discussion.

    First, the Church has never spoken with one voice on the canon. No Ecumenical Council ever published a canon, and the councils that did, gave different answers. Augustine didn’t get his canon from the church. The 7th century Council of Trullo favored local freedom to choose the canon, resulting in the diversity of Orthodox Bibles today, ranging from the Russian Orthodox, whose Bible looks like the Protestant Bible, to the Greek Orthodox, whose Bible includes books beyond the canon published by Trent. The history of the canon runs between two poles: that of Jerome (followed by notables such as Pope Gregory I, John of Damascus, Cardinals Ximenes and Cajetan); and that of Augustine, with those who followed him. The Council of Trent, interestingly, decided not to tackle the question of Jerome’s concept of an inferior “ecclesiastical canon” versus Augustine’s “all books in the canon are of like authority.”

    Although Augustine said he believed in Christianity because of the Church, he said one should discern the canon by asking the churches to vote (he didn’t expect all churches to vote the same). Some churches he gave more weight to than others, but he never explained how that would work in practice. For example: Who decides how much weight to assign to each church’s vote? How many votes does the seat of an apostle get? How many votes does a basilica such as Ambrose’s in Milan get? Which churches are allowed to vote (can Donatist churches vote?)? Do the churches vote in each century? And, since when does a vote decide what is true?

    So Augustine’s main criterion for canonicity was the vote of all the churches. Secondly, he said that the suffering of martyrs was a criterion for canonicity (On Christian Doctrine 2.8), thereby justifying his support of the Maccabees. But why not therefore include the Martyrdom of Polycarp, or that of Perpetua, or for that matter, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs?

    The article doesn’t address these criteria which Augustine used to ignore the early church fathers before him. Nor does it address his theory about the differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew originals (that the Holy Spirit “inspired” the translators to make significant changes in the text, just as the words of Jeremiah differed from those of Isaiah). Hence, though Peter wrote that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of interpretation, Augustine assumes that a translator can significantly change the meaning of the Scriptural texts by adding and removing significant portions of text! Do you think the Apostles would agree with that?

    If that’s the criteria for canonicity that produced the canon used by Trent, there must be a better answer. In fact, the lack of any clear answer from the Church throughout history suggests that Scriptural criteria of canonicity be revisited:

    1) Is the text true (“Thy Word is Truth,” John 17:17)? Excludes pseudepigrapha and contradictory texts.
    2) Has the text endured (“The word of the Lord abides forever,” 1 Pet. 1:25)? Excludes lost books.
    3) Does the text authentically represent the prophets and apostles upon whom the Church has been built (Eph. 2:20; cf. John 16:13; Rom. 3:1-2)? Excludes books not written in the times of the prophets and apostles. Scripture proclaims that one of the advantages of the Jews is that they were entrusted with the “oracles of God” – why not accept the list they have given in every century since the first?
    4) Has the text been protected from addition, subtraction, or change? (Prov. 30:5-6; Rev. 22:18-20)

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  172. Lojahw,

    The Church did give a clear answer on the canon at Trent.

  173. Dear “Lojahw”,

    I do not think the last two comments on Augustine should be an excuse to stump for points you find interesting that do not interact with the premises or arguments of my article. Matthew made his one contribution, and my reply was that I wasn’t sure what his point was vis-a-vis this article. So that “exchange” doesn’t really bring up “some interesting points,” does it? You’re just using the opportunity to share with everyone what you want to say on Augustine and the canon, even though we’d already reached the “you can have the last word” phase. We have to keep the discussions carefully in order to give them any chance of having a meaningful influence in people’s pursuit of truth.

    I see some problems in your comment. Your first main paragraph contains demonstrably false claims about councils, the contrary position to which is contained in my article. Your ‘who decides’ questions about Augustine’s criterion are good ones. I would turn them around on your position, for your own criteria are equally prone to such questioning. If Augustine’s claims require a kind of judicial analysis and determination, it only reinforces the need for the Church to settle the canon (if it is ever to be settled).

    “The article doesn’t address these criteria which Augustine used to ignore the early church fathers before him.” Since Augustine did not use any criteria [in order] to ignore the early Fathers, there is nothing to address. Why would he use criteria to ignore people? This doesn’t make sense. But you prompt a procedural question: if I didn’t bring it up, why are you bringing it up? Are you trying to disprove a premise or falsify a conclusion of mine by bringing up this supposed absence? If so, it’s not clear what premise or conclusion is in your sights.

    I am struck by your admission that there is a “lack of any clear answer from the Church throughout history” on the canon. Now we shall sit, you say, in judgment on the Canon, because the Church has not been able in the two millennia before to get the Canon right. We must revisit our criteria to get to the bottom of this idea that there must be some way to discern the scope of the Bible. This is incredible coming from a Protestant, because you would be admitting either (1) that the Church prior to our time placed false confidence in their canon because they lacked a clear answer to the Canon Question, or (2) that you are engaged in post hoc rationalization by creating fresh criteria to get to the same Canon we’ve always had.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  174. Unless “Lojaw” has evidence to show that the Russian Orthodox are using a Protestant canon, his claim should be disregarded. The only canon variation among the Orthodox I am aware of is that the Ethiopians still use (I believe) Enoch. If the Russian Orthodox bible looks like the Russian Protestant bible, it’s because the latter uses the translation of the former.

  175. Dear Tom,
    Thank you for your response. I believe my comments are appropriate given the statement in section A of the article:

    The Catholic or Orthodox Christian will point to the work of the Holy Spirit in the visible Church as the basis for his articulation of the canon, which work is seen in sacred tradition.

    It seems fair to point out that the above premise, and indeed, the methodology for determining the canon chosen by Trent, are problematic. The Catholic and Orthodox have adopted different canons, indeed, Russian Orthodox Bibles use the same books as Protestants.

    You assert that I made “demonstrably false claims about councils.” How so? No Ecumenical Council published a canon of Scripture. Did the councils which did publish a canon agree? No. Trullo and the Reformed Synods are examples of Church councils that differed from the councils of Carthage, Rome, and Trent. Do only those councils which agree with Trent count? You won’t find support for such a position among Orthodox and Protestants.

    Given that there are different canons recognized within the Church, it is reasonable to inquire about those differences – indeed, the criteria of canonicity used. The questions about Augustine’s criteria do not “require a kind of judicial analysis and determination” – their flaws are self-evident. And can you explain how the Scriptural criteria I gave are “equally prone to such questioning”? Moreover, these are not “my” personal criteria, but those which Scripture clearly states about itself.

    You asked why Augustine would use his personal criteria of canonicity to ignore the church fathers before him. Have you a better explanation other than his personal criteria for Augustine’s promotion of his own 44 book canon over the 22 book canon around which his predecessors focused?

    we shall sit, you say, in judgment on the Canon, because the Church has not been able in the two millennia before to get the Canon right

    You draw an incorrect inference from my statement about the diversity of canons represented in the history of the Church. I didn’t say that none of the canons were right; I merely commented that the “Church” has not unanimously agreed which one is right. All branches agree to the canonicity of the books in the Protestant canon; but there is no agreement on the extra books. And, I’m suggesting that the “judgment” on the extra books is not dependent on personal opinions and votes of churches, but on application of demonstrated Scriptural criteria of canonicity to those books.

    you would be admitting either (1) that the Church prior to our time placed false confidence in their canon because they lacked a clear answer to the Canon Question, or (2) that you are engaged in post hoc rationalization by creating fresh criteria to get to the same Canon we’ve always had.

    Since the “Church” has allowed more than one answer to the question of the canon, I’m merely saying that it is reasonable to evaluate the merits of the differing answers – and that Scripture provides valid criteria for identifying its contents.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  176. Dear “Lojahw”,

    If you were interacting with my section A, it would have been clearer to say so. And if you’re back to making debates about the canon, then I seem to have blown my effort at giving you the last word. I will not explain again how the supposedly scriptural criteria you gave require interpretation, because we’ve been over that point many times in this combox and by e-mail. I keep coming back to my view that interpretation is necessary, and you keep denying the claim and saying your hoped-for outcome is self-evident. See, e.g., ##137, 138, 139, 141, 144, 145, 146, and 148. In mid-March I said what I have to say now. From my points about interpretation of data being necessary to define the canon, you jumped over to Jerome, and later on with an accusation that I think Reformed people think they can’t use reason. I think you can use reason, but that if you do and if reason defines the canon, it is over Scripture, and by being over Scripture, is inconsistent with sola scriptura. Then you say that I must be twisting the definition of sola scriptura, because the Reformers never would have had in mind a definition that is internally inconsistent. Around and around we go.

    I addressed ecumenical councils on the canon in the article. You are making a contrary claim without support and in contradiction to what I’ve asserted in the article. I believe it is your move to demonstrate a rebuttal if you think one is appropriate. To deny my claims is not argument but contradiction. See here. If you’re hanging your hat on the claims of Reformed Synods, we are very much talking past each other when we talk about Councils of the Church. The measure is not councils that agree with Trent at all, but councils that are properly constituted and in sacramental unity with the Catholic Church.

    You presume without warrant that Augustine was shifting from a 22-book to a 44-book canon–that this was a novelty. Again, this is old ground. Here’s how this discussion goes: I will note the lack of evidence for a Protestant O.T canon in Augustine’s time, and the widespread acceptance without challenge to Augustine’s view, along with the agreement of two regional councils contemporary with Augustine; you will say “Jerome” and that the Jewish scholars always used the number 22, and will note the preferabilty of Jewish testimony to Christian. We’ve been through this, and it’s in my article. None of this gets at my thesis, about the lack of authority within the sola scriptura paradigm to define the canon.

    I deny that Reformed and Catholics and Orthodox are all “branches” of the “church.” This is a critical point. We have been following a careful sequence of articles here at Called to Communion because some groundwork needs to be laid before later discussions can be profitably held. For example, we can’t talk about Augustine’s view that the canon is shown by the unanimous consent of the churches if we disagree about what he had in mind by ‘churches.’ Please read Bryan’s excellent article, Christ Founded a Visible Church, to see a rebuttal of the claim that we are all just branches. Since we are not all branches, the Reformed movement’s novel introduction of a canon other than that used by the Catholic Church is of no moment — it’s no more a problem than the introduction of a second ‘bible’ by Mormonism.

    If Scripture provides valid criteria for identifying its contents, why has the church (as you see it) allowed more than one answer, and not reached unanimous agreement? Why evaluate the merits of different answers? Shouldn’t we instead evaluate the merits of different claims about objective measures? How can I have confidence in the Bible my parents handed to me as a child if the church isn’t sure what answer to give to the Canon Question?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  177. Let’s suppose for the sake of the argument (as if any real dialogue is happening here) that Trent wasn’t ecumenical. Where do Protestants get the idea that only an ecumenical council is authoritative? Who made that up?

    Which ecumenical council said that only ecumenical councils before the Reformation have authority to define the canon?

    And Lojah, brother, let’s be honest. We all know that if an ecumenical council had affirmed the 73 books of the bible, then you’d just reject that council. You reject several ecumenical councils and certain aspects of (probably) every ecumenical council ever held. So don’t pretend like it would mean anything to you that an ecumenical council never mentioned it until Trent. That’s dishonest.

    By the way, the Protestants breaking off from the Church doesn’t invalidate Trent as an ecumenical council anymore than the Arians breaking off invalidated Chalcedon.

    You’re making a lot of bad arguments. It’s better not to make any argument than to make a bad argument.

  178. Nathan,

    No need. I have a Russian Orthodox friend who, predictably, has a Russian Orthodox Bible. Like you said, unless the Russian Protestants (very, very few indeed) are using the same canon as the Russian Orthodox, they are not using the same Bibles. The Russian Orthodox Bible has so-called “apocryphal” books in them, just as does the Catholic Bible… books that Protestants reject as not inspired.

  179. Tim, re: Church councils. I mentioned the Ecumenical Church councils to illustrate the point that the “Church” never unanimously published a canon of Scripture. It is a fact that there have been no truly ecumenical councils since the Great East-West Schism. Eastern Orthodox and Protestants do not accept the Council of Trent as representing the ecumenical – universal – Church. This fact is independent of whether or not Ecumenical Councils have that authority. The legitimacy of Trent’s canon is at the heart of this combox: if it can be shown to be flawed, Trent’s authority is brought into question. Regarding both your & Tom’s comments on councils and branches of the Church, please be aware that the views of CtC differ from those you have invited into dialogue. It would be a grave mistake to claim that the Orthodox and Protestants are not part of the Church, and if they are, that their views don’t count.

    Nathan, Re: Russian Orthodox, Bruce Metzger’s An Introduction to the Apocrypha, page 194, says that the Most Holy Governing Synod of Moscow omitted the Apocrypha in 1839. However, Russia has been through many upheavals, and it’s quite possible that they have changed over the last century. I’ll concede the point; however, noting that the Orthodox do not recognize the same canon as Trent’s.

    Tom,
    I won’t rehash everything you just wrote, but I think your assumptions regarding reason are worth revisiting:

    I think you can use reason, but that if you do and if reason defines the canon, it is over Scripture, and by being over Scripture, is inconsistent with sola scriptura.

    I disagree with your assertion that the use of reason means that reason sets itself as an authority over the canon. You have agreed that sola scriptura allows the use of reason for understanding what is necessary for faith. Therefore, since the extent of Scripture is required for understanding the faith, reason cannot be excluded from recognizing the canon according to sola scriptura. The crucial point is that when reason is used in a way that agrees with Scripture, it is under – not over – Scripture. Reason is merely a God-given tool for people to evaluate criteria from Scripture to recognize what is and what is not canonical. The authorities that reason appeals to are in the text of Scripture and in extra-biblical sources, such as historical testimony. What sola scriptura requires is that an external authority not be allowed to contradict Scripture.

    Reason can be used either to agree with Scripture or to disagree with it. When one uses reason in agreement with Scripture, e.g., asserting that “God made the heavens and the earth,” this places reason under Scripture, not over it. When one uses reason to contradict Scripture, e.g., “Christ did not rise bodily from the dead, because that is an incredible claim,” that is placing reason over Scripture. Likewise, one places reason over Scripture when one says “an angel of God may not always tell the truth” because in the book of Tobit Raphael claimed at one point to be “Azarius the son of the great Ananias” (this contradicts the teaching of Scripture that Satan, not God, is the father of lies). It is important to distinguish between the right use of reason under Scripture, and the wrong use of reason as an authority over it. Similarly, using reason in agreement with Scriptural criteria of canonicity is not exercising authority over Scripture, but submitting to it.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  180. Lojahw,

    “It is a fact that there have been no truly ecumenical councils since the Great East-West Schism.”

    No that is not a fact its an opinion that most Christians would disagree with. Even if it was true though, it’s still irrelevant. You reject councils prior to the Eastern split. Again, you’re better off not making any arguments than making bad ones.

  181. By the way, Lojah,you still didn’t answer my question. “Which ecumenical council said that only ecumenical councils before the Reformation have authority to define the canon?”

  182. It is a fact that there have been no truly ecumenical councils since the Great East-West Schism.

    There is no “East-West” schism. This kind of geographical rhetoric makes Reformed Protestants feel better about not being part of the Catholic Church. They can look at the “Eastern” churches and use them as an excuse for not having to be in communion with the see of Peter and not submitting to the ecumenical councils that have taken place since the 11th century. In reality, the “great schism” does not exist along geographical lines, but, as always, along “I don’t want to submit to authority” lines. This is why so many eastern rites exist within the Catholic Church. These Eastern Catholics either never entered into schism or were soon reconciled. They know that the orthodox (lowercase c) of the East were always in communion with the see of Peter. The Catholic Church has always been and remains catholic.

  183. I stumbled across this discussion a week or so ago and have found it fascinating. It seems to me many of the conversations are talking past one another.

    @”Ken Temple” – suppose absolutely convincing historical proof came along that, say, the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew and that Matthew was, indeed, a disciple and apostle of Jesus. Would that make it ‘canonical’ (I think that, by ‘canonical,’ the Protestants here mostly mean ‘inspired’ – I take ‘canonical’ to mean ‘may be read at Mass’)? If so, why? How would you know?

    When I was a Protestant (Calvinist in the Dutch Reformed tradition – New Zealand Reformed Churches, to be specific), I recall asking my pastor, and his brother, who later became our pastor, about the canon. That was something like 25 years ago. We were all Van Tillians, and his response, after a shrug of the shoulders, was that it had to be ‘presupposed’ – which left me a little puzzled. It is, perhaps, not too surprising that, ten years later, I became a Catholic.

    I would be interested in answers to the question not just from Ken Temple but from other Protestants. If it were knowable with human certainty that one of the apostles wrote a book that we now have – would that ensure that it was inspired? If so, why?

    jj

  184. Just to offer some information on a small point raised above: I was confused about the Russian Orthodox canon as well but I asked a Russian Orthodox priest recently about it, and he said that they accepted the 7 deuterocanonicals as well 3 & 4 Maccabees. He didn’t seem certain about whether Psalm 151 was considered equal to the rest of canonical Scripture (but it’s not many verses and just summarizes David being called and later slaying Goliath).

  185. If I could point out one more small thing: It is a fact that there have been no truly ecumenical councils since the Great East-West Schism. Eastern Orthodox and Protestants do not accept the Council of Trent as representing the ecumenical – universal – Church.

    I mentioned previously in comment #52 that the Ecumenical Council of Florence in the 1400s (prior to the Reformation) affirmed the same 73 book canon (though not dogmatically). To deny that this Council was Ecumenical is problematic because Greek Orthodox bishops attended and the reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches was made. Yes, it is true that the reunion was never consummated as Constantinople was finally overcome by the Muslims a few years later, but the reality of this pre-Reformation Ecumenical Council that affirms the same 73 book canon stands.

  186. Dear “Lojahw”,

    You said: “Regarding both your & Tom’s comments on councils and branches of the Church, please be aware that the views of CtC differ from those you have invited into dialogue.

    Having realized that our views on ‘branches’ and the meaning of “Church” differ, I invited you to read the article we put up on ‘branches’ and “Church,” and to take any arguments there. The deeper parts of the discussion that need to occur between Reformed Christians and Catholics are essentially impossible to have without first laying the groundwork we’ve been attempting to lay. Since we’ve put our views on branches and the Church into the public view for debate, it would seem unfair to argue against the canon based on your meaning of “church,” and then criticize us now for not being willing to accept different meanings of “church.” We mean what we mean, and you are welcome to disagree with our reasons for so meaning in the article that covered that topic.

    You said: “You have agreed that sola scriptura allows the use of reason for understanding what is necessary for faith. Therefore, since the extent of Scripture is required for understanding the faith, reason cannot be excluded from recognizing the canon according to sola scriptura.”

    Your “since” clause in your conclusion is question-begging. Do you see how you have presumed that which you are trying to prove (i.e., the truth of sola scriptura) and used it as a premise to reach your conclusion?

    You said: “What sola scriptura requires is that an external authority not be allowed to contradict Scripture.

    But you can only determine what contradicts Scripture by interpreting Scripture. I wonder what you think of Keith Mathison’s assertion that “All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture.” (Keith Mathison, Sola Scriptura: The Difference a Vowel Makes, Modern Reformation (Mar/Apr 2007).) I think he’s generally right. It is fantastic to think that in defining the canon you only use external authorities that do not contradict Scripture. It is a fantasy because you are really using authorities that your fallible human reason has determined not to be contradictory to Scripture, and there will be great variety between your reasoning and the reasoning of all other Christians. Also, and separately, your logic is circular — you have to know what Scripture is before you can determine what external measures are consistent with Scripture and therefore usable in determining the canon.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  187. Dear John,

    Welcome to Called to Communion, and thank you for engaging in the discussion. It is interesting to hear what your pastor told you. I think there’s a certain intellectual honesty in the Protestant stating that the contents of the canon is to be presupposed. Of course, there’s a convenience there that wasn’t available to the Reformers, so I would engage that response with history.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  188. I think there’s a certain intellectual honesty in the Protestant stating that the contents of the canon is to be presupposed.

    Yes – and very Van Tillian :-) We were presupposing things left, right, and centre. In the event, I cannot say that it was instrumental in my becoming a Catholic. Increasing knowledge of history, together with Newman, and then Ronald Knox, did that – well, with a little help from the Holy Spirit.

    But I really would like to know what people would say about my question. If you knew a writing had apostolic authorship – why would that make it inspired – or canonical in the sense that a Protestant means it?

    It seems to me that the fact of a writing being inspired requires, itself, revelation. I can examine a document all I want, can tell whether it is true, inspiring (that is, moves me to higher things) – but how can I know that it comes from the Holy Spirit?

    And that is, I think what is being discussed here when we talk about a particular writing being canonical – that it is, indeed, ‘theopneustos’

    I think the answer would have to be something like the question how I have come to believe that the Catholic Church is Christ’s Body. I do all my due diligence, but in the end, the Holy Spirit gives me the gift of faith.

    And that is what, I think, would have to be said about the Bible itself, from a Protestant point of view. Only it seems to me much more difficult to come to that point only about the Bible. If I look at history, I see Jesus, and from Him I see a church – only from that church do I see the Bible. So I believe in the Bible because I believe in the church. And when it comes to the church, I have to find some point of unity somewhere – which, as you have pointed out, is difficult to see in Sola Scriptura, because as soon as two believers disagree – who sorts them out? I concluded: ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia

    jj

  189. After being corrected by Nathan, Lojahw, claimed again that Russian Orthodox a similar canon to protestants. Anyone interested in a canon chart can see one at the bottom of the page here:

    http://www.bombaxo.com/canonchart.html

    The Russian Orthodox canon most certainly does not look protestant.

  190. Dear Tom,
    Setting aside the question of “branches” and the meaning of “Church,” let’s focus on your arguments.

    Your charge that using Scripture to determine criteria for canonicity is begging the question was refuted in my posts #158 and 164. Most of Scripture is self-attesting and/or attested to be divinely inspired Scripture by authors of self-attesting Scripture. My argument is based on that premise, and that such Scripture gives the criteria by which the canon can be identified. Since you have not refuted my previous arguments, your charges of begging the question and circular logic are unsubstantiated.

    Re: Keith Mathison’s assertion that “All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture.” The Apostle Peter said: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). Are you implying that Mathison contradicts Peter? If so, then he must be wrong. If not, then the correct interpretation of Scripture (what was meant by the author) can be objectively distinguished from false interpretations. On this basis, Scriptural statements such as “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4), and “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17), and “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Pet. 1:25) are not a matter of personal interpretation. To contradict these statements is to contradict the truth, and it should be concluded that Scripture does provide objective criteria of canonicity. Your musings about my methodology being fantasy are only a smoke screen.

    You didn’t respond to my demonstration of reason and other sources being rightly used under the authority of Scripture. Do you accept my examples? If not, please explain.

    I would appreciate your response to the following:

    Your argument seems to be that Protestants should accept 7 more books plus certain additions to Esther and Daniel (and only these) as canonical simply because in 1546 a group of 45 delegates at the Council of Trent voted 24 yea, 15 nay, while 16 abstained on the canon question, and the bishop in Rome at the time approved their decision. While demanding objective criteria of canonicity from Protestants, you offer none for your own position. What are your objective criteria of canonicity?

    On one hand you accuse Protestants of subjective methodology, on the other you reject objective arguments. The function of a canon is both to include and to exclude. Do you deny that books can be objectively excluded from Scripture because they contradict what God has taught through His prophets and apostles?

    For example:
    Scripture teaches: “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17), and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).
    The angel Raphael told Tobias’ father: “I am Azarias the son of the great Ananias” (Tob. 5:18)
    Later, Raphael changed his story: “I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.” (Tob. 12:15)
    It is self-evident that Raphael could not be telling the truth in both of the above situations (they are mutually exclusive claims). In fact, it can be objectively argued that Raphael could not be one of God’s holy angels, because making false statements is characteristic not of God, but of the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44). Yet the Catholic Church expects the reader to accept what the book of Tobit says as true. Since Tobit expects its readers to accept false statements as true, this book cannot be accepted as representing God’s infallible truth.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  191. Dear “Lojahw”,

    My charge that you had begged the question was based on this statement of yours: “Therefore, since the extent of Scripture is required for understanding the faith, reason cannot be excluded from recognizing the canon according to sola scriptura.” My charge is not un-substantiated based on other comments you have made. The question begging is right there in black and white. You are using as a premise the claim that “the extent of Scripture is required for understanding the faith,” and using that premise in an attempt to argue for your conclusion that “the extent of Scripture is required for understanding the faith.” That’s a logical fallacy, called “begging the question.”

    As for self-attestation, which I agree you have tried to press several times, my reply remains the same. Your #158 can be your final word on the matter since I had already covered the ground in the main article and in my comments. I think you are cheeky to come back now and say “since you have not refuted my previous argument…” You were cheeky in your triumphalism in #166 too, and I gave my reply in #167.

    But since you seem nearly hell-bent on pressing the point I will ask this question. From what authority did you get your fundamental premise, that “Most of Scripture is self-attesting and/or attested to be divinely inspired Scripture by authors of self-attesting Scripture”?

    You gave an interesting way to employ 2 Peter 1. I am not implying that Keith is contradicting 2 Peter 1:20. The passage continues, …”for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” That is, the reliable handling of Scripture comes not from private judgment, but from those led by the Holy Spirit. Do you believe your pastor is led by the Holy Spirit when he or she interprets the scriptures?

    But while we’re at it, from what authority did you get this interpretive principle of Scripture, that “the correct interpretation of Scripture” is that which “was meant by the author”? It is not inherently obvious that authorial intent is the fundamental hermeneutic.

    I think you are calling out my “smokescreen” because you think some texts or other of Scripture stand out so plainly that no interpretation is necessary. Do I have that right? You gave as an example of such a plain text, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” You think there is no interpretation involved in this text? I think there is tremendous interpretation necessary when handling this and Trinitarian texts (and today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, by the way). The verse on its own is certainly true, just as Christ’s scriptural statement that “The Father and I are one” is true. But the two passages (along with others) serve essential co-qualifying roles. You cannot remove human interpretation from the process. So I’ll stick with my assertion, that “It is a fantasy because you are really using authorities that your fallible human reason has determined not to be contradictory to Scripture, and there will be great variety between your reasoning and the reasoning of all other Christians.”

    You said: “You didn’t respond to my demonstration of reason and other sources being rightly used under the authority of Scripture. Do you accept my examples? If not, please explain.”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Perhaps I responded and you didn’t catch it. I try to respond to everything you say, at least with a response like, “I’ve already responded.” We are running out of instances where that is not my reply. Please stop charging me with non-responsiveness, and just ask what you would like to hear from me. If you are not truly interested in my response, please stop asking.

    You said this:

    Your argument seems to be that Protestants should accept 7 more books plus certain additions to Esther and Daniel (and only these) as canonical simply because in 1546 a group of 45 delegates at the Council of Trent voted 24 yea, 15 nay, while 16 abstained on the canon question, and the bishop in Rome at the time approved their decision. While demanding objective criteria of canonicity from Protestants, you offer none for your own position. What are your objective criteria of canonicity?

    First, as a point of order, your attempted summation of my argument is in bad form. You should not attempt to coin your interlocutor’s arguments in derogatory or condescending language. That just slows this entire process down by leaving me with the burden of restating what you said in more fair, balanced language. I don’t have much time, and I’m giving a disproportionate amount of it to this now-tired discussion. I won’t bother fixing your false assertion that Catholicism relies on Trent for its canon. Others have already corrected that just recently, and you have ignored those comments.

    Second, also as a point of order, that is not my argument. My argument is clearly stated in the article, and essentially has nothing to do with whether or not Protestants should accept the deuterocanon. I did not want to write an apologetics piece for Catholicism, and think I succeeded in that. I am pretty confident that by this point you realize my argument is not here but elsewhere, so I am frustrated that you restated my argument this way.

    Third, you are not attempting to interact with my premises or arguments if you are trying to draw out from me Rome’s criteria. But besides, I have already given these indirectly in my article. Maybe you would do well to re-read the article right about now. The issue is not your criteria versus Rome’s criteria; rather, the issue is your authority to set and apply criteria versus Rome’s ability to set and apply criteria. The criteria we each identify are actually quite similar. It’s the process and authority pieces that differ entirely. Do you get that difference I’m trying to draw out?

    Brother, I admit that my patience is worn down. I am tired of hearing you run the Book of Tobias through the mud. You are dabbling in a standard you would not want applied against yourself, or perhaps, if such a standard were applied against yourself, you would obstinately ignore the problem. Genesis gives two differing creation accounts. How would you feel if I sat here and “objectively argued” for its exclusion? Or should we exclude Leviticus because it claims that hares are unclean on account of their chewing the cud (hares don’t chew cud)? There’s an entire website devoted to such obnoxious attacks on Holy Writ. Now, you can come back with defenses of these passages, just like I would. My point is that many passages in the Bible might appear to have objective errors, but through proper handling and interpretation, we understand properly. So I don’t know how to engage a denier of Tobias on this point. I don’t know how to get you to see that you are interpreting everything, and that your interpretations are prejudiced to fit your preconceived worldview.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  192. My comments on Ecumenical Councils generated a lot of responses. Some follow-up:

    I stand by my statement that no Ecumenical Council ever published a canon of Scripture (Devin, see my comments below about Florence). That said, I had no intention of implying that Ecumenical Councils carry intrinsic infallible authority. Only councils that are consistent with the teaching of Christ and the prophets and apostles upon whom the Church has been built have authority by virtue of their teaching the apostolic faith. Hence, the robber council, the iconoclastic council, etc., were rightly rejected by the Church. Other councils involving various constituents of the Church are likewise subject to the same criteria of consistency with the teaching of the founders of the Church. Tim has suggested that there are 21 ecumenical councils according to the RCC, but that opens another can of worms for another thread… I’ll merely say here that Col. 1:18, 24 equates the body of Christ with the Church, and therefore any council that does not represent the whole body of Christ does not merit the title, ecumenical. Note: Vatican II recognized Protestants and EO’s as members of the body of Christ, so that should not be disputed here.

    I also said that there have been no truly Ecumenical Council after the Great Schism in 1054. My use of the term “East” related to the historical context, not the changing affiliations of smaller groups of Orthodox in the intervening centuries. However, since 1054 there have always been EO Churches (as well as Protestants) not represented in any so-called Ecumenical Council.

    Re: The Council of Florence, which council do you mean? Do you mean the Council called by Eugene IV that started in Basel, but after Eugene tried to dissolve it, the delegates – including his own legate and most of his cardinals – stayed and summoned the pope to Basel to withdraw his statement of dissolution, and to sign a statement that declared that a pope could not dissolve or more a general council without their approval. Eugene IV complied and the council reinstated Haec sancta synodus from the earlier Council of Constance which made popes subject to general councils. Or maybe you’re referring to the later sessions of the council which was moved to Ferrara after the pope agreed to pay all expenses for Jacobite delegates to come from the east? Then again, maybe you’re referring to the part of the council that moved to Florence in 1439 while some delegates remained in Basel, claiming it to be the legitimate council? Even though Orthodox delegates came, the Orthodox Church does not recognize this as an Ecumenical Church. Read on. . . .

    This last council is the one which the Council of Trent referred to for the canon, but interestingly, when this question came up some of the bishops claimed that the decree of Florence was not a true conciliar decree, being issued after the Greeks had left and lacking the words Sacro approbante concilio. After the legates sent to Rome found the original bull and verified that it was in “proper form” for a conciliar decree, the document was unfortunately lost. The further question, whether in the decree of Trent anything should be said about the status of books within the canon (that is, whether the deuterocanonical books should be accepted on equal footing with the canon fidei), was left to one side. Writing on 16 February 1546, the day after the debate, the legates reported to Rome that there was general agreement not to enter into that question (Acta, x, 382).

    In summary, the Council of Florence voted on the canon after the Orthodox delegates left, and the Council of Trent left open the question whether the Church should accept Jerome’s “ecclesiastical canon” or Augustine’s canon where all books were considered on equal footing.

    Sources: The General Councils: A History of the Twenty-One Church Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II, by Christopher M. Bellitto, New York: Paulist Press, 2002. pp. 89-91.

    The Cambridge Hstiory of the Bible: The West from the Reformation to the Present Day, Greenslade, S.L. editor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963. pp. 201-202.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  193. Lojahw,

    So as not to derail this discussion, if you want to engage in the side-discussion of demonstrating how no passages from the 66 books you accept as Scripture are contradictory, swing over to my blog where I made a post challenging your position using Psalm 137. http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2010/05/30/the-canon-of-scripture-and-the-holy-hand-grenade-of-antioch/

  194. “Vatican II recognized Protestants and EO’s as members of the body of Christ, so that should not be disputed here.”

    There is a particular way the Church understands this, I’m absolutely positive it isn’t the same way you think it should be understood, otherwise you wouldn’t have posted the comment in the first place. Secondly, how the Eastern Orthodox churchs are viewed by the Church is miles apart with how the Protestant ecclesial communities are viewed (one is the distinction I made in this very sentence, not sure if you picked it up).

    “I’ll merely say here that Col. 1:18, 24 equates the body of Christ with the Church, and therefore any council that does not represent the whole body of Christ does not merit the title, ecumenical.”

    Colossians 1:18, 24 does not speak of which Councils that were to be held in the future would be infallible and which weren’t, first of all. As to your conclusion I ask, “says who? you?”. I’m guessing the answer is “yes, me!”.

    As for the rest, I’m not sure how you think that makes the Catholic canon null and void and the Protestant canon infallible. Nor am I sure how that bears any relevance to the original article or the questions asked of you. I suppose it’s difficult for one standing outside the Church, who doesn’t understand how the Church works and who looks at it as if it were the equivalent to a secular organization, to make heads or tails of their studies of Church history. Reading Church history, from any author, willfully trapped in the Protestant (anything-but-Catholic) paradigm, doesn’t really help matters for that person comes to those studies with his own conclusions and forces everything he reads to match those conclusions (throwing out anything that makes his conclusions untenable). Ironically, it’s the same problem with the Protestant shuffle (switching congregations on a dime when Pastor Bob’s sermon doesn’t quite gel with Joe Protestant’s interpretation of his Bible). Without first coming to grips with the fact that Apostolic Succession is something that is tangible vs. the intangible “my interpretation of scripture” (the former “objective”, the latter “subjective”), understanding the councils and how they operate pre- and post- schism can be quite difficult, if not impossible.

  195. Lojhaw,

    You said:

    That said, I had no intention of implying that Ecumenical Councils carry intrinsic infallible authority. Only councils that are consistent with the teaching of Christ and the prophets and apostles upon whom the Church has been built have authority by virtue of their teaching the apostolic faith.

    What you are really saying is, “Only councils that are consistent with the interpretation of the teaching of Christ and the prophets and apostles that I accept have authority by virtue of their teaching what I believe the apostolic faith contains.”

    In other words, you have set yourself up as the judge of whether or not ecumenical councils teach the truth based on your being able to judge them against what you think the bible says.

  196. I hope to tie Sean’s reply directly into the canon topic.

    The Protestant accepts only those councils (or those parts of councils) that agree with his interpretation of Scripture, which interpretation is heavily influenced by his preconceived paradigm. And in doing so, because he retains control over what rules of the faith stand or fall, he has set himself up as his own ecclesastical authority. In the same way, his conclusions about what books belong in the Bible relate to what agrees with his preconceived paradigm. And in doing so, he has set himself up as his own ecclesiastical authority vis-a-vis Scripture. Barring a claim that the Holy Spirit infallibly guides him to the right conclusion about the canon, he has effectively placed himself over Scripture. This is a great irony. He may not make the judgments himself, in that he may defer to the judgments of scholars who are like-minded. But this does nothing to detract from the authority he ultimately wields over sacred writ.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  197. Tom,

    Yes. It is basically saying, “The Church councils are only infallible in instances where they interpret scripture the way I interpret scripture and the canon is correct because I think it is correct.”

  198. Lojahw,

    So as not to derail this thread on the messiness of Ecumenical Councils, I made a blog post asking whether you can trust Ecumenical Councils’ decrees: http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2010/05/31/can-you-trust-ecumenical-councils/

  199. Dear Tom,
    Thank you for your patience and for pointing out my carelessness in begging the question. I would appreciate the opportunity to explain again what I was trying to say:

    From what authority did you get your fundamental premise, that “Most of Scripture is self-attesting and/or attested to be divinely inspired Scripture by authors of self-attesting Scripture”?

    The authorities behind my premise are Jesus and the authors of the canonical books who so claim to present “the word of the Lord” and to recognize other books as Scripture: e.g.,
    Many passages in the Gospels and other canonical books identify other texts as Scripture; e.g., Matthew 21:42 – Jesus identifies and quotes Psalm 118 as “Scripture.” If Jesus calls something Scripture, agreeing with Him that it is Scripture is not exercising authority over Scripture, but assenting to its authority. To exercise authority over Scripture in this case would be to deny that Psalm 118 is Scripture (canonical).
    Luke 24:44-45 – Jesus identifies the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms as Scriptures that must be fulfilled. To deny that these books are canonical is to countermand Jesus and the Scriptures. To agree that they are canonical is to assent to the authority of Scripture.
    Moreover, Jesus and the NT writers consistently used the phrase “it is written” and equivalent phrases (such as “He has said” or “the Holy Spirit says”) to authoritatively cite Scripture (in Greek the phrase“it is written” is the verb form of the noun translated “scripture”). “The Scripture says,” “it is written,” and equivalent phrases are used of: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and all the letters of Paul.
    2 Pet. 1:20-21 further identifies the written prophecies left by “holy men who spoke from God” as Scripture. All of the OT prophets from Moses to Malachi claim to have passed on “the Word of the Lord” (self-attesting) and their prophecies were fulfilled (authenticated) according to various canonical books, including Ezra/Nehemiah, Kings, Chronicles, and the NT Gospels and Acts. In addition the prophetic words and miracles of the prophets Elijah and Elisha are recorded in Kings and Chronicles, making those books self-attesting. Job and Judges also record the words of God. Likewise, the Gospel writers record Jesus’ prophecies in the Gospels, Acts, a few Epistles, and Revelation (these books are self-attesting by virtue of their claim to record divine revelation). The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies in the Gospels and Acts authenticate that the prophecies recorded therein qualify as “prophecies of Scripture.”

    No external “authority” is required to recognize the above – simple observation of the Scriptures themselves is sufficient. When the Reformers wrote about self-attestation and the Holy Spirit, they were merely affirming what they observed in the Scriptures: “we believe without a doubt all things contained in them . . . because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God and they prove themselves to be from God . . . [for] the things predicted in them do happen.” This observation was not meant to define the extent of the canon, but to affirm that there are self-attesting Scriptures from which the extent of the canon can be deduced “by ordinary means.” Apart from the Holy Spirit, the “natural man” does not accept divine revelations because “they are foolishness” to him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14-16).

    Thus, most of the canonical books are identified by internal evidence apart from any external authority. Moreover, the above books provide all the criteria of canonicity required to identify the extent of the canon. Scripture, not I, claims: “Thy Word is Truth,” and “The word of the Lord endures forever,” etc. I agree with you that Scripture often qualifies its texts with other passages; that’s what we Protestants call “the analogy of Scripture.” And thus, all Scripture cannot be recognized by a single criterion, but must be consistent with the statements it makes about itself (that it is “God-breathed,” that it is true, that it endures forever, etc.) Any book that lacks these attributes cannot rightly be called Scripture (by deductive proof; e.g., based on “All Scripture is God-breathed” and “God cannot lie,” a text that is false cannot be from God and hence is not canonical).

    Re: your comments on 2 Pet. 1:20-21, are you saying this passage teaches that everything said by the holy men who spoke for God can only be interpreted by certain people? That God’s communication with people through prophets needs a secondary special filter that human to human communication does not?

    Re: standards of truth, Its interesting that whenever this topic comes up in conversations with Roman Catholics, the standards of truth are always questioned (i.e., arguing for lower standards), but no one ever has ever offered an example from canonical Scripture that compares with the obvious flaws in the deuterocanonical books. Your examples from Genesis and Leviticus don’t involve self-contradictory statements (which by definition cannot both be true, as the example from Tobit illustrates). Should we exclude complementary testimony in courts of law because two witnesses do not repeat each other’s statements verbatim? Scripture uses complementary testimony to reinforce the credibility of eyewitness accounts – if every account said exactly the same thing, the authors could be charged with collusion. There is no true contradiction in either Genesis or Leviticus (Archer Gleason and others have written excellent books refuting many so-called contradictions in the Bible).

    The right use of reason under the authority of Scripture affirms what Scripture teaches about itself. Your charge that reason used to identify Scripture is exercising authority over Scripture would only be true if that reason and the sources appealed to contradicted what the above self-attesting/authoritatively-cited Scriptures teach. Your comment?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  200. Lojahw,

    “The authorities behind my premise are Jesus and the authors of the canonical books who so claim to present “the word of the Lord” and to recognize other books as Scripture: e.g.,
    Many passages in the Gospels and other canonical books identify other texts as Scripture…”

    There is no mention of the Hellenization of Palestine, especially in the area of Galilee, of the Jews at the time and how the Septuagint was widely used by the Jews. Nor is there a mention of the many references to the deuterocanonical writings in the words of Christ, St. Paul, and the other Apostles in the Protestant accepted New Testament canon. But, to mention those things is a digression from the actual question itself. Though those things are not irrelevent, those things alone do not “prove” that one book is infallible and another is not.

  201. Joe wrote: Though those things [regarding the history of the Jews from the time of the prophets until Jesus’ day] are not irrelevent, those things alone do not “prove” that one book is infallible and another is not.

    Re: infallibility, one can assert that those books which record the words that “holy men spoke from God” are infallible, by virtue of the fact that “God cannot lie.”

    As for books that are not recognized by Christ and the canonical authors as “the Word of God” or Scripture (which is a synonym for the “word of God”), it may be possible even for books outside of the canon to be inerrant (that’s a goal of most authors and publishers!). On the other hand, books which are demonstrably fallible cannot be called “the word of God” because “God cannot lie” and His Word “is truth.” His Word is not merely somewhat true or sometimes true; His Word given by His Spirit to prophets totally retains His integrity, else it would not be God’s Word.

    Christ and the canonical authors are the ultimate authorities for whatever is necessary for our faith. If you can’t trace it to the founding fathers, its not part of the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” I can’t imagine that God would make it so difficult to understand what is necessary that a special group of men would have to “translate” not only to each language but into different words (interpretation) within each language to make the meaning for what is necessary understandable. The concept that what is necessary for the faith requires special interpretations only revealed to certain people reminds me of the Gnostics that the early church rejected.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  202. Joe wrote: Though those things [regarding the history of the Jews from the time of the prophets until Jesus’ day] are not irrelevent, those things alone do not “prove” that one book is infallible and another is not.

    Re: infallibility, one can assert that those books which record the words that “holy men spoke from God” are infallible, by virtue of the fact that “God cannot lie.”

    As Lojahw said, human books may be infallible. I may write a book of simple arithmetic that is infallible. The ‘canon’ issue, when the word ‘canon’ is used by Protestants, seems to me fundamentally to be equivalent to ‘inspired’ – or possibly ‘inspired and designated for our use by God as the standard for measuring our faith.’

    And – Lojahw to the contrary notwithstanding – Protestants do not seem to me to argue for the canonicity of the Bible. They assume it. All subsequent apparent arguments are really question-begging/arguments in a circle.

    jj

  203. “Christ and the canonical authors are the ultimate authorities for whatever is necessary for our faith.”

    So, in your view, the deuterocanonicals must be part of the canon and Luther and the Reformers were wrong to remove the books of Scripture that is quoted by Christ (in the words ascribed to Him by the authors of the Gospels) and the Apostles (and their disciples, i.e. St. Mark and St. Luke) in the NT canon?

    Please remember that it was Luther and the Reformers that began plucking and tossing out Sacred Writ that was accepted by all Catholics and Orthodox Christians as inspired. Catholics and Orthodox didn’t “add” anything to Scripture, Luther and the Reformers “removed” it. To deny this is to deny plain history.

    Earlier you incorrectly appealed to the Russian Orthodox Bible. You haven’t returned to that argument because it was soundly refuted. The Russian Orthodox Bible contains, not only all of the deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Bible, but even more (3 & 4 Maccabees, for example).

    The Protestants decided to go with the Jewish canon that wasn’t a canon at all until approximately 100 years after Christ ascended into Heaven. From the Early Church perspective, authentic Christianity (the Church) was the continuation and perfection of Judaism, the New Jerusalem identified throughout the Old Testament. In other words, the Judaism that was known after the Crucifixion up until modern-day had it’s beginnings at the Cross. When they crucified their Messiah, they schismed from their “Church”. So the Protestant theory that Christians need to follow the Jewish canon that didn’t appear until a century after Christ was nailed to the Cross by His people is to say that it was better to follow the will and command of the (vehemently anti-Christian) schismatic Pharisees that comprised the Sanhedrin in exile than to follow the Early Church, including the Apostles themselves, that used the Septuagint as their unofficial canon of the Old Testament.

    In fact, one can see in St. Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with the Jew Trypho” that in the early second century, about the time that the remaining Pharisees comprised the Jewish canon, the Jews had already begun the dubious task of changing Sacred Scripture to eliminate, as best they could, Christological typology and/or direct references to Jesus Christ, the Messiah in the Old Testament. This goes above and beyond the vehemently anti-Christian Pharisees at the time removing the Greek books of Sacred Scripture (a historical reading of the Septuagint and it’s genesis would be fruitful to see why it was wrong for them to do so), for St. Justin, in his dialogue points to genuine manipulation on their part of Scriputre they accepted. This is what Luther and the Reformers were in favor of? Deliberately manipulated texts over the Old Testament used frequently by the Early Church and not abandoned by Christians accept by Luther and the Reformers 1500 years later? That’s what you are arguing for?

    The St. Jerome question over the Jewish canon, I’m sure, is the next objection to be proposed. But St. Jerome did eventually “come around”. The Vulgate, originally translated by St. Jerome, contains the deuterocanonicals, as you know. He also accepted later that he was wrong to believe that we should adhere to the the Jewish canon.

    But you are right, Christ (by His Holy Spirit) and the Apostles are the ultimate arbiters of what is and what is not canonical. I don’t think you’ll find a Catholic that disagrees with that statement. We believe that Christ chose His Apostles to take charge over the vineyard from the those who were God had previously given charge to sit on the seat of Moses. We believe that they received authentic authority from Christ, their Head, to lead the Church, the New Jerusalem, and they as shown throughout the New Testament had the divine authority to appoint others their successors. We believe it is those successors today who still maintain that divine authority granted by Christ to His chosen Apostles, and it was those successors who defined the Canon, by the guidance the Holy Spirit.

    Because Luther and the Reformers did not fall within the line of succession from the Apostles, they had no divine authority over the Church. Thus, what they considered canonical (or, rather, not canonical) was irrelevant to Christians. What they accepted as canonical (and what Protestants still accept today) is as relevant to Christians as to what the Manicheans accepted as inspired, because both had the same amount of divine authority to declare it… none. They didn’t speak for Christ or the Apostles because they simply could not.

  204. jj wrote: “Protestants do not seem to me to argue for the canonicity of the Bible. They assume it.”
    I would add that most Christians of whatever stripe “assume the Bible” and do not argue for the canonicity of the books in it.

    Devin chided me elsewhere for not responding to the so-called contradictions in Genesis 1-2 and Leviticus, so if anyone is interested:

    Genesis 1-2
    What contradictions do you see between Genesis 1 & 2? Is it the fact that Genesis 1 is a high-level summary of all of creation whereas Genesis 2 focuses in on Adam and Eve? No contradiction there. Is it the introduction of “plants of the field” in Genesis 2 that are not mentioned in Genesis 1? No contradiction there. Is it that Hebrew verbs do not have a past-perfect tense, so context must differentiate between simple past and past-perfect in Gen. 2:19? In view of Genesis 1, Genesis 2:19 is most reasonably translated: “the Lord God had formed every beast” prior to Genesis 2. Are there any other so-called contradictions between Genesis 1 & 2?

    Leviticus 11:6 (cf. Deut. 14:6-7) “chew the cud” is an expression to describe redigestion of food already ingested. Cows regurgitate food into their mouths from multiple stomachs to be chewed again before passing back to complete the digestive process of more fibrous materials. Rabbits also re-digest their food, but often at night using a process called caecotrophy which involves re-ingesting partially digested food that has been excreted. Because the function is similar, but the process is different from that of cows, rabbits are sometimes called “pseudo-ruminants.” Knowing this, would rabbits be more appetizing or less? See http://jas.fass.org/cgi/reprint/78/3/638.pdf and/or http://www.comereason.org/bibl_cntr/con055.asp

    It is helpful also to remember that errors/uncertainties introduced by transcription (copies) and translation do not count as contradictions in the original sources, nor do examples lacking scientific precision (e.g., the circumference of a circle reported as three times the diameter), etc.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  205. Dear “Lojahw”,

    You said “Only councils that are consistent with the teaching of Christ and the prophets and apostles upon whom the Church has been built have authority by virtue of their teaching the apostolic faith.” Where do you get this rule? Who decides whether a council has taught the apostolic faith?

    I asked: “From what authority did you get your fundamental premise, that “Most of Scripture is self-attesting and/or attested to be divinely inspired Scripture by authors of self-attesting Scripture”?”

    The question gets at the heart of my article, and much of your answer was not directly responsive. You restated what you’ve already said many times about some texts identifying other texts as Scripture, about Jesus identifying other texts as Scripture, about the phrase “it is written.” Notice that my question wasn’t “how do you know which books are in the Bible,” but how do you know the rule you are applying is the right rule — from what authority do you get your premise?

    I think this part of your comment is the extent of your answer to my “from what authority do you get your rule” question, your other discussion about Scripture being the “how you know which books” part. You replied: “The authorities behind my premise are Jesus and the authors of the canonical books who so claim to present “the word of the Lord” and to recognize other books as Scripture.

    But notice that this set of authorities [i.e., Jesus and the authors of the canonical books claiming to present the word of the Lord and recognizing other books as Scripture] never give your premise, that ‘Most of Scripture is self-attesting and/or attested to be divinely inspired Scripture by authors of self-attesting Scripture.’ So it’s really your premise, derived from your reason. My reasoning might have a different emphasis, maybe a more Augustinian one that looks to widespread acceptance in the early Church. Who decides which rule is the right rule? Scripture never gives your rule or Augustine’s. So an extra-Scriptural rule is needed to define Scripture.

    I’ll answer your question about 2 Peter 1 when you answer the one I asked. ;-)

    I complained about your running the Book of Tobias through the mud, and stated that you would not tolerate similar treatment to parts you do accept as Holy Writ. Specifically, I said, “You are dabbling in a standard you would not want applied against yourself, or perhaps, if such a standard were applied against yourself, you would obstinately ignore the problem.”

    You replied that the examples I gave in Genesis and Leviticus were not self-contradictory like you claim Tobias to be. You miss my point entirely, that you are applying a standard to the Catholic Christian Scripture that you would not tolerate being applied to your own. Elsewhere you’ve said that Scripture cannon contain error — a reasonable opinion is that Levitcus contains scientific error and that Genesis is self-contradictory between its creation accounts (these are not my opinions). What does non-consistent witness testimony in court have to do with this? Witnesses in court are not held to the standard of infallibility, and you yourself said error disqualifies a text from Scripture. You have authors defending against so-called errors in Scripture. Great! I’m sure many reasonable people disagree with them. For those people, applying the standard you are applying to Tobias would leave them excluding Genesis, Leviticus, and many other books. Are they unreasonable in their conclusions, or do you deny some people the use of reason in deciding upon what canon to follow?

    As for what Devin said to you elsewhere, please take it up in that same elsewhere! By throwing out your opinion here, you add confusion to this thread, because readers can’t follow to what you are responding (and would be left reading you out of the context of the discussion).

    What is the purpose of your statement about original errors vs. transcription errors? What if I wrote back to you that Tobias must just have a transcription error because I know otherwise that it is Scripture?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  206. Dear Tom,

    From your response, you seem to be thinking about a different question than the one I repeated from you and then answered. You wrote:

    From what authority did you get your fundamental premise, that “Most of Scripture is self-attesting and/or attested to be divinely inspired Scripture by authors of self-attesting Scripture”?

    By your response in #205, you seem to be asking: what is the rule by which one concludes that when Jesus calls a book Scripture that it really is Scripture? Or perhaps you are saying that the prophets who claim that what they said is “the word of the Lord” or its equivalent have no authority? Or that when Jesus or another NT author calls various books Scripture that their word doesn’t have authority? I made an observation, not a premise. I really don’t get your point:

    So it’s really your premise, derived from your reason.

    What is your problem with my reasoning that if Jesus calls something Scripture that I should accept it as Scripture? All I’ve said is that anyone can observe the fact that the majority of the canonical books clearly say that they have recorded “the word of the Lord” and/or that they are called Scripture. This is not a premise. If you think my observation is wrong, please explain. I gave a specific answer to your specific question.

    Regarding your second point:

    So an extra-Scriptural rule is needed to define Scripture

    Just because you can think of extra-Scriptural rules to define your canon does not mean that it is not possible to limit the criteria of canonicity to those things which Scripture claims for itself. You have yet to explain why the criteria that I identified from Scripture are extra-Scriptural. Are you saying that the act of reading such things in Scripture as “Thy Word is Truth” and “God cannot lie” and concluding that these things are true of God’s Word is an extra-Scriptural rule? Are you saying that one needs a special extra-Biblical “decoder ring” to understand such statements by Scripture? I just really don’t know where you are coming from. I have given you specific counter-examples to Mathison’s quote. Merely asserting that these examples are subject to Mathison’s quote is not enough. Either your interpretation of Mathison or his quote is wrong by virtue of the counter-examples I have given. Sure, the lack of Hebrew vowel points make some OT texts subject to interpretation, but those cases are limited and mitigated by context.

    Regarding Councils, consistency with the apostolic faith is a necessary application of John 16:13, “the Holy Spirit will guide you [the apostles] into all the truth, and Jude 3, “contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” and 2 John 9-10, “if anyone comes to you and does not bring the teaching of Christ, do not receive him.”

    Regarding the self-contradictory statements in Tobit, you wrote:

    you are applying a standard to the Catholic Christian Scripture that you would not tolerate being applied to your own.

    Come again? I have demonstrated that there are plausible explanations for the so-called contradictions you think are in Genesis and Leviticus (and Gleason Archer gives a better answer about the rabbits: the way they eat gives the appearance of “chewing the cud;” when the Pentateuch was written descriptions based on human observations were normal, such as the sun rising and setting). Your argument rests on private interpretation; e.g., it is possible for someone to interpret Scripture in such a way as to be contradictory (or as you put it: “I’m sure many reasonable people disagree with them”). Disagree with what? That their explanations are invalid? If you think so, please explain. By your argument, contradiction is in the eye of the beholder. That’s relativism (if contradiction is in the eye of the beholder, so is truth). The fact that there is a plausible explanation of the texts (consistent with the rules of grammar and vocabulary) in question in Genesis and Leviticus is unlike the statements in Tobit for which no plausible explanation exists. If you think that such an explanation exists for the example from Tobit, please speak up. In the meantime, don’t say that I wouldn’t tolerate my own standard being applied to my canon.

    Your only explanation of Tobit so far is that these two statements suffer from an error in transcription. What is the error? That Raphael claimed to be an angel (stated many places in Tobit)? or that Raphael told Tobias’ father that he was Azarias the son of the great Ananias. Neither example fits the profile of a “transcription” error. Transcription errors occur when letters or words or phrases are miscopied, not when whole sentences are inserted that don’t exist in the original. You seem to be grasping at straws.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  207. Joe wrote:

    So, in your view, the deuterocanonicals must be part of the canon and Luther and the Reformers were wrong to remove the books of Scripture that is quoted by Christ (in the words ascribed to Him by the authors of the Gospels) and the Apostles (and their disciples, i.e. St. Mark and St. Luke) in the NT canon?

    Joe, you’re begging the question. And your view of history ignores the first four centuries before your list was recognized by anyone. Why do you ignore the judgment of those closest in time to the apostles? Luther and the Reformers were merely restoring what the founding fathers passed down as the canonical books. Plucking out? More like restoring what had been encrusted by accretion over the centuries. I accepted the update on the Russian Orthodox Bible, which apparently changed since the Most Holy Governing Synod of Moscow omitted the Apocrypha in 1839. So what? The fact remains that taking Protestants and the early church out of the record still leaves multiple canons on the table. Why should an EO accept your canon instead of his? For example, by what objective criteria do you reject 3 Esdras or Psalm 151?

    The Protestants decided to go with the Jewish canon that wasn’t a canon at all until approximately 100 years after Christ ascended into Heaven.

    You beg the question again. Josephus’ first century canon represented the founding fathers of the Church who were all Jews. You have no basis from which to refute Josephus’ statement that the 22 book canon was so well established that it was taught to all Jews from the time they were born. Such a statement implies that multiple generations prior to Josephus had accepted this canon – which included the generation of Jesus and the apostles.

    one can see in St. Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with the Jew Trypho” that in the early second century, about the time that the remaining Pharisees comprised the Jewish canon, the Jews had already begun the dubious task of changing Sacred Scripture to eliminate, as best they could Christological typology

    Once again, you beg the question. Justin Martyr used the Greek LXX, which as scholars agree, both removed and added significant swaths of Hebrew texts. You also assume that the LXX was a trusted translation, yet Jerome wrote: “I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ.” If the churches of Christ rightly condemned the Septuagint version of books that differed from the original Hebrew books, on what basis do Roman Catholics support them today? Justin rightly argued that the LXX correctly translated the Hebrew “alma” (young woman) as parthenos (virgin) – which is a legitimate translation; but that does not justify all the deviations of the LXX from the Hebrew.

    You wrote:

    [Jerome] also accepted later that he was wrong to believe that we should adhere to the the Jewish canon.

    You’re confused: Jerome never said that he was wrong. His canon – included in his Vulgate translation – was published in 405, long after Augustine’s canon and the local councils had accepted the deuterocanonical books. He never changed his mind on the canon, even though he translated Judith and Tobit as favors to a couple of obscure bishops. So what if the Vulgate included books which Jerome never said were of equal authority to his “helmeted” canon? Luther’s Bible and the King James Bible had them as well. For that matter, the fifth century Codex Alexandrinus included a fourth century letter from Athanasius as well as 1 & 2 Clement. All that proves is that any given “Bible” does not necessary represent a canon.

    We believe it is those successors today who still maintain that divine authority granted by Christ to His chosen Apostles, and it was those successors who defined the Canon, by the guidance the Holy Spirit

    “We” in your statement does not represent all of the body of Christ (cf. Col. 1:18, 24). The apostles’ successors, particularly those who came four centuries later, didn’t have the right to overrule the canon passed on by their Messianic Jewish founding fathers. Luther and the Reformers were justified in appealing to the founding fathers of the Church on the canon.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  208. Dear “Lojahw”,

    I think at this point we need to redouble our efforts at remaining charitable. We need to work hard at remaining patient.

    As you see things, every book in the Bible is in their for some explicable reason, though not all necessarily for the same reason. When you say, “book X is in the Bible because Jesus identified it as ‘Scripture'” that conclusion only follows if you have as a premise that all books Jesus identifies as “Scripture” are canonical. You must be creating a premise — you’re not simply making an observation. I am asking from what authority you get that premise. You are deriving the premise from reason, but it is theoretically possible that your premise contains a flaw, which flaw could yield a flawed canon.

    What if I found a book that the [Protestant] Bible identifies as Scripture that is not canonical? What if I found a linguistic study demonstrating that the word “scripture” as used by Jesus or other biblical authors does not always mean to refer to Sacred Writ, but sometimes has a less profound meaning? If I read you right, then you should be willing to admit that if I found those things (I’m not trying to trick you) your canonical rule would no longer hold.

    You mention other observations, like that some books say they contain the word of the Lord. But your permise can’t be that any book so claiming would be canonical, because we know apocryphal works claim to be the word of the Lord, right? So it’s not as simple as an observation. You’re doing more, as Christians always have.

    You asked why I think the criteria you use are extra-Scriptural. I think that when our Lord refers to something as Scripture, his words are not extra-Scriptural. But as I said above, those words are not your criteria simplicter. “God cannot lie.” Agreed. But a canon that truth does not make, nor does it get one single book in on its own.

    Let’s step back a minute and look at this Tobit discussion. You can’t hold back from engaging in a brass-tacks argument about a book’s merits or demerits. But if this discussion devolves into an argument over the historical or textual-critical aspects of given books, we’ve lost the bubble. The discussion, like the article, is about canon criteria. The truth is that I don’t know about your Tobit issue because I’ve never researched it. I am frustrated by your demands for an explanation, as if one is procedurally necessitated by your arguments. You say I’m grasping at straws, but I think you don’t realize that I’m not even grasping.

    By your own terms, you gave a “plausible explanation” for what some might call errors in books of the Bible. You then say I’m resting on private interpretation because I think that reasonable people might disagree with the defenses you gave. But what trouble is it to you if reasonable people might disagree, since your standard is “plausible explanation”? What if I am able to find a “plausible explanation” for the supposed errors in Tobit? You have simultaneously presented two different and mutually incompatible explanations of Levitcus and the Rabbit example. Both are plausible, but not both can be correct. That sounds like private interpretation, and sounds like reasonable people disagreeing. Is this all it takes to get past a perceived error in a book, such that it is still eligible to remain in your canon?

    May the Peace of Christ be with you,
    Tom

  209. Dear Tom,

    It would help if you would plainly state your argument. Your clarification makes it sound like your argument is over a legality, that is, my use of the words “canon” and “canonicity” which you appear to claim are “trademarks” of your Church. My focus is not on who has the rights to use these words, but rather to draw attention to their meaning, their function. Both Scripture and canonicity have well-understood meanings in the context of Christian dialogue. Therefore, to ask me to justify how texts that Jesus calls Scripture are canonical and carry the authority associated with it is, to put it mildly, obtuse. Are you saying that “Scripture” in the context of NT and Christian dialogue does not necessarily imply canonicity? If so, that would be news to every Christian I know. All communication involves context and accepted norms of grammar and vocabulary – you seem to challenge all of these in your attempt to prove that “all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretation of Scripture.” I have no desire to argue that point ad infinitum.

    What if I found a linguistic study demonstrating that the word “scripture” as used by Jesus or other biblical authors does not allows mean to refer to sacred writ, but sometimes has a less profound meaning?

    Hypothetical arguments don’t prove anything. There are a finite number of citations in the Bible to “the word of God” and “Scripture” and their equivalents. Lacking a real example of your hypothetical premise, you are merely making an argument for argument’s sake.

    But your permise can’t be that any book so claiming would be canonical, because we know apocryphal works claim to be the word of the Lord, right?

    Your strawman of my premise omits all the attendant attributes that Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles gave about “the word of God.” All books in the Protestant canon have all the attributes that Jesus, the prophets and the apostles identified with “the word of God.” I gave an example of an apocryphal book (the Shepherd of Hermes) that claims inspiration, but disqualifies itself by teaching the heresy of adoptionism, in contradiction to John 1, Phil. 2, and Colossians 1.

    What if I am able to find a “plausible explanation” for the supposed errors in Tobit? You have simultaneously presented two different and mutually incompatible explanations of Levitcus and the Rabbit example.

    I don’t follow your conclusion that the explanations I gave are “mutually incompatible” – one recognizes a pseudo-ruminant function of rabbits based on scientific observation of rabbits, another recognizes that the pattern of a rabbit’s jaw movement resembles that of animals that chew the cud. Those explanations are complementary, are not mutually incompatible. My point is that some so-called contradictions are based on not having enough information. The additional information found about rabbits explains why Leviticus would classify rabbits as animals that “chew the cud.” The example from Tobit is not lacking any pertinent information: two mutually exclusive statements were made by Raphael. It is not a matter of opinion whether both can be true or not – the fundamental principles of truth are violated in any claim that both of those statements could be true.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  210. Dear Tom,

    Your post raises a few questions:

    The Church did authoritatively define the canon when Pope St. Damasus I with the Council at Rome in A.D. 382 decreed “of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.”

    If this is so, why did Pope Gregory I later deny the canonicity of the deuteros?

    This same canon (which is the same canon defined at the Council of Trent) was affirmed by the Council of Hippo (393), the third Council of Carthage (397), and the sixth Council of Carthage (419). These were each subsequently approved by the bishop of Rome, showing that they were in agreement with the Apostolic See whose decisions served as the authoritative touchstone for the universal Church.

    Ditto, the previous question. Since Pope Gregory I was the bishop of Rome after the above Councils, why did he deny the canonicity of the deuteros?

    St. Jerome had disagreed about the deuterocanonical books, but he submitted himself to the authority of the Church.

    Pope Damasus died in 384, yet Jerome’s “helmeted” canon was published in 405. I don’t disagree that Jerome submitted to the authority of various bishops in the Church, but there is no record that he recanted his canon published in 405. On what basis do you claim that Jerome recanted?

    If your scenario were true, why did three contemporaries of Luther support Jerome’s shorter canon? For example, Cardinal Ximenes’ preface to the 1514 edition of the the Complutensian Polyglot; and Johannes Petreius’ 1527 edition of Jerome’s Vulgate, specifying at the beginning of each deuterocanonical book that it is not canonical; and Cardinal Cajetan’s Commentary, agreeing with Jerome as well. A number of other notables between Damasus and Trent followed Jerome’s judgment as well, including John of Damasus, the Venerable Bede, etc. A careful study of history seems to challenge your interpretation of these things.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  211. Dear “Lojahw”,

    I have stated my arguments over and over again. I’m not sure what you mean when you say that I’m arguing over a legality. We’re arguing over knowledge, how we come to it, and how we apply what we have of it, but that does not make my argument legalistic, nor does alleged legalism invalidate my argument.

    You said,

    Therefore, to ask me to justify how texts that Jesus calls Scripture are canonical and carry the authority associated with it is, to put it mildly, obtuse.

    Brother, I have been asking how we recognize a given text to be Scriptural (i.e., divinely inspired and part of the canon) since the very title of my article (i.e., “The Canon Question”). If that’s obtuse, who is more obtuse, he who asks the question, or he who has spent innumerable hours trying to respond? Perhaps you just miss my point that the word “scripture” as used in the Scripture does not necessarily mean that a book is divinely inspired and properly part of the canon. Words can have various and differing meanings. So, whether or not this is news to you and your friends, I am saying that the use of the word “scripture” within the Scriptures does not necessarily mean that the referrent is part of Sacred Scripture. Do you see how, in assuming that “scripture” means the referrent to be divinely inspired and part of the canon, that you’ve done interpretation without even realizing it?

    I am not attempting to prove that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture. I merely asked you what you thought of Mathison’s view, because your response would have helped me frame my further discussion. I am saying that you put things in the canon only according to a certain rule or other, whether or not you realize you are applying a rule. Putting something in the canon and calling it divinely inspired because Christ says in a book of the Bible that something is “scripture” is following a rule.

    You have no interest in arguing ad infinitum. I’m not sure what to do with that. You seem interested in coming back with responses favoring your view. To avoid the ad infinitum, do you want me to stop pressing a point when you have bypassed my argument and merely restated your own views? That doesn’t seem like a productive, truth-bearing approach.

    You won’t engage in hypotheticals because they don’t prove anything. I’m not sure what to do with that either. The hypothetical is a remarkably fruitful (and efficient, something we could use) tool for one person to understand that perimeter and texture of another’s claims. If you won’t answer my questions merely because they are hypothetical, you are unwilling to help me along in understanding you. Are you afraid you’ll get pinned down to one particular spot that might prove untenable later?

    You said:

    All books in the Protestant canon have all the attributes that Jesus, the prophets and the apostles identified with “the word of God.”

    It is news to me if your claim is that all canonical books have all the attributes of canonicity that you have been describing. Before you talked of some books that were more certain that led us (a little less directly) to others. Some books are in because of the number 22, others because Christ called them Scripture. Is it your position that all canonical books have all the attributes of canonicity, or only that some have all of certain attributes (e.g., error-free). How do you know which attributes all have to have, and which only some have to have?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  212. Dear “Lojahw”,

    Re: #210, I do not claim that Jerome recanted. I claim that Jerome submitted himself to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. He was legitimately expressing his academic opinion on an issue that was, at the time, still open for discussion. This was his privilege as a Catholic, and a work he did well. If Catholics have argued for positions that are (now) confluent with Protestant positions, that doesn’t make them Protestant, and doesn’t validate the Protestant position. It only shows either that they were debating something still within the permissible realm of debate, or they were being disobedient.

    It is my opinion that with the remainder of your comment you seek to make arguments in the form of questions. Then you end with, “A careful study of history seems to challenge your interpretation of these things.” Note that this is not a conclusion (“seems to challenge”) and you never argued this matter since you only asked questions.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  213. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your posts.

    Your post #211 failed to address my challenge in #209 to provide an example where the translations “scripture,” “the word of God,” etc. do not refer to a “God-breathed” canonical work. I well understand the issues related to the semantic range and referents of words within the context in which they are used. The word ‘tip’ in the statement: “I gave a tip to the waiter for his good service” has a different referent than in: “My friend gave me a tip about the stock market.” Context in each case, as in the uses of the words and phrases in the Bible translated “scripture,” “the word of God,” etc., makes clear the proper referent. There is simply no basis for your assertion that the words translated “Scripture,” “the word of God,” etc., do not necessarily refer to “God-breathed” Scripture (you can be assured if such an example existed, it would have been exploited by many foes of Christianity).

    Coming back to your comments about interpretation, all communication depends on interpretation. So what? you still have not provided an example where the application of criteria Scripture provides about itself, e.g., “All Scripture is God-breathed,” “Thy word is truth,” and “The word of the Lord endures forever,” exercise authority over scripture. You have not answered my challenge that interpretation does not necessarily exercise authority over its source. You have not shown how my use of the Scriptural criteria of canonicity exercise authority over Scripture.

    You wrote:

    It is news to me if your claim is that all canonical books have all the attributes of canonicity that you have been describing.

    Your subsequent comments confuse attributes with authoritative testimony. Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles give authoritative testimony for the canonicity of most books of the Bible by referring to them as “the word of God,” “Scripture,” etc. Authoritative testimony is not a criterion, but a confirmation that those books meet the necessary criteria. Those books, as well as the others in the Protestant canon, have all the attributes of “God-breathed scripture,” e.g., “Thy word is truth,” “the word of the Lord endures forever,” etc. All of these books are consistent with the character of God, who cannot lie, who is eternal, who is holy, etc.

    Re: Jerome. Your article and Bryan’s response to Christopher assert that Jerome accepted the deuterocanonical books as equal to the canonical books recognized by the Jews (below is from the article):

    Ultimately, Jerome explicitly stated his acceptance of the Church’s Old Testament over and against the opinion of the Hebrew scholars under whom he had studied.

    Your post #212 seems to conflict with the article, and is consistent with my previous assertions that the shorter canon was accepted at least until the Council of Trent based on the testimony of Jerome as well as such later notables as Gregory I, John of Damascus, the Venerable Bede, Cardinal Ximenes, and Cardianal Cajetan. Is that what you are saying? If so, then you agree with my previous statements that the Church has historically tolerated multiple canons (and still does, since the RCC still recognizes EO Churches).

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  214. Your post #211 failed to address my challenge in #209 to provide an example where the translations “scripture,” “the word of God,” etc. do not refer to a “God-breathed” canonical work

    Lojahw – the words ‘my house’, when I use them, refer to a thing which is, in fact, my house. But knowing what the words refer to doesn’t tell you anything about my house except that it is (1) a house, and (2) mine. It doesn’t tell you where it is, how many rooms it has, what it’s made of, etc.

    The ‘canon question’ is not what the word ‘Scripture’ refers to, but rather what its contents are – and how you know what those contents are. You could claim that my house has six bedrooms – but unless you had some convincing argument for knowing that, others may not believe you.

    If I understand what you have written, you appear to believe that you know how many bedrooms my house has because you have inspected it. It is possible for you to inspect my house, since it is a physical object and you are as able to recognise a bedroom as I am. If you’ll just hop on a ‘plane to New Zealand, I will gladly show you around :-)

    Or you could ask me, or ask someone else who knows. That’s knowing by tradition – by faith, in fact.

    You cannot know what is in Scripture by inspection, because you either have to know the ‘street address’ (to press the analogy) of Scripture – what books it contains – which is the very question being discussed – or else you could inspect every ‘house’ – every book that has a claim to being Scripture (Book of Mormon; Qur’an; the notes I write saying “these notes are Scripture”) – but whereas I believe you can recognise a bedroom when you see one, I am afraid I have no confidence in your ability to recognise Scripture. I have talked to too many Mormons who tell me I can recognise their book as Scripture by the burning in the bosom I feel.

    Or you can ask someone who has good reasons for knowing, because the Author of Scripture promised that knowledge – the Church.

    Which leaves, of course, the question of whether the Church has, indeed, received such promises. That’s a different – and essential – question – but not the Canon Question.

    jj

  215. Dear jj,

    Analogies have limits, and a collection of books is not at all like a house with an address and rooms. You also misunderstand my argument if you equate it to a process of inspection. Jesus, the prophets and the apostles are the authorities upon whose testimony I (and the Church!) rely. The key question is authorship: did the Holy Spirit inspire the writings of forgers and contradictory witnesses?

    Proverbs 14:5 says, “A trustworthy witness will not lie, But a false witness utters lies.” Why do you call those who wrote forgeries in the names of Jeremiah and Solomon trustworthy authors of divine Scripture? Why do you trust the testimony of an angel who lies to Tobias’ father about who he is?

    As I’ve said before, the Church has not spoken with one voice on the canon. The Body of Christ, which is the Church, recognizes only the 66 books of the Protestant canon in common. Protestants have not added any counterfeit books to the canon as Mormons have; but the question is, why have you accepted counterfeits? God cannot lie, but the deuterocanonical books do not reliably tell the truth. To claim that your sectarian views alone represent the Church is mistaken.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  216. John – good points and a good analogy. It is quite clear that you understand Loajah’s assertions well.

  217. I was determined not to comment on this thread again, because I think it’s ran itself out. In a strange sense, however, the dialogue does spin around the heart of the canon question in perpetuity… so, it never completely departs from it. It’s a strange contradiction, but I guess it just proves that truth can never really be obscured regardless of how many red herrings are tossed about.

    Lowjah, I think I get it now. You cannot avoid equivocating the Hebrew Scriptures with the Hebrew canon, and that’s why you aren’t fully grasping the comments that St. Jerome eventually had a “come to Jesus” in regards to accepting the Church’s judgement over his own.

    Evidently, you trust St. Jerome’s judgement, or at least the judgement that you perceive. So, if that perception of St. Jerome’s judgement is so infallible, you should be able to trust him on other topics for consistency sake, no? What’s your take on this? If you don’t agree with him on his vigorous defense of that teaching, why would you make the mistake of agreeing with him on your perception of his disobedience on the canon? Just curious.

  218. Dear “Lojahw”,

    May I use your real first name? I think it would help us to have a more personal, open, honest discussion than one that is held with pseudonyms.

    You said that I did not reply to your challenge in #209 to show where Christ used “scripture” in a way other than you have had in mind. You did not make the challenge, brother, but just stated that you would not deal in hypotheticals. To that statement of yours I certainly did reply. Again, you are stuck trying to argue about the validity of a given canon rule, when I am trying to argue about the validity of the very making of canon rules. We will not stop talking past each other until we can both understand that this article and my argument are about the making of canon rules, not the validity of any proposed rule.

    You say that I have not shown how your use of Scriptural criteria of canonicity exercises authority over Scripture. This is puzzling because it has been the central tenet of my comments to you over the past couple of months. How have you missed it? My Section III is devoted to this claim (do a ctrl+f for “over Scripture” for a quick look) . If you do not agree, it would be proper to show which premises or conclusions you feel are wrong. It is not sufficient to say that I have failed to show what I claimed to show — I would appreciate it if you stopped employing this rhetorical tool (i.e., the ‘you have failed to show’). I can only be charged with failing to show something where I bear the burden of demonstrating it.

    You said that I confused attributes with authoritative testimony. Is not the authoritative testimony you noted in the New Testament a testimony about attributes? If not about attributes, about what is this testimony? The testimony is not “The Book of James is canonical.” So for you to conclude that James is canonical based on the testimony, there must be testimony about an attribute of James. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that Jesus essentially says “James is canonical” when he says “word is truth” (etc.) leading you to conclude that James should be included in the canon.

    Re: Jerome, what I have said does not conflict with the article. Jerome had a personal opinion about the status of the deuterocanon, and Jerome submitted himself to the Church (which held the deuterocanon to be on even status with the other canonical texts). You think there is conflict because you have not separated the individual’s opinion from the opinion of the Chuch. Analog: a Catholic scientist today believes that evolution is true (or false; doesn’t matter for this hypothetical analogy); the Church leaves this partially open for differing opinions; and the Church later settles the question contrary to the scientist’s opinion. If the scientist lived (like Jerome) in submission to the Church, we would hardly say his opinion for (or against) evolution proved that he was in conflict with the Catholic Church (and it would be wild to say that the Church “really” believed the scientist’s opinion even though it later reached the opposite position in Council). Likewise Jerome. Were various opinions on canonics and Sacred Scripture permitted prior to Trent? Within certain boundaries of impermissible variance, I think the answer is “yes.” Does this mean the Church accepted the “shorter canon” up until Trent? No — that is absurd, for the reasons my article shows and as we have discussed. You need to untangle the singular opinion of scholar Jerome from the view of the Catholic Church writ large. You give him such weight; it’s very puzzling and illogical.

    Finally, you argue that because the “RCC” recognizes the “EO churches”; (and because various Orthodox churches have different canons from the Catholic canon); therefore, the Catholic Church presently tolerates multiple canons. Depending on what you mean by “tolerate” I believe your conclusion does not follow. If you believe that the “recognition” made by the Catholic Church of the various Orthodox churches means that the Catholic Church believes these disparate churches’ theological conclusions to be true, your premise is wrong. The Catholc ‘recognition’ does not mean this.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  219. Lojawh,

    Do you know the reasons why the Eastern Orthodox churches are considered churches by the Church and why the Protestant ecclessial communities are not?

    I think that when you find the correct answer to this question, you will at once realize that the differences in the Catholic canon to the books that comprise many of the Eastern Orthodox Bibles is irrelevant to the point that you are trying to make. It wasn’t the fact that Luther and the Reformers removed several books (and various chapters and verses) from the Sacred Scriptures that was the cause of the Protestant schism.

    Tom, I apologize for taking the bait and adding to the confusion. I’m just trying to point out that some of the propositions made in the counter argument are either irrelevant or illogical (which, I think, is what you have been doing as well). I’ll butt out now.

  220. Dear Tom,

    You asked about my login “Lojahw” (Lover of Jesus and His Word). I set up this Google login for theological blogs years ago. I appreciate your allowance of this login in this context; it would be confusing to use my given name inside a post and “Lojahw” on the post itself. I do strive to be open and honest.

    You wrote:

    I am trying to argue about the validity of the very making of canon rules

    I assume you refer to the following from your article, Section III:

    Power over the canon is power over Scripture itself because it is the power to eradicate a necessary part of the canon or to add a spurious part to Scripture. … the very act of answering the Canon Question inherently involves an extra-Biblical fallible human judgment, unless one is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. This fallible human judgment, by defining the criterion of canon, exercises power over the canon itself. And as I just noted, power over the canon is power over Scripture.

    Your premise that the capacity to err is power, and that such power amounts to authority is faulty. A weakness is power?? The capacity to err is not a power, and power is not the same as authority. If I wrongly assert that 2+2=5, that does not give me either power or authority over numbers – I am simply mistaken and anyone could show me my error by putting 2 apples with more 2 apples = 4 apples. However, if I say that 2+2=4, my conclusion is based on the authority of the rules of numbers and arithmetic. You have been unable either 1) to point out that the criteria observed from Scripture are wrong or 2) that the facts or logic I have offered are wrong or 3) shown that the Holy Spirit has not preserved me (or Jerome, et al.) from error – ergo, human “fallibility” appears not to be a factor in this case. (That’s what I meant about hypotheticals – show me where human judgment in this case is faulty.)

    Put another way: You sound like a traffic cop who pulls over a driver and says, “You were going 110 miles per hour,” and the surprised driver says, “According to my speedometer, I was going 55.”
    But the cop says, “I have the authority to judge these things, you do not; and, besides, your speedometer shows that your car can go up to 110 mph, therefore, you broke the law.”

    You assert that fallible human judgment is incapable of recognizing the canon based on what Scripture reveals about itself. But you cannot show how the judgment of Jerome, Rufinus, Gregory I, et al., regarding the canon is faulty or how the Holy Spirit did not preserve them from error. You assert that these church fathers eradicated necessary parts of the canon of Scripture, but that simply begs the question. How much falsehood can come from the Holy Spirit? Is not forgery false witness? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit inspired a faker to claim that he was Solomon in the so-called Wisdom of Solomon? Do you think the Holy Spirit inspired the angel Raphael to lie about his identity to Tobias’ father? If such things cannot be attributed to the Holy Spirit, then neither can the books in which they are found be called God’s Word.

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that Jesus essentially says “James is canonical” when he says “word is truth” (etc.) leading you to conclude that James should be included in the canon.

    You misrepresent and/or have ignored what I wrote in posts #158, 164, etc.). I won’t repeat myself here.

    Re: Jerome, you have made 2 poor assumptions: 1) that Jerome’s ecclesiastical obedience to his superiors implies that he also yielded his personal conviction that the deuteros were not part of the canon; and 2) that the whole Church required assent to Augustine’s canon in that era. Both are contradicted by the historical record, as I have cited previously.

    Re: EO, my statement was not that the RCC recognized multiple canons, but: “the Church has historically tolerated multiple canons (and still does, since the RCC still recognizes EO Churches).” In other words, EO Churches are part of the Church and they recognize canons that differ from the RCC; ergo, the Church universal recognizes multiple canons.

    I would still appreciate your answers to the following: Have I understood you correctly?
    1) You don’t think that statements like “Thy Word is truth” and “God cannot lie” apply to canonical books.
    2) You don’t accept that “the word of God” with confirming testimony is evidence of canonicity.
    3) You don’t accept that what Jesus and the apostles call “Scripture” is canonical.
    4) You believe that taking statements about books as “the word of God” and “Scripture” by Jesus, the OT prophets, and the apostles, to refer to canonical books amounts to exercising “fallible human judgment” over Scripture.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  221. Dear Joe,

    I well understand the reasons that the EO Churches are considered by the RCC to be part of the Church: apostolic succession being the chief one (yes, I’ve read Ratzinger’s Dominus Iesus). Those reasons do not change the fact that the universal Church, including EO Churches, uses multiple canons of Scripture.

    BTW – the Anglican Church considers its clergy to share in historic apostolic succession, notwithstanding Rome’s partisan rejection of their holy orders after England broke from Rome. It is interesting how later traditions have in certain circles superceded the truly “apostolic traditions” – those that can be traced to the apostles and the Church in their day – and the importance of abiding in the apostles’ teaching. As the early Church recognized, the label “Apostolic Church” belongs to those:

    “who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine.” Tertullian – The Prescription Against Heretics, 32.

    The test of an Apostolic Church (whether or not it could trace its origin to “apostolic men”) in the early Church was adherence to the regula fidei, a forerunner of the AD 325 Nicene Creed. The Anglican Church, like most other Protestant Churches subscribes to the doctrines codified by the Council of Nicea; so, both from historic laying on of hands traced to the apostles and teaching the doctrine of the apostles, the Anglican Church is no less apostolic than EO churches or any other “apostolic” Church.

    For Protestant observers, the RCC canon is just one example of the relativism that Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) decries in Dominus Iesus, because this canon was not taught by the apostles, but was introduced centuries later by a pagan convert to Christianity. The Protestant Reformers merely reclaimed the OT canon received from their Jewish founders, the Apostles, rather than accepting as “apostolic” a “tradition” started by Augustine four centuries later. Don’t get me wrong: Augustine was a great Christian teacher, and I appreciate many things that he wrote, but he was not infallible.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  222. I was going to spend a while responding to this item and have turned it over several times. Not coming from a Reformed/Presbyterian position, I realized that I did not need to respond to it under that circumstance, but was free to respond to it from a different perspective.

    My issue was that I would read the Scripture and it would say one thing, and my denomination (and a lot of others with similar and dissimilar theological positions) would say something else. The clear thrust of the words, no matter how difficult, were still clear, even if unwelcome in some quarters.

    The Last Supper in the Synoptics, John 6 and 1st Cor 12 were all clear about the Eucharist being Jesus’ Body and Blood, and importantly with Paul, even a deadly blasphemy if improperly taken. I could not figure out how one could blaspheme a symbol. However the reality of Jesus’ Presence in Bread and Wine was denied. As John 6 noted, “who could believe that?” (I could.)

    John 20:23 was clear about the forgiveness or retention of sin. I am a sinner in need of salvation. Yet this item was denied. I found I believed it but there was no one in my church able to apprehend it let alone bring it to me.

    The Sermon on the Mount appeared to give direction to service in imitation of God. Paul talked about running the race to the end. Paul talked about working out one’s salvation in fear and trembling. James talked about his faith being seen through his works. In Acts the apostles recognized the legitimate needs of the Greek-speaking Jews and founded the deacons to care for their needs. Jesus was clear about the value of even of cup of water being given to one of His own. The reality of faith and works as the two-bladed scissors that CS Lewis wrote about seemed clear to me. Yet, it was denied. But I believed that I needed to express my faith in action because faith without works is dead.

    Some people are very gifted. I am not so much gifted but it appeared to me that claiming Scripture as the realm of Protestantism realism – even recognizant of the huge differences within Protestantism – and then denying the reality of what is said puts a terrible crimp in that claim. No matter what was being said, someone had an aversion to it. Jesus said it therefore it could not be true. Wow!! How does one put one’s faith in that kind of a position? Or perhaps who was one putting one’s faith in?

    I wanted to know the truth and, having had the benefit of an amazing conversion, I assumed that what Scripture was telling me was true. I believed that the Angel of Death visited Egypt, sparing those whose door posts were marked by the blood of the lamb. I believed that Moses under God’s direction parted the Red Sea. I believed that Jesus made Lazarus rise from the dead. I believed that the water was changed to wine at a particular wedding. I believed that Jesus physically rose from the dead.

    I believed Jesus when, in John 6, a lot of His followers stopped following Him because of what He said. But the church I attended did not believe what He said, and I found it was more important to find the place where Jesus’ words were believed than it was to stay put. My own assumption is that it was grace that brought that recognition about, and grace that permitted me to find that place where Jesus’ words are believed.

    That determination was arrived at by lots and lots of prayer and lots and lots of reading. It did not matter what verbal gymnastics were used by whoever was avoiding the clear words coming out of Jesus’ mouth. What mattered to me was what Jesus was saying.

    He told me that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. Here I am, a Catholic, and the Catholic Church believes the words of Scripture which were so heavily militated against in the place where I was at.

    Thanks be to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

  223. Dear “Lojahw”,

    That’s too bad about pseudonyms.

    When I say I am discussing the validity of the very making of canon rules, I am referring to the entirety of my article on the Canon Question. What you quoted is one part of my critique of the Protestant position.

    My premise is not that “the capacity to err is power.” Rather, my premise is that, under the Protestant paradigm, power over the canon is power over Scripture. It is by this premise that Protestants levy one of their criticisms of the Catholic Church. I am arguing that Protestants do no better because they exercise a power over the canon. To help you with my quote, take out “necessary” and “spurious” — then you should get my meaning. If you have the power to craft rules of canonicity, you have the power to add or remove from Scripture, because an alteration of the criteria will alter the outcome.

    You say “You have been unable to…” I had just asked you not to use this rhetorical tool where I do not bear the burden of proof. Your #1 can be dismissed because it’s about particular criteria, not the making of criteria itself. Please re-read my # 218. Ditto for your #2 — the burden is not on me to show that your logic (about any one criterion) is wrong, but rather the burden is on you to demonstrate that you have the authority to set up rules of canonics. Ditto for your #3. If the burden were on me to show that you have not been preserved from error in your own making of a canon, you would be in an unassailable position from mere procedure of debate alone.

    Imagine a Church wherein we could each reach a conclusion about the canon, and the burden would be on others to prove our conclusions to be wrong!

    You said:

    You assert that fallible human judgment is incapable of recognizing the canon based on what Scripture reveals about itself.

    No, I said that if one uses one’s judgment to determine the canon, one has exercised power over the canon, which is an exercise of power over Scripture itself. I have deep gratitude for the power of reason given by God to man, so do believe that we can reach some right conclusions about Scripture through the use of our reason, our fallen state notwithstanding. But ultimately, because of our fallen state, to reach consensus in truth, we depend necesarrily upon the operation of the Holy Spirit. I think this is irrefutable for the Reformed frame. If anything, given their theological emphasis on man’s depravity, the Reformed should not even accept that human reason can reach any truth on the canon by use of reason apart from a necessary particular grace.

    You disagree that Jerome’s obedience to his superiors would entail (“imply”) a yielding of his personal conviction on a matter of scholarly opinion. What does obedience look like if not that one would obey in an instance where one’s opinion is contrary to that of the superior? I’m puzzled how it is that my ‘assumption’ was a poor one.

    I do not believe the Church required assent to Augustine’s opinion at that time. Re-read what I said, especially my analogy about the Catholic scientist. You will see that I say an obedient Catholic who holds a later-contradicted opinion can hardly be said not to be a faithful Catholic. We can hardly say he disagreed with the Catholic faith, but at the same time we are not obliged to accept his opinion as an accurate expression of the Catholic faith.

    Re: the Orthodox views on canonics, your restatement is precisely what I criticized. You create a figment when you discuss “the Church universal” and by that mean that the Catholic Church tolerates the canonical views of the separated eastern brethren.

    Re: your list of questions, action-packed with implications about my beliefs, but rather which seemed aimed at drawing me out to argue your particular canonical rules, instead of your ability to make rules (which is my thesis, you’ll kindly note):
    1) It doesn’t sound like you’ve understood me correctly. That those statements apply to the canonical books is beside the point. The point is that you are exercising power over the canon when you decide based on these descriptions of attributes of canonicty which books belong in the canon.
    2) Again, it doesn’t sound like you’ve understood me correctly. Some Scripture describing itself or other parts of Scripture as “the word of God” — with or without other corroborating evidence — is “evidence of canonicty.” My point is that you can’t reach conclusions from mere evidence without exercising power over the canon, which is an exercise of power over Scripture.
    3) Again, you have me wrong. Assuming He means by “Scripture” what we mean by the word “Scripture” today, what Jesus has truly called Scripture is Scripture. But you can’t get to “James [etc.] is canonical” without at least two very critical intervening exercises of human judgment. (1) You would need grounds for infallible certainty that Christ actually made the statement (without an impermissible a priori acceptance of a book as canonical), and (2) you would need to show that you weren’t trading in an equivocation (i.e., the word-meaning fallacy).
    4) I’m not sure if you have me right or wrong, because I’m not sure what you mean. If you mean that I believe that those evidences of canonicity do not let you conclude “James [etc.] is canonical” without an intervening exercise of human judgment, then you’ve got me right.

    “Lojahw”, I think we’ve made no progress since you came back for more discussion after my giving you the last word. As I said in my previous comment, “We will not stop talking past each other until we can both understand that this article and my argument are about the making of canon rules, not the validity of any proposed rule.” I have invested substantial time in this effort with you, and regret that we have not been able to meet on a substantive level. I am in a season in life where I am preparing for a lengthy deployment into a combat zone, and have just had family friends lose their husband/father in an automobile accident. So I am keenly sensitive to how little time we have in life. I can’t keep expending mine talking in circles with you. If you want to discuss the making of canon rules, the topic of my article, I am here to discuss. If you want to score points or argue about the validity of your own canon rules proper, I still do not believe this is the proper forum.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  224. Dear Donald,

    Thank you for sharing at CtC! Your words were very encouraging, and I recommend them to all of our readers. I especially liked this: ” I could not figure out how one could blaspheme a symbol. ” I think Calvin and Luther realized this tension, as you can see in their efforts at seeking a via media between the Zwinglians and the Catholics.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  225. Lohjaw,

    I well understand the reasons that the EO Churches are considered by the RCC to be part of the Church: apostolic succession being the chief one (yes, I’ve read Ratzinger’s Dominus Iesus). Those reasons do not change the fact that the universal Church, including EO Churches, uses multiple canons of Scripture.

    Right. So, you agree then, that not strictly adhering to the Catholic canon is not the reason why an ecclessial community is not called a Church. The reasons are a detatchment from traditional Christian teaching, primarily (because it is foundational) because of a lack of traceable Apostolic Succession and, therefore, an inability to effect the Sacraments. But also because a complete denial of or an incomplete view of the efficacy and reality of the Sacraments… a denial of Apostolic truth and teaching. That handles the irrelevant argument you posited in regards to multiple canons for Christian churches (not ecclessial communities; ‘churches’ being understood in their proper sense).

    As for your rendering of what it means to be “Apostolic”. Your argument is not new, nor can it be proven. If you’re saying that the Church got their interpretation of “Apostolic” wrong by the time the Nicene Creed was composed at the Council, then we need to sound the alarm and have all Presbyterians stop reciting the Creed immediately. At least you are being intellectually honest by making this implication, but that intellectual honesty needs to be followed through with action. The one way to come to speaking issues like these are to be forthright, and by admitting that the Council Fathers who composed the Nicene Creed inserted their incorrect understanding of “Apostolic” into the Creed, we are actually entering new ground in dialogue.

    You cite Tertullian to support your claim that Council’s rendering of “Apostolic” was wrong. But surely you realize that Tertullian had more than just that quotation on the topic. Surely you must also know that there were men such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, taught by a disciple of the Apostles, one generation set apart from the Apostles themselves, who rather clearly defined “Apostolic” on Catholic and E/O terms… and it appears nothing like the argument you’re intending to make based off of your understanding of what Tertullian meant in that one quotation.

    As far as the Anglicans, it’s much more complex than what you’ve described here. So, I don’t think I need to treat it very much. Let’s just say, in a similar fashion as your use of Tertullian’s quotation, you are trying to view a complex situation through one dimension to make your argument stick, but that isn’t being as honest as you could be if you’d do a bit more research. I’m not here to teach you though. I’m just trying to illustrate how your arguments are either irrelevant to Tom’s article or they are illogical (based off of fragmented data), or both. I really think it would be wonderful if the conversation turned to what Tom has in his article.

    God bless,
    Joe Palmer

  226. Hi Tom,

    I think we’ve made no progress since you came back for more discussion after my giving you the last word.

    I think that, by Lowjah implying that the Council Fathers “got it wrong” on the term “Apostolic” in the Nicene Creed, we have made some progress. It’s the first I’ve heard from a Reformed Christian that the Nicene Creed contains language that is incongruent with authentic Christianity. Don’t you agree? Usually the debate is that Catholics and E/O misunderstand the meaning of “Apostolic” in the Nicene Creed, thus it is impossible to discuss it properly with them because they are applying and holding to their own foreign interpretation of it. Lowjah’s intellectual honesty on that part is a breakthrough, I believe.

  227. Dear Donald,
    You wrote: “The clear thrust of the words, no matter how difficult, were still clear, even if unwelcome in some quarters.”
    Related to this combox, the words “Scripture” and “the word of the Lord” attributed to books in the canon seem not to have a “clear thrust.” Why not?

    Are you aware that the RCC is not the only Church to recognize the “real presence” of Christ, and that transubstantiation is not the only possible way to understand the “real presence”? And what hermeneutic rule requires that Christ’s words in the particular passages you refer must be taken literally whereas in so many other cases Jesus uses figures of speech (e.g., “I am the door” and “I am the vine”)? How do you understand John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Is “comes to Me” a metaphor for “eats” and is “believes in” a metaphor for “drinks My blood”? When you read John 6 in context it is clear that Jesus is not talking about the Last Supper, but about people believing in Him. In verse 63 Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” If Jesus’ words are life, how then can you say that people who do not literally eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood “have no life”? The “disciples” who withdrew (v. 66) were those who did not believe – i.e., they did not believe that Jesus came down from heaven, that “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life,” etc.

    Moreover, do you understand what the Council of Chalcedon (the Fourth Ecumenical Council) decreed about Christ’s “two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation”? In other words, since Christ’s body retained all the properties of mortal human flesh, it was not possible in the Last Supper for his flesh and blood at the last supper to be invisibly transferred into the bread and wine that he held in his hands. It always amazes me how many RCC converts refer to this single interpretation of Scripture as the reason for their conversion, yet they don’t mind that other RCC dogmas contradict the “clear thrust of the words” of Scripture (e.g., Genesis 3:15, veneration of images – note Micah 5:13 in the context of Messianic prophecy, etc.).

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  228. Dear Joe,

    Re: the “Apostolic Church” & multiple canons, you’re forgetting that EO Churches use canons differing from yours. My argument works even without Protestants in the mix. There never has been a single canon agreed to by all authorities in the universal Church.

    You wrote:

    If you’re saying that the Church got their interpretation of “Apostolic” wrong by the time the Nicene Creed was composed at the Council, then we need to sound the alarm and have all Presbyterians stop reciting the Creed immediately.

    You misunderstood me, Joe. I didn’t say that the Church got their interpretation of “Apostolic” wrong when the Council added the last section of the Creed, but that your current interpretation is debatable. The council that added the words “apostolic church” left no official records explaining what they meant. Do you disagree that the Apostolic Church is the Church founded by the apostles, and that it continues in the teaching of the apostles? This is what Presbyterians understand the Creed to mean – the same as Tertullian.

    You seem to confuse Ignatius of Antioch with Irenaeus, who not only wrote about apostolic succession, but also wrote: “For it is unlawful to assert that they [the apostles] preached before they possessed “perfect knowledge,” as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles.” Since no Church father in the first four centuries ever claimed the 44 books in Augustine’s late fourth century OT canon, those who use Augustine’s canon present themselves as “improvers of the apostles.”

    You dismiss the Anglican claims to apostolic succession as being “complex” – well, yes, history is complex. That same history challenges your simple trust in apostolic succession. Do you have any idea how many bishops who claimed apostolic succession were Arian heretics? Trusting in procedures and “pedigrees” rather than the substance of the faith is foolish. The Apostolic Church is the Church founded by the apostles, which continues in their apostolic teaching.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  229. Dear Tom,
    Your equivocations obscure things.
    The RCC Magisterium’s claim of unique authority to interpret Scripture differs from the canon question; comparing that to the Protestants’ canon doesn’t follow.
    Also, since the canon itself is not Scripture, your assertion “power over the canon” = “power over Scripture” is debatable.

    You keep ignoring the fact that a large part the canon was explicitly identified by the founders of the Church. Protestants have accepted all the books explicitly identified by the founders (e.g., Christ, the prophets and the apostles) as canonical (e.g., as Scripture and/or “the word of God”), so there is no basis for your charge that Protestants exert “power over the canon” with respect to most of the canon. Furthermore, you have failed to show any case where the founders of the Church ever used the term “scripture” and phrases like “God said” for referents of questionable canonicity – hence, your argument is empty.

    Moreover, Scripture (not Protestants) provides the rules of canoncity; e.g., “All Scripture is God-breathed” and “God cannot lie” and “Thy Word is truth,” etc. Since Protestants did not make up these rules, and the entire contents of the Protestant canon are accepted by the universal Church the question of human judgment unaided by the Holy Spirit is limited to those books omitted for which there is no consensus.

    With respect to those disputed books, it is ironic that you bring up the role of the Holy Spirit in discerning the canon, yet you accept a canon wherein the authors and angels openly lie about their identity (e.g., the Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, and Tobit), wherein suicide is considered “noble” (2 Maccabees), wherein Nebuchadnezzar is erroneously identified as ruling the Assyrians from Nineveh (Judith), and wherein women are overtly denigrated (Sirach). Why do you attribute such things to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Truly God-breathed Scripture reflects His nature and character; but your canon includes books that have the attributes of ordinary, fallible, human books. Scripture teaches that: God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2); suicide is shameful (1 Sam. 31:4-5; Matt. 27:5); the Holy Spirit is not the spirit of error (1 John 4:6); and God blesses male and female alike (Gen. 5:1-2; 1 Cor. 11:7-12; 1 Pet. 3:7).

    Given your canon, it is understandable that you would think that human judgment cannot tell the difference between canonical and non-canonical books.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  230. Dear “Lojahw”,

    It appears you still do not “want to discuss the making of canon rules, the topic of my article,” or cannot escape what feels like verbatim repetition, so I am going to stick with the last paragraph of my #223. I thought you could do better. I don’t “keep ignoring” anything. That’s combative language. You would do better here just to point out the deficiencies you see in arguments. Your “you have failed to show” is exceedingly off-putting. I’ve asked you a number of times not to use such tricks when I do not bear the onus probandi. The argument you find empty is, as I have already said, one I did not make. I presented a hypothetical you refused to answer. If you refuse to conform to some basic ground rules of civil discourse, please do not continue to comment.

    It is interesting that you think the canon (i.e., scope) of Scripture is not Scripture.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  231. Lojahw,

    Regarding Since no Church father in the first four centuries ever claimed the 44 books in Augustine’s late fourth century OT canon, those who use Augustine’s canon present themselves as “improvers of the apostles.”

    You have claimed many times that “Augustine’s canon” in the “late fourth century” was an innovation which swayed the Church’s teaching on the canon due to his great stature. Yet the two most important mostly-complete biblical manuscripts that are extant–the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus–both contain deuterocanonical books, and these codices are from the _mid 300s_ when, if I recall correctly, Augustine was but a young lad and far from even his conversion to Christ.

    So your implication that St. Augustine came up with this (deuterocanonical-containing) canon and swayed the rest of the Church with it is false. The deuterocanonical books are found in the earliest mostly-complete biblical manuscripts we possess, which precede Augustine.

    This is a small point, and one that doesn’t help to get to Tom’s actual argument (which you have not addressed), but since you persist in making this erroneous implication it needs to be corrected so others realize that Augustine didn’t come up with this canon “in the late fourth century.”

  232. Lojahw,

    Thank you.

    The idea behind this thread is “by what criterion do we know which texts comprise the Bible?”

    Tim Brown does an excellent job of examining the various ideas behind “scripture.”

    I came at it from a different direction, lacking the precision of Luther or Calvin, although I managed to read them, and compare what they did with what they said. I read the scriptures, thought that they had to be relatively self-explanatory for the average person, and found arguments such as those you present in 227 above. The arguments I found were either specious or had no bearing on what I was reading and asking.

    Genesis 14:18. Then Melchisedec, the king of Salem, bought out bread and wine, for he was a priest of the Most High God.

    Genesis 22:8. Abraham replied, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”

    Exodus 12 notes the Passover ritual. Each family must procure an unblemished lamb. The night of the Passover the lamb was to be eaten.

    Exodus 16:15: But Moses told them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat” in regard to the manna in the desert on the way to the promised land.

    In Psalm 110:4. The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: You are a priest of the order of Melchisedec.

    My argument was that my church did not recognize the clear intent of Scripture. Given your response, you did not recognize it either. That was what drove me to search. That is why I read Luther, Calvin and more than I now remember. It is why I read a history of the Scripture. How did Scripture get to me? Now I have it, how am I to understand it? Acts 9:34-40 is a pretty accurate description of how it was to be seen. The apostle taught the Ethiopian by opening the Scripture (in this case the old testament) to him.

    When I read the synoptics on the Last Supper, I saw John’s gospel. When I read Paul’s note in 1 Cor 11, I saw the synoptics and John’s gospel. I saw something else as well. Jesus was not offering a bargain, He was stating a fact. “Take and eat, this is My Body.” And taking a cup, He gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, “All of you drink of this; for this is My Blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

    That appeared to me to be no different than John 6:54. “Amen, amen, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life within you. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has life everlasting, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    He finished up by noting, “Does this scandalize you?”

    1st Corinthians 11 finds Paul correcting people who unworthily take communion. He notes “therefore whoever eats this bread or takes this cup unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Such a person eats and drinks judgment to himself. Paul is describing blasphemy.

    The thrust of scripture from Genesis and Exodus into the Psalm is that something stupendous is happening. There are bits and pieces of a not yet complete picture. Hints of something wondrous and amazing beyond comprehension. Those things involve a priest, a meal of bread and wine, a Passover meal of an unblemished lamb which is intended to be eaten, and manna – food for a journey to the promised land. They are the frame of the picture for a Priest, a Passover of the unblemished Lamb of God Who is the meal of Bread and Wine intended to be consumed which is the supernatural food for the journey to the supernatural Promised Land. Body and blood, soul and divinity is the Catholic description of that Meal. It meets the criteria set up by scripture but then the ultimate Author of scripture is Himself fulfilling what He moved His apostles and prophets to write so it should fulfill that criteria.

    Tim’s attempt to determine what criterion needs to be determined to know which texts comprise the Bible is exemplified above. What we are required to understand is “wrong criterion, wrong interpretation.”

    Nicolai Grundtvig, a Swedish Lutheran theologian (1783-1872) wrote that scripture is not the foundation of faith. “I have discovered a truth; we do not discover the Church in Scripture, we discover the Scripture in the Church.” What Grundtvig discovered was Lutheranism in the Scripture. (Two Centuries of Ecumenism, George Tavard, page 27)

    But what did Luther discover? Luther wanted to lose James because James contravened Luther’s position on faith (which was found not only denying good works but also found purchase in Luther’s idea of communion involving the faith of the congregation, aka consubstantiation). Since we are looking at the who behind the canon, Luther wanted to kill off a couple of books. James who notes that faith without works is dead, ran contrary to Luther’s interpretation of Paul who wrote “you are saved by faith through grace, and not by works lest any man boast.” Luther would have dumped James ‘epistle of straw’ if he could have gotten away with it as well as the apocalypse.

    The beginning of this article is much more proficient on Calvin than I will ever be. It stands on its own.

    What I wrote was quite clear. My intent was to note that my previous denomination was adversarial in regard to large swathes of scripture. In fairness, they were the offshoot of an offshoot of an offshoot and had adopted ideas like the 66-book bible from others. That particular issue of how they got the 66-book bible did not vex them into any kind of examination of “why” or “how” they got it. They loved Luther as long as they were not required to follow him in any meaningful way.

    What passes for the “real presence” in other churches was something I was aware of. My Episcopal friends are able to see the Eucharist as a symbol or as the real presence, with no definition of what either “real” or “presence” means. It means whatever they decide it means.

    A Presbyterian with whom I was in a bible study would prepare himself for communion. He saw it as a symbol, which would appear to be something different than how Calvin saw it.

    However, the authority to confect the sacrament was given to the same people who determined the canon. I read about the Pentecost after the Ascension, and about the rabbis in 99AD. I understood who had the authority (and responsibility) to determine the canon and who did not. I understand that there were both very good books or letters and very bad books or letters which were reviewed. Many good items were rejected not due to content but due to authorship. The people Jesus entrusted with the authority used it, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to determine the canon of the Church. No burning bosoms, no individual inspiration of the Holy Spirit confirming “my” decision. No new books of scripture, ala the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrines and Covenants, etc.

    While I came from a different location than the principals of this site, we arrived at a common destination and we were all able to recognize it as the destination we were looking for.

    You asked what hermeneutic rule requires that Christ’s words in the particular passages I referred to must be taken literally? I am a son of the Church that Jesus founded on the apostles. Those whose task it is to interpret scripture properly have the obligation of bringing me the Truth which the Holy Spirit Who guides the Church brings to light. In the case of the Eucharist, I arrived at the right interpretation and discovered those whose job it is to get specific had done so long before I ever was graced to handle the answer to that question, and they did it both better and more fully than me. (It was part of de-poping myself. I no longer had to be the authority for all things in and of Christ. Truthfully, it was never my job in the first place, or the second place. I only had to agree and, moved by grace, put it into practice.)

    Did I see that where I was? A bit here and there. Yet the big things were obscured or avoided, ala the Eucharist and the value of human life made in God’s image and likeness.

    Augustine reminds us that ubi Petri, ibi ecclesiam (where Peter is, there is the Church). Peter is in Rome. Me too. Hard row to get there. Worth everything.

  233. Dear Devin,
    You don’t seem to understand the difference between a codex and a canon. The codices you refer to are collections of Judeo-Christian literature, and every codex included different books. Moreover, no codex prior to Augustine included all of 44 of the books in his canon; nor did any codex within centuries after Augustine conform exactly to his canon. A canon is a “rule” that defines a list of books of “like authority.” The canons of the church fathers were lists of books that they considered divinely authoritative for the church; and none one of the canons before Augustine came even close to listing 44 books. Have you forgotten that Luther’s Bible included all the books listed by the Council of Trent, but Luther identified only 66 of them as “canonical”? A collection does not define a canon, rather, the canon defines how one views the books in any given collection.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  234. Dear Tom,
    From your post, it appears that we are simply not able to communicate with each other. You assert that the any use of human judgment with respect to the canon amounts to exercising power over Scripture; I explained why I don’t think that’s true and I’ve asked in what way does human judgment exercise authority over Scripture in this case? It doesn’t look like we’ve made any progress understanding each other.

    Your response to my point about equivocation is just an example of how we are talking past each other.

    It is interesting that you think the canon (i.e., scope) of Scripture is not Scripture.

    I agree that the canon can refer to both the scope/extent and the substance of Scripture, but scope is not the same as substance. Rather than prolong the frustration between us, I’ll bow out.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  235. Hi Tom,

    At the end of section D you write, “Either the Church has authority to reach binding doctrinal conclusions, such as the extent of the canon, or it lacks this authority across the board, and thus cannot make any binding determination on the canon.” Are you summarizing Ridderbos’ line of thinking with this statement and if so, in what sense is it a ‘logical error’?

    Thanks

  236. Dear Casey,

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

    I think the conclusion I reached is reachable directly from Ridderbos’s writing on this topic; he was not an advocate of the position I critiqued in subsection D. To understand better the dichotomy you quoted, consider a little more this statement I also made:

    It would be ad hoc to claim that the “church” infallibly established the canon through widespread acceptance while otherwise being unable to arrive at any infallible conclusions, without a principled basis for affirming infallibility in the one case and denying it in all others.

    Any possibilities besides the dichotomy I gave would be subject to this ad hoc criticism. I’m curious, is this a theory for the canon for which you would advocate, and if so, do you believe that my dichotomy was false?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  237. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the clarification. I think your dichotomy is valid; I was just having some difficulty following your argument. Personally, I would place myself in the same camp as St. Augustine as one induced by the authority of the Church to believe the Gospel.

    Great article.

  238. […] “By what criterion do we know which texts comprise the Bible?” I encourage you to read this wonderful article at Called to Communion. It is quite long but does a thorough job of explaining the problem and how […]

  239. […] […]

  240. […] if the authority of the Catholic Church had not induced me to do so." (contra. ep fund. V, 6). The Canon Question | Called to Communion So all are loved, yes, but all should come home to the catholic church which is firmly rooted in […]

  241. Can’t one be warranted in the correctness in the Canon by mere religious experience plus the use of reason.

    First part, religious experience. For example, I have prayed to the God of the Bible and religious experience confirms that the God I just prayed to has in fact responded to my prayers. Then, as a result of this religious experience, I am inclined to think that there is something special about this book. In fact, I think that this book must be connected with the One True God. I eventually think that this book is divinely inspired.

    Second part, I use reason. Then I hear the objection that other religions also use subjective experience as a basis for asserting the divine quality of their text. I know that I too am using this basis, but it doesn’t seem like an altogether bad reason for such a belief. However, I reasonably come to think that subjective experience cannot be the only basis- so I use my reason to assess the claims of the Christian religion versus the claims of other religions. Reasons leads me to the Christian religion. Therefore, I stick with my beliefs about the Bible.

    I am not Catholic, but I do consider myself a Christian. Therefore, I hold no view of an infallible teaching authority. I am asked why I believe in the correctness of the Canon when historically it had to be decided upon by the Church, and the decision could be fallible since the Church (on my view) is fallible in it’s own teaching capacity. And my reply would be: I believe in the correctness of the Canon for reasons that do not make reference to an infallible teaching authority- like religious experience (which led me to believe that the source of this book was in fact divine) and the use of reason (which affirmed my previous belief, and my philosophical assessment of the claims of other religions which showed me that I could not in good conscience believe them). Is there reason to think that these two claims would not be enough to warrant belief in the correctness of the Canon?

    I am actually a Catholic, and I think that there are biblical reasons for thinking that God in fact established One True Church with the ability to teach infallibly (the Roman Catholic Church), and Biblical reasons for thinking that Sola Scriptura is false (the falsity of Sola Scriptura would follow from the truth of God’s having established One True Church with an infallible teaching magisterial authority). . However, the reasons/objections being discussed here and in the other forums seem to be largely philosophical ones, and I have not yet found them to be very convincing- though this might be just because I do not understand them (which I’m okay with, and welcome correction of my understanding).

    Best,
    Mark

  242. […] Called to Communion: The Canon Question, by Tom Brown […]

  243. Mark (#241)

    To make sure I’m understanding you correctly, you are saying (with some questions for clarification):

    Religious experience can lead me to the truth of the Bible (Protestant/Catholic)?

    Reason can get you to the truth of Christianity versus other religions?

    At this point I am going off of experience and reason. Can I conclude that all Muslims, Jews, and Buddhist either (1) lack the appropriate religious experience or (2) are be unreasonable?

    At this point, I am not holding to a belief in the Canon but a belief in God (in general–which motivates my prayer to the “God” of the Bible to begin with) Jesus Christ found in the Scriptures, and believe that it is more reasonable to believe these things than any other faith.

    Okay, that seems all right (even despite my question about other faiths). However, what I don’t have is any basis qua canons to distinguish between various versions of the Canon. It would not be within reason to argue that let’s say my Gideon’s N.T. is all I need because that is the book I was holding when I was praying (that book will reference other books that are not found in it). What if, per accidens, I was holding a Jehovah’s Witness Bible and read only a passage in the N.T. (like St. Augustine’s “tolle, lege“). It also doesn’t answer the question regarding the books of the Bible in the Catholic O.T. versus Protestant O.T. Lastly, this method would only work post-canon, but how does this work for a 1-4th century Christian?

    No, once I’ve established the two premises you have put forth, I then need to determine how I can determine which canon is correct. I could hold each canon and pray and ask God, “Tell me which one is it?”, but that doesn’t seem reasonable. In fact, as I look carefully at the way my Bible is put together, I notice that there is an organizational structure that is extrinsic to the text itself. In other words, the chapters, versus, and order of the books have a pedagogical purpose. Who is doing that? Hmmmm….
    This query will inevitably lead me into a study of history, and also a careful reading of the Bible itself (just in case it gives the answer). Besides the “table of contents”, I see no evidence in the text that the Scripture references the Canon specifically. So, I have to find out where it came from. I do notice in Scripture the establishment of a Church, and witness the Church pronouncing what the canon is.

    At this point, I can either (1) trust the Church and implicitly or explicitly accept her teaching authority to do so or (2) I can reject her authority and accept the canon ad hoc, but I stated that I wanted to be guided by reason so (2) is untenable. The other option would be to find another canon defined by another church, but this could lead me back to reasonably exclude their claims (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestant canon) an ahistorical or incoherent grounds. Which leaves me with (1).

  244. “Religious experience can lead me to the truth of the Bible (Protestant/Catholic)?”- no, what I’m saying is this, praying to the God of the Bible (God as described in the Bible) resulted in a religious experience. This religious experience loosely leads me to thinking that there is something really special about this book- afterall, If the God I prayed to (the one described in the Bible) really did respond to me, then I must at least think that the God that this book talks about actually exists, and that this book probably correctly describes Him. So, I think that these books are inspired, and have no warranted attitude about the possibility of other inspired books, suppose I have not thought about it until I came onto CTC.

    “Reason can get you to the truth of Christianity versus other religions?”- No, but reason can probably show some other religions to be false, just because they make claims which can be shown false by the use of reason. Christianity does not propose anything which can be shown false by use of reason.

    But, then somebody asks me why I believe that these books are inspired, and I say what I have just said above. But then they ask, ‘but it was decided by persons at some point, and you think these persons are fallible right?’. I’ll say yes, and then he’ll say, ‘well then, there might be more inspired books. And I’ll say sure, ‘I never said I couldn’t be wrong, I just said that I have reason to believe that these books are inspired’. And when you ask me why I believe that ‘these’ books are inspired, I will re-explain the religous experience/reason scenario. BUT then you will ask for some strong basis for discriminating inspired from non-inspired, and I will remind you that I have done no such discrimination. Again, I never heard such challenges until just now, so I have something like a ‘privelege of the naive starting position’.

    [I am being a bit loose here, and am not proposing a sort of deductive reasoning. I think I am describing something closer to inferential warrant. ]

    MAYBE what I have said so far has the strange consequence of making it look like, form what I have said so far, that a person will have warrant for believing in the inspiration of whatever ‘first collection’ of books they happen to run into. And maybe that’s a reason for thinking that this is the wrong way to go about it, but I am just trying to follow my philosophical conscience here, and that is why I am asking honest questions. There are probably lots of other considerations bearing on this issue that I don’t understand, on the epistemological situation and what not, and I am open to discussing them.

    ALSO, maybe the introduction of the historical situation introduces a rational duty on me to decide between versions of collections of books. This actually looks plausible, but I’m not quite sure how to spell it out. Maybe someone on here might help get this philosophical discussion going.

    Best,
    Mark

  245. Mark,

    Thanks for your comments:

    Are you arguing for a type of invincible ignorance for a belief in the canon of books I happen to be holding when I have (1) a religious experience and (2) reason confirms that experience? That’s fine, but I think you are describing a position that becomes less invincible as time goes on. In fact, it sounds a lot like the issues in the early church where churches had parts of the canon or even non-canonical texts (1 Clement) which necessitated the Church action in closing and defining the canon.

    I would imagine in (2), there would be some analysis of the historical claims of Christianity (birth of Christ, death, resurrection, etc.) This would inevitably lead to questions about the nature of the Bible itself in comparing it to the Koran, Buddhist texts, etc. Your invincible ignorance seems less plausible from what we might expect as a reasonable analysis of the claims of Christianity would entail in (2). To which you said,

    ALSO, maybe the introduction of the historical situation introduces a rational duty on me to decide between versions of collections of books.

    Given that you are grounding your belief in the activities in (2) it would seem highly unlikely that you would not encounter any evidence that would introduce a “rational duty” on your part to decide between version of the canon.

    God bless.

  246. Brent,

    I don’t think (2) would necessarily require any special sort of serous thinking about the nature of the Bible. If I found these books, and they talked about a God who saves, and I prayed, and had the religious experience, then wouldn’t I be justified in just believing that these books were divinely inspired- this seems reasonable.

    If by , ‘becomes less invincible as time goes on’, you mean that the person is going to have some rational duty to compare versions of the Canon once they are more ‘informed’ about the historical situation (the existence of competing claims about which books are inspired/uninspired), then I think I agree. After being ‘informed’, to just go ahead and choose to stick with the first collection they happened to run into without considering the possibility that theirs is wrong, seems unreasonable.

    However, this person would not be irrational in sticking with their Canon (nor did you say they would be), if they stick with their Canon simply because they find no reason to stick with any other. Afterall it was this set of books (and not that set) which led to this religious experience. It’s not as though one can return to the pre-conversion state and start all over.

    The important thing I wanted to point out was this: it looks like I have inferrential warrant for belief that this set of books is divinely inspired, and I have it without some Canon theory. HOWEVER, I think that this warrant is seriously changed when the person becomes ‘informed’ of the historical situation as I said above.

    I just wanted to bring some clarity to the philosophical aspects of this discussion.

    Best,
    Mark

  247. Mark,

    I had noticed your question/suggestion here had gone unnoticed, and I thought it was an interesting position. Since your position is philosophical, examining the argument closely is important. You originally said,

    However, I reasonably come to think that subjective experience cannot be the only basis- so I use my reason to assess the claims of the Christian religion versus the claims of other religions. Reasons leads me to the Christian religion.

    I’m still unclear as to what this looks like. Would you mind clarifying? If you aren’t interested in discussing this further that is fine, but I thought it would be interesting, relevant to the thread, and maybe helpful to someone who has struggled with the same question/issue and reads through the comments.

    Peace

  248. Brent,

    (Re: 247)

    I just thought that if we were going to point out the necessity of some Canon theory, then we should point out the context where it would be required. What I have tried to show is that it doesn’t necessarily come up for anybody who believes that some set of books is divinely inspired- b/c the lack of some propositional attitude about a Canon theory does not make it the case that they have no inferential warrant for believing that some set of books is divinely inspired. And believing that some set of books is divinely inspired doesn’t count as a Canon theory in any robust sense, I think.

    Example:
    The inferential warrant would have two sources, religious experience and use of reason. There are probably a thousand ways this could go, but let’s just imagine how it might go. Take Mark, who is a protestant (I am actually Roman Catholic). Mark hears about these books that alot of people think are divinely inspired. Somebody gives him a copy of these books (he get’s the Protestant set of books), he reads them, and then he decides to pray to Jesus, whom the book says is God. Suppose he has joy and peace in his soul that has no natural cause- it is supernaturally caused. From this he thinks, ‘wow, God just totally responded to my prayers. I bet there is something right about these books- afterall, I prayed to Jesus, and I got a response. So Jesus is probably God just as these books say He is. Wait a minute…what if these books are partially right. Well, actually no, that doesn’t seem right…well, it’s not the case that I have supernatural reason to doubt the truth of these books (religious experience only works in their favor), but what about natural reasons to doubt these books. Do these books make any claims that are contrary to reason. (Mark does some studying apologetics) O look, actually the Bible is totally in line with rational thinking, and actually rationality sort of points me toward Christianity. (Also, mark has seen that some other religions seem to propose things which reason has shown to be false). Good rational study of the human condition actually makes it look like Christianity has the right sorts of answers to the most important questions in life, and it fuflills all the deepest desires that man has always had.

    Analysis:
    Now at the end of all this, there is Mark, and he has these beliefs. One of those beliefs is that this set of books is divinely inspired. He has this belief, and he does not have any belief about Canon theories. This person would have knowledge that this set of books is divinely inspired. Afterall he is justified. He does believe it. And it is true, these books ARE divinely inspired. (imagine for the moment that he has not robust irrevocable opinion about the inspiration of some other books). So it looks like he has knowledge of the divine inspiration of books without having any Canon theory.

    Example 2:
    Now suppose that instead, he had initially run into the Catholic Canon (the full canon, I believe). It seems that he would have the same sort of warrant, and the same sort of knowledge. BUT, the content of his warrant would be different and of his knowledge would be different, BECAUSE there would be more books.

    The Question:
    I think that the important question is this: at which point does one need a Canon theory? When does one become subject to some rational duty to compare versions of the Canon. And how exactly does this work out? Is it okay if I just stick with my version, if I find no positive support for your Canon? After all, it was this set of books, and not that one, which led to my religious experience. I said earlier that this might give us the ‘strange’ consequence of making it the case that each person should go with (at least initially) the first version of the Canon they happen to run into. And that might be a reason for rejecting it, but that is worth discussing in some detail.

    Best,
    Mark

  249. Mark:

    You write:

    Now at the end of all this, there is Mark, and he has these beliefs. One of those beliefs is that this set of books is divinely inspired. He has this belief, and he does not have any belief about Canon theories. This person would have knowledge that this set of books is divinely inspired. Afterall he is justified. He does believe it. And it is true, these books ARE divinely inspired. (imagine for the moment that he has not robust irrevocable opinion about the inspiration of some other books). So it looks like he has knowledge of the divine inspiration of books without having any Canon theory.

    If one defines ‘knowledge’ as ‘justified true belief’ and leaves things at that, your analysis is sound enough. But as I’m sure you know, that definition runs into Gettier problems. A strong criterion of justification is needed to “de-gettierize” the definition of knowledge as justified true belief.

    Thus, e.g., I define ‘knowledge’ as believing a true factual statement, where a TFS is a statement P it would be unreasonable to deny, because there is a reliable method M for verifying P, and M has been used (by somebody) to verify P. By that definition of knowledge, your hypothetical Mark can have a well-founded opinion that the Protestant canon is what conservative Protestants say it is, but not knowledge to that effect. That’s because there is no consensual method in revealed theology, as distinct from the formal and empirical sciences, for distinguishing between well-founded opinions and articles of faith. On my account, the latter would indeed be truths about what the apostolic deposit of faith contains, but they can only qualify as knowledge of said deposit if their verification by a reliable M consists in their backing by infallible ecclesial authority. Even then, their truth in themselves, as distinct from their truly expressing the apostolic deposit, can only be apprehended by the assent of faith, not of knowledge.

    Best,
    Mike

  250. Mike,
    (Re: 249)

    I know about the Gettier problems, I definitely should have been careful about mentioning knowledge. You’re formulation of knowledge is interesting, and I will have to do some thinking about it, but maybe I can try and understand some of your comments without totally understanding that theory. You’re short paragraph is a bit loaded, so let me try and understand.

    “That’s because there is no consensual method in revealed theology, as distinct from the formal and empirical sciences, for distinguishing between well-founded opinions and articles of faith.

    Firstly, what do you mean when you say- there is no consensual method in revealed theology for distinguishing between well-founded opinions and articles of faith. The distinction between ‘well-founded opinions’ and ‘articles of faith’, is one I’m not sure how to cash out for my hypothetical Mark example. How it’s cashed out for someone in his position might be different from, what someone else means by those terms and who does not have a basically protestant paradigm. For example, for Mark, it might mean the difference between things which are obviously deducible from Scripture and things which can be reasonably inferred.

    “On my account, the latter would indeed be truths about what the apostolic deposit of faith contains, but they can only qualify as knowledge of said deposit if their verification by a reliable M consists in their backing by infallible ecclesial authority.”

    I’m not sure what the ‘latter’ is. I’m not exactly sure why ‘backing by an infallible ecclesial authority’ should be a requirement for P’s being a suitable candidate for the content of knowledge (in revealed religious truths).

    “Even then, their truth in themselves, as distinct from their truly expressing the apostolic deposit, can only be apprehended by the assent of faith, not of knowledge.

    I just don’t know what this means, and it’s mostly a fault of my having not read the Grammar of Assent. I actually do plan on reading GOA eventually, and would love to do some coursework. I am studying philosophy at UCLA, and graduate this year. I may do an M.A. at CUA in the future, so maybe I will have the chance to studying GOA under a scholar, which would be awesome.

    Best,
    Mark

  251. Mark,

    Thanks for the examples:

    (Mark does some studying apologetics) O look, actually the Bible is totally in line with rational thinking, and actually rationality sort of points me toward Christianity….

    What does he do here? Check the internet? To consider the “context” to have some type of “inferential warrant for believing that some set of books is divinely inspired” we probably should tease out the context more. Right?

    After all, it was this set of books, and not that one, which led to my religious experience.

    I grew up Protestant, low-church. This was sort of our implicit mindset. But, it wasn’t because we did (1) and (2) in #245, only (1).

    That aside, to Mike’s point, even if one were simply studying the canon as a historical question (pretending that I’m a disinterested atheist in the religious content), one would come to the conclusion that the decision has come down to a number of claimant authorities (Mormon, Catholic, Reformed, etc.). This would evidence the lack of consensus in theology of a method for distinguishing between well-founded opinions and articles of faith; and the disinterested atheist may use a historical method for determining the canon which might reduce it significantly because of some questions about Hebrews, II & III John and others. In this case, we might have the historian’s canon, but we wouldn’t have the Christian canon. To get that, and an article of faith (we believe this Bible to be the Bible and not that one) would require an infallible ecclesial authority (even if it were just in that one act of acting). Which is why the “canon question” causes many protestants to begin considering the CC.

    Regards

  252. Mark (#252):

    You wrote:

    The distinction between ‘well-founded opinions’ and ‘articles of faith’, is one I’m not sure how to cash out for my hypothetical Mark example. How it’s cashed out for someone in his position might be different from, what someone else means by those terms and who does not have a basically protestant paradigm. For example, for Mark, it might mean the difference between things which are obviously deducible from Scripture and things which can be reasonably inferred.

    It’s important to “cash out” the concepts of opinion, knowledge, and faith consensually in order to assess competing theological IPs without begging the question. If we can’t do that, then we are forced to conclude not only that there is no theologically neutral interpretation of the relevant dataset, but also that there is no non-question-begging way to assess theological IPs against each other. So before I unpack the above-cited concepts further, I need to know what you think about that.

    Best,
    Mike

  253. Mike,

    (Re252)

    “It’s important to “cash out” the concepts of opinion, knowledge, and faith consensually in order to assess competing theological IPs without begging the question. If we can’t do that, then we are forced to conclude not only that there is no theologically neutral interpretation of the relevant dataset, but also that there is no non-question-begging way to assess theological IPs against each other.”

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I don’t know how setting up these concepts in a way that we can agree is necessary to compare IP’s in a non-question begging way. My remark was just that the phrase might have different weight within one paradigm than within the other. Maybe you can set them up in a way that people within both paradigms can agree on, and then go from there, that would be good I think.

    I originally questioned this distinction because the phrases were contained in the earlier sentence which began as, ‘That’s because…’. The sentence said that there was no consensual method in revealed theology for distinguishing between a (articles of faith) and b (well founded opinion). So what I am trying to find out is exactly what those two mean, and my concern was that those terms could perhaps be used in a way that doesn’t work-out on my view. Maybe one view of what those terms mean (maybe the correct view) won’t make sense under the set of assumptions that I’m currently working on in this ‘Mark example’.

    So, I’m not exactly sure what you might be setting out to do. You can either explain it again for me, or just go ahead and start it, and I’ll either 1) let you know if I’m catching on, or 2) let you know that I’m not.

    Best,
    Mark

  254. […] was still Protestant when the blog began, but subsequently he became Catholic. His article on the canon question is devastating. I invited Reformed Baptist apologist James White to try to rebut it, but he never […]

  255. I didn’t read the entirety of the comments, but did anyone address the issue of the millions of people who, throughout history, were illiterate and therefore could not read the Bible? How could they determine the canon of Sacred Scripture?

    More importantly, to what authority could they resort when confronted with someone’s teaching that the canon consists of any specific number of books?

    Number two: Many in the Reformed tradition “accept Christ” at an early age. Are we to believe that the Holy Ghost guides them into a correct understanding of what the canon consists of? How do they test whether prior generations “got it right”? Are they somehow less Christian than Protestant theologians?

  256. Dennis,

    Very good comment. The Protestant epistemic situation seems to undoubtedly reduce to the “haves” and the “have nots”; the “illuminati” and those in the dark. Further, and a point which you draw out, it would seem evident that a Christian way of knowing the truth should/would work universally–any time and any place. That said, a sola scriptura position seems awfully difficult when (a) there is no Scripture available or (b) the canon has not been closed yet. I think it naturally forces one into a cessationist position because without a Church that has always existed from the beginning then one has to come up with an artificial “closing” of that Church which was gifted to write the canon to begin with. Thus, you close the canon by a kind of generational accident not through any ecclesial process, and the result is the conclusion you wanted from the beginning (a supremely begging the question kind of movement).

    While this works as an argument, I think it is disingenuous to history and ironically extra-biblical which seems to undermine the premise of that whole sola thingamagigger…

  257. Dear Dennis,
    If Jesus said something is Scripture, would you believe it? Does it make a difference whether you read it yourself or if you hear someone else read what He said? How about if one of Jesus’ apostles called certain books Scripture? Would you believe him? What if you listened to a reading of one of the prophets who said, “Thus says the Lord”? It would be appropriate for you to verify that such books were authentic, and that they reflect the character of God. (BTW: sola scriptura encourages the use of “ordinary means” to learn about the faith, which implies normal means of inquiry).

    In the case of the Old Testament, it would be appropriate to ask the Jews (the original recipients) if they considered these books to be authentic and normative (canonical). In the case of the New Testament, it would be appropriate to ask those who came after the apostles if they considered these books to be authentic and normative. As a result, if you are open to the Holy Spirit, you would accept the 66 books of the Bible as canonical.

    For example, one who reads or hears Jesus quote the words of “the prophet Daniel” in Matthew 24 should assume that the book of Daniel is canonical. Knowing what the book of Daniel says (whether by reading it or hearing it read), you would learn that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylonia, ruling from Babylon. Because Jesus treated Daniel’s book as normative, you trust that Daniel told the truth. Suppose you then hear someone read the book of Judith. What would you think when that book calls Nebuchadnezzar the king of Assyria, who ruled from Nineveh? Which book is telling the truth? The book of Daniel or the book of Judith?

    Did the Jews ever consider Judith to be canonical? No. Why consider it to be canonical when the people who wrote it do not? Now, suppose you heard that Augustine said the way to find out if a book is canonical is to have the churches vote, and whichever books had the most votes (and/or the votes of the most prestigious Churches) were thereby considered canonical? But when would such a vote take place? If the vote took place before Augustine’s time, Judith wouldn’t make it; yet it did at the 16th century at the Council of Trent. Does a vote determine whether God inspired a book? I don’t think so.

    Canonicity must be recognized as proceeding from God, who is Truth. Whatever is false (including pseudonymous books claiming to be written by famous men such as Solomon) cannot be from God. Therefore, whoever claims such books are canonical has failed to recognize what is from God and what is from men. (That’s not to say there is no value in any books other than the Bible; to the contrary, there is much to be learned from them – but they fall short of the high standard of divinely inspired Scripture.)

    Re: your question about those who come to Christ at a young age. Why must such children “have a correct understanding of what the canon consists of?” As they mature they will be able to learn more about the “whole counsel of God” and what is expected of Jesus’ disciples, but what did the apostle Paul say one must do to be saved? “Believe in the Lord Jesus … and you shall be saved.” As even your catechism teaches, the fundamentals of the faith are covered in the brief baptismal creed.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  258. Called to Communion, the Canon Question

    First let’s dismiss the erroneous information.

    Jamnia. There was no council at Jamnia that decided the Jewish canon around A.D. 100. Even the Jerome Biblical Commentary, v. 2, 522 notes that, “It has been proposed that about 90-100 the council of the rabbis at Jamnia settled once and for all time the definitive list of inspired books, namely, ‘the Palestinian canon,’ consisting of the books now called protocanonical. Recently this thesis has been subjected to much-needed criticism (J.P. Lewis, JBR 32 [1964] 125-32) . . . Although [some Christian authors seem to think in terms of a formal church council at Jamnia, there was no formal ‘council of Jamnia.’”

    Whenever someone does discuss the ‘Septuagint’ they need to define it. The original translation of 250 B.C. was just the Torah—the other books were translated later so strictly speaking the ‘Septuagint-LXX’ is the Torah alone. On the other end, the most popular modern edition of the Septuagint is Rahlfs and contains more than the books found in modern Catholic Bibles, i.e., 3-4 Maccabees and the apocryphal (even by Catholic definitions) Esdra. Furthermore, the great manuscripts of the Greek Bible, Vaticanus, Sinaiaticus, and Alexadrinus, differ from each other and from modern Catholic bibles.

    But, more to the point, it is often implied that the LXX (sans definition) was the Bible of the Greek speaking Jews, the Hellenistic Jews. Your site implies that strongly. But, there was never a Jewish collection known as the Septuagint unless you limit that to the Torah, as mentioned above. There was no collection or Jewish canon that matches today’s Catholic Old Testament. H. B. Swete (An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 24) notes that “The writer of the prologue to Sirach . . . uses words which imply that ‘the Law, the Prophets, and the rest of the books’ were current in translation.” Martin Hengel has noted in his The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of its Canon, 20, “The assumption of an ‘Alexandrian canon’ that the early church adopted without deliberation and to a degree seamlessly is an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century hypothesis that has proved to be a wrong turning.” Robert Beckwith’s monumental work (The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its background in Early Judaism), 382 notes, “. . . manuscripts of anything like the capacity of Codex Alexandrinus were not used in the first centuries of the Christian era, and since, in the second century AD, the Jews seem largely to have discarded the Septuagint in favour of revisions or translations more usable in their controversy with the church (notably Aquila’s translation), there can be no real doubt that the comprehensive codices of the Septuagint, which start appearing in the fourth century AD, are all of Christian origin.”

    But now, let’s test the hypotheses concerning the canon question and the two approaches.

    If I understand your contention correctly (correct me if I am wrong), the Protestant position fails because, being based on the theological foundation of sola scriptura, if a canon of Scripture is not found in Scripture then you have an automatic failure of the system.

    Now, given that the canon that is most under debate is the OT/TNK canon the question is then, do the NT writers anywhere indicate what the TNK canon is? And, to keep it out of the sola scriptura question, we will assume that the Gospels are an accurate reflection of apostolic oral teaching. In Matthew 23.35 Jesus notes, “so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous bloodshed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” The Jerome Biblical Commentary notes that the mentioning of Zechariah is from 2 Chronicles 24.20-22, and “is the last victim of murder in the Hebr Bible, in which the books of Chronicles stands last.” This excludes the books of Maccabees and the murders found in there. Luke 24.44 gives the extent of the canon as “the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” Beckwith, along with most scholars, understands ‘Psalms’ as a shorthand for the third division of the Jewish canon. A question could arise then is there any Jewish writers at this time (or earlier) that show this same canonical arrangement and limit. There are in fact three. The earliest is Jesus, son of Sirach, in the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus, refers to “the law and the prophets and the other books of our fathers.” There has been a discussion as to whether or not ‘the other books’ was a closed canon but Beckwith points out that the son of Sirach made of point of distinguishing his grandfather’s work from the three divisions that have been recognized as authoritative (378). Philo, a Hellenistic first century Jewish philosopher, in his De Vita Contemplativa refers to “(the) Laws, and (the) Oracles given by inspiration through (the) prophets, and (the) hymns, and the other books whereby knowledge and piety are increased and completed.” Here again is the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible. He repeats the phrase of the son of Sirach, appending to Hymns ‘the other books.’ Another first century Jewish writer, Josephus, the historian, writes in his Contra Apion that “For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life.” Notice a few things here. He has the same threefold division as the son of Sirach, Philo, and Luke. Like Philo he gives the head of the third division the term ‘hymns’, a synonym for Psalms, and, like Philo, he note similarly that they are “whereby knowledge and piety are increased and completed.” Note also that Josephus gives a definite number as to the extent of the canon. Jerome and Origen both note that the number is related to the Hebrew alphabet with obvious combinations. Eusibius cites Josephus also. Most scholars identify with the Psalms, the “precepts for the conduct of human life” as Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. That would fit Philo’s ordering and nomenclature and so too the son of Sirach’s. Notice also that in Josephus’s ordering the book of Daniel is in the Prophets, as per Matthew 24.15. This would leave Chronicles, not the last book of the whole corpus, but rather of the Prophets, indicating that Jesus’s statement in Matthew 23.35 is not meant to cover the whole of the TNK but rather the historical section as its seems that Josephus, Philo, the son of Sirach, and Jesus have the same canon and ordering in mind.

    So, here we have the ‘teachings of the apostles (written as an accurate reflection of an oral tradition)’ telling very clearly the extent and contents of the TNK. And the teaching is given without reference to a council or a definitive proclamation. The canon at the time of Sirach, Philo, Jesus, and Josephus was known, recognized, accepted by all of Judaism without the felt need to refer to an authoritative pronouncement.

    That leaves the NT question then unsettled. At least to an extent. Again, if the NT is an accurate reflection of authentic apostolic teaching then in 2 Peter we have an endorsement of Paul’s writings by Peter.

    But there is the larger question that should be addressed before the Catholic position is discussed as it bears on it directly. It goes to the definition of εκκλεσια. Does that word pertain exclusively to an authoritative priestly hierarchy to which others give unquestioning obedience in all decisions or does that word pertain to all of those who have faith in God in the provision that he made through Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross? Acts 15 indicates that the decision was that of the apostles, the elders, and the whole church. Now, before you try to point out to me the source of the English word ‘priest’ being from ‘presbyter’ you yourselves need to set forth your own understanding of the difference between ‘πρεσβυτερος’ and ‘ιεριυς’. Me, I suggest you use the Greek words transliterated. As for my definitions, a πρεσβυτερος should be translated into English with ‘elder’ and ιερευς should be translated with ‘priest.’ As you probably well know, those two Greek words get interchanged illegitimately in the Douay-Rheims (James 5.14 for instance). How does the Latin translate the Greek words, one might ask? One might also ask if a πρεσβυτερος was not also always a ιερευς, but then, why would the NT writers distinguish the two? Which of those two has a sacerdotal office and which does not?

    With that distinction in mind I would make the argument that the early church, like the Jews at the time of Jesus, came to recognize (with noted discussion or disagreements) what was text inspired by God. This was a general, wide spread agreement. Disagreements were minor and resolved by the wider discussion and recognition—not unlike what we find with Jesus and the other Jews of his day. In that vein the Catechism uses the word ‘discern’ (discernere) and it was by ‘the apostolic Tradition’ which, I have shown, calls for the shorter canon. Trent uses the phrase the books ‘that are received by this Synod’ (qui ab ipsa Synodo suscipiuntu).

    Now my point on the Catholic position, that is, a church council has to authoritatively declare what is and what is not Scripture. Again, correct me if I understand incorrectly.

    By that argument then, the church was without Scriptures for either 400 years (local council decision—which, by the way, was in disagreement with another local council—Carthage vice Laodicea—or 1600 years, if you believe that a general council is necessary to make such a pronouncement. We would expect then nobody writing anything referencing ‘canonical’ books if the whole church understood that there could be none until someone in authority said that there were such books.

    I would suggest, taking an hint from Jesus in Matthew and Luke about Israel’s acceptance of the TNK canon, that the whole church came to recognize what books were NT Scripture (Jesus had already told them what the extent of the TNK was) early on and did not need nor rely on a authoritative council. A quick look at the index of the Ante-Nicene Fathers shows them quoting freely (yes, some disagreements) without thinking to wait for a council to decide for them what they could use. I myself note what the councils said but do not rely upon them to override a clear teaching of Jesus and the NT writers nor to say, ‘until now no one knew but now you have our authority to use these books.’

    In Christ
    Shawn

  259. […] Scot's post and the upcoming book hit right at the heart of two major flaws in Protestantism: In order to trust the Bible you need to trust the Bible's origin. If you say the Catholic Church wasn't given the authority to define doctrines, then neither did she […]

  260. Shawn,

    First off, I want to commend your thoughtful in this, and the charity with which you presented your view. I understand you to be making the following arguments (correct me if I’m wrong, or if there are ones which I missed):
    1. Many versions of the TNK used by Greek-speaking Jews varied from the Catholic Old Testament.
    2. The versions of the TNK which mirror the Catholic Old Testament are of Christian, not Jewish, origin.
    3. We can know which canon Jesus affirms because of His words in Matthew 23.35.
    4. Josephus, Philo, the son of Sirach, and Jesus have the same canon and ordering in mind.
    5. The canon at the time of Sirach, Philo, Jesus, and Josephus was known, recognized, accepted by all of Judaism without the felt need to refer to an authoritative pronouncement.
    6. “General widespread agreement” is how the Church derived Her canon.
    7. Catholics think that the Church must authoritatively confirm the canon for a canon to exist.
    8. The regional councils of Carthage and Laodicea disagree.
    9. The whole church came to recognize what books were NT Scripture (Jesus had already told them what the extent of the TNK was) early on and did not need nor rely on a authoritative council.

    If those are an accurate enumeration of your arguments, here are my responses:
    1. True. There was a lot of variation in the Jewish canon. This is one reason why your # 5 is false.

    2. True. This points to the fact that the early Christians were actually much clearer about the proper canon of Scripture than were the Hellenistic Jews.

    3. False. In Matthew 23:35, Jesus is condemning the Pharisees. In doing so, He’s using the Pharasiac Canon. But in the previous chapter, when He condemns the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33, He uses the Sadduccees’ canon. Specifically, He uses the Torah alone to prove the Resurrection (even though the Resurrection is much more easily proven from passages like Daniel 12:1-3, and 1 Samuel 28, and Psalm 16:9-10). That’s because that was the canon used by the Sadduccees. I talk about it on my own blog here: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/02/jesus-christ-and-old-testament-canon.html. If you’re looking for a confirmation of a particular canon, look to Acts 17:11, where St. Paul praises the Hellenistic Bereans for reading their Scriptures.

    4. False. The only thing that the passages you cite to have in common is that they all talk about the three-fold TNK ordering: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim. But every Book of the Catholic Old Testament is either Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im), or Writings (Ketuvim). Both Catholics or Protestants could employ this three-fold ordering if they wanted to; neither do. So showing that the Jews classically put their Scriptures in these three groups doesn’t tell us what Books were in those groups. It’s true that for some Jews (like Josephus, and possibly Philo), the TNK included only the modern Protestant Bible. But this wasn’t the only TNK canon.

    5. False. If the Sadducees used the Pharisees’ canon, Jesus wouldn’t have dealt with them as He did. As you said in #1, there were multiple canons even amongst the Hellenists. There was nothing near canonical unanimity during Temple Judaism.

    6. Partially true. The sensus fidelium is certainly the earliest way we know the canon. But as you yourself noted in #8, the Christians didn’t completely agree. That said, it’s incredibly significant that not a single early Christian seems to have accepted the Protestant Old Testament. I go through a pretty full list of candidates here: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/10/protestantism-and-early-church-fathers.html

    7. False. The Church doesn’t create Truth, She recognizes It. So the Church simply affirmed the canon of Scripture which most people knew to be true once a vocal minority began to question it. Likewise, She did the same thing with the Trinity, once non-Trinitarian heresies became a threat. In both cases, the underlying belief (the canon of Scripture and the Trinity) were widely believed before the formal definition. And significantly, that canon of Scripture was the Catholic one.

    8. True. Regional councils aren’t infallible, and Laodicea was wrong. But Carthage was right, and significantly, accepted by Pope Damasus I, who commissioned Jerome to make versions of that canon accessible to the Latin-speaking populace.

    9. Sort-of true. Laodicea has the wrong New Testament canon, omitting Revelation. So there really was a need for papal intervention, which we got (see #8, above).

    Significantly, the Church didn’t decide the Old and New Testament canons separately. Both were handled as a unit — for example, in Canon 24 of the Council of Carthage. So I think it would be an error to say that we can take our Old Testament from one place (Jewish consensus, rejected by the Christians) and our New Testament from someplace else (Christian consensus). If Christian consensus is our guide, the Catholic Old Testament is the accurate one. If we’re going to ignore Christian consensus when we don’t like the answer, then let’s at least be honest about it.

    As an aside, this appeal to Christian consensus, to the sensus fidelium, is an appeal to an extra-Biblical Sacred Tradition, whether you acknowledge it or not. It’s an admission that for at least one critical doctrine (“which Books are in the Bible?”), your answer comes outside of the Bible Itself, from the early Christians.

    To summarize: the Jews at the time of Christ didn’t have an agreed upon canon; when there was a general Jewish consensus on the canon, that consensus was rejected by the early Christians; the Christians had a general consensus on the canon of Scripture, and it was the Catholic Bible; the Council of Carthage, Pope Damasus I, and the creation of a Church-wide Vulgate Bible all supported this conclusion. No one prior to the Reformers seems to have used the 66-Book Bible beloved by Protestants.

    God bless you,

    Joe.

  261. Hi…I was trying to digest some of the material here especially the last comment in defense of the Catholic Canon. I think it is very good…however, I would like to point to the conclusion, namely the last paragraph…: “No one prior to the reformers seems to have used the 66-book…”etc…
    I was just “glancing” through some old “anglican books” and well you know sometimes like Bl. John Henry Newman…they seek both history and the Fathers and well find the well (!); anyways…this Anglican book written in the late 19th century cites several Fathers of the Church and some “quasi-” Fathers of the Church…[heck] even three doctors of the Church in support of the Anglican Thesis, namely that there was a time prior (not to the Reformers, but) to the Council of Carthage of the early fifth century that defended (almost exclusively) the Old Testament canon with the “twenty-two” books namely something like the “Protestant bible”. I just wanted to throw that out there responsibly since I do think that prior to an ecclesiastical statement by the Church in the early centuries there was a consciousness that such investigations were present in their day, therefore it leads us to conclude that although the individual Fathers and Doctors of the Church do not speak for the Church when it is together in a Council, they were at least clearing the ground for a more inspired statement on the canon of the Sacred Scriptures….
    Therefore, has anyone run into such patristic opinions at variance prior to the Council of Carthage or after if? That way we will be clear what led the Church to accept the authority of Carthage and subsequently that of the Scriptures in their entirety and therefore have a valued sense that after the Council of Carthage…such varying opinions among the Fathers practically no longer re-appeared….Unless I find another argument to the Contrary in some old book…then…I just wanted to share this with you.
    The title of the old Anglican book is: ” A Church History” by Chr. Wordsworth, D.D. Bishop of Lincoln, Vol. II. “From the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325 to the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381” Third Edition. Longmans, Green & Co. Paternoster Row, London, 1890.

  262. […] and in favor of the Protestant Bible, in the comments at Called to Communion. His full argument is here, but he essentially makes nine […]

  263. Rene,

    Good question. It’s true that there was some controversy over the precise canon of both the New and the Old Testament. So it would be claiming too much to say that every Father used the exact Catholic Bible, for example. But what is true is that none of the Fathers used the 66-Book Protestant canon. Does that answer your question? God bless,

    Joe

  264. Joe,
    1. No, I did not say that. The Greek speaking Jews used the same TNK as the Hebrew speaking (English speaking, Russian speaking, Latin speaking) Jews. The TNK used by the Jews (all of them—same canon) differed from the Catholic, non-Jewish OT canon.
    2. What the Catholics present as the OT is not a TNK nor resembles the Jewish TNK. The books found in what is commonly called Septuagint are Jewish books (canonical and non-canonical) bound together by Christians. The various versions of the Christian produced LXX varied—Vaticanus does not match Alexandrinus, nor the modern Rahfls edition nor the Orthodox books.
    3. Yes. And Luke.
    4. Yes. Of course others disagree as to the ordering—i.e., B19a, Baba Bathra, BHS. My argument is that those four agree.
    5. Yes. Read the documents. No council noted.
    6. For the most part yes. You find early agreement by just about everyone on most of the NT books. Some disagreement and discussion on the others. The councils you note, while I don’t accept them as an authoritative pronouncement they do indicate the state of things historically.
    7. Seems to be the argument you guys (and others) try to make. You point about agreement on the council canons is dispelled by Laodocia. There was not agreement. Jerome, Origen, Cajetan argued against the expanded canon.
    8. Yes. Do you think they agree?
    9. Pretty much yes. Again, councils were good as historical references. To argue any authority in them would take you to Trent and no agreement until then. Cajetan, at the time of Trent, and an major Catholic, argued for the canon of Jerome against the expanded canon.
    As far as the Pharisaic Canon and the Sadducee Canon and the Berean Canon, you are going to have to do better than that blog post. It is conjecture that I have not seen anyone else make. Is there an official Catholic teaching on this or do you have the actual canons of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Bereans to back up your conjecture?
    Show me a ‘Catholic TNK.’ This will be interesting. With that, show me Jewish TNKs or lists that include books not found in the classic TNKs.
    To summarize: the Jews at the time of Christ didn’t have an agreed upon canon; when there was a general Jewish consensus on the canon, that consensus was rejected by the early Christians; the Christians had a general consensus on the canon of Scripture, and it was the Catholic Bible; the Council of Carthage, Pope Damasus I, and the creation of a Church-wide Vulgate Bible all supported this conclusion. No one prior to the Reformers seems to have used the 66-Book Bible beloved by Protestants.
    Your summary is wrong. I have shown clearly that the Jews had one canon (notes from the time of Sirach through Josephus). You alude to a Jewish consensus (surely not Jamnia!-but then, what consensus?). Jerome and Cajetan did follow the TNK followed by Jesus and Protestants.
    Blessing my friend.
    Shawn
    smadden@sebts.edu

  265. Hi Joe,
    Did you know that 9 church fathers in a row from the second century until Augustine all attested to the Hebrew 22 book canon (following Josephus in the first century)? Perhaps you’ve heard of Cyril of Jerusalem, who attended the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 and wrote this:

    Of these [the LXX books] read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. (Catechetical Lectures 4.35)

    An interesting historical footnote: St. Cyril attended the Second Ecumenical Council, but Damasus did not. I guess someone forgot to tell Damasus about the “two and twenty books” handed down from “the Apostles and bishops of old time.”

    And as far as the minor variants in all those OT canons, have you read about all the variants of the NT text? Does that mean we can’t know what the original NT text said? As a matter of fact, textual scholars claim that all the variants in a large number of samples makes it easier for them to accurately reconstruct the original. So, why can’t you recognize the 39 books in four centuries of early church OT canons?

    And why don’t you believe Josephus when he writes of the Jewish canon of 22 “divine” books from Moses to the time of Artaxerxes? What evidence do you have that he was lying about that? Or that this canon of 22 books was not taught to the Jews from birth in the first century?

    Blessings.

  266. St. Cyril includes Baruch in that very same passage as belonging to the canon…

  267. Dear “Lojahw,”

    I’m slowing getting back into things after my return from Afghanistan. It seems we’ve picked up roughly where we left off.

    Given that you write from a Protestant frame, I cannot discern your logic in stating, as if it adds weight to your argument, that “9 church fathers in a row” attested to one thing or another or what all have you. What’s a church father in a row?

    Do you agree that testimony handed on from the “Apostles and bishops of old time” adds weight to a given argument? If not, why do you invoke it?

    By my account, you have yet to articulate a theory by which a Protestant can infallibly articulate the canon of infallible Scripture without running afoul of the essential principles of the Protestant Reformation.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  268. Shawn and Lojahw,

    Both of you share a common assumption in your posts, and I wanted to address that first: this idea that the Jews at the time of Christ had a single canon. Specifically, Shawn, you asked for backup material showing that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Hellenists had different canons. Fair enough. We agree on what the Pharisees canon looked like.

    The Sadducees’ Canon
    As for the Sadducees, they accepted only the first five Books, the Torah. St. Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 A.D.) said that the Sadducees “do not, however, devote attention to prophets, but neither do they to any other sages, except to the law of Moses only, in regard of which, however, they frame no interpretations.” [source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iii.iii.vii.xxv.html%5D

    Likewise, Origen (184-253) said that “although the Samaritans and Sadducees, who receive the books of Moses alone, would say that there were contained in them predictions regarding Christ, yet certainly not in Jerusalem, which is not even mentioned in the times of Moses, was the prophecy uttered.” [source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf04.vi.ix.i.l.html%5D

    As I explained before, we can know that the Fathers were right about what the Sadducees believed based upon Jesus’ conduct in Matthew 22:23-33. If the Sadducees believed that the rest of the Old Testament was inspired, Jesus could have pointed to verses laying out the Resurrection in explicit terms. Instead, He proves it in a somewhat roundabout way by relying upon Exodus 3:6, which is certainly less than explicit. Doesn’t that strike you as at least a bit odd?

    And I’m not just reading that into this passage. Jerome (347-420) explicitly tells us that He used this passage because of the Saduccees’ rejection of the rest of the Bible:

    “In proof of the resurrection there were many plainer passages which He might have cited; among others that of Isaiah, ‘The dead shall be raised; they that are in the tombs shall rise again’ [Isa 26:29, Septuagint]: and in another place, ‘Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake’ [Dan. 12:2].

    It is enquired therefore why the Lord should have chosen this testimony which seems ambiguous, and not sufficiently belonging to the truth of the resurrection; and as if by this He had proved the point adds, ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’

    We have said above that the Sadducees confessed neither Angel, nor spirit, nor resurrection of the body, and taught also the death of the soul. But they also received only the five books of Moses, rejecting the Prophets. It would have been foolish therefore to have brought forward testimonies whose authority they did not admit.” [source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/catena1.ii.xxii.html%5D

    So yes, whether you look to Scripture or the Fathers, you can see that the Sadducees used only a Five-Book Canon.

    The Hellenists’ Canon[s]
    Outside of Israel, the situation is the reverse. As the German Protestant historian, Emil Schürer, says on page 310 of The History of the Jewish People, “It cannot be proved of other books than those of our present [Protestant] canon, that they were ever reckoned canonical by the Palestinian Jews, although the Book of Wisdom was so highly esteemed that it is sometimes cited ‘in a manner only customary in the case of passages of Scripture.’ It was only the Hellenistic Jews who combined a whole series of other books with those of the Hebrew canon. But then they had no definite completion of the canon at all.”

    Even Schürer’s (limited) defense of the Protestant canon establishes my point: the Hellenistic Jews used the Deuterocanon interchangeably with what you would recognize as Scripture, and there’s evidence suggesting that at least one Deuterocanonical Book was used by the Palestinian Jews, as well.

    So your shared assumption that the Jews were all using identical canons of Scripture is easily disproven. Outside of Israel, you have Hellenistic Jews using the Deuterocanon as Scripture. Inside of Israel, you’ve got the Sadducees who deny the Torah, and some Pharisees who seem to think that Wisdom is Scriptural (although it’s impossible to prove for certain).

    Without such a consensus, most of both of your arguments appear to fall apart, and there seems to be little reason to put stock in what the Pharisees thought, when they were but one faction, and significantly, a faction whose teachings and Biblical canon were soundly rejected by their early Christian contemporaries.

    I’ll address both of your points individually next. God bless!

    Joe

  269. Shawn,

    1. Are you suggesting that all of the Jews at the time of Christ used the same canon? If so, that’s incorrect, as my last comment showed.

    2. TNK just means “Law, Prophets, Writings.” Are you saying that the Septuagint used by the early Christians (a) included something other than Law, Prophets, Writings, or (b) simply wasn’t in that order? If it’s (a), a great many of the Hellenistic Jews and early Christians clearly believed that the Deuterocanonical Books were properly Nebi’im and Kethub’im, and you’ve not yet given any reason for us to think that you’re in a position to stand in judgment on this issue. If it’s (b), that point strikes me as irrelevant. Neither of us follows the “Torah, Nebi’im, Kethub’im” order.

    3. To my point, you just said “Yes. And Luke.” But Luke only says that there’s “the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” He doesn’t say whether the Deuterocanonical Books are or aren’t prophetic. To rely on Luke as you do is to beg the question.

    4. You said, “Of course others disagree as to the ordering—i.e., B19a, Baba Bathra, BHS. My argument is that those four agree.” But again, the question isn’t Book order. It’s which Books. Your argument, that all four of those Jewish canons agree because they all go Torah, then Nebi’im, then Kethub’im would be like me claiming that every library using the Dewey decimal system must contain the same books. You’re conflating form with content.

    5. I don’t know what your response means, or how it responds to what I wrote.

    6. In #6, I had written, “That said, it’s incredibly significant that not a single early Christian seems to have accepted the Protestant Old Testament. I go through a pretty full list of candidates here:http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/10/protestantism-and-early-church-fathers.html.” Am I to take from your response that you recognize and agree that this is true, historically?

    7. Laodicea preceded Carthage, as did Origen. After the Council of Carthage – or more specifically, after the pope acknowledged that Carthage was correct – do you see some other Biblical canon being used in the West? And on this issue, St. Jerome submitted to “the judgment of the churches.” So he acknowledged that he wasn’t the authority, the Church was. If Jerome’s really a standard you want to rely upon, then you should follow his lead.

    8. Since writing my last comment, an Eastern Orthodox reader pointed out to me that since Laodicea doesn’t claim to be exclusive, it’s not incompatible with Carthage, and the Eastern Orthodox acknowledge both as correct. That’s one view. Even if it IS incompatible, that seems to only hurt your own viewpoint – that we can know the canon of Scripture from the widespread Christian consensus. I don’t think you can have it both ways. Either the early Christians agreed, or they didn’t. (You might look back to where I noted that regional councils can err, and have).

    9. Historically, you understand that the consensus came about because of the Council of Carthage, and the adoption of the Carthaginian canon by the pope, correct? Or do you think it happened some other way? As you’ve established pretty well yourself, there wasn’t consensus before Carthage / Damasus, and there was after (with only a handful of exceptions).

    You conclude: “Your summary is wrong. I have shown clearly that the Jews had one canon (notes from the time of Sirach through Josephus). You alude to a Jewish consensus (surely not Jamnia!-but then, what consensus?). Jerome and Cajetan did follow the TNK followed by Jesus and Protestants.”

    But you never showed such a canon. At most, you showed that the early Jews often put their Books in the same general order — although even here, you acknowledged that you’re ignoring the counter-examples. Remember the difference between the Dewey decimal and a list of books. And no, I don’t think that there was an early Jewish consensus, and neither did the early Christians writing at the time. And no, Jerome didn’t follow the TNK used by the Pharisees or the Protestants – he explicitly included the longer (Hellenistic / Catholic) version of Daniel, and defended his decision to do so in Against Rufinus. He translated the Catholic Vulgate! And no, Jesus wasn’t restricted to the Pharisee’s TNK, either. A majority of the passages He quotes are from the Greek version, and specific Biblical prophesies like Hebrews 10:5-7 only make sense if the Greek version is correct. So I think your own summary makes a number of statements without apparent support.

    God bless you,

    Joe.

  270. Lojahw,

    You claim “that 9 church fathers in a row from the second century until Augustine all attested to the Hebrew 22 book canon (following Josephus in the first century).” I’m not sure what this claim means, and you don’t provide me with any specific names, other than St. Cyril.

    St. Cyril explicitly claims that the Septuagint is Divinely inspired, and that the Epistle of Jeremy [Baruch 6] is canonical. He does both of those things in the very same Lecture you’re referring to [source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.viii.html%5D.

    If the best defender of the Protestant canon is someone who just accepts part of the Catholic Deuterocanon (and treats the rest as Ecclesiastical, not Apocryphal, see Schaff’s fn. 744, supra), then I don’t think it’s we Catholics who have anything to worry about.

    Can you point me to any early Christian who actually used the exact Sixty-Six Books of the Bible which you now use?

    In Christ,

    Joe.

  271. Hello Joe,
    Thank you for responding…I have been re-reading your post on your defense of the Catholic view and your reference to the Fathers…your book (the one you tackled) is older the one I am reading. Therefore, your blog did help me dispell the abusive sense in which the Fathers can be said to have said things which do not match 100% to their thesis…although they do use the word “perfectly”. The references by the Fathers cited in the book I told you about are almost all of them the same, may be a few differences and more details…Anyways, thank you!
    Now since the I did read the texts and the footnotes and sometimes, there is the tendency to read the footnotes with more attention, there is a footnote in the “Protestant” version of the Fathers by Philp Schaff where in Eusebius’ account of the old testament canon by Origin…your blog say that Maccabees is “cryptic” and you side with the former opinion that it is part of the canon…This is ‘latter’ opinion that Schaff will take and make the contrary argument…, etc…
    For Augustine…you cite his works and I agree how on earth can Augustine be said to support an uncanonical list books which is not Catholic?! Anyways, the reference you offered: (again: the footnote) killed a bit of the point) The footnote (1771) reads that St Augustine “retracted” about the book of Wisdom, etc…
    And then lastly St Athanasius…ok…he is the one that seems a bit explicit, but also is the one that gets me: It is he that says that the other books are non-canonical, etc and something about fire-and brimstone wording about anyone who adds or takes away to this…so although this explicit in him, YES, I agree with you it is neither a 100% listing of the Protestant bible (OT), therefore, your point still holds.

    However, I would like to add something, that I kept on reading in the first chapter of the Anglican book (You can see well the intention of the author), he starts talking Pope Liberius (!) [Good grief] and from there concludes or rather suggests: his history students that from Pope Liberius’ mistake we can learn how to not build our house on quicksand like the irreligious dogma on the infalliobility of the Pope declared by Vatican I! etc…and that by such pondering of this historical point (I call it biblically similar to that of the original St Peter and of Christ and the bible’s message to forgive central!!!) the Church would/should not have declared it…etc.
    However, he continues in his appraisal of St Athanasius and the real controversy of the Arians and he commends how both Arians and Athanasius have the same Scriptures and therefore the same canon, and therefore, how well they did on such matter! Point: St Athansius does make explicit in a letter of the coercion endured by the Pope Liberius to “fall” and side with the Arians (Semi-Arians, etc) and that afterwards, when the Pope was freed he began to lead orthodoxy as his real free self….(I am paraphrasing). So anyways, The same ‘innocence’ still remains how in the Council of Laodicea and the heavily doubtfulness of the canon on Scripture which “supports the protestant bible” still is present and despite that the Anglican author does not fail shrink from saying in a footnote: The Council of Laodicea was under Semi-Arian influence….It goes to say how clesely we are still debating the canon of the Old testament as if history had ceased to continue…? WEll of course that is my opinion and it may be descriptive of my present thought. Keep it up…! (I will stay tuned).
    P.S. Also the council attended by St Cyril of Jerusalem and St Hilary of Poitieres were also under the same Semi-Arian influence…just in case that matters…
    (I will keep reading!)

  272. Joe,

    1. Yes they did and you are wrong.
    2. The Christian Septuagint contained books not found in the TNK (again, the Jewish Septuagint, strickly speaking was just the Torah). We call them the apocrypha. Order is not an issue if they are not in the TNK, which they aren’t. What do I need for you to think that I am in a position to stand in judgement of the issue? How am I unqualified and you are qualified? Am I not as bright or trained as you? I have given clear evidence from the relevant time period that proves my point (Jesus, Sirach, Philo, Josephus).
    3. Luke is at the heart of the issue. Dismissing that passage flipantly as you do shows that you don’t recognize it for what it is or you are too afraid of the implications. Jesus is pointing to the TNK (which, to be clear in light of your confusion on 1, does not include the apocrypha). It also confirms that Jesus doesn’t distinguish (your made up) different canons for different sects of Jews.
    4. No, I am not. My point was, though order and taxonomy may have differed they had the same books. And they aren’t your books.
    5. You confirmed what I wrote and I confirmed your understanding. Your response shows that you ignore the historical evidence in view of your false premise.
    6. There are many early Christian writers (obviously you acknowledge them) who point clearly to a 22 book canon and away from the expanded canon. Yes, they disagree on a book or two but they point clearly to the TNK of the Jews (including Jesus, Philo, Sirach, and Josephus) and well clear of your expanded canon. To take their disagreements as a means of negating that side of the issue would be like me pointing to the disagreements in the great LXX manuscripts as a complete negation of your theory.
    7. You have found evidence that the pope endoresed Carthage. Interesting. Show me. Cajetan, again, just prior to Trent, is still quoting Jerome and pointing Catholics to his canon and calling on them to follow his canon. I think that you don’t really understand Jerome as you disagree with Cajetan. Laodicea and Origen prior to Carthage, i.e., closer to ‘apostolic tradition’ and following a 22 book canon. Great point! I will use that later!
    8. Thanks for bringing in the Orthodox. By your theory by Carthage all of the church agreed on the canon, but, at the great schism we find a major portion of Christianity following a different canon. What happened? And are you suggesting that Carthage wasn’t regional (and subje