Calvin, Trent, and the Vulgate: Misinterpreting the Fourth Session

Jun 13th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

*Update* I have made finding my responses to critics easier by linking to them at the end of the post.

When I first began to take interest in theology, and in Reformed theology in particular, during college, I learned the story of how the Catholic Church closed herself off to serious study of the Holy Bible at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The act in question is the Council’s enshrining the Vulgate, Jerome’s Latin translation of Bible, in its first decree, which was adopted during the fourth session on April 8th, 1546. After listing the exact books of the biblical canon to clarify that the so-called deuterocanonical books were indeed Sacred Scripture, the Tridentine Fathers also identified which version of the Bible the Church would adopt. They declared, “If anyone should not accept as sacred and canonical these entire books and all their parts as they have, by established custom, been read in the catholic church, and as contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition [in veteri vulgata latina editione], and in conscious judgment should reject the aforementioned traditions: let him be anathema.”1

Council of Trent
The Council of Trent

That the Catholic Church did such a thing only confirmed my predilection for the Reformed tradition. The latter seemed more concerned with understanding the Bible rightly in its insistence on the importance of studying both Hebrew and Greek. This desire to understand with precision what the Bible meant was ordered to the further goal of teaching people about Christ. In employing the historico-grammatical methodology of early Humanism to critically determine and interpret the text, the Reformed offered simultaneously both a measure of clarity and realism about what the Scriptures communicate and also a check against foisting human speculation, no matter how pious-sounding, onto the Christian faithful. One needed only to crank the canon of Scripture, which is primarily known to the individual by the immediate testimony of the Holy Spirit rather than through the mediate testimony of the Church,2 through human reason’s ability to grasp the truth as repaired and guided by the same Holy Spirit. The prospect of learning the original languages of Hebrew and Greek also whetted my longing for intellectually challenging ways to help others and also, unfortunately, my prideful desire to appear smart and authoritative to others.3

In contrast, the Catholic Church seemed to me very stupid and ignorant. She was an ostrich thinking it could fly who nevertheless kept plunging her head into the dirt in order to avoid any talk that might upset her fantasies. The abuses in the Church that preceded the Protestant movement indicated, to me and the tradition I was growing to love, a lack of contact with God through special revelation. Instead of turning to the source of renewal, the Word of God, the Catholics inoculated their communion against the cure. Everyone knew that the Vulgate had acquired errors that provided purportedly divine authorization for the Catholic view of justification, Purgatory, the penitential system, the veneration of Mary and the saints, and spurious sacraments such as confirmation and marriage.4 Trent made it the official version in an astounding act of arrogance, locking her faithful up in the prison of ignorance about the Scriptures and thus about Christ. I believed this story as did several of my friends.

When my wife and I began the process of learning more about the Catholic Church, I found that several friends also had concerns about the implications of this story. Having studied Hebrew and Greek for several years, I was worried that my training would be useless in the Church. Perhaps the Church was only holding its nose at the use of the original languages. Would we not be joining a group that had rejected Scripture, if not in name, then in method by arrogantly raising up a Latin translation over the very sources of that translation? The Vulgate’s status as the “authentic version” of the Catholic Church revealed that the recent renaissance of Catholic biblical scholarship was something borrowed from genuine Protestantism, picking up some elements of liberal Protestantism as well. Many of the books I used to learn Hebrew and Greek grammar in fact were written by Catholics and published by the Vatican.5 Yet I thought I could say that they were really “one of us Calvinists” because it seemed that they were inconsistently studying the original languages and not following their Church’s discipline regarding the Vulgate.

The problem is that this story is a myth. It is a myth like the myth that the Catholic Church officially opposed the translation of Sacred Scripture into other vernacular languages in itself. When I was seeking Protestant sources and arguments to keep me from converting to Catholicism, I found that this misinterpretation came down to me from the very pen of John Calvin.6 In reading Calvin’s Antidote (1547) to the Council of Trent, I found him accusing the Council of exalting the Latin Vulgate with the intention of shutting the mouth of the true reformers such as himself. So the Frenchman writes:

John Calvin
John Calvin

But as the Hebrew or Greek original often serves to expose their ignorance in quoting Scripture, to check their presumption, and so keep down their thrasonic boasting, they ingeniously meet this difficulty also by determining that the Vulgate translation only is to be held authentic. Farewell, then, to those who have spent much time and labor in the study of languages, that they might search for the genuine sense of Scripture at the fountainhead! […]

In condemning all translations except the Vulgate, as the error is more gross, so the edict is more barbarous. The sacred oracles of God were delivered by Moses and the Prophets in Hebrew, and by the Apostles in Greek. That no corner of the world might be left destitute of so great a treasure, the gift of interpretation was added. It came to pass–I know not by what means, but certainly neither by judgment nor right selection–that of the different versions, one became the favorite of the unlearned, or those at least who, not possessing any knowledge of languages, desired some kind of help to their ignorance. Those, on the other hand, who are acquainted with the languages perceive that this version teems with innumerable errors; and this they make manifest by the clearest evidence. On the other hand, the Fathers of Trent contend, that although the learned thus draw the pure liquor from the very fountain, and convict the infallible Vulgate of falsehood, they are not to be listened to. No man possessed of common sense ever presumed to deprive the Church of God of the benefit of learning. The ancients, though unacquainted with the languages, especially Hebrew, always candidly acknowledge that nothing is better than to consult the original, in order to obtain the true and genuine meaning. I will go no further. There is no man of ordinary talent who, on comparing the Vulgate version with some others, does not easily see that many things which were improperly rendered by it are in these happily restored. The Council, however, insists that we shall shut our eyes against the light that we may spontaneously go astray.

Who could have imagined they would be so senseless as thus boldly to despise the judgments of good men, and hesitate not to make themselves odious and detestable to all? Those who were aware that they had nothing useful in view, were yet persuaded that they would make some show of it to the world, and assign to some of their sworn adherents the task of executing a new version. In this instance, however, they use no deceit. They not only order us to be contented with a most defective translation, but insist on our worshipping it, just as if it had come down from heaven; and while the blemishes are conspicuous to all, they prohibit us from desiring any improvement. Behold the men on whose judgment the renovation of the Church depends!7

For Calvin, the Tridentine decree is a sure sign of the Catholic Church’s ignorance, imprudence, insecurity, and malice. According to Calvin, Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew in marking the Vulgate as the authentic text of the Church. Yet Calvin has read more into the decree than the decree says. Calvin, a man with a great talent for sober and elegant writing and interpretation, here gave way to impassioned “eisegesis” of what Trent really said. Trent nowhere forbids the use of the original languages, as if St. Jerome had not used them to revise the Old Latin texts or make his own translations. One may add here that certain Reformers were perhaps overly optimistic about their Hebrew text or even about the manuscripts of the New Testament which they currently had in their possession. Modern biblical scholarship, especially after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has deemed various Greek translations of the Old Testament to more accurately preserve the Hebrew Vorlage than the Masoretic text in some books. Further, the New Testament text used by early Protestant translators as the basis for the Geneva and the King James Bibles, the so-called textus receptus, no longer has priority in critical editions of the New Testament, such as Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece. Modern vernacular Bibles therefore no longer use the textus receptus as their base text. What a benefit it is to the Church to have the faith passed down both by a written mode and by the mode of Tradition, such that the faith does not depend on the vicissitudes of textual discovery! The manuscript discoveries misused by the Reformers in articulating their principle of sola scriptura do not give God’s people the faith. Rather, the valid critical study of manuscripts supports the faith but does not establish it.

The truth was surprising for me, someone who had come to share in this misinterpretation of the fourth session of Trent. The Catholic Church made the Vulgate the official version of the Church without prejudice to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts. The Reformers were not the only problem on the Council’s agenda but were merely one symptom of an underlying need for reform. Trent set out to reform the Church, and all its decisions against Protestant formulations or preferences must be kept within that context. If one were to make Trent a narrow reaction against Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists, one would fail to appreciate the intent of the Fathers of the council and their enduring success in reorganizing and focusing the Catholic reform, which had started before Luther ever thought to instigate a revolt against the Church. Trent was concerned with strengthening the Church through clerical and liturgical reform in addition to clarifying the doctrine of the faith over against Protestant errors.

I learned that I had accepted a myth only after I did two important things toward learning what the Catholic Church actually teaches: 1) I talked to a faithful Catholic priest and 2) I read Trent and some other Catholic sources with an ear that was at least open to being corrected. One does not want to look in the mirror and see an ostrich, after all.

Francisco Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros

Francisco Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros

I had met my priest at a conference on economics and Christian social teaching. He was of Latin American provenance and had a wonderful combination of pastoral zeal and theological vigor. I asked him about the decree of Trent on the Vulgate. He told me that the decree was above all aimed at standardizing the Latin text of the Bible for the Church, especially the Latin Rite. The problem was not the use of Greek and Hebrew by the Reformers, as embarrassing as that was for some Catholic polemical authors. After all, scholars who remained within the Catholic Church had begun to use the original languages before Protestants started openly defying the Church’s leadership and traditions. One need look no further than the Complutensian Polyglot (1516), completed in Alcala, Spain, under Cardinal Ximenes, who dedicated the work to Pope Leo X,8 or the Greek edition of the New Testament edited by Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536). Such scholars desired to see greater familiarity with Sacred Scripture and were no less ardent in calling for the reform of abuses than were Protestants. For example, Cardinal Ximenes wrote that one reason for printing the Complutensian Polyglot is the following.

[W]herever there is diversity in the Latin manuscripts or the suspicion of a corrupted reading (we know how frequently this occurs because of the ignorance and negligence of copyists), it is necessary to go back to the original source of Scripture, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine and other ecclesiastical writers advise us to do […] And so that every student of Holy Scripture might have at hand the original texts themselves and be able to quench his thirst at the very fountainhead of the water that flows unto life everlasting and not have to content himself with rivulets alone, we ordered the original languages of Holy Scripture with their translations adjoined to be printed and dedicated to your Holiness.9

One might have expected such Humanistic words from the pen of John Calvin, aside from addressing Leo X as “your Holiness” or calling Jerome and Augustine saints. Later in the preface the Cardinal defends the usefulness of an accurate understanding of the literal sense as the foundation for spiritual exegesis, which is a point of departure with Calvin due to the latter’s rejection of spiritual exegesis.10 The spiritual sense of Scripture contains that of which “the realities and events” of the literal sense are signs. This sense emerges from the unity of God’s redemptive plan for mankind as revealed in the writings of which he is the primary author.11 Recently, Pope Benedict XVI expressed himself in similar terms to Cardinal Ximenes and St. Jerome, writing:

Throughout the history of the Church, numerous saints have spoken of the need for knowledge of Scripture in order to grow in love for Christ. This is evident particularly in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Jerome, in his great love for the word of God, often wondered: “How could one live without the knowledge of Scripture, by which we come to know Christ himself, who is the life of believers?”. He knew well that the Bible is the means “by which God speaks daily to believers”. […] Let us follow the example of this great saint who devoted his life to the study of the Bible and who gave the Church its Latin translation, the Vulgate, as well as the example of all those saints who made an encounter with Christ the center of their spiritual lives. Let us renew our efforts to understand deeply the word which God has given to his Church: thus we can aim for that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” proposed by Pope John Paul II at the beginning of the third Christian millennium, which finds constant nourishment in attentively hearing the word of God.12

The Holy Father here reaffirms the need to know Sacred Scripture in order to know Christ, an essentially Catholic idea.

Complutensian Polyglot
A sample page from
the Complutensian Polyglot

Neither the Cardinal nor Erasmus confused the agenda of reform with the rejection of essential elements of the faith. They thus remained in the Church while many around them were beginning to entertain Protestant positions, to despair, or to leave.13 To see that Catholic biblical scholarship did not cease with the hardening of the Protestant schism but that it could attain linguistic and theological heights on the other side of Trent, one need only read the work of Cornelius à Lapide (1567-1637), the great Jesuit commentator, priest, and professor of Hebrew.

In this way, the Catholic priest I met at the conference prepared me to see that the first decree of Trent’s fourth session was clarified by the second decree. The second decree shows that the primary intention of Trent was to identify one standard Latin edition of the Bible for the Latin-speaking Church to use in the liturgy and in scholastic disputation. The reluctance of the Council to ban translations of the Bible into vernacular languages opened the door for translations such as the Reims New Testament (1582) and the entire Douai-Reims Bible (1609-1610). More to the point, in the second decree of its fourth session, the Council, which otherwise had no difficulty signaling an intention to correct Protestant errors in its other decrees and canons, explained the promotion of the Vulgate in the following way.

Moreover, the same holy council considers that noticeable benefit can accrue to the church of God if, from all the Latin editions of the sacred books which are in circulation, it establishes which is to be regarded as authentic. It decides and declares that the old well known Latin Vulgate edition [ipsa vetus et vulgata editio] which has been tested in the church by long use over so many centuries should be kept as the authentic text in public readings, debates, sermons and explanations; and no one is to dare or presume on any pretext to reject it. […T]he council decrees and determines that hereafter the sacred scriptures, particularly in this ancient Vulgate edition, shall be printed after a thorough revision […]14

We should see three things in this decree. First, we see that the primary intention of the council was to standardize the Latin text of the Church. Remember that the context of Trent is overall reform, not merely smashing Protestantism. In this light, we see a Council eager to correct the problem of the multiplication of Latin translations and editions in Medieval Europe. The proliferation was caused by the sloppy transmission of the Latin manuscripts of Sacred Scripture as well as isolated attempts by scholars and bishops to revise the Latin texts they received, whether of the Old Latin, Jerome’s Vulgate, or some eclectic amalgamation.15

St. Jerome
St. Jerome

Second, the council approved the Latin because Latin was the common language of the educated classes, both ecclesiastical and lay, in Europe for centuries. It was thus the “common” [vulgatus] language of the Western Church. This is the reason why St. Jerome’s translation was initially called the Vulgate, because it was in the “vulgar” tongue, much like koine Greek was the “common” or “vulgar” language of the Mediterranean world at the time of the Gospel. Due to the Church’s use of the Vulgate over the centuries in liturgy, theology, and devotion, she was eager to preserve that translation tradition. She did not want to dump the Latin altogether while she was open to using the original languages to maintain continuity with the past. Most Protestant theologians did not do away with Latin either but continued to write their theological treatises in that language for centuries, presumably for the same reasons of a common language allowing for communication both across national or ethnic lines and for keeping touch with the Latin Fathers of the Church.

Third, the council provides a way to achieve this reform in decreeing that a “thorough revision” of the Latin Bible is to be made. The council does not deny what everyone already knew, namely, that the text of the Vulgate had been corrupted in places by transmission errors. Enshrining the Vulgate as the “authentic” edition does not mean that the Vulgate cannot be revised in light of the best Latin manuscripts or that one may never correct the Latin text using the Hebrew or Greek manuscript traditions. In this openness to humanistic textual criticism, the Tridentine Fathers order that the Vulgate be corrected after the Council such that one version attaining as closely as possible to Jerome’s original translation would find universal use. The employment of Greek and Hebrew to correct the Latin was not forbidden in any way. The revision of the Vulgate was completed under popes Sixtus V and Clement the VIII and published in 1598. The Church has again endorsed a revision of the Vulgate as the authentic version for the Latin rite in liturgical and theological use. The letter in which John Paul the Great promulgated this Nova Vulgata (“New Vulgate”) edition in 1979 can be found here. The history of these revisions are interesting but too complicated to rehearse here.16

The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has understood the Tridentine reform in precisely this way. Pius XII explained in his famous encyclical on Sacred Scripture and biblical studies, Divino afflante Spiritu (1943), that:

And if the Tridentine Synod wished “that all should use as authentic” the Vulgate Latin version, this, as all know, applies only to the Latin Church17 and to the public use of the same Scriptures; nor does it, doubtless, in any way diminish the authority and value of the original texts. For there was no question then of these texts, but of the Latin versions, which were in circulation at that time, and of these the same Council rightly declared to be preferable that which “had been approved by its long-continued use for so many centuries in the Church.” Hence this special authority or as they say, authenticity of the Vulgate was not affirmed by the Council particularly for critical reasons, but rather because of its legitimate use in the Churches throughout so many centuries; by which use indeed the same is shown, in the sense in which the Church has understood and understands it, to be free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals; so that, as the Church herself testifies and affirms, it may be quoted safely and without fear of error in disputations, in lectures and in preaching; and so its authenticity is not specified primarily as critical, but rather as juridical.18

Pius is therefore teaching that the Vulgate was established as the authentic version of the Church because it is the Latin Church’s family heirloom, the text which when read puts one not only into contact with Christ but also with all the Latin-speaking theologians and spiritual writers of the Church’s theological tradition. Yet Pius does not hold that the absence of dogmatic and moral errors disallows the study of Hebrew and Greek or the direct translations of vernacular Bibles from the original languages.19 He writes,

Wherefore this authority of the Vulgate in matters of doctrine by no means prevents – nay rather today it almost demands – either the corroboration and confirmation of this same doctrine by the original texts or the having recourse on any and every occasion to the aid of these same texts, by which the correct meaning of the Sacred Letters is everywhere daily made more clear and evident. Nor is it forbidden by the decree of the Council of Trent to make translations into the vulgar tongue, even directly from the original texts themselves, for the use and benefit of the faithful and for the better understanding of the divine word, as We know to have been already done in a laudable manner in many countries with the approval of the Ecclesiastical authority.20

The myth of what Trent really did persists among many Protestants, as other myths about Protestants persist among Catholics. In this little post, I hope that I have done enough to show that the Church was not opposed to the use of the Greek and Hebrew languages in the fourth session of Trent, contrary to Calvin’s misinterpretation. The more myths of this nature are dispelled, the closer Protestants and Catholics come to reconciliation and to the healing of long-held suspicions.

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word and the Revelation of your Love, we ask that you bring all into the full unity of the Church in order that we may tell of your mighty works, recorded for us in the Sacred Scriptures. Teach us your truth, that we may all attain eternal life. You sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost to empower her as she reads, contemplates, and teaches the Sacred Scriptures. Confirm us in this sure knowledge of salvation, for your glory and our good. Amen.

St. Jerome, pray for us!

*Update* I have responded to criticisms of this post in some lengthy replies in comment 38, comment 39, and comment 40 below. Among my ripostes are some relevant translations of St. Robert Bellarmine not found in English elsewhere.

  1. Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman Tanner, SJ, 2 vol. (Georgetown University Press, 1990), 2:664. []
  2. E.g., WCF I.v. []
  3. Later, I began to see the limitations of relying solely on the historico-critical method without also submitting to the Church’s reception of the canon of Scripture. I had relied on Sacred Tradition without knowing it in assuming the Protestant canon at the beginning of my criticism. I could not acknowledge this dependence without conceding the importance of Tradition, and so had to ultimately assert the canon on faith. This does not discount having good historical reasons for preferring the four Gospels and much of the Pauline corpus, but many have come to doubt the authenticity of certain Pauline writings. There was also plenty of debate about other books in the formation of the New Testament. I cannot here even begin to broach the problem of the Old Testament canon for Protestantism. For more on the deficiencies of the Reformed approach to determining the canon, see Tom Brown’s excellent article, The Canon Question. For the Reformed then, humanistic and critical study of Scripture can only happen after a fideistic determination of which books constitute the canon. So-called liberal Protestants have simply taken the critical method and set it over against the fideistic element. []
  4. Jaroslav Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700), vol. 4 of The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (University of Chicago Press: 1984), 306-310. Cf. John Calvin, Antidote, in Tracts and Treatises in Defense of the Reformed Faith, trans. Henry Beveridge, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 68-69. []
  5. E.g., Paul Joüon & T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, 2nd ed. (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2006); Maximilian Zerwick, SJ, Biblical Greek, 4th ed. adapted by Joseph Smith, SJ (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2009); ibid., A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1996). []
  6. Apparently Philip Melanchthon also misinterpreted Trent in the same way, but I have not found the source for this assertion. []
  7. John Calvin, Tracts and Treatises in Defense of the Reformed Faith, trans. Henry Beveridge, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 68, 71-72. One should note that I do not intend to take up Calvin’s other complaints against the Council, for example, his protest against the Council reserving the right of arbitrating competing interpretations of unclear passages. Notice also that Calvin arrogates to himself the “gift of interpretation” and thus presents himself as a competing Magisterium. Scholars such as Bruce Gordon have shown how Calvin saw himself as a prophet of God, called to reform the Church by his authority and scholarship. The problem for Calvin is not the need for a final ecclesiastical court of interpretation. The problem is that Trent did not recognize Calvin, and the learned divines whom Calvin recognized, as that court. Calvinists are just as committed as Catholics to retaining an interpretive class constituted by official pastors. For our purposes here we need only see that Calvin has misinterpreted the fourth session of Trent. One might also see how Calvin is perpetually dependent on having accurate manuscripts for his knowledge of the deposit of faith, as if he were not also dependent on Sacred Tradition. []
  8. The cardinal’s preface to the Polyglot is worth reading. A translation can be found in John C. Olin, Catholic Reform: From Cardinal Ximenes to the Council of Trent, 1495-1563. An Essay with Illustrative Documents and a Brief Study of St. Ignatius Loyola (Fordham University Press, 1990), 61-64. []
  9. Ibid., 62-63. []
  10. Preceding Ximenes by two and half centuries, St. Thomas Aquinas also insisted that spiritual exegesis proceed from a firm foundation in the literal sense. Cf. Summa theologiae I, q. 1, a. 10 ad 1. []
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 115-117. []
  12. Verbum Domini, § 72. []
  13. Cardinal Ximenes died in 1517, just as the Protestant movement was beginning, so it may be unfair to say what he would have done. Given the Cardinal’s loyalty to the Church and that the biblical scholarship which he oversaw had confirmed his confidence in the Church’s teaching, one doubts that he would have become a Protestant. []
  14. Trans. from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 2:664. []
  15. For more information, see The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Vulgate.” []
  16. Again, I refer readers to The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Vulgate.” []
  17. I assume the Holy Father means in distinction from the Eastern Catholic Churches. []
  18. DAS, § 21. []
  19. A reader might wonder how the Church could determine whether the text lacked errors pertaining to faith and morals. The Church determined this in the same way that she partially confirmed that she was receiving the correct books from God in the canon: by comparing the contents of those books to that which had been received by the other mode of revelation’s transmission, namely, Sacred Tradition. In this way, Tradition and Scripture purify and clarify each other’s transmission of the deposit of faith. The Vulgate, even with the scribal errors, said nothing which contradicted the faith. It was an adequate translation of Scripture even if its reading of this or that verse needed updating. This is a great benefit of the Catholic teaching concerning the unity of Scripture and Tradition, such that even if one part of Scripture is unclear due to manuscript variants, we will not lose anything essential to the Faith because of the transmission of the same Faith through Tradition. []
  20. DAS, §22. []
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54 comments
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  1. Barrett,

    Thank you for this.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  2. Thanks so much. This was extremely helpful!

  3. […] Calvin, Trent, & the Vulgate: Misinterpreting the Fourth Session – Barrett Turner […]

  4. Thank you for this!

  5. I am printing this so I can read it more carefully this evening. Our church history TOLD TRUTHFULLY is always of interest to me and I find it a grace that deepens my faith. I look forward to kicking back with your article this evening. Thanks.

  6. The Trentine edition of the Vulgate was printed at the insistence of Sixtus V; it contained several errors, including one or more insisted upon by the pope. But before it was promulgated, Sixtus was called home. Cardinal Dulles suspected that this may have been the Holy Ghost preserving the Church from error.

  7. Barrett Turner: The problem is that this story is a myth. It is a myth like the myth that the Catholic Church officially opposed the translation of Sacred Scripture into other vernacular languages in itself.

    The Vulgate – the premier example of the Catholic Church’s hardened opposition to the having Sacred Scripture translated into the vernacular language … Sheesh! Thankfully, you give the reason in your article why such an argument is ludicrous:

    … the reason why St. Jerome’s translation was initially called the Vulgate, because it was in the “vulgar” tongue, much like koine Greek was the “common” or “vulgar” language of the Mediterranean world at the time of the Gospel.

    From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

    Vulgate c.1600, Latin translation of the Bible, especially that completed in 405 by St. Jerome (c.340-420), from M.L. Vulgata, from L.L. vulgata “common, general, ordinary, popular” (in vulgata editio “popular edition”), from L. vulgata, fem. pp. of vulgare “make common or public,” from vulgus “the common people” (see vulgar). So called because the translations made the book accessible to the common people of ancient Rome.

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Vulgate

    The reason why St. Jerome was given the commission to translate the bible from the Greek and the Hebrew was so that the common people of ancient Rome could have an accurate translation of the bible in the vernacular language. The Vulgate is a perfect example of the Catholic Church translating the bible into the vernacular so that the common people could understand what was being read at the Liturgy of the Word during the Mass! Which makes me wonder how so called “traditionalist” Catholics can be so opposed to changing the Mass from Latin to the vernacular language. But that is a topic for another time …

  8. I think you also exagerated your reading of Calvin and failed to put your quote context. Where does Calvin said or concluded that:

    “Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew in marking the Vulgate as the authentic text of the Church. Yet Calvin has read more into the decree than the decree says. Calvin, a man with a great talent for sober and elegant writing and interpretation, here gave way to impassioned “eisegesis” of what Trent really said.”

    Nowhere, my friend. I think, in your hopes to vindicate your “conversion”, you also gave way to an impassioned “eisegesis” of what Calvin said. Nowhere did Calvin said that Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew. However, the appeal to the Latin Vulgate to some papal doctrines as the most authentic even to the judgment of the common Greek and Hebrew as more corrupt than Latin Vulgate is the issue that Calvin was referring to.

    Hodge is correct in saying that Trent’s language is subject ot interpretation: “The meaning of this decree is a matter of dispute among Romanists themselves. Some of the more modern and liberal of their theologians say that the Council simply intended to determine which among several Latin versions was to be used in the service of the Church. They contend that it was not meant to forbid appeal to the original Scriptures, or to place the Vulgate on a par with them in authority. The earlier and stricter Romanists take the ground that
    the Synod did intend to forbid an appeal to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and to make the
    Vulgate the ultimate authority. The language of the Council seems to favor this interpretation. The
    Vulgate was to be used not only for the ordinary purposes of public instruction, but in all theological
    discussions, and in all works of exegesis.”

    Indeed, we can multiply the works of earlier Roman Catholic works defending the superiority of the Latin Vulgate than the manuscripts of the original languange and that therefore, in points of controversy, the Latin text is to be preferred. This has led to a considerable differences between the Reformers and the traditional Church. But as to your assertion that John Calvin believes that Trent “swept away” or “forbids” the use of original language is the real “myth”.

    Regards,
    Joey

  9. Joey,

    Welcome back to Called to Communion! You say that Calvin nowhere thinks that Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew to interpret Scripture. Yet this is exactly what he understands the action of the council fathers to mean, as when he says (as quoted above),

    But as the Hebrew or Greek original often serves to expose their ignorance in quoting Scripture, to check their presumption, and so keep down their thrasonic boasting, they ingeniously meet this difficulty also by determining that the Vulgate translation only is to be held authentic. Farewell, then, to those who have spent much time and labor in the study of languages, that they might search for the genuine sense of Scripture at the fountainhead!

    Later, Calvin complains that Trent “condemn[ed] all translations except the Vulgate.” Trent has “presumed to deprive the Church of God of the benefit of learning” by ignoring “the learned [who] thus draw the pure liquor from the very fountain” of the original languages. Calvin writes that the council “insists that we shall shut our eyes against the light that we may spontaneously go astray.” He means by the light “the sacred oracles of God […] delivered by Moses and the Prophets in Hebrew, and by the Apostles in Greek.” Therefore, Calvin did write as though he believed that Trent issued the decrees regarding the Latin Vulgate with prejudice against the use of Greek and Hebrew in interpreting Scripture.

    pax,
    Barrett

  10. Barret,

    You have taken Calvin out of context. Even in your quotes, there is no correlation that Calvin believes that Trent “swept away” or “forbids” the study of common Greek and Hebrews. That is the myth. You would like to portray that Calvin misinterpreted Trent and that you were deceived by him.

    Read the quotes again. In fact, as you have given impartial judgment to Trent, offer the same to Calvin. The issue was never that Trent forbade the study or use of the original language. That has always been available and used extensively by both sides. The issue was, when there was controversy in doctrine or translation, the Roman Catholic theologian in Calvin’s time appeals to the superiority of the Latin translation even against the manuscripts available in Greek and Hebrew. That the Latin translation is thought to be of purer and more preserved text of the Church upon which all doctrines in controversy during Calvin’s time must be tested, is the issue. Some later theologians even would appeal to the Latin text to correct the more corrupt Greek text which the “heretics” depend upon. That is the issue my friend.

    Regards,
    Joey

  11. What of the later statements by the Roman Catholic church about the Vulgate being without error (Vatican I, and Pius XII’s Divino Afflantie Spiritu)? That’s a real problem because there are still substantial errors in the later “fixed” Vulgate editions, the most notorious being the ipsa of Gen. 3:15.

  12. Marty,

    Thanks for your comment. The problem you note arises from some misunderstandings. Three points:

    First, the current official Latin Bible of the Latin Rite does not have ipsa conteret caput tuum but ipsum conteret caput tuum [where ipsum agrees in gender with the “seed” of the previous verse, semen]. That the reading to which you refer remains in the Nova Vulgata is incorrect. The New Vulgate was revised here in this verse to more accurately convey the Hebrew, where the pronoun could refer either to seed directly or to a singular representative of the woman’s seed (as reflected in the translation of some early medieval Latin manuscripts: ipse). We know that the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy is Christ, though see below.

    Second, the people in charge of revising the Vulgate after Trent were more concerned with establishing the best Latin edition of the Vulgate, which was translated mostly by St. Jerome but also retained the work of others before him. The reason for this aim seems to have been simply to produce the best Vulgate Latin version in accordance with Trent, again without prejudice to work with the original languages or even the Church attempting to produce official editions of other versions of the Bible (see my upcoming response to Joey for more on this point). For example, Pope Sixtus V, who rather rashly tried to complete the Vulgate edition single-handedly when he grew impatient with the commission’s work, was formerly in charge of the commission to revise the Septuagint as Cardinal Antonio Carafa. So the edition of the Vulgate that emerged at the end of the sixteenth-century was more concerned with standardizing the Latin text than revising the Latin text in accordance with the original languages. Since Jerome’s ipsa was not a dogmatic or theological error (see point 3 below), and because of the venerable nature of the Vulgate, nothing prevented it from being retained in that revision. The Church later revised the Vulgate further using Greek and Hebrew in addition to Latin. This new revision, commissioned by Paul VI and promulgated under Bl. John Paul II, incorporates the Hebrew reading of Genesis 3 in this verse, as I wrote above.

    Third, the larger point of confusion I see in your comment is that the Church does not consider Jerome’s ipsa as a dogmatic or moral error. This type of error is the type that Trent, Vatican I and Pius XII said was absent from the Vulgate tradition. Look again at the quotations provided above in the article and you will see that both the council and the pope were careful in their statements to highlight what sort of lack of error they meant. Trent certainly did not say that the Vulgate was inerrant in every sense of the word, for the council decreed in the same session that the Vulgate be revised. Jerome either had a different Hebrew text than the Masoretic text, made a mistake, or simply retained the rendering of the Old Latin (I do not know which).

    Now the ipsa is not a dogmatic error because Mary conquers the serpent in her role as the New Eve. In her willing and humble obedience to God in bearing the Seed, she reverses the rebellion of Eve. The Church indeed teaches that Christ is the Seed and conquers the devil as the New Adam, but that his holy mother participates in that victory more than any other person united to Christ. In a related way and by living as her children, all Christians in a state of grace have also overcome the evil one, as St. John notes in 1 John 2:14:

    […] I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

    and in Revelation 12:11 we find, right after the mention of the Woman and the heavenly defeat of the dragon:

    And they [the offspring of the Woman! v. 17] have conquered him [the accuser/dragon, v. 10] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony […]

    If Christians receive the Word into their hearts by grace and thereby overcome Satan, how much more does the New Eve, who received the Word most perfectly, conquer by her Son. The doctrine of our Lady conquering Satan is true, so a reading that includes her role in the protoevangelium of Genesis 3 is not wrong doctrinally but, at most, a translation error.

    For more on the New Eve typology in Scripture, I recommend the various posts on Mary found in the “Index” page under “M”. See the top of the page for the tab, just under the logo.

    pax,
    Barrett

  13. Joey,

    Unfortunately, I do not have the time tonight to do what I was planning on doing, namely, reply to you. I will have the time tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll get back to you then.

    pax,
    Barrett

  14. Joey (#10),

    I never said that Calvin thought that Trent outlawed any study of Greek and Hebrew whatsoever. I did say that the popular version of the Protestant understanding of Trent as having shut itself to the benefits of knowing the original languages has its pedigree, at least in part, in Calvin, who read Trent’s decrees as making the study of Greek and Hebrew ultimately irrelevant for the exposition of Scripture in the Church. This is why Calvin calls the first decree “ingenious” with respect to finding a way out of listening to those who know Greek and Hebrew, for it would inoculate the Catholics against having to deal with the force of the original languages. Even if Calvin thought that the study of the original tongues would be tolerated, he obviously thinks that Trent makes it such that they will have no real effect on the Church’s life. Since Calvin was convinced that a proper study of the original languages would lead one to adopt the Reformed program, he protested vigorously when he assumed that Trent was coming down more harshly than it actually was. Calvin did not protest that Trent forbade the study of Greek and Hebrew in some abstract way (in this we agree), but he protested that Trent nullified the benefit of that study for the Church.

    You say,

    The issue was, when there was controversy in doctrine or translation, the Roman Catholic theologian in Calvin’s time appeals to the superiority of the Latin translation even against the manuscripts available in Greek and Hebrew. That the Latin translation is thought to be of purer and more preserved text of the Church upon which all doctrines in controversy during Calvin’s time must be tested, is the issue. Some later theologians even would appeal to the Latin text to correct the more corrupt Greek text which the “heretics” depend upon. That is the issue my friend.

    Where does Trent say that the Latin is universally more pure than the Greek and Hebrew? Where does Trent say that Greek texts would need to be corrected against the Latin? Trent’s fourth session does not say anything about the integrity of the original language texts of its day. If this is what Calvin thought Trent said–as you say–then he simply read that into Trent. If you think that Trent did comment on the integrity of the original language texts, please provide evidence for this from the decrees.

    Your main argument, if I understand it correctly, is that the texts do not say this but that we must study the historical context to understand why Calvin wrote what he did (and why Trent, despite saying nothing about the corruption of the original language texts, said that the Vulgate was “purer” than the corrupt original language texts). Here you mention “the Catholic theologian of Calvin’s time,” a figure who holds that the Greek and Hebrew are corrupt wherever they disagree with the Vulgate. I will certainly agree with you that some Catholic theologians and polemicists held that the particular Greek and Hebrew texts of the Protestants were corrupt. One need look only so far as the preface to the Douay-Rheims version, and I do not doubt that you could supply other examples. I’m sure that some came to their opinions through critical investigation. Nothing in their opinions would have prevented them from accepting other manuscripts they thought were not corrupt (I think we would agree on this), and nothing in Catholic belief required one to think that this group of Catholics estimated the integrity of the texts or their parts correctly (or incorrectly).

    If Calvin read Trent through the writings of these men, we can better understand why he mistook the Council’s intent the way he did. I would be surprised if he did this, since surely he knew that the opinions of Catholic scholars did not constitute the official teaching of the Church as a whole, even if these were the majority of scholars he knew. Regardless, he misunderstood the decree, whatever the cause. There were plenty of other Catholic scholars, theologians, and churchmen (including cardinals) who did not think the Latin was necessarily more pure than the Greek. If there were writers who were severe in their suspicions of the Greek and Hebrew, there were others who were optimistic. I have given various examples in my post (e.g., Cardinal Ximenes), which is enough to show that Catholic theologians as a group were not as you maintain. There were some among Catholic theologians who even made fresh Latin translations from the Greek and Hebrew originals, such as Erasmus and Santes Pagninus, OP. The Vatican’s own librarian, Augustinus Steuchus, made a corrected edition of the Vulgate Old Testament against the Hebrew. The existence of such fellows, and the ecclesial support of their work in the original languages in various European countries (e.g., Spain, Italy, etc.), means that Catholic theologians did not all think of the Greek and Hebrew as the texts of “heretics” and corrupt, as you propose. So your portrayal of the historical context, which you say is necessary to interpret Calvin correctly, is not accurate.

    In addition to the Catholic scholars just mentioned, several bishops, cardinals, and theologians at Trent also did not share the opinion you impute to every Catholic theologian, namely, that the original texts were corrupt where they disagreed with the Latin. One can see this in the congregational deliberations leading to the decrees of the fourth session. Particularly central was the identification of four problems areas, two of which are relevant for our discussion. Jedin summarizes an important congregational reports description of these two areas:

    “[First] that lectures, disputations and sermons are based on different versions of the Scriptures. This abuse will be removed if the Council declares the Vulgate to be an authentic text, though without prejudice to the authority of the Septuagint or a deprecation of the other editions in so far as they contribute to a better understanding of the Vulgate. [Second] since it is not to be denied that the Vulgate has come down to us in a faulty condition, the Council should request the Pope to see to the production of an emended text of the Vulgate and also, if possible, of the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible.” (Hubert Jedin, A History of the Council of Trent, 2 vols, trans. Dom Ernest Graf, OSB, [St. Louis, MO: Herder, 1957], 2:71)

    Those at Trent who supported a humanistic-type approach to biblical studies and wanted the Vulgate revision to be made from original texts included Archbishop Robert Filheul, Cardinal Marcello Cervini, Cardinal Girolamo Seripando, Bishop Pietro Bertano, OP (who even said that Protestant translations into the vernacular should not be rejected out of hand because there was much good in them–in this he was supported by the Bishop of Trent, Cristoforo Madruzzo), and several other bishops, theologians, and heads of religious orders. As Jedin notes, “Many wanted to see the Vulgate corrected on the basis of the original texts, while others set greater value on its text than that of the original languages” (84). At least one Catholic scholar, Guglielmo Sirleto, who was friends with one of the legates, thought that the Vulgate had preserved more ancient readings than the Septuagint or the Greek New Testament manuscripts of the time. Yet even he “dreamed of the production of a model Latin Bible on the basis of Hebrew and Greek texts” (95), showing that even among those who were skeptical of Protestant texts the picture was more complicated than you were perhaps aware.

    The primary intention in establishing the Vulgate as the official Latin text had more to do with standardizing one Bible for Christendom in the common language of the time. This is sufficient to explain the Vulgate decree, especially when one reads histories of the fourth session’s deliberations and the actual text of the decrees themselves. The Vulgate was selected just for the reason the council said, out of respect for the centuries of use of the Vulgate. Still, this was done with an awareness that the Vulgate needed revision. The problem here was not Protestant appeals to the originals, but the proliferation of Latin editions of the Bible, different manuscript families for the Vulgate due to copying errors, and the production (whether intentional or not) of eclectic Latin texts. These texts also included the multiplying number of corrections of the Vulgate by Catholic scholars, or completely new translations, in light of the original languages, which I mentioned above.

    Eventually, the Council would simply decree that the Vulgate was the authentic text of the Latin Church and that a revision would be made. Due to the level of energy expended in crafting the various aspects of the fourth session (e.g., Scripture and Tradition, the authority of the Church in interpretation, etc.), the Council said nothing about the place of using the originals in the revision. The Council did not ask the pope to commission emended texts of the other ancient languages, though some began revisions themselves, such as those working under Cardinal Cervini, who thought that the Council would have time to return to this topic. (At a later session of Trent in 1561, one legate made an attempt to reopen the Vulgate question to define the Vulgate decree even further to include a prohibition of the study of original languages and of using texts not found in the Vulgate. This attempt failed [Jedin, 97-98].) The Council had to turn to other matters, both of doctrine and discipline, and was unable to return to the issue. If you can access it, I recommend Jedin, History of Trent, 52-98, which is the chapter on the deliberations and acts of the fourth session.

    The task of revising just the Vulgate turned out to be more difficult than the Coucil envisioned, and this is where the history of the revisions of the late sixteenth century under popes Pius and Clement begins. The Vulgate revision was paralleled by attempts to create critical Hebrew and Greek texts. I mentioned to Marty yesterday that Pope Pius V was actually head of the Septuagint commission before he was elected pope. I suppose that these commissions had become quasi-official sometime after the fourth session. Trent had ended with no decision on the purity of the original texts as they existed in the sixteenth century and thus there was no official Catholic position on this. Calvin simply assumed that there was one Catholic view here.

    Therefore the basic fact here is that Trent established the Vulgate as the official Latin text without any action with regard to Greek and Hebrew texts whatsoever. The Vulgate was accepted because of its honorable use and its freedom from dogmatic or moral error, such that practically it could be cited safely, not because it was judged to be “purer” than the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts. This is why Pius XII could say what he did in Divino afflante Spiritu, that Trent did not “in any way diminish the authority and value of the original texts” but had made a juridical, not a critical, decision. Calvin thought that Trent had meant more by the Vulgate decrees than it actually had.

    Here I would also add that positing an irreconciliable gulf between the Catholic Church and Protestants on the basis of the authenticity of the Vulgate is likewise reading more than is necessary into both the decrees and this period of history. The schisms of the sixteenth century were far more complex than that, with political, moral, and theological causes on both sides. Nevertheless, the issue of the use of the original languages did not require that the Reformers leave. If we were to focus on the issue of biblical studies, other contested points seem much more important to the Catholic-Protestant conflict, such as the prerogative of the Magisterium to give official interpretations of the Scriptures over against the “right” of individuals, even if scholars, to contradict the faith, or how to resolve apparent conflicts between philology and the teachings of the Church Fathers.

    Finally, I would like to say to you, Joey, that I did not impute any malice to Calvin in finding the beginnings of the myth with him, and so I have not said that Calvin deceived me (or anyone else) intentionally. I understand that many people respect Calvin, as you seem to do, but this post is about the truth of his assessment of the fourth session. He made a mistake caused by zealously defending what he thought was at stake. I have said nothing here of moral culpability, for my purpose was to assess what the fourth session of Trent actually did and whether Calvin understood it correctly on the point of the Vulgate, in order to remove one popular obstacle to the reunion of all Christians.

    The peace of Christ be with you.

    pax,
    Barrett (with two t’s)

  15. Barrett,

    James White officially chimed in …

    http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4689

    What are your thoughts on his response?

    I enjoyed reading your article, Barrett. Thanks for putting in the time and effort.

    Blessings,

    Brian

  16. Barret,

    It seems that you have toned down or changed your arguments now. Previously, you wrote the following:

    1. According to Calvin, Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew in marking the Vulgate as the authentic text of the Church.
    2. Yet Calvin has read more into the decree than the decree says. Calvin, a man with a great talent for sober and elegant writing and interpretation, here gave way to impassioned “eisegesis” of what Trent really said. Trent nowhere forbids the use of the original languages, as if St. Jerome had not used them to revise the Old Latin texts or make his own translations.

    Now, you are saying, “I never said that Calvin thought that Trent outlawed any study of Greek and Hebrew whatsoever.”

    This seems to be a toned down or a changed line of reasoning now and I am glad to see it.

    Here is the bottomline of this Barret. Your interpretation of Trent is one of the possible interpretations of the decree. As Hodge succintly noted, “The meaning of this decree is a matter of dispute among Romanists themselves. Some of the more modern and liberal of their theologians say that the Council simply intended to determine which among several Latin versions was to be used in the service of the Church. They contend that it was not meant to forbid appeal to the original Scriptures, or to place the Vulgate on a par with them in authority. The earlier and stricter Romanists take the ground that the Synod did intend to forbid an appeal to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and to make the Vulgate the ultimate authority. The language of the Council seems to favor this interpretation. The Vulgate was to be used not only for the ordinary purposes of public instruction, but in all theological discussions, and in all works of exegesis.” And of course, as you have pointed out, “Calvin simply assumed that there was one Catholic view here.”

    But still, Calvin, as you admited, is still within the bounds of the Catholic view on how this decree is to be understood –unless, you’ll argue that your interpretation of Trent is the official interpretation. As you may have noted, there are Catholic Theologians, relying on the wording of the decree, who did uphold the Latin text as superior over the manuscripts of the Greek and Hebrew text when the reformers used them to point out exegetical errors of Rome. As Trent clearly said “no one is to dare, or presume to reject it [i.e. the old Latin] under any pretext whatever.” The interpretation of these Catholic theologians of the decree of Trent is not a misrepresentation of the decree but one of the legitimate interpretations (and more popular during Calvin’s time) which Calvin took issue with. Therefore, it is not necessary to paint Calvin as misrepresenting the decree.

    A final note. You said, “Finally, I would like to say to you, Joey, that I did not impute any malice to Calvin in finding the beginnings of the myth with him, and so I have not said that Calvin deceived me (or anyone else) intentionally.” This again is a toned down argument. In your essay, you said,

    “The problem is that this story is a myth. It is a myth like the myth that the Catholic Church officially opposed the translation of Sacred Scripture into other vernacular languages in itself. When I was seeking Protestant sources and arguments to keep me from converting to Catholicism, I found that this misinterpretation came down to me from the very pen of John Calvin. In reading Calvin’s Antidote (1547) to the Council of Trent, I found him accusing the Council of exalting the Latin Vulgate with the intention of shutting the mouth of the true reformers such as himself.”

    then you said,

    “I learned that I had accepted a myth only after I did two important things toward learning what the Catholic Church actually teaches: 1) I talked to a faithful Catholic priest and 2) I read Trent and some other Catholic sources with an ear that was at least open to being corrected. One does not want to look in the mirror and see an ostrich, after all.”

    You did accuse Calvin of misrepresentation and that you were deceived by his misrepresentation. You accused him of “impassioned eisegesis” of Trent. Further, you claimed that, had you not performed two imprtant things, you could have stayed deceived by Calvin’s misrepresentation. I am at a loss, based on your original essay, how you can say that:

    1. I did not impute any malice to Calvin in finding the beginnings of the myth with him.
    2. I have not said that Calvin deceived me (or anyone else) intentionally.

    My friend, you coaxed your essay with “conversion” narratives and made personal remarks on how you’ve come to break free from the deceptions of Calvin. That is part of your argument and the thrust of your essay. To say then that,

    “…this post is about the truth of his [i.e. Calvin’s] assessment of the fourth session. He made a mistake caused by zealously defending what he thought was at stake. I have said nothing here of moral culpability, for my purpose was to assess what the fourth session of Trent actually did and whether Calvin understood it correctly on the point of the Vulgate, in order to remove one popular obstacle to the reunion of all Christians.”

    is not that convincing for you’ve crafted your essay in such a way that it affected you personally. In your essay, you want to portray that someone was deceived by Calvin’s assessment of Trent and that someone was “YOU”. The essay, therefore, is not purely about the assessment of the fourth session of Trent and Calvin but a call to break free from “supposed” Calvin’s (Reformed) deception/misrepresentation of Trent. It is clear to me that this post is not aimed for the “reunion of all Christians” but for the conversion of “protestants” to Rome.

    Regards,
    Joey

  17. Oops, not “James White,” but it is his website.

  18. One of the more interesting questions when it comes to scripture is to ask, ‘exactly which set of texts are inspired and innerrant’?

    The thing with Trent is not that it is codifying the Vulgate as the normative and authorative text for the Latin Church, it is that it is saying that edited and translations of original sources can be and also are inspired and inerrant.

    Most modern Protestant confessions and whatnot will talk in such a way that inspiration and inerrancy is attached only to the original manuscripts. The Catholic Church does not take this position that only the original manuscripts are inspired and inerrant.

    Personally, I have to think that Calvin’s “miss-assessment” of Trent was intentional. What Trent is interested in doing is upholding the scriptures as received by the Latin Church, which is in the Vulgate. What Calvin is interested in legitimizing are the Protestant vernacular scriptures that are translated from those sources that Protestants have deemed correct for translating from and that have been done so according to the proto-Protestant IP. Given that Calvin was a man of learning (and the fact the Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox has seminaries in Rome and the West owing to the fall of the Byzantine Empire) I am sure he was aware of the Greek and Syric “bibles”. If Trent really was saying that only the Vulgate mattered, then all that Calvin would have had to do would have been to bring up the Eastern Catholic/Orthodox “bibles” to show the error of Rome. What Calvin does instead is to imply that what the Latin Church received was not legitimate because it is important to read things in the original language and that the Vulgate doesn’t match the Protestant translations of scripture. He does this because he needs to de-legitimize the Vulgate but it is really just a shell game as both of his points are givens.

    Trent’s position is rather logical: Document A is translated as Document B. We know that the translation of Document B is correct because the theology produced by Document A (Greek theology of the Early Church) is in harmony with the theology produced by Document B (Latin Theology of the Early Church). People can no longer read Document B and need it translated into Document C. In order for Document C to be correct, it cannot be simply a translation of Document A but it must also be in agreement with Document B (which makes it also in agreement with Latin and Greek theology). Thus Trent affirms that the Vulgate is standard and authorative for the Latin Church.

    Calvin’s position is not logical: Document C which is produced from later editions of Document A, Document A1, is not in agreement with Document B. Thus Document B must be false. This doesn’t logically follow for the following reasons 1.) Document A1 might not be in agreement with Document A 2.) Document C’s disagreement with Document B could stem from faulty translation, namely reading ones own hermeneutic into the text and making the translation conform to the hermeneutic instead of translating literally.

    Now Calvin needs to de-legitimize Document B (as well as de-legitimize the early Fathers who prove that Document B is legitimate). This is rather still the standard tact of Reformed apologists. But the problem with this is that he cannot appeal to Document B1 (Greek Bible) and B2 (Syric Bible) as these do not support Calvin’s Document C but rather Document B and the later Douay-Rheims Document C. The only option that Calvin has is a miss-representation of what Trent says, namely that Trent is saying that the original languages don’t matter and that the opinions of learned men don’t matter which is used to get people riled up because it is common sense and givens that original languages are important and learned men’s opinions need to be taken into account — Points that Trent doesn’t actually disagree on. Calvin needs to do this because his position isn’t logical and he needs to distract people from that fact by pointing out things that people agree with and then making it sound like Trent doesn’t agree with “common sense”.

    Now I am not saying that Calvin did this with malice or fully consciously but rather it was intentional as the misrepresentation is forced by his need to uphold Document C’s legitimacy (The Protestant translations and more so the Protestant theology supported by those translations). It is important to point out here that the Reformers were reading scripture in the Latin/Greek/Hebrew and were churning out vernacular translations that conformed to their theology in order to have a support for what they were teaching. This was and still is a huge problem. Even Protestants recognize that it is a problem and it can be seen in how different groups of Protestants view different Protestant translations of scripture. When you are doing translations you have to translate according to established exegesis, theology, and authorative translations — you cannot simply translate according to you own personal interpretation of things. )

  19. Brian M (#15/17),

    Thanks for reading! Unfortunately, I do not have to the time to respond to the article you cited. Is there a particular point you read which you were thinking about?

    pax,
    Barrett

  20. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for your comment. I am not sure what you mean by the inspiration of the Vulgate, but I will certainly agree with you that there are larger issues that deserve treatment. The issue of the Greek translations of the Old Testament and their status might fall into this topic. Overall, I agree with you that the fourth session did not mark the Latin Vulgate as the authentic text with prejudice against the Septuagint or against the Eastern Catholic Churches. This came up in the debates there, and the Church even had an official Septuagint commission going for a while.

    I also agree that Calvin thinks that the Protestant project is threatened by the fourth session’s decrees, otherwise he could have said that the decrees are not quite complete with regard to the original languages but tolerable (something which many Catholics, including cardinals in Rome, said!). In response to other canons of the later sessions, Calvin would sometimes reply with a simple “Amen” to indicate his agreement. But with the fourth session, he senses something more insidious: a decree calculated to delegitimize the Reformed movement by making the their appeals to original languages irrelevant for resolving the controversies of the time. In this way, Calvin believes that Trent has rigged the game.

    I am not sure the Catholic objection to all Protestant vernacular translations was that they were in the vernacular (the Council fathers were nearly evenly split on that issue and opposition to vernacular translations fell along regional lines) nor even that they are completely biased by Protestant theology. I think the main issue was the underlying position of locating final authority in the individual’s interpretation and of the study notes often accompanying the translations, which were often leading the reader to take a Protestant view on this or that passage when the Protestant view(s) conflicted with what the Catholics taught.

    pax,
    Barrett

  21. Joey, (re: #16)

    You wrote:

    This seems to be a toned down or a changed line of reasoning now and I am glad to see it.

    A third statement fully compatible with two earlier statements is not a “changed line of reasoning,” and it is uncharitable (and sophistical) to assume that such a statement indicates that your interlocutor has changed his position. Clarification that is fully compatible with earlier statements is just that, clarification, not changing one’s position.

    Your interpretation of Trent is one of the possible interpretations of the decree.

    Of course texts must be interpreted, including the documents that issue from ecumenical councils. But where the text itself leaves various interpretive options, we are to follow the interpretation given by the Church, both from previous teachings that limit interpretive options, and from subsequent teachings that clarify the authentic interpretation. And Barrett has done precisely that, by drawing from Pope Pius XII’s teaching in Divino afflante Spiritu, and from Pope Benedict XVI. So we are not left with a coin-flip in determining the meaning of the first decree in the fourth session of Trent. The “your interpretation is one of the possible interpretations” is the Protestant hermeneutical position wrongly imposed on Catholics. Just because Protestants have no Magisterial organ by which the authoritative interpretation of prior Church teachings can be provided, this doesn’t mean that Catholics have no such organ.

    But still, Calvin, as you admited, is still within the bounds of the Catholic view on how this decree is to be understood

    Actually, Barrett never ‘admitted’ that. Here’s what Barrett said:

    I will certainly agree with you that some Catholic theologians and polemicists held that the particular Greek and Hebrew texts of the Protestants were corrupt. One need look only so far as the preface to the Douay-Rheims version, and I do not doubt that you could supply other examples. I’m sure that some came to their opinions through critical investigation. Nothing in their opinions would have prevented them from accepting other manuscripts they thought were not corrupt (I think we would agree on this), and nothing in Catholic belief required one to think that this group of Catholics estimated the integrity of the texts or their parts correctly (or incorrectly).

    If Calvin read Trent through the writings of these men, we can better understand why he mistook the Council’s intent the way he did. I would be surprised if he did this, since surely he knew that the opinions of Catholic scholars did not constitute the official teaching of the Church as a whole, even if these were the majority of scholars he knew. Regardless, he misunderstood the decree, whatever the cause.

    That’s not saying or implying that Calvin’s interpretation of the first decree of Trent 4 is “within the bounds of the Catholic view on how this decree is to be understood.” As Barrett has explained, Calvin went beyond what the decree said, reading more into it than what it said.

    You wrote:

    As you may have noted, there are Catholic Theologians, relying on the wording of the decree, who did uphold the Latin text as superior over the manuscripts of the Greek and Hebrew text when the reformers used them to point out exegetical errors of Rome. As Trent clearly said “no one is to dare, or presume to reject it [i.e. the old Latin] under any pretext whatever.” The interpretation of these Catholic theologians of the decree of Trent is not a misrepresentation of the decree but one of the legitimate interpretations (and more popular during Calvin’s time) which Calvin took issue with. Therefore, it is not necessary to paint Calvin as misrepresenting the decree.

    Which Catholic theologians claimed that this first decree of Trent’s Fourth Session taught that the Latin text of the Vulgate is superior to the available Greek and Hebrew manuscripts for determining the original words or the original intent of the human authors of the Old and New Testament books, and where, exactly, did these Catholic theologians say this? That the Latin text is superior in one respect (i.e. as carrying with it the authority of enduring and universal use in the Latin Church does not mean that it is superior in every other respect to the available Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.

    A final note. You said, “Finally, I would like to say to you, Joey, that I did not impute any malice to Calvin in finding the beginnings of the myth with him, and so I have not said that Calvin deceived me (or anyone else) intentionally.” This again is a toned down argument.

    Again, Barrett offers a third statement fully compatible with his earlier statements, and you construe this as a “toned down argument.” And again, for the very same reason I explained above, such a construal is sophistical, not charitable. Barrett hasn’t changed his claim or his argument.

    You wrote:

    You did accuse Calvin of misrepresentation and that you were deceived by his misrepresentation. You accused him of “impassioned eisegesis” of Trent. Further, you claimed that, had you not performed two imprtant things, you could have stayed deceived by Calvin’s misrepresentation.

    Yes, he did. Those are fully compatible with not imputing any malice to Calvin regarding his mistaken construal of the first decree of Trent 4.

    You wrote:

    I am at a loss, based on your original essay, how you can say that:

    1. I did not impute any malice to Calvin in finding the beginnings of the myth with him.
    2. I have not said that Calvin deceived me (or anyone else) intentionally.

    Those two statements are perfectly compatible. “Person x deceived me intentionally” is not the same as “I was deceived by the writings of person x.”

    My friend, you coaxed your essay with “conversion” narratives and made personal remarks on how you’ve come to break free from the deceptions of Calvin.

    This use of “my friend” (in comments #8, #10, and #16) is patronizing. Please see the “Posting Guidelines,” which do not permit patronizing forms of address.

    You wrote:

    That is part of your argument and the thrust of your essay. To say then that,

    “…this post is about the truth of his [i.e. Calvin’s] assessment of the fourth session. He made a mistake caused by zealously defending what he thought was at stake. I have said nothing here of moral culpability, for my purpose was to assess what the fourth session of Trent actually did and whether Calvin understood it correctly on the point of the Vulgate, in order to remove one popular obstacle to the reunion of all Christians.”

    is not that convincing for you’ve crafted your essay in such a way that it affected you personally.

    Yes, of course what Calvin wrote affected Barrett personally. But that does not mean that there was any malice on Calvin’s part in misleading his readers with respect to Trent 4, or that Barrett is not speaking truthfully when he says that his post is about whether Calvin’s assessment of the first decree of Trent 4 is true. Just because an historical question has present implications does not mean that no one can write an essay with the purpose of addressing that historical question, while knowing that it has present implications.

    In your essay, you want to portray that someone was deceived by Calvin’s assessment of Trent and that someone was “YOU”.

    True.

    The essay, therefore, is not purely about the assessment of the fourth session of Trent and Calvin but a call to break free from “supposed” Calvin’s (Reformed) deception/misrepresentation of Trent.

    Barrett never claimed that his essay was “purely about the assessment of the fourth session of Trent” as though it had no implications for what we should believe today. In his last paragraph in #14 he wrote:

    Finally, I would like to say to you, Joey, that I did not impute any malice to Calvin in finding the beginnings of the myth with him, and so I have not said that Calvin deceived me (or anyone else) intentionally. I understand that many people respect Calvin, as you seem to do, but this post is about the truth of his assessment of the fourth session. He made a mistake caused by zealously defending what he thought was at stake. I have said nothing here of moral culpability, for my purpose was to assess what the fourth session of Trent actually did and whether Calvin understood it correctly on the point of the Vulgate, in order to remove one popular obstacle to the reunion of all Christians.

    That’s not a claim that the truth about the fourth session of Trent has no implications for us today. Barrett says that he is not imputing any malice to Calvin, but rather focusing on whether Calvin’s assessment of Trent 4 is true. And you respond by claiming that Barrett’s essay is not purely about the assessment of Trent 4 because it is also a call to break free from Calvin’s misrepresentation. Well, of course. But his essay having the implication that we should break free from Calvin’s misrepresentation of Trent 4 is not the same thing as imputing malice to Calvin.

    It is clear to me that this post is not aimed for the “reunion of all Christians” but for the conversion of “protestants” to Rome.

    Those two aims are fully compatible, and, if it turns out that Protestants wrongly separated from the Catholic Church, then true reunion between Protestants and Catholics requires the return of Protestants to the Catholic Church. “[T]he union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.” (Pope Pius XI, Mortalium animos, 1928)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  22. Barrett (#19),

    Without going into a whole lot of detail, I don’t think that the blogger sufficiently interacts with your article.

    For example, at the end of his blog entry, he claims:

    So one of the main arguments during this time period was: what exactly constituted the authentic text of the Bible? Whitaker’s entire discussion is a worthy read. I wonder if the CTC author even had this basic text during the years he claims to have been “Reformed.” When dealing with history Roman Catholic converts are often prone to look down from their current perspective and chastise someone (like John Calvin) without at least trying to understand what informed his perspective in the first place. There is indeed “myth” going on here, but it isn’t from Calvin’s hand. Rather, I think CTC has missed Calvin’s main concern and also engaged in a bit of anachronism.

    Aside from the ad hominem attacks, from what I can tell, your article, strictly speaking, was an attempt to show how Calvin had misinterpreted the Council’s decisions to imply that the Church was opposed to studying the original languages. I don’t think your article gives the impression that Calvin was not concerned with the authentic text of Scripture, nor that the authentic text of Scripture in general was not an issue at all during this particular period in history.

    You wrote:

    According to Calvin, Trent swept away the need for studying Greek and Hebrew in marking the Vulgate as the authentic text of the Church. Yet Calvin has read more into the decree than the decree says. Calvin, a man with a great talent for sober and elegant writing and interpretation, here gave way to impassioned “eisegesis” of what Trent really said.

    Toward the end of the article, you expressed:

    The myth of what Trent really did persists among many Protestants, as other myths about Protestants persist among Catholics. In this little post, I hope that I have done enough to show that the Church was not opposed to the use of the Greek and Hebrew languages in the fourth session of Trent, contrary to Calvin’s misinterpretation. The more myths of this nature are dispelled, the closer Protestants and Catholics come to reconciliation and to the healing of long-held suspicions.

    The blogger did not sufficiently show exactly how the decisions of the Council of Trent (not specific Catholic scholars with their own opinions) rejected the use of the original languages when studying the Scriptures.

    More could be said, but due to time constraints, I’ll leave it at that.

    Blessings,

    Brian

  23. TurretinFan and James Swan have both linked to this article.

    TurretinFan discusses the issue here: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/06/calvin-trent-and-vulgate-responding-to.html. And here: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/06/john-calvin-responding-to-fourth.html

    James Swan linked to it here: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/06/vulgate-blues.html

    I’ll say “hi” to them from here…

    Greetings in the LORD, James and TurretinFan!

    I’ll zero in on the focus of James’ post where Calvin is quoted as saying,

    “In the first chapter of the Romans the translator calls Christ “the predestinated Son of God.” Those not acquainted with Greek are at a loss to explain this term, because, properly speaking, only things which do not yet exist are predestinated; whereas Christ is the eternal Son of God. There is no difficulty in the Greek word, which means “declared.” I have given one example. It were needless labor to give others. In one word, were this edict of the Council sanctioned, the simple effect would be, that the Fathers of Trent would make the world look with their eyes open, and yet not see the light presented to them.”

    Saint Augustine, rather than being at a loss, eagerly explained how it is not opposed to the Catholic faith for this verse of Scripture to be rendered this way. He does so beginning here and continuing in the next chapter:

    “Moreover, the most illustrious light of predestination and grace is the Saviour Himself, — the Mediator Himself between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. And, pray, by what preceding merits of its own, whether of works or of faith, did the human nature which is in Him procure for itself that it should be this? Let this have an answer, I beg. That man, whence did He deserve this — to be assumed by the Word coeternal with the Father into unity of person, and be the only-begotten Son of God?” (On the Predestination of the Saints, Ch. 15:30)

    Augustine was actually happy to have this particular translation for use in his controversy with the Pelagians. John Calvin was familiar with this work from Augustine, and evidently even alludes to it in his Antidote (see pages 120 and 121 of the translation James referenced). And yet Calvin still claimed that “[t]hose not acquainted with Greek are at a loss to explain this term.” :(

    Ironically, Augustine takes the position directly opposite the suggestion of James’ post:

    “ Accordingly, whoever denies predestination of the Son of God, denies that He was also Himself the Son of man” (Tractate 105 on the Gospel of John, 8).

    According to these prophetic words from Augustine, it was Calvin himself who was contradicting the faith when he tried to criticize the Vulgate on this point. And in his complaint that Trent would cause the world to be unable to “see the light presented to them,” Calvin himself was left blind to what Augustine had referred to as “the most illustrious light of predestination.” What amazing mercy from God to ward off the criticisms of John Calvin so far in advance, to the very words!

    I hope the two of you will be Catholic some day (soon)! :)

    In Christ,
    Pete Holter

  24. Pete,

    In Barrett’s article, he wrote:

    The manuscript discoveries misused by the Reformers in articulating their principle of sola scriptura do not give God’s people the faith. Rather, the valid critical study of manuscripts supports the faith but does not establish it.

    That is key to understanding the first two decrees in Trent 4. The first decree “If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical …” is addressing the canon question, and the “with all their parts” is referring to the parts of Daniel and Esther that Protestant Bibles excluded. It is not addressing questions of textual criticism. Likewise, the second decree of Trent 4 (“no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it”) is adjudicating between various Latin texts, as that decree explicitly states, with respect to juridical authority. This decree likewise is not passing any judgment pertaining to textual criticism.

    This second decree is specifying the juridical authority of the Vulgate for public use in the Church. Trent 4 was not making any claim pertaining to textual criticism. It was not declaring, for example, that the Vulgate has textual authority over any Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. According to Trent 4, the juridical authority of the Vulgate was derived from its widespread and long-continued use in the Latin Church for so many centuries. This long-continued use showed it to be free of any error in faith and morals, but did not show it to be free of any translation error.

    The way in which its long-continued use showed it to be free of any error in faith or morals, is based on the Catholic belief that the Holy Spirit is continually guiding the Church into all truth in matters of faith and morals, such that the universal Church (spread out in space and time) is infallible in matters of faith and morals. And that won’t make sense to persons for whom the assumption of ecclesial deism is a given. The divine protection of the Church from error does not mean that there can be no translation errors in the Vulgate. Divine protection does not extend to such matters, just as it does not make popes impeccable.

    One conclusion that follows from this second decree in Trent 4 is that there has been no doctrinal corruption as a result of any textual error or translation error in the Vulgate. No doctrine was lost or corrupted, and no doctrine was added, because of any manuscript error. The Holy Spirit has been with the Church all along, guiding her into all truth; and the determination of which text has juridical authority should not presume the truth of ecclesial deism. That’s why no variant in a Greek or Hebrew manuscript would justify overturning any Catholic doctrine.

    Pete, you linked to TurretinFan’s post responding to Barrett’s article. TF has misunderstood Trent 4, by not recognizing the distinction between textual authority (i.e. being a translation that trumps all other manuscripts in questions of textual criticism) and juridical authority (i.e. being the translation that is authorized for public use in the Church, with the assurance that it is free of any error in faith and morals). By not recognizing this distinction, TF repeatedly misinterprets Trent 4. He writes:

    What we can gather from these two items [in Trent 4] is that the Vulgate was viewed as the standard both for the canon and for the text.

    Trent 4 is saying that the Vulgate is the standard for the canon, but nothing is being said in Trent 4 about textual criticism in relation to Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. By saying “for the text” TF is reading into Trent’s statement something it is not saying. Likewise, he writes:

    It says “no one is to dare, or presume to reject [the Vulgate] under any pretext whatever.” That would appear to include rejecting it based on it differing from the Greek and Hebrew.

    TF has overlooked the first part of the sentence of that second decree, which reads, “not a little advantage will accrue to the Church of God if it be made known which of all the Latin editions of the sacred books now in circulation is to be regarded as authentic.” So first, the “no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it” is not in relation to Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, but only in relation to other Latin versions, and second Trent is referring here to juridical authority, not questions of textual criticism. TF doesn’t recognize the Catholic distinction between jurisdictional authority and textual authority, and thus doesn’t realize that the second decree of Trent 4 is addressing only the juridical authority of the Vulgate in relation to other Latin translations.

    TF writes:

    The council’s point is to identify an authentic text, not a corrupt text.

    TF says that, because in his mind, there can be no such thing as an authentic translation that has textual defects. And that’s because he is not recognizing the distinction between juridical authority and textual authority, such that there could be a translation that has juridical authority (and which has no errors in faith or morals) but does not thereby trump all other manuscripts and translations with respect to questions of textual criticism.

    TF writes:

    Revising an authentic text is a strange notion indeed. If you change the authentic text, you render it _______. I think everyone knows that the answer is not “better” but “inauthentic.”

    Again, TF finds it “strange” because he does not grasp the distinction between juridical authority and textual authority. For TF, if the Vulgate is authentic, then it can have no textual or translation defects. So, TF’s objection here is based on his misunderstanding of Trent 4, due to his not recognizing this distinction between juridical authority and textual authority.

    TF writes:

    Revising the authentic text would also entail rejecting the authentic text.

    Again, same mistake. And he continues to make this same mistake throughout his post.

    TF writes:

    What John Paul II did in authorizing the New Vulgate was arguably contrary to this decree of Trent.

    Again, the same mistake. Instead of allowing the Catholic Church’s act of authorizing the New Vulgate to reform his mistaken interpretation of Trent 4, he asserts that he knows the meaning of Trent better than does the Catholic Church.

    Regarding Divino Afflante Spiritu, TF writes:

    Of course, the writings of Pius XII reflect the embarrassment of Rome in the wake of the rise in popularity of the textual critical movement. They reflect Rome’s attempt to damage control by trying to spin the decree of Trent in such a way that makes it appear less obviously in error.

    Again, instead of allowing Pope Pius XII’s statements to revise and correct his mistaken interpretation of Trent 4, he accuses Pope Pius XII of engaging in damage control and spin. When one is working in a paradigm in which one’s own [false] interpretation must be right, then nothing can correct that [false] interpretation, even if one’s own interpretation entails the most implausible and preposterous implications, i.e. that pope after pope must be lying, twisting, and distorting Trent 4 in order to justify their rebellion against Trent 4. It is this same kind of epistemological hubris that led John Bugay earlier this year week after week, writing for James Swan’s Beggars All, to accuse Pope Benedict XVI of pantheism.

    TF writes:

    There is no limitation in the decree either only to “the Latin Church” or only to public use.

    TF treats ecclesial texts in the same traditionless way he approaches Scripture. So he thinks he can rightly infer that if a text doesn’t limit a statement to x, then the statement is not limited to x, because from his point of view there is no functioning authoritative interpretive tradition. In doing so, he is treating Catholic documents with a Protestant paradigm, and thus begging the question. In fact, at the time of the Council of Trent, there were Eastern Churches in communion with the Apostolic See, but not part of the Latin Church. The Maronites, for example, were not required by Trent 4 to adopt the Vulgate in their liturgy. And the Fathers at the Council of Trent were, of course, aware of Eastern Catholics like the Maronites. So the intention of the Tridentine Fathers with respect to the second decree of Trent 4 pertained only to the Latin Church, even if they didn’t explicitly state that in Trent 4.

    TF writes:

    And they [i.e. Greek and Hebrew manuscripts] cannot be used to correct the errors of of the Vulgate, according to what Trent said.

    Again, TF makes the same interpretive mistake. By failing to recognize the distinction between juridical and textual authority, and by failing to note that Trent explicitly qualifies its second decree in Trent 4 to determine “which of all the Latin editions of the sacred books now in circulation is to be regarded as authentic,” he mistakenly assumes that Trent’s decree affirming the Vulgate’s juridical authority is also therefore a claim that the Vulgate has textual authority over all Greek and Hebrew manuscripts in questions of textual criticism.

    He writes:

    Nevertheless, no exception for the early texts is made to Trent’s decree that the Vulgate not be rejected on any grounds at all.

    Again, TF’s claim is based on the same two mistakes described above. He does not recognize that Trent is talking about jurisdictional authority, not textual authority, and he does not recognize that Trent explicitly qualifies its second decree in Trent 4 to determine “which of all the Latin editions of the sacred books now in circulation is to be regarded as authentic,” showing that it is not making any judgement with respect to textual criticism between the Vulgate on the one hand, and the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts on the other.

    TF writes:

    Recall that the Council had alleged that the Vulgate in “all its parts” is to be accepted as canonical. That sounds like a critical-type determination, not merely a juridical one.

    TF’s criticism of Barrett’s article is based on TF’s assumption that since Trent says of the Vulgate that “all its parts” are to be accepted as canonical, to TF, Trent “sounds like” it is teaching that with respect to textual criticism, the Vulgate has textual authority over every other language, manuscript and variant; namely, that the Vulgate is textually infallible. Again, he does not turn to the Catholic Church to inform his interpretation of Trent; instead, he leans on his own understanding. And then uses his own misunderstanding of Trent, to accuse subsequent popes of violating or spinning Trent.

    But, even if we didn’t look at the Church’s tradition to inform our understanding of Trent 4, we can see even by an internal analysis of Trent 4 that TF’s interpretation of the the first decree of Trent 4 cannot be right, because it would make the second decree entirely superfluous. In other other words, if by “all its parts” in the first decree in Trent 4 the Council were claiming that every word and phrase in the Vulgate must be accepted as textually (and not merely doctrinally) authentic, then there would be no reason to say in a second decree that no one may dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject [the Vulgate] in favor of some other Latin text.

    TF goes on:

    Moreover, the hypothesis that “authentic” meant merely “free from doctrinal or moral error” is open to serious question. Pius XII does not justify this assertion, just as he does not justify his other assertions.

    Claiming that a position or statement is “open to serious question,” without providing any evidence that the claim or position is false, is a way to appear to be criticizing something, without having any ground or basis for criticism. It is trivially true that every claim is “open to serious question,” since for every claim, a serious question can be raised about it. But TF’s statement that “Pius XII does not justify this assertion” points to the heart of the problem. TF’s approach to Magisterial teachings is a form of rationalism. “If I don’t see for myself the evidence for its truth, then there is no reason to believe it to be true.” But if the Church’s Magisterium is the divinely authorized steward of the tradition, and the authoritative teacher of the tradition, then we rightly receive and understand the faith from the Magisterium not by demanding that it provide independent rationally compelling evidence for each of its claims, but by humbly receiving in faith what Christ by His shepherds teaches us. This is what fides quaerens intellectum [faith seeking understanding] is all about. Rationalism leaves no room for faith, only for what one can see for oneself to be true. See “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church.”

    TF then quotes from Pope Leo XIII’s statement in Providentissiums Deus (1893), where Pope Leo wrote:

    Yet account will have to be taken of the remaining versions [of the Bible] which Christian antiquity has commended and used, especially of the very ancient manuscripts. For although, as far as the heart of the matter is concerned, the meaning of the Hebrew and the Greek is well elucidated in the expressions of the Vulgate, yet if anything is set forth therein with ambiguity, or if without accuracy “an examination of the preceding language” will be profitable, as Augustine advises. (my emphasis – BRC)

    TF responds:

    Notice how Leo allows the use of the Hebrew and the Greek, not to correct the Vulgate, but to resolve ambiguities in the Latin.

    Actually, Pope Leo explicitly says that if anything in the Vulgate is set forth without accuracy, examining the Hebrew and Greek will be profitable in order to correct the inaccuracy.

    The more we love something truly, with rightly ordered love, the more we see it truly. In this way, among others, charity and truth go together.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  25. @ Barrett #25

    Good to hear your reply.

    What I am also thinking of was the debate during Vatican II with Dei Verbum as to what exactly was inspired when it came to the text of scripture — whether it was the whole thing or just the parts of faith and morals. If I am remembering correctly some of the schema discussions included the “inspired in the original texts”. What ended up in Dei Verbum was broad inspiration — all the parts of scripture are inspired and inspiration was not limited to the original autographs.

    I do agree and stress that the Greek and Syriac bibles need to be brought into the discussion for they were known of at the time and were in possession of by the Christian West. Calvin is really rather threatened, as you said, by the fourth session of Trent. It is not enough for him to study scripture alone but it must be those texts and translations which find approval by him. Calvin is really the one who is stacking the deck but he is not being careful as he is also undercutting the premise of sola scriptura. His argument needs a norming norm to function in order to determine “which texts” are authentic.

    I agree that vernacular translations were not really the problem the bishops of Trent. What I think was a problem was all these Protestant theologians running around saying “The Church has been lying to you! Here read the proof in this vernacular bible that I translated for you and filled with notes that I wrote myself.” The people couldn’t read and if they could read they couldn’t read Latin so it was impossible for the average plowman to check the Protestant bibles against the Church’s Vulgate. Even if everyone could few people are analytical enough to do that (which is why even today I keep getting spam FWs in my email box concerning this or that non-existent Senate bill that I need to take action on)

    We have a semi-equivalent problem today. There are a lot of bad English translations of important Vatican documents, not just poor but translations where whole theological thoughts are changed or removed. How are people to know what is authentic and what is not when they cannot read the “standard text” nor do they have access to it?

    But I digress.

    PAX CHRISTI TIBI

  26. Bryan:

    Thanks for your comments on my article. I noticed that nearly all of your rebuttal consisted of your assertion of a particular interpretation of Trent that is different from that I showed to be correct. Since my own analysis was not based merely on assertion, I am confident my article carries the day on those points, as readers can discover for themselves.

    As for your point regarding Providentissimus Deus, the term translated “without accuracy” does not mean “wrongly” but simply “less accurately,” i.e. imprecisely. As I said, he’s not actually admitting that there are mistakes in the Vulgate. I notice that you yourself don’t assert that he’s saying that there are mistakes in the Vulgate, so perhaps you were simply intended to highlight Leo XIII’s appositive phrase to underscore your agreement with me on that point. It’s hard to say, and I don’t wish to insist on there being disagreement between us where none exists.

    – TurretinFan

  27. And lest I miss the opportunity to point this out (which I don’t think I pointed out in my article), the issue of juridical authority is not necessarily unconnected from the issue of textual authority.

    In other words, it’s not an either/or scenario, but a both/and scenario. The Scriptures are, indeed, an authoritative document having juridical authority, yet knowledge of their text is important in resolving disputes. The question Trent was addressing in the 4th session was the issue of the correct text, not whether the Scriptures have juridical authority (as pointed out at much greater length in my article).

    If someone brings you an edition of the Constitution that includes a “King George III is the sovereign of this land” clause, you will right point out that the edition is not authentic, and this particular clause is an interpolation.

    A particular edition was pointed out precisely because there were multiple versions, which differed from one another in regard to what? I’m sure you know – the answer is that they varied from one another with respect to the text.

    -TurretinFan

  28. James Swan posted a response to my comment up above: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/06/augustine-romans-14-and-vulgate.html

    Greetings in the LORD, James! Thanks for responding to my comment.

    You wrote,

    “If the Vulgate has been corrected, I’d really like to find the corrected version that doesn’t use praedestinatus. If the word was chosen to remain, I’d like to know why.

    I’m not aware of any dogmatic statement as to the correct translation of this verse. There’s no dogmatic statement as to why the Douay-Rheims says “predestinated” and the NAB uses “established.” Those are two very different words, making the verse say different things. One has to be wrong.”

    The New Vulgate available on the Vatican’s website has been corrected: http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_nt_epist-romanos_lt.html.

    Problem solved. :)

    James Swan wrote,

    The bottom line is that if a Romanist wants to maintain “The Vulgate, even with the scribal errors, said nothing which contradicted the faith,” in Romans 1:4, they appear to be forced to rely on the private interpretation of Augustine on a mistranslated word. They need to explain also why another private interpretation concluding the opposite of Augustine’s is in error.

    Romanist? Some of us prefer Popish Papist, thanks. Ha, ha!

    The larger point is that neither word in either translation is opposed to the faith. One of the words is wrong, this is true. But Calvin tried to pretend that praedestinatus was opposed to the faith and would becloud the world in darkness. Augustine, on the other hand, argued that Christ was the preeminent example of predestination, and he did this with or without the presence of praedestinatus in Romans 1:4. If you take a closer look at Tractate 105 on John, you’ll see that Augustine asserted that the truth of this doctrine was known by “faithfully considering the rule of faith,” and that he brought in Romans 1:4 “on account of those who are disputatious,” but didn’t view it as necessary in order to assert this truth.

    In 3.15.2 of his Institutes, John Calvin directly quotes from the very chapter of Augustine’s treatise On the Predestination of the Saints where he discusses the predestination of the Son of God (cf. Ch. 15:31). So he was not unaware of Augustine’s explanation. Being aware of Augustine’s view and yet silent about it is concerning enough; but on top of this, consider Calvin’s own explanation in a similar case:

    “Certainly those who imagine that the Son of God was exempt from human passions do not truly and sincerely acknowledge him to be a man” (http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc33/cc33031.htm).

    This same reasoning is exactly what Augustine employed when he spoke of the predestination of the Son of God. Here we see Calvin himself attributing human passions to the Son of God. And yet, in order to Criticize Trent, he said, “properly speaking, only things which do not yet exist are predestinated; whereas Christ is the eternal Son of God.” And because of this, we Catholics would be “at a loss to explain” how predestination could be true of the Son of God. What!? Are we to believe that Calvin couldn’t figure out how to explain the predestination of the Son of God as referring to Christ as Man when he saw Augustine do exactly this, and he himself employed this exact reasoning in another context? Hmmm…

    This predestination of the Son of God not only agrees with John Calvin’s own reasoning when talking about the Man, Jesus Christ, but it is an understanding that goes all the way back to Irenaeus when he used the Scriptures to explain that Jesus Christ is one and the same Person, and both God and Man:

    “Paul, when writing to the Romans, has explained this very point: ‘Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, predestinated unto the Gospel of God, which He had promised by His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was made to Him of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated [Latin: praedestinatus] the Son of God with power through the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 1:1-4). […] plainly indicating […] that Jesus Christ was appointed [Latin: destinatum] the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, as being the first begotten in all the creation; the Son of God being made the Son of man […] humanity sustaining, and receiving, and embracing the Son of God” (cf. Against Heresies, Bk. 3, Ch. 16, 3; Latin: http://www.textexcavation.com/documents/images/ah3p045.jpg ).

    The fact that Calvin was either unable or perhaps unwilling to use his very own reasoning that he employed elsewhere, or to acknowledge what he was familiar with in Augustine, so that he could read the Vulgate in an unforgiving manner against the Council of Trent, all the while making it appear as if no one had an answer… well, this strikes me as nearly miraculous in favor of Catholic truth!

    I hope this reinvigorates you to reconsider the truth claims of the Catholic Church. We’d love to have you and all of your friends worship with us in the Lord’s mercy. :)

    By the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    Pete

  29. Hey Pete,
    Don’t the Scotists and Franciscans say something with regards to Christ being the first predestined and His being first predestined in the sense that He was first chosen to unite Himself to Creation and in that way God first predestined Christ’s humanity as a way to share Himself with all of Creation and humanity? Or at least that’s something like what I recalled from what I’ve heard.

    Just following the thread. Keep up the great work! God bless.
    -Steven Reyes

  30. @Steven Reves

    The Scotists and Franciscans generally teach “Unconditioned predestination of the Incarnation” which means that the incarnation would have occurred even if Adam had not sinned. The Thomists teach that the incarnation was conditioned on the fall of Adam which is the “oh happy fault”.

  31. @Nathan

    I prefer the Scotist take on this issue, even though I am generally a philosophical/theological Thomist. Are you aware of any place in either of the Summas or in St. Thomas’ commentaries, etc. where he discusses the theoretical elevation of man to his supernatural end without the Incarnation? I understand Thomas to insist that the beatific vision is man’s natural end (i.e. the intellect is naturally ordered to the beatific vision, even if grace is required to bring about the fulfillment of that telos); and I understood him to hold this position irrespective of the Fall – but perhaps I have overlooked some qualification of this point. So here is what I wonder:

    1.) If I am right that St. Thomas thinks the beatific vision was/is the end of man regardless of the Fall

    and

    2.) The attainment of the beatific vision is beyond man’s natural capacity (though man’s highest natural faculty, the intellect, is ordered to the direct – concept free -vision of God)

    then what theoretical supernatural means did Thomas think could have elevated man to the beatific vision without the Incarnation had the Fall not occured – or did he even speculate on this point? I have never come accross a discussion of this topic in Thomas’ writings, though I may easily have missed it.

    This is why I have always prefered the Scotist position, because it seems more straightforward (fittting?) and because it seems to have some exegetical support in various scriptural passages.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  32. Ray,

    You’re adopting the de Lubac interpretation of Aquinas, i.e., that we are “naturally” ordered to an end which, being “supernatural,” is beyond our natural powers to attain. But I’ve always found that very notion incoherent, and therefore unacceptable as an interpretation of Aquinas. An entity E can be naturally fit to be elevated beyond its natural end–which I take Aquinas to believe about man–but it cannot be naturally ordered to an end that it cannot naturally attain.

    Best,
    Mike

  33. Mike,

    Actually, I reject de Lubac’s two nature’s interpretation of Aquinas as I think several authors have powerfully critiqued it (Brian Mullady and Lawrence Feingold for example) – though I can see how my comments were sloppy in that regard. As I understand Aquinas, he technically understands the beatific vision as a Divinely created vision within the speculative intellect. I will say, however, that to me at least, it is difficult to see a very great difference between the human intellect as naturally “fit” for elevation (reception of the created, non-conceptual, vision of God) and the intellect being “ordered” to reception of that vision. To be naturally “fit” for elevation seems very much like having a capacity or potency for elevation. Certainly, not every potency possessed by an entity entails that fulfillment of said potency constitutes that entity’s natural end – and I suppose that’s the principled difference between the intellect’s natural fitness for the beatific vision (which it cannot attain naturally) and the intellect’s natural “ordering” to a natural knowledge of God as Creator/First Cause (which it can attain naturally). The former is a natural capacity not directed at the intellect’s natural end; whereas the later is a capacity so ordered. Still, since we know through revelation that God wills the beatific vision; and that such vision is so far superior to a mere natural knowledge of God; I can understand why some authors (such as de Lubac whom I love) view the beatific vision as the intellect’s “natural” end. In short, does not the natural fittness/capacity of the intellect for the beatific vision in some sense point to that vision as the intellect’s final end – even if that end is not natural?

    Even if we carefully maintain that the intellect has a natural fittness for supernatural elevation (as opposed to a natural ordering to such elevation), the speculative question remains as to what ontological means/vehicle Aquinas thinks might have prevailed to achieve that vision had there been no Fall.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  34. Hey guys,

    The issue of man’s supernatural end is the most important topic in moral theology but it is not directly related to the topic of the main post. I hate to be the “on-topic” police, but let’s keep the discussion clear for anyone else who wants to discuss Calvin, Trent, and the Vulgate.

    Thanks,
    Barrett

  35. “It is this same kind of epistemological hubris that led John Bugay earlier this year week after week, writing for James Swan’s Beggars All, to accuse Pope Benedict XVI of pantheism.”

    Thanks for the post, Bryan!

    I don’t know if you got to see the final posts from John over there, but I think James Swan did a really great job handling everything. Well done, James!

    “Don’t the Scotists and Franciscans say something…”

    Hi Steven!

    I’m sorry, but I’m completely ignorant of their discussions. Sorry!

    In his response to John Calvin’s Antidote, Robert Bellarmine referenced the same material that I presented above. He also cited the following creed:

    “He has therefore, in Himself the twofold substance of His divinity and our humanity. We understand, however, that by the fact that He proceeded from God the Father without beginning, He was born only, for He was neither made nor predestined; by the fact, however, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, we must believe that He was born, made, and predestined” (The 11th Council of Toledo, A.D. 675).

    Have a blessed day!

    In Christ,
    Pete

  36. OK Barrett, I’ll contact Ray on Facebook about this. :-)

  37. This comment is crazy long. I see in the rules that long comments are discouraged. So I won’t mind at all if this doesn’t make it through moderation. May God bless you!

    I wanted to clarify what I meant when I said, “Robert Bellarmine referenced the same material that I presented above.” Bellarmine had cited Augustine’s On the Predestination of the Saints and Tractate 105 on John, and Irenaeus in Controversiarum de Verbo Dei (see the top-right column of page 3). Since I had already located these three references before I was able to find Bellarmine, I didn’t mention him until Toledo.

    In his response to the 4th session, Calvin said that “We must ever adhere to Augustine’s rule, ‘Faith is conceived from the Scriptures.’ ”

    Let me just start with a slight adjustment to the impression that John Calvin’s quotation gives. What is essential for Augustine is that the Church not contradict the Scriptures:

    “Oh how I wish that he were never willing to add, I will not say anything but what he reads in the Scriptures, but in opposition to what he reads in them; that he would only faithfully and obediently hear that which is written there” (On Nature and Grace, Ch. 39:46).

    The other essentials are for Christians to receive their interpretation of the Scriptures from the Church in settled matters, and to interpret the Scriptures with the Church in unsettled ones. The “Church” in connection with this is the visible Church known throughout the whole world to hold the episcopacy through a continuous succession from the apostles. If Augustine got to meet Calvin, he would first of all rebuke him for using the Bible against this Church, the Church of Jesus Christ.

    Augustine acknowledged that “not small is the authority… of the whole Church” (On the Care of the Dead, 3). Indeed, the Pelagians were forced to “admit the necessity of baptizing infants,— finding themselves unable to contravene that authority of the universal Church, which has been unquestionably handed down by the Lord and His apostles” (On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk. 1, Ch. 26:39). And, moving beyond the authority of “invariable custom… held by the whole Church” – to which, even if alone, all Christians should be disposed to submit as having “been handed down by apostolical authority” – all Christians “must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world,” because the Church itself possesses “the summit of authority […] from the apostolic chair through successions of Bishops” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 4, Ch. 24:32, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 2, Ch. 3:4, and On the Profit of Believing, 17:35). And we need not fear the triumph of heresy over this Church because it has God’s protection in the promises of Christ…

    “For though they seek their own objects, they do not dare to teach their own doctrines, sitting as they do in the high places of ecclesiastical authority, which is established on sound doctrine. Wherefore our Lord Himself, before saying what I have just quoted about men of this stamp, made this observation: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.’ The seat they occupied, then, which was not theirs but Moses’, compelled them to say what was good, though they did what was evil. And so they followed their own course in their lives, but were prevented by the seat they occupied, which belonged to another, from preaching their own doctrines […] which seat He doubtless meant to be a figure of His own” (On Christian Doctrine, Bk. 4, Ch. 27:59 and Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 61:138).

    “The heavenly Master went so far in forewarning them that He even warned His people against bad rulers, lest, on their account, the saving chair of doctrine should be forsaken, in which even the wicked are forced to utter truth; for the words they speak come not from themselves but from God, and He has placed the teaching of truth upon the chair of unity. Therefore, He, being truthful and the very truth itself, says of rulers, doing their own evil deeds but speaking the good things of God: ‘What they say, do ye, but according to their works do ye not, for they say and do not.’ 56 Doubtless He would not have said: ‘according to their works do ye not,’ if their works had not been manifestly evil” (Letter 105).

    To help illustrate the binding authority of the Church, consider the following passage:

    “[A]lthough I find something written by Catholics on the subject [of the origin of the soul], yet the defence of the truth had not yet been undertaken against those men, neither was there any anxiety to answer them. But this I say, that according to the Holy Scriptures original sin is so manifest, and that this is put away in infants by the laver of regeneration is confirmed by such antiquity and authority of the catholic faith, notorious by such a clear concurrent testimony of the Church, that what is argued by the inquiry or affirmation of anybody concerning the origin of the soul, if it is contrary to this, cannot be true. Wherefore, whoever builds up, either concerning the soul or any other obscure matter, any edifice whence he may destroy this, which is true, best founded, and best known, whether he is a son or an enemy of the Church, must either be corrected or avoided” (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. 3, Ch. 10:26).

    In the previous citation, the fact of original sin is founded by Augustine on the Holy Scriptures themselves; but the fact that original sin “is put away in infants by the laver of regeneration” is not rested by Augustine upon the authority of the Scriptures, but upon the “antiquity and authority of the catholic faith, notorious by such a clear concurrent testimony of the Church.” The two-fold teaching is “true, best founded, and best known,” and whatever “is contrary to this, cannot be true.” Augustine says that whoever opposes this teaching “must either be corrected or avoided,” indicating thereby that this is a question of heresy, and one for which Augustine did not feel compelled to appeal to the Scriptures in order to answer definitively, the authority of the Church alone sufficing. This is a perfect example of the types of situations he had in mind when he said that “the practice of the Church of God is the rule of our practice” (Letter 87). But this example goes beyond mere practice, and tells us something that Christians were bound to believe, for the one “who does not believe” that infants are delivered from condemnation by the sacrament of baptism “is assuredly an unbeliever” (Letter 98). “Whence they are compelled to class baptized infants in the number of believers, and to assent to the authority of the Holy Universal Church, which does not account those unworthy of the name of believers” (On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk. 3, Ch. 2:2). So Calvin is not right to give the impression that Augustine stands with him in holding that such practices of the early Church had “nothing to do with the doctrine of faith, (as to it we cannot extract one iota from them,) but only with external rites subservient to decency or discipline.” Augustine does indeed argue for this truth from the Scriptures, but his certainty of this truth is derived from the practice of the Church.

    I’m sorry for the length, but let me bring forward that familiar passage that explains the relationship that exists between the two inseparable authorities for the Christian, namely, the Scriptures and the Church:

    “[S]hould you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichæus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you—If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;— Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason? It is therefore fairer and safer by far for me, having in one instance put faith in the Catholics, not to go over to you, till, instead of bidding me believe, you make me understand something in the clearest and most open manner. To convince me, then, you must put aside the gospel. If you keep to the gospel, I will keep to those who commanded me to believe the gospel; and, in obedience to them, I will not believe you at all. But if haply you should succeed in finding in the gospel an incontrovertible testimony to the apostleship of Manichæus, you will weaken my regard for the authority of the Catholics who bid me not to believe you; and the effect of that will be, that I shall no longer be able to believe the gospel either, for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear proof of the apostleship of Manichæus is found in the gospel, I will believe the Catholics rather than you. But if you read thence some passage clearly in favor of Manichæus, I will believe neither them nor you: not them, for they lied to me about you; nor you, for you quote to me that Scripture which I had believed on the authority of those liars. But far be it that I should not believe the gospel; for believing it, I find no way of believing you too. For the names of the apostles, as there recorded, do not include the name of Manichæus. And who the successor of Christ’s betrayer was we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:26); which book I must needs believe if I believe the gospel, since both writings alike Catholic authority commends to me” (Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, Ch. 5:6).

    The authority of the Church and the supreme authority of the Scriptures go together and they either stand or fall together in Augustine’s mind. If you separate the one from the other, you end up losing both. When confronted with the most famous line from this passage – “I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church” – Calvin referred his readers to Augustine’s treatise, On the Profit of believing, in order to have Augustine’s true meaning “more fully proved” (Institutes 1.7.3). But here is what Augustine says in this referenced treatise:

    “When we see the great help of God, such manifest progress and such abundant fruit, shall we hesitate to take refuge in the bosom of that Church, which, as is evident to all, possesses the supreme authority of the Apostolic See through the Episcopal succession? In vain do heretics rage round it; they are condemned partly by the judgment of the people themselves, partly by the weight of councils, partly by the splendid evidence of miracles. To refuse to the Church the primacy is most impious and above measure arrogant. And if all learning, no matter how easy and common it may be, in order to be fully understood requires a teacher and master, what can be greater evidence of pride and rashness than to be unwilling to learn about the books of the divine mysteries from the proper interpreter, and to wish to condemn them unknown?” (On the Profit of Believing, 17:35; translation taken from Satis Cognitum)

    Keep in mind that this is where John Calvin himself told us to go in order to obtain fuller proof of Augustine’s true thought on the matter! And Augustine’s proposal to his friend in this treatise is exactly what Calvin refused to do: he refused to learn the Scriptures from those who held the episcopacy through apostolic succession in Catholic unity. :(

    When faced with the writings of the Manichaeans, Augustine said that “It will be difficult for a man to make me believe him on the evidence of writings which derive all their authority from his own word,” and that what such a man would need in order to convince Augustine of the truth of those writings is “the authority of the churches founded by the apostles themselves” (Against Faustus, Bk. 13, Ch. 4). Catholics know that the Scriptures are authoritative because their apostolic authority “is confirmed by the agreement of so many nations, supported by a succession of apostles, bishops, and councils.” The books of the Manichaeans, on the other hand, “have no authority, for it is an authority maintained by only a few” (Against Faustus, Bk. 13, Ch. 5). Again, for the Catholic, Scriptural authority is “affirmed by the continuous testimony of the whole Church, from the days of apostolic presidency to the bishops of our own time” and “fully established by the traditions of various communities, and of their presidents.” We believe the Scriptures are the authoritative word of God because we are convinced of such authority by the authority of the Church who believes in them. In doing so, we “yield our belief to a book acknowledged and approved as handed down from the beginning in the Church founded by Christ Himself, and maintained through the apostles and their successors in an unbroken connection all over the world to the present day” (Against Faustus, Bk. 28, Ch. 2). Augustine would tell Calvin that this is his true thought on the matter:

    “If you acknowledge the supreme authority of Scripture, you should recognize that authority which from the time of Christ Himself, through the ministry of His apostles, and through a regular succession of bishops in the seats of the apostles, has been preserved to our own day throughout the whole world, with a reputation known to all” (Against Faustus, Bk. 33, 9).

    Consider a further point…

    “From all this it follows, that no one who has not yielded to the malicious and deceitful suggestions of lying devils, can be so blinded by passion as to deny the ability of the Church of the apostles—a community of brethren as numerous as they were faithful—to transmit their writings unaltered to posterity, as the original seats of the apostles have been occupied by a continuous succession of bishops to the present day” (Against Faustus, Bk. 33, Ch. 6).

    Do we allow this Church to preserve only the books themselves, but not their interpretation? I refer the reader back to the quotation provided above from On the Profit of Believing in order to point such a thought out with Augustine’s words as “most impious and above measure arrogant,” and “evidence of pride and rashness.” To choose Calvin’s interpretation of the Scriptures over that of the Church’s would be the height of absurdity to Augustine’s mind. Calvin used the Church to preserve the Scriptures for him and lead him to them; but once he had them, he threw away that same Church and brought in another of “small number” (Institutes 1.7.5). This is far from Augustine’s thought! :)

    As for the question of the Canon, Calvin asks us to “assume that the point was then undecided” because Augustine “testifies that all of his age did not take the same view.” Calvin wants canonicity “to be decided by arguments drawn from the case itself.” And so do we. But arguments made by whom? Certainly not by a schismatic or a heretic. If we ask Augustine from whom we should receive our canon, he will tell us that it will be made known to us from the arguments sifted by the Church in council. For “to whom does He reveal [any unsettled point of doctrine or practice] when it is His will (be it in this life or in the life to come), save to those who walk in the way of peace, and stray not aside into any schism? Not to such as those who have not known the way of peace, or for some other cause have broken the bond of unity” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 2, Ch. 5:6). God reveals the truth of disputed points to those who are willing to be “submitted to the authority and power of a plenary Council” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 2, Ch. 9:14). It is the Church “to which also God has now revealed in a plenary Council the point in which ye were then still otherwise minded” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 6, Ch. 39:76), “the point” in our case being the canon of Scripture. For “the safe course for us is, not to advance with any rashness of judgment in setting forth a view which has neither been started in any regionary Council of the Catholic Church nor established in a plenary one; but to assert, with all the confidence of a voice that cannot be gainsaid, what has been confirmed by the consent of the universal Church, under the direction of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 7, Ch. 53:102)!

    Augustine does not leave us without explicit instruction as to which canon to receive, but teaches that the Christian “must follow” the canon of Scripture held by either “the greater number of churches,” or “the churches of greater authority,” understanding that the greater authority is being recognized in those loftier Churches because they were “thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles” (On Christian Doctrine, Bk. 2, Ch. 8:12). The Catholic Church, in which we have both the greater number of Churches and those Churches having the greater authority, together with the decisive authority and power of a plenary council, wins our full submission to the canon of the seventy-three books of Sacred Scripture.

    John Calvin’s perfect assurance, on the other hand, of having “a thorough conviction” and of feeling “a divine energy living and breathing in” the Bible, and equating these subjective impressions with the unassailable “secret testimony of the Spirit” in order to establish the canon (Institutes 1.7.4-5), can just as easily be used as a completely sophistical guise capable of cloaking the content of any claim, and to prove any untrue thing true. Without rejecting the inner witness of the Spirit to what He Himself has written, we rightly remain unpersuaded by such a malleable and subjective “proof” being used against the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we much more eagerly cling to another “higher source than human conjectures, judgments, or reasons; namely, the public testimony of the Spirit,” that is, to what has “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). Thanks be to God! :)

    By the grace and love towards man of our LORD, Jesus Christ,
    Pete

  38. It has been about a month since the posting of this little piece about Calvin’s reaction to the fourth session of Trent. A number of criticisms have emerged in the time since then, but I have been occupied and have been able to respond only now. Due to the number of objections, I will post separate comments dealing with each.

    Before doing that, I wanted to bring an article to the attention of readers who may have access to a journal database: James M. Vosté, “The Vulgate at the Council of Trent,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly (1947): 9-25. This excellent article explains on historical and theological grounds how Trent’s endorsement of the Vulgate was disciplinary, without prejudice to the Greek and Hebrew, and therefore juridical. In the main, it confirms the thesis of the post above, that Calvin mistakenly read Trent concerning the Vulgate. While a reading knowledge of Latin is recommended to understand it fully, a patient read by someone without such knowledge would still be beneficial. Now to the objections to my original post.

    First, it has been said that the Council of Trent never called for a revision of the Latin Vulgate. Since this objection has been leveled as a learned opinion and has some support in certain ambiguous English translations, I should address it. The basis for this objection is a misunderstanding of the Latin adverb emendatissime. The relevant Latin adverbial phrase in the second decree of Trent’s fourth session is, in its totality, quam emendatissime, signifying a superlative adverb of the highest possible degree. The superlative adverb itself is derived from the perfect passive participle of emendo, “to free from faults, correct, emend” (Lewis & Short). Thus the adverb does not mean merely that the printing of the Vulgate would happen as accurately as possible, but more so that the Vulgate would be printed after being freed from faults to the greatest degree possible. So the translation which I used in the main post, the standard academic translation of the Ecumenical Councils edited by Norman Tanner, is correct to render the Latin “after a thorough revision.” Those who make the objection do not know Latin as well as Calvin, who himself recognized that Trent called for a revised version of the Latin Vulgate:

    “Those who were aware that they had nothing useful in view, were yet persuaded that they would make some show of it to the world, and assign to some of their sworn adherents the task of executing a new version.” (From the same section of the Antidote as cited above in the body of the post.).

    While Calvin is uncharitable in his interpretation of the legates’ intent, he sees in the text of the decree that Trent assigned “the task of executing a new version” of the Vulgate Bible.

    A related objection was posed like this: “If the Council of Trent called for a revision, they would have clearly stated the reason for the revision. Yet the Council removed the reason for revision from the final form of the decree, namely, errors in the Vulgate. Therefore, the Council did not call for a revision.” In response, I deny the major, for one can call for something without needing to explain the reason for the call. Otherwise, Calvin would not have noticed that Trent called for a revision. The final version of the Council’s decree commands a revision without stating the reason why a revision was needed (see Vosté, 15-16, on the differences between the proposal and the final version of the decree). And so the argument fails. The objection conflates a lack of explicit mention of why the Vulgate needed revision for the absence of the command for revision. One may think that knowledge of the errors would not have upset people’s faith in Christ as much as the legates thought, or that it would have not detracted from the Church’s honor to acknowledge that it was not merely copyists’ mistakes that necessitated a revision. Nevertheless, the legates discussed the reasons for revision in their deliberations among themselves and in communication to the Roman curia. Jedin, in fact, mentions repeatedly that the Council calls for a revision (History of the Council of Trent, 2:89, 92, 96), even in the same passages which were mistakenly read by some to mean that Trent had not. The Council Fathers asked the pope to undertake the revision of not only the Vulgate but also the Hebrew and Greek versions in a letter after the fourth session, as Vosté relates (17). The popes following the fourth session commissioned not only a revision of the Latin Vulgate, but also the Septuagint (completed under Sixtus V), the Hebrew Bible, and the Greek New Testament (begun under St. Robert Bellarmine).

    As for the contention that Trent does not specify that the Latin Vulgate ought to be revised according to the Greek and Hebrew originals, this is true, for the Council does not say by what method the Vulgate ought to be revised. One reason for this is that the Council wanted the popes to issue editions of not only the Latin, but also the Greek and Hebrew versions (again, see the legates’ letter to the pope in Vosté, 17). The Council left the method of revision to the discretion of the popes, and Bellarmine could still lobby for a revision of the Latin according to the originals as late as the 1580s. This would have to wait until the New Vulgate, with the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate being made with reference to corruptions of the Latin manuscripts.

  39. A second objection says that Pius XII’s distinction between the Latin Vulgate’s juridical authority and its critical authority is anachronistic on the one hand (imposing a view of Trent contrary to the legates’ intent) and irrelevant on the other (that Trent still issued the decrees of the fourth session with prejudice against the Greek and Hebrew).

    To the first part of the second objection, I reply by noting two things: that the Council framed the second decree in disciplinary, rather than dogmatic, terms. The disciplinary character of the second decree relates nicely to the distinction between juridical authenticity and critical authority. Hence, I will also deal with the similar objection: “Trent declared the Vulgate to be authentic. But the Vulgate differs on a number of points (as Calvin preliminarily sketched above) from the original texts. Therefore, by declaring the Vulgate authentic, the original texts were condemned where they differed from the Vulgate.”

    This latter objection fails to establish that the Vulgate’s “authenticity” in the eyes of Trent includes critical authority over the original texts, and thus collapses the distinction between critical and juridical authority. Part of the difficulty in understanding this on the part of some people is less historical than conceptual. Perhaps an analogy would help. Remember that the Authorized Version, that is, the King James Version, was binding on the Church of England for public use. Yet this translation has textual errors in it, one of the more famous being the Johannine Coda (also found in the Vulgate): “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). Modern New Testament translations do not include this verse because it is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to say that because this verse is not original that it therefore teaches error. It could be quoted safely in public until the Church of England adopted other official texts without fear of leading anyone astray as to the nature of God. The Unitarians hastily jumped to the opposite conclusion in part because they likewise had no way of making the Catholic distinction between a critical, textual error and a theological error. Perhaps the failure to recognize the place of Sacred Tradition in receiving and expounding the deposit of faith and the Holy Spirit’s protection of the Church also played into their error. Modern critics of the Vulgate’s critical errors do so likewise.

    The Council of Trent’s own distinction between juridical and critical authority is supported by the distinction in kind between the first and second decrees of the fourth session. The first decree, on the canon of Sacred Scripture, was the definition of dogma and bound all Catholics in both public and private belief. Yet the second decree regarding the authenticity of the Vulgate was disciplinary (not dogmatic), and bound the Church only regards to public matters. The differences in wording between the two decrees is striking. Where the first decree deals with the canon of the Bible, which is clearly dogmatic as it concerns the deposit of faith itself. To deny the content of this decree would have incurred the penalty of anathema. The second decree, however, indicates that it concerns discipline, not dogma, and lacks the automatic penalty of anathema. Further, the Council begins this decree with the words, “that noticeable benefit can accrue to the church of God if, from all the Latin editions of the sacred books which are in circulation, it establishes which is to be regarded as authentic.” Thus this concerns not the deposit of faith itself, but what would be of assistance to the Church in teaching and learning that deposit. Again, the explicit intent of the Council here is to curb the abuse of having too many Latin editions in use at that time. Furthermore, the Council states that the Latin Vulgate “should be kept as the authentic text in public readings, debates, sermons and explanations.” If this concerned the deposit of faith, it would bind no less in private than in public. As acknowledge by some objectors, the Council intended to move from the definition of dogma to the correction of abuses, and this is exactly what we see in the fourth session’s progression from the decree on revelation, which includes the list of the canonical books, to the correction of abuses in the second decree concerning the use of Latin versions, the interpretation of Scripture, the printing of books, and so forth. One gathers these points from Vosté:

    More than once, the Cardinal Legates declared that they always intended to deal first with dogma, and afterwards with the reform of abuses in connection with the defined dogma. The dogma in our case was the Canon of the Sacred Books. Among the abuses was listed in the first place the diversity of the versions to which was opposed, as a remedy, the exclusive use of the traditional Vulgate. To the abuse is then opposed the use…and the reform.

    The same disciplinary character results none the less clearly from the expressions used in the decrees on the Sacred Scriptures. Whilst in the decree on the Canon, which is certainly dogmatic, ‘anathema sit’ is launched against those who deny it; in the decree on the use of the Vulgate, on the contrary, the utility of the Church is considered: ‘considerans non parum utilitatis accedere posse Ecclesiae Dei,’ and, therefore, the Council ‘statuit et declarat’ (neither teaches nor defines, but commands) that the Vulgate be exclusively used ‘in publicis lectionibus, etc.’ (note: ‘in publicis’; if it concerned the faith, it would oblige no less in private than in public); and then the decree concludes with the precept: ‘quod nemo illam reicere quovis praetextu audeat vel praesumat.’ (“The Vulgate at the Council of Trent,” 18)

    Calvin could have noticed these relevant details, but even if he could not make out a clear meaning, he could have written to the Council or to legates who were there. To acknowledge one criticism raised by objectors, some Spanish theologians made the same mistake, e.g., the great Thomist theologian Bañez. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a Catholic was not bound by the latter’s opinion, and the mistake of some does not excuse the mistake of others. Bellarmine, for example, understood quite clearly the meaning of the fourth session and the reception of the Council by Pius XII follows the same lines.

    As for whether Pius XII’s reception of Trent is anachronistic (itself a charge which presupposes in what way, if any, the Magisterium is protected from error), the objection alleges that the distinction between critical and juridical authority is a convenient modern invention that helps Catholics get around the problem modern textual criticism poses for the Vulgate decree. To this, one notes that the juridical/critical distinction was held both by Trent and by “early Romanists” (contra Hodge), who long before Pius XII noted that the long use of the Vulgate by the Church guaranteed it only from moral and dogmatic error. The argument was that since the Holy Spirit preserves the Church from teaching error, the version in long use was so free. Indeed, no moral or dogmatic errors could be found in it. This meant that practically, as a matter of discipline, it could be quoted safely in public. Nothing was said in this about the Vulgate’s critical superiority or about the outlawing of non-Latin editions.

    St. Robert Bellarmine, an early Romanist if anyone was, held a middle position between those on the one hand who denigrated the textual superiority of the Hebrew and Greek and overestimated the critical authority of the Vulgate and those on the other hand who held that the Vulgate was critically useless and that the Masoretic Hebrew text held complete superiority over the LXX and Vulgate. E. A. Ryan explains that Bellarmine “considered, we know, that the Vulgate was exempt from error in matter of faith and morals […] However he maintained that there were errors in it” (E. A. Ryan, SJ, The Historical Scholarship of St. Bellarmine [New York: Fordham, 1936], 167.) Bellarmine had hard words for Catholics who too quickly denigrated the integrity of the Hebrew and Greek sources. (All translations are my own rough, unpolished translations.)

    Praecipuus thesaurus Ecclesiae est Scriptura divina; at maxima ex parte hic thesaurus perit, si dicamus ipsos fontes divinarum Scripturarum nullam fidem jam mereri, et ut corruptos et depravatos rejici posse, nihil autem superesse nisi versionem unam, eamque tam variam ut vix duo codices inveniantur, qui in omnibus conveniant. Profecto valde male merentur de Ecclesia, qui tam insignem thesaurum illi eripiunt, quique de scriptis originalibus Apostolorum et Prophetarum tam contemptibiliter loquuntur, ut ea authentica esse negare non vereantur. (De editio Latina Vulgata, in R. P. Xavier-Marie Le Bachelet, Bellarmin et la Bible Sixto-Clémentine, Étude et Documents Inédits [Paris: Beauchesne, 1911], 116-117. I found this source through Vosté’s article.)

    “The special treasure of the Church is divine Scripture; nevertheless this treasure in the greatest part has perished, if we should say that the very sources of the divine Scriptures ought to merit no faith now, and that they ought to be rejected as corrupt and perverted and that, further, nothing remains but a single version, and this so mottled that scarcely two codices can be discovered such that they agree in all things. Indeed, they behave extremely and badly concerning the Church, they who take away so distinguished a treasure, they who speak so contemptuously about the original scriptures of the Apostles and Prophets, such that they do not fear to deny that these versions are authentic.”

    Perhaps more to the point, Bellarmine argued that the Council in no way prohibited correcting the errors of the Vulgate by the sources. Furthermore, the Jesuit doctor explained that the copies of the Hebrew and Greek sources in circulation in his day needed no authentication from the Council in so far as they reflected the autographs. The reason is that they were authentic by their very nature as the word of God.

    Editio hebraica et graeca in iis, quae ab ipsis sacris scriptoribus hebraice et graeca scripta sunt, non minus sunt authentica quam Vulgata latina editio, immo magis, cum illae sint fontes, ista rivus; ergo vulgata latina editio non sic existimanda est approbata a Concilio, ut ubicumque dissentit a fontibus, sit illis anteponenda; proinde non in omnibus est authentica, sed tantum in his quae ad fidem et mores pertinent, in quibus optime conveniunt hebraea, graeca et latina. Probatur antecedens ex verbis Concilii: “Sancrosancta Synodus considerans non parum utilitatis accedere posse Ecclesiae Dei, si ex omnibus latinis editionibus quae circumferunter sacrorum librorum, quaenam pro authentica habenda sit, innotescat, statuit, ut haec ipsa vulgata, etc.” In quibus verbus nulla fit mentio hebraeae et graecae editionis, sed solum latinarum; neque vulgata anteponitur omnibus editionibus, sed solum aliis latinis. neque Vulgata anteponitur omnibus editionibus, sed solum aliis latinis.

    At, inquiunt, latina declaratur authentica, hebraea et graeca non declarantur authenticae; igitur illa anteponitur. Respondeo, hebraeam et graecam, cum sint ipsi fontes, per se esse authenticas, neque egere Concilii approbatione; latinam, quia est versio, approbatione indiguisse. Praeterea Vulgatam latinam, ideo authenticam fieri debuisse, ut discerneretur ab aliis innumeris versionibus latinis; hebraeam et graecam, quia unicae sunt, non eguisse tali signo discretivo. (De editio Latina Vulgata, in Le Bachelet, 114-115)

    “The Hebrew edition and the Greek edition in these things, which were written in Hebrew or Greek by the sacred writers themselves, are not less authentic than the vulgar Latin version, which is by no means more authentic, because the former are the sources [fontes], the latter is the flow/stream. Therefore the Latin Vulgate edition should not in this way be estimated as approved by the Council such that wheresoever it differs from the sources, it should be preferred over them. In the same manner there is nothing authentic in them all but so much as is in them which pertains to faith and morals, in which things the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin agree in the best way. It is previously proved from the words of the Council: ‘This Holy Synod considers that it will be possible to bring no little benefit to the Church of God if, from all the Latin editions of the Sacred Books which are circulating, one becomes known which is to be considered authentic: it determines that that this vulgar, etc.’ In these no word makes mention of Hebrew and Greek editions, but only of Latin ones; neither is the Vulgate preferred over all editions, but only over the other Latin ones.

    “‘But,’ it is said, ‘the Latin is declared authentic and the Hebrew and Greek are not declared authentic; therefore, the former is preferred.’ I respond that the Hebrew and Greek, because they are the sources, are authentic in themselves, and were not made by the approval of the Council; and that Latin, because it is a version, stood in need of approval. Besides, the same vulgar Latin ought to have been made authentic, that it might be discerned from among the innumerable Latin versions; Hebrew and Greek, which are in their own class, had no need of such a distinguishing mark.”

    Additionally, Bellarmine helps us to see that the Council, in selecting the Vulgate from among the Latin versions in circulation, was not imposing an authentic translation on the Eastern Catholics, many of whom used the original sources as their public texts (e.g. the Greek New Testament) and who generally used other translations as their public versions.

    Ecclesia catholica non solum est aput latinos, sed etiam Syros, Armenos, Arabes et Graecos, etc. Ergo non debet solum Scriptura authentica esse apud Latinos, sed etiam apud alias nationes, et maxime apud illas quae utuntur fontibus. Quis igitur credat Concilium Tridentinum ita voluisse solam Latinam editionem esse authenticam, ut simul assereret Ecclesiam graecam et syriacam non habere, nec habuisse a multis annorum centuriis authenticam Scripturam? (De editione Latina Vulgata, in Le Bachelet, 116)

    “The Catholic Church is not only among Latins, but also among Syrians, Armenians, Arabs, and Greeks, etc. Therefore, there not only ought to be authentic Scripture among Latins, but also among the other peoples, and especially among those where the sources [fontibus] are used. Who therefore could believe that the Council of Trent in such a way wished the Latin edition alone to be authentic, such that at the same time one might assert that the Greek Church and the Syrian Church do not have, nor have had authentic Scripture for many centuries?”

    An important implication of the juridical/critical distinction is the necessity of identifying why a post-Trent Catholic exegete or theologian who held to the critical superiority of the Vulgate did hold this to be the case. I have already discussed this above. Was it because the person in question thought that Trent required him, as a Catholic, to believe in the critical superiority of the Vulgate such that the Greek and Hebrew could never be used to correct it? [In such a case, he would have been mistaken in good faith about what the Council meant.] Or did the person in question hold that the Vulgate was critically superior to the Greek and Hebrew in a separate scholarly judgment (translators of the Rheims New Testament)? Though some in the latter group may have thought Trent gave a Magisterial “boost” to their opinion, they would have recognized that others were not bound to share their opinion as Catholics. In this, they would share the correct interpretation of the council with Bellarmine, Cardinal Cervini, and the rest who thought the Greek and Hebrew could be used to correct the Vulgate. The important point is that they submitted to the Church’s discipline in one rational act, while in another separate act made a judgment on the critical standing of the Vulgate, either in general or in whatever case was before them. To the critic who does not recognize the meaning or validity of the juridical/critical distinction these groups inaccurately appear as one group.

  40. A third objection derives from William Whitaker’s A Disputation on Holy Scripture.

    […]Fourthly, I desire to know whether the council of Trent only commanded this Latin edition to be considered the authentic one amongst Latin editions, or determined it to be absolutely authentic? For if it only preferred this one to other Latin translations, that could be no reason to justify the Rhemists in not making their version of the new Testament from the Greek; since the council of Trent prefers this, not to the Greek edition, but to other Latin translations. Do they, then, make both this Latin and that Greek edition authentic, or this Latin only? Indeed, they express themselves in such a manner as not to deny the authenticity of the Greek, while nevertheless they really hold no edition of either old or new Testament authentic, save this Latin Vulgate only. This is the judgment of these Rhemists who have translated the new Testament from the Latin; and this the Jesuits defend most strenuously, maintaining that, where the Latin differs from the Greek or Hebrew, we should hold by the Latin rather than the Greek or Hebrew copies. And it is certain that this is now the received opinion of the papists.

    The fourth question of Whitaker’s is good and gets to the heart of the matter. His first impression of the decree, that “Trent only commanded this Latin edition to be considered the authentic one amongst Latin editions,” is correct. Although his impression that the “received opinion of the papists” is that the Greek and Latin are corrupt, we have seen that both the Council Fathers did not believe this as a group nor did Trent intend to identify the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts as universally less pure than the Latin Vulgate. St. Robert Bellarmine, Whitaker’s primary and best foe, knew and taught otherwise. Bellarmine was a Jesuit, though some Jesuits indeed held the opinion Whitacker relates. Furthermore, the preface for the Rheims New Testament cites the authority of Trent as only one reason for using the Latin, with many of the other being critical reasons for the translators’ own estimation of the purity of the Latin over against the Greek. A Catholic in Whitaker’s day could hold, on account of a scholarly opinion, that the Vulgate had critical superiority, but nothing in Trent obliged him to do so. And nothing in Trent obliges a modern Catholic to think such a judgment correct. As noted in an earlier comment, Jedin shows how many of the legates at Trent believed the Vulgate to be inferior (in varying degrees) to the sources, either in general or in certain places. So Whitaker confuses the critical opinion of the Rheims translators with the Magisterial authority of the Church. All this to say that I sympathize Whitaker’s main concern, that nothing in Trent prohibited the translators at Rheims from making their translation from the Greek texts in use at the time. And this is what I argued in my original post and what was Pius XII’s teaching regarding Trent’s fourth degree.

    A fourth objection, that the Latin Vulgate is free from theological and moral error has been attacked (despite some objectors of the same ilk denying the distinction between juridical and critical authority). To debate such a matter is to risk an intractable discussion which may simply be a function of whether the participants believe the Church is protected from teaching error under certain conditions or not. Let us confine ourselves to the one, and only one, example, that of Christ being “predestined” according to the Vulgate rendering of Romans 1:4. This verse has been interpreted in the theological tradition of the Church as referring to the Son in view of his human nature, which he assumed in time. St. Thomas Aquinas dedicates an entire question to the issue in the Tertia pars of the Summa theologiae, found here. Thomas explains that (1) because predestination is an eternal ordering in God’s mind of things which happen in time by God’s grace and (2) because Christ’s temporal mission according to his human nature unfolds in time and is grounded in the grace of the union of the two natures in the person of the Son, it follows that the Son’s person is predestined according to his humanity. Interestingly, Thomas was aware from the Latin translation of Origen’s commentary on Romans that predestinatus est may not have been in the Greek original (ST III q. 24 a. 1 ad 3). Nevertheless, given the nature of predestination and the temporal mission of the Son, Thomas could see no reason to refrain from saying something theologically true.

    The challenge for such an objection against the Latin Vulgate is that it must explain why Thomas’s reading is forced as the Latin stands and is a theological error. It is a perfectly orthodox explanation of the verse, and like St. Augustine’s exposition, it actually upholds the orthodox faith. Why is Thomas’s explanation any more convoluted than the orthodox interpretation of our Lord’s words, “the Father is greater than I” or the fact that God suffered? More importantly, will any objector deny that Christ is the predestined Son of God in the sense in which Thomas explains it? Given that the context of the verse in St. Paul’s letter is a statement about the arising of the gospel concerning the Father’s Son in time as the Davidic Messiah who rose from the dead in time and who subsequently poured out the Holy Spirit and the charism of apostolicity in time, one should say the traditional explanation of Christ’s predestination is quite good given the meaning of the Latin Vulgate here.

    In conclusion, no one has yet raised ultimately convincing reasons why Trent did anything more than what it said it did in marking the Latin Vulgate as authentic. The Council was seeking to correct the abuses that had arisen from the public use of multiple Latin translations in the Church. Trent did not issue its decree to prevent or mitigate the study of the original languages, nor to say that the Latin Vulgate was universally more pure than the Greek (NT & LXX) and Hebrew versions available at the time.

  41. The scholarship on this blog by Mr. Turner has received a devastating critique from Turretin Fan here:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/06/calvin-trent-and-vulgate-responding-to.html

  42. Hi Josh,

    It was responses like the one you mention that led me to write comments #38, 39, and 40 just above your comment. Generally speaking, the sources used in TF’s response are poor. For example, the history of the Council is tendentious and lacks contact with the historical data, unlike Jedin’s history. In addition, the analysis of TF’s response misses the point, as I explain above. If you have any questions about TF’s response that you think need addressing which I have not covered in the preceding comments, please let me know. I will try to take some time to get to your concern.

    pax,
    Barrett Turner

  43. I like to read the background of people before I read them so that I know a bit about their life and education. I can’t find anything on Turretin Fan. Does anyone have a bio page or anything for him/her?

  44. Mr. McComish,

    Thanks for your interest. I’m nobody special. Relevant to this discussion, I’m just some Reformed apologist who has provided a response to the blog post. More recently, I’ve been responding to Bryan Cross’ and Jason Stellman’s podcast regarding Stellman’s transition to Rome with my friend Dr. James White.

    Hopefully, however, the arguments are good enough to stand on their own two feet.

    Turning to Mr. Turner, I would respectfully disagree with your (Mr. Turner’s) characterizations of my sources, a number of which are Roman Catholics (although several are in the afterlife, I trust your view of the communion of saints permits me to use the present tense).

    I note that I may not have responded directly to your comments above (at #38-40). Perhaps I should attend to that shortly.

    Turning to Josh, thanks for your encouraging comment.

    -TurretinFan

  45. TFan-

    Any timeline on this response?

  46. Mr. Turner,

    Thanks for writing on this subject. It has been an interesting read and has shown me that there is A LOT on this subject that I was no aware of. I have a couple comments and questions.

    You said:

    Enshrining the Vulgate as the “authentic” edition does not mean that the Vulgate cannot be revised in light of the best Latin manuscripts or that one may never correct the Latin text using the Hebrew or Greek manuscript traditions.

    And later in a comment you wrote:

    Yet this translation has textual errors in it, one of the more famous being the Johannine Coda (also found in the Vulgate): “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). Modern New Testament translations do not include this verse because it is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts.

    I have been wondering whether there are any clear principles a Catholic can use to handle issues in textual criticism. (I am not someone who would be equipped to do anything of the kind; I am just curious how it can be done from a Catholic perspective). Here are couple things that have confused me and made me think it is much more difficult for a Catholic to engage textual criticism than a Protestant.

    1. You say that Greek or Hebrew manuscripts can be used to correct the Vulgate. However, that does not seem to be the case when such correction would call into question the canonicity of any book in the Vulgate in its “whole or parts”. So, when I asked in another thread whether a Catholic could hold that the longer ending of Mark (ch. 16)and the story of the woman caught in adultery(John 7:53-8:11) were not canonical, Bryan Cross responded in the negative. This is not an acceptable position since it would deny one of the books in its “whole or parts”. However, this leads to the question of what constitutes a “part” and whether there is any principled means by which someone could make such a distinction. If it could be denied that John 7:53-8:11 is a “part”, then it could be said to be non-canonical in the same way that 1 John 5:7 is (i.e. it’s not in any of the earliest manuscripts).

    2. If a Catholic can hold 1 John 5:7 is non-canonical, then can he also hole Luke 23:34 is non-canonical? That saying from the cross is surrounded by textual doubt based on manuscript evidence (for example, see here: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2013/03/16/from-the-lips-of-jesus-or-a-scribal-hand-father-forgive-them-for-they-do-not-know-what-they-are-doing-2/).

    3. If your answer to my 2nd question is in the affirmative, then does that mean a Catholic is free to doubt the canonicity of any verse-long variants not found in the earliest manuscripts? [I’m aware there are not a lot of these, but just curious].

    Peace,
    John D.

  47. Do any Catholics out there know whether Luke 23:34 is formally defined as canonical by the magisterium? Also, what about John 5:4?

    Peace,
    John D.

  48. JohnD, [comment edited for clarity]

    I am not an expert [on textual criticism in light of the Church’s dogmatic definition of the canon], but I should have some free time later tonight to answer some of your questions. In fact, there has been a clarification on 1 John 5:7 which would seem to apply to other “verse-length” variants. I’ll have to look into the NT “parts” you focus on, but my impression is that the issue of “parts” in the first Tridentine decree was primarily addressed to Protestant doubts about “parts” of Daniel and Esther, parts which are in the LXX and Latin Vulgate but not in the Hebrew (e.g., Canticle of the Three Men). I do not know what it entails for the NT. Could you link to Bryan’s comments so I can see if [he] cited some text I do not know about?

    As for a principled distinction between a part and a verse, wouldn’t it be between an “episode” or “section” of a book, rather than a sentence in a part? This is a principled distinction, even if you could think of some situations in which it was difficult to apply it. For those, the Magisterium could make a clarification, no?

    [Once I hit send, I realized too late for my original comment that of course Mark 16 and John 7:53-8:11 are indeed “parts” and thus “sacred and canonical”. Whether it entails that they are originally written by St. John or St. Mark is separate question, it seems to me, and thus a lack of inclusion in the earliest manuscripts is no obstacle to being obliged by divine faith to hold them as “sacred and canonical”.]

    pax,
    Barrett

  49. Dear JohnD,

    Ok, I have a few minutes to reply to your very interesting questions you posed back in #46. Your first question has already been answered, as the dogmatic decree (the first decree) of the fourth session of Trent does indeed establish that all the “parts” of the books which are there in the Vulgate are “sacred and canonical”. Whether St. Mark 16:9-20 were originally part of the Gospel or were written to replace a lost ending is an open question, though there may not be much evidence beyond style to posit that St. Mark did not write it himself.

    As for your second question, it would seem that a Catholic could, after studying the issue with due reverence and not with a mind for controversy, hold as his opinion that St. Luke 23:34 is an insertion of later scribes. (Personally, I do not know what the manuscript evidence is or whether Luke 23:34 is attested by strong sources in Tradition. Whether the passage is original or not does not answer the theological questions the article to which you link is asking.) I say this on the “hypothetical” level because of a declaration by the Holy Office on June 2, 1927 that overturned a disciplinary prohibition from 1897 that some had mistakenly taken to be a doctrinal ruling. That decree pertained to the 1 John 5:7 “Johannine comma” you mentioned above; by analogy it pertains to your Luke 23:34 question. The original prohibition from 1897 was ambiguous, since it only denied that the authenticity of the Johannine comma could be “safely denied”. That can be used for either a disciplinary or a doctrinal ruling. The later 1927 declaration, reproduced below, clarifies that it the original ruling was disciplinary and reflected a judgment based on the evidence at the time.

    This decree was passed to check the audacity of private teachers who attributed to themselves the right either of rejecting entirely the authenticity of the Johannine comma, or at least of calling it into question by their own final judgment. But it was not meant at all to prevent Catholic writers from investigating the subject more fully and, after weighing the arguments accurately on both sides, with that moderation and temperance which the gravity of the subject requires, from inclining toward an opinion in opposition to its authenticity, provided they professed that they were ready to abide by the judgment of the Church, to which the duty was delegated by Jesus Christ not only of interpreting Holy Scripture but also of guarding it faithfully. (DS 3682, emphasis added)

    The declaration notes that a Catholic text critic should be open to the evidence of the manuscripts, but should also recognize that textual criticism is a human, historical science. In that case, the scholar can perform his proper operation, while recognizing that his historical judgments are capable of error. Since textual criticism is a historical science, it can only produce probable arguments for its conclusions. Text criticism itself is not revelation nor theology, nor does the Church depend on text criticism for identifying revelation–as though the Church did not know the word of God until the rise of the modern version of text criticism. Rather, the Church recognizes God’s word as having come from him through her, as the “heirloom” and not the mere object of scientific criticism. I do not know whether that makes sense to you.

    To be sure, text criticism can show very interesting things with regard to the lines of transmission in the texts and can help scholars establish what probably was the original text, what may have been added as glosses or by sloppy copying, etc. At the end of the day, though, such criticism cannot “trump” a definitive judgment of the Magisterium. For one, text criticism cannot tell someone what books are canonical. All text criticism can say is which copies of what books are from what location or are in this codex, etc. Its conclusions can change with the discovery of one new manuscript. Giving text criticism more authority than that would subject revelation to human reason, a move that often goes along with “rationalism” in its various forms. To reach a definite canon one needs a Magisterium that is divinely protected by the Holy Spirit for the task of guarding and interpreting the word of God as it is handed down by Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Its judgments, when definitive, are infallibly protected from error and for that reason cannot be demonstrated to be false by any human science (especially one dealing with probabilities). Textual criticism, on the other hand, is not guided by the Holy Spirit nor infallibly protected from sincerely but erroneously reaching false conclusions. So a Catholic will respect textual criticism insofar as it can offer some historical certainty and help clarify certain questions, yet a Catholic will also recognize that textual criticism fails to provide the certainty that faith offers. As such, text criticism is not the final word.

    That should also answer your third question. A Catholic is not “free to doubt” in the sense that he reserves it to his private judgment or rashly without evidence, but in the sense that he can soberly explore the evidence and reach a personal opinion, subject in the end to the final decision of the Church, who herself has the commission from Christ to guard revelation.

    I hope that helps! Perhaps there are others who are more familiar with these issues who can cover over my mistakes. I have been spending the last couple years deep in moral theology, meaning that my mind and research energies have been elsewhere. Nonetheless, I am happy to try to say what I can if you have any follow up questions. For further reading I would recommend the Letter of the Biblical Commission to the Italian Bishops of 1941, which anticipates many of the things that Pius XII says a couple years later in Divino afflante Spiritu. Vosté also footnoted a work which addresses what was meant by “parts” at Trent in his article that I referenced in comment #38 above: G. Bonaccorsi, Quaestioni Bibliche (1904), I:18-21. Maybe that can shed further light here.

    pax,
    Barrett

  50. Barrett (re: #48 and 49),

    Thanks very much for your reply. Your answers to my questions seem to be accurate and in line with Church teaching as you explained. I will also proceed to the further reading you have suggested at some point (hopefully soon).

    Nonetheless, I will have some follow-up questions that will allow you to make further clarification. I just need to sit down and mull over your comments more. Perhaps later tonight when my lesson plans are done (I’m a middle school math teacher).

    Lastly:

    I have been spending the last couple years deep in moral theology, meaning that my mind and research energies have been elsewhere.

    I look forward to a CTC post about something in particular you have examined.

    Peace,
    John D.

  51. On a recent Dividing Line episode, Dr. James White made the claim (in passing) that: the RC Church used to regard the text of the Latin Vulgate as inspired, but that is no longer the case.

    I can furnish the exact reference in the specific episode if needed. But, my question is if his claim is accurate. Did the Church officially declare the Latin translation to be inspired in the same sense as the Hebrew and Greek originals? If so, when did that view get changed? Or, was it never changed?

    I was curious about Dr. White’s claim and I think this thread is a good place to raise the issue.

    Peace,
    John D.

  52. John D.,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Anyone can make a claim in passing. What is Dr. White’s argument for the claim that the Catholic Church (definitively) taught that the Latin Vulgate version is divinely inspired in the same sense as the Hebrew, [Aramaic,] and Greek originals, and now has abjured this teaching?

    Otherwise, I recommend the article itself and comments 38-40 (see link at end of article). A blessed Holy Week to you!

    pax,
    Barrett

  53. Barrett,

    Thanks for the reply. Dr. White did not make an argument since it was only a passing comment. I assume he has some historical reference in mind, but I honestly don’t know what it is, so I will stop talking about him.

    Instead, let me pose the question to you:

    To your knowledge did the Church ever teach that the Latin Vulgate was inspired either (A) in the same sense as the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic originals or (B) in a different sense than the originals but in a way that sets the Vulgate apart from translations into other language?

    My gut answer is NO, but I don’t know the history behind the Vulgate through the centuries. Feel free to shed any further light upon this.

    Thanks for your detailed comments in 38-40. They are very interesting as well as the original post.

    Peace,
    John D.

  54. Dear John D.,

    Well, now you have me cornered ;-) You will probably not be surprised by my response here.

    To my knowledge the Church has never taught that the making of the Latin Vulgate version was inspired in the same sense as the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of what the sacred writers wrote (A). As for (B), I am not sure how to answer that given the ambiguity of “inspired in some different sense” in your question. Next to the first edition of the New American Bible, the Latin Vulgate certainly appears to be inspired!

    As for either part of your question, the very fact that Trent ordered a most thorough revision of the Latin Vulgate rules out the assertion that the tradition of translation coming from St. Jerome is inspired in the same sense as what the sacred writers themselves wrote. The Catholic Church holds that the Sacred Scriptures are free from error because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Dei Verbum 11). The Latin Vulgate translation, on the other hand, is merely free from error in regard to faith and morals, which is a less comprehensive inerrancy.

    There may be something to (B), given that the Latin Vulgate translation was chosen to be the authentic/juridical version for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. This was in regard to other versions in Latin, though. There is a very interesting article by Christophe Rico on the benefit of St. Jerome’s Vulgate in interpreting the Greek New Testament (“L’art de la traduction chez saint Jérôme. La Vulgate à l’aune de la Néovulgate: l’exemple du quatrième évangile,” Revue des Etudes Latines 83 [2005]: 194-218). Anyway, St. Robert Bellarmine’s point about the LXX and other ancient versions stands. Pius XII mentioned all this.

    Finally, Pius XII would not have been able to say what he did about juridical vs. critical authority, if one of his predecessors had made the plenary inspiration of the Vulgate a matter of faith.

    Blessed Holy Week to you!

    pax,
    Barrett

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