Church “fathers” on Scripture

Preface: The following compilations of quotes below from the ancient writers, and commentary which immediately follows it, are from the work of Jason Engwer, who is not me, but supplied by permission, and is offered here for non-commercial “fair use.” Any copying of his work should be attributed to him, and used for the glory of God. However, I do supplement his work at the end of this page, besides this intro, or by texts in brackets [ ].

Br. Engwer has moved on to blogging and his old web sites (www.ntrmin.org, http://members.aol.com/jasonte) are no longer operative (2011), and I myself am not versed in all counter arguments regarding , but Engwer can be reached through his blogger page. He is also sometimes active on blogs as Triablogue. Also see such resources as the Beggars All blog, William Webster's site, the Reformation500 site, and James White's Vintage site on Roman Catholicism. Some of Jason's former work can be found on the Internet Archive file here, and at this site (no formal affiliation). For the index of other compilations of material from Jason Engwer as i complete them (if i do) see here.

For a custom Google search engine of the above sites and other selected ones, see here.

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Comments on “church fathers” and Scripture

Engwer's compilations are from what are wrongly termed early “church fathers,” as in truth the church began and greatly grew before them, and its “fathers” are essentially only those who are found in Scripture, and which is the judge of all. The church fathers which Roman Catholicism and Orthodox churches look to were mostly bishops who wrote during the first eight centuries of the Christian church, though some were laymen, and may include a few women.

These ancients were overall holy and very pious souls, and whose writings provide some edifying materials, but are inferior in quality and authority to Divinely inspired Scripture, and evidence indicates they were yet seeking to understand as well as defend many things. More of my thoughts on these ancients and the place of Scripture are further below.

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Table of Contents. To return here, click on TOC

  1. Sufficiency of Scripture

  2. Interpretation of Scripture

  3. Perspicuity of Scripture

  4. Discerning the Canon

  5. Distribution of Scripture

  6. Supplement A: Additional quotes

  7. Supplement B: RC hindrance of Biblical literacy, and its modern interpretive school

  8. Supplement C: The Canon and the Apocrypha

  9. Supplement D: Church “fathers” and the place of Scripture

Sufficiency of Scripture

"For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?" - Ambrose (On the Duties of the Clergy, 1:23:102)

"The Arians, then, say that Christ is unlike the Father; we deny it. Nay, indeed, we shrink in dread from the word. Nevertheless I would not that your sacred Majesty should trust to argument and our disputation. Let us enquire of the Scriptures, of apostles, of prophets, of Christ. In a word, let us enquire of the Father...So, indeed, following the guidance of the Scriptures, our fathers [at the Council of Nicaea] declared, holding, moreover, that impious doctrines should be included in the record of their decrees, in order that the unbelief of Arius should discover itself, and not, as it were, mask itself with dye or face-paint." - Ambrose (Exposition of the Christian Faith, 1:6:43, 1:18:119) TOC

"In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind....In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself." - Augustine (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 11:5)

"Every sickness of the soul hath in Scripture its proper remedy." - Augustine (Expositions on the Psalms, 37:2)

Clement of Alexandria

"But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves." - Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 7:16) TOC

"Let nothing be innovated, says he, nothing maintained, except what has been handed down. Whence is that tradition? Whether does it descend from the authority of the Lord and of the Gospel, or does it come from the commands and the epistles of the apostles? For that those things which are written must be done, God witnesses and admonishes, saying to Joshua the son of Nun: 'The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.' Also the Lord, sending His apostles, commands that the nations should be baptized, and taught to observe all things which He commanded. If, therefore, it is either prescribed in the Gospel, or contained in the epistles or Acts of the Apostles, that those who come from any heresy should not be baptized, but only hands laid upon them to repentance, let this divine and holy tradition be observed." - Cyprian (Letter 73:2) TOC

"For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." - Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, 4:17) TOC

"Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures." - Dionysius of Alexandria (cited in the church history of Eusebius, 7:24) TOC

"we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings...And to those who are expert only in the technical methods of proof a mere demonstration suffices to convince; but as for ourselves, we were agreed that there is something more trustworthy than any of these artificial conclusions, namely, that which the teachings of Holy Scripture point to: and so I deem that it is necessary to inquire, in addition to what has been said, whether this inspired teaching harmonizes with it all. And who, she replied, could deny that truth is to be found only in that upon which the seal of Scriptural testimony is set?" - Macrina and Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection) TOC

"Their treason involves us in the difficult and dangerous position of having to make a definite pronouncement, beyond the statements of Scripture, upon this grave and abstruse matter....We must proclaim, exactly as we shall find them in the words of Scripture, the majesty and functions of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so debar the heretics from robbing these Names of their connotation of Divine character, and compel them by means of these very Names to confine their use of terms to their proper meaning....I would not have you flatter the Son with praises of your own invention; it is well with you if you be satisfied with the written word." - Hilary of Poitiers (On the Trinity, 2:5, 3:23) TOC

Roman Catholics tell us that scripture is insufficient, and they often refer to scripture being unclear. We're often told that Trinitarian doctrine, for example, either is unbiblical or is unclear in scripture. But Hippolytus, a church father of the second and third centuries, who lived in Rome, disagreed. In the process of refuting anti-Trinitarian heresies, he advocated sola scriptura and explained that scripture itself (not scripture *and* an infallible interpreter) is sufficient to refute these heresies:

"Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, and lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died....But the case stands not thus; for the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner....the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth...The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated....The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages [of scripture] by these men, and then to explain their real meaning....For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it....if they choose to maintain that their dogma is ratified by this passage [of scripture], as if He owned Himself to be the Father, let them know that it is decidedly against them, and that they are confuted by this very word....Many other passages [of scripture], or rather all of them, attest the truth. A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one....What, then, will this Noetus, who knows nothing of the truth, dare to say to these things? And now, as Noetus has been confuted, let us turn to the exhibition of the truth itself, that we may establish the truth, against which all these mighty heresies have arisen without being able to state anything to the purpose. There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us took; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them." (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 1-4, 7-9) TOC

"They [heretics] gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures...We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith....It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and to demonstrate the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these heretics rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to 'the perfect' apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon to the Church, but if they should fall away, the direst calamity....proofs of the things which are contained in the Scriptures cannot be shown except from the Scriptures themselves." - Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 1:8:1, 3:1:1, 3:3:1, 3:12:9) TOC

"When, then, anything in my little work seems to you harsh, have regard not to my words, but to the Scripture, whence they are taken." - Jerome (Letter 48:20)

"I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books [scripture], to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else." - Jerome (Letter 53:10)

"When Paula comes to be a little older and to increase like her Spouse in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man, let her go with her parents to the temple of her true Father but let her not come out of the temple with them. Let them seek her upon the world's highway amid the crowds and the throng of their kinsfolk, and let them find her nowhere but in the shrine of the scriptures" - Jerome (Letter 107:7) TOC

"And now, if I say this to you, although I have repeated it many times, I know that it is not absurd so to do. For it is a ridiculous thing to see the sun, and the moon, and the other stars, continually keeping the same course, and bringing round the different seasons; and to see the computer who may be asked how many are twice two, because he has frequently said that they are four, not ceasing to say again that they are four; and equally so other things, which are confidently admitted, to be continually mentioned and admitted in like manner; yet that he who founds his discourse on the prophetic Scriptures should leave them and abstain from constantly referring to the same Scriptures, because it is thought he can bring forth something better than Scripture. The passage, then, by which I proved that God reveals that there are both angels and hosts in heaven is this: 'Praise the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the highest. Praise Him, all His angels: praise Him, all His hosts.'" (Dialogue with Trypho, 85)

A common Catholic response to such patristic passages is to argue that the church father in question was only referring to the importance of scripture, not its sufficiency. In other words, though Justin Martyr is correct that there's nothing better than scripture, he isn't denying that there can be other sources of *equal* authority, such as the traditions of Roman Catholicism.

But Justin criticizes those who would "leave" scripture, who wouldn't "constantly" look to it in their arguments. If we can't leave scripture, and we're to look to it constantly, what is that if not sola scriptura?

Another common Catholic response to such patristic passages is to claim that the church father was advocating the material sufficiency of scripture, but not its formal sufficiency. In other words, all doctrines can be derived from scripture, but we need the infallible Roman Catholic hierarchy to guide us, to tell us what is to be derived from the scriptures. But Justin doesn't say that. He doesn't refer to scripture being sufficient if accompanied by the interpretations of the Roman Catholic magisterium. Rather, he refers to scripture itself being sufficient. Just after his comments on the sufficiency of scripture, Justin goes on to quote a passage from the Psalms as proof for one of his arguments. Instead of quoting the Roman Catholic magisterium's interpretation of the Psalm, Justin tells us that the Psalm itself is the proof.

It doesn't seem, then, that Justin had material sufficiency in view. It seems that he was referring to the formal sufficiency of scripture. Even if he had been referring to material sufficiency, the popularity of material sufficiency in some Roman Catholic circles is of recent origin, and some Catholics still reject the concept.

If scripture is as insufficient, as unclear as Roman Catholics claim it is, one wonders why there wasn't some infallible interpreter of scripture in the Old Testament era, one to which both Justin Martyr and Trypho could have appealed in their disputes over the Messianic prophecies. Justin Martyr shows no knowledge of such an Old Testament infallible interpreter, nor does he show any knowledge of such an institution in this New Testament era.

"I shall yield to scripture alone." - Theodoret (Dialogues, 1) TOC

Interpretation of Scripture

Aphrahat

Aphrahat apparently had no concept of resolving difficulties in interpreting scripture by going to a Roman Catholic magisterium for infallible guidance. Compare the Roman Catholic approach toward scripture interpretation with what Aphrahat describes:

"Everyone who reads the sacred scriptures, both former and latter, in both covenants, and reads with persuasion, will learn and teach. But if he strives about anything that he does not understand, his mind does not receive teaching. But if he finds words that are too difficult for him, and he does not understand their force, let him say thus, 'Whatsoever is written is written well, but I have not attained to the understanding of it.' And if he shall ask about the matters that are too hard for him of wise and discerning men who inquire into doctrine, then, when ten wise men shall speak to him in ten different ways about one matter, let him accept that which pleases him; and if any please not him, let him not scorn the sages; for the word of God is like a pearl, that has a beautiful appearance on whatever side you turn it. And remember, O disciple, what David said, From all my teachers have I learned. And the Apostle said:-Thou readest every Scripture that is in the Spirit of God. And prove everything; hold fast that which is good; and flee from every evil thing. For if the days of a man should be many as all the days of the world from Adam to the end of the ages, and he should sit and meditate upon the Holy Scriptures, he would not comprehend all the force of the depth of the words." (Demonstrations, 22:26) TOC

Augustine didn't think that believing something as a result of reading scripture is equivalent to holding an unreliable private judgment. Unlike Catholics who claim that accepting a doctrine because of what you read in the Bible *is* private judgment, Augustine *contrasts* believing what the Bible teaches with having a mere private judgment:

"For thus doth our faith teach, that is, the true, the right Catholic faith, gathered not by the opinion of private judgment, but by the witness of the Scriptures, not subject to the fluctuations of heretical rashness, but grounded on Apostolic truth: this we know, this we believe." (Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, 2:2)

Roman Catholics often cite Acts 8:30-31 as evidence that reading scripture by ourselves, without the RCC interpreting it for us, is dangerous. But John Chrysostom reached just the opposite conclusion. Though other people can help us understand scripture, we don't need their help. Chrysostom saw Acts 8:30-31 as an example of how we should read scripture for ourselves more often:

"But many in these times, even when they come to church, do not know what is read; whereas the eunuch, even in public (ep agoras) and riding in his chariot, applied himself to the reading of the Scriptures. Not so you: none takes the Bible in hand: nay, everything rather than the Bible. Say, what are the Scriptures for? For as much as in you lies, it is all undone. What is the Church for? Tie up the Bibles: perhaps the judgment would not be such, not such the punishment: if one were to bury them in dung, that he might not hear them, he would not so insult them as you do now. For say, what is the insult there? That the man has buried them. And what here? That we do not hear them. Say, when is a person most insulted - when he is silent, and one makes no answer, or, when he does speak and is unheeded? So that the insult is greater in the present case, when He does speak and thou wilt not hear: greater the contempt." (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 19)

Roman Catholics have their own way of not hearing scripture. They claim that they can't understand it by itself, that it must be interpreted for them by their denomination's hierarchy. TOC

"Even then, the eunuch did not know him. Consequently this was done, that Philip might afterwards be a subject of wonder to him." (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 19)

To claim that the eunuch was looking for a religious authority to interpret scripture for him, when he didn't even know who Philip was, doesn't make sense. How would he have known that Philip was a religious authority? And how would Philip helping the eunuch understand the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 constitute an infallible scripture interpretation by Roman Catholic standards? The eunuch wanted help in understanding scripture, but he wasn't looking for some infallible ruling from the Roman Catholic denomination. Rather, he was willing to listen to the counsel of a stranger who offered him help. TOC

How many conservative Roman Catholics would agree with Origen's view of the historicity of scripture? He affirms that much of what's recorded as history in the Bible did occur, but he also dismisses a lot as unhistorical:

"And if we come to the legislation of Moses, many of the laws manifest the irrationality, and others the impossibility, of their literal observance. The irrationality is this, that the people are forbidden to eat vultures, although no one even in the direst famines was ever driven by want to have recourse to this bird; and that children eight days old, which are uncircumcised, are ordered to be exterminated from among their people, it being necessary, if the law were to be carried out at all literally with regard to these, that their fathers, or those with whom they are brought up, should be commanded to be put to death. Now the Scripture says: 'Every male that is uncircumcised, who shall not be circumcised on the eighth day, shall be cut off from among his people.' And if you wish to see impossibilities contained in the legislation, let us observe that the goat-stag is one of those animals that cannot exist, and yet Moses commands us to offer it as being a clean beast; whereas a griffin, which is not recorded ever to have been subdued by man, the lawgiver forbids to be eaten....But that no one may suppose that we assert respecting the whole that no history [in scripture] is real because a certain one is not; and that no law is to be literally observed, because a certain one, understood according to the letter, is absurd or impossible; or that the statements regarding the Savior are not true in a manner perceptible to the senses; or that no commandment and precept of His ought to be obeyed; - we have to answer that, with regard to certain things, it is perfectly clear to us that the historical account is true; as that Abraham was buried in the double cave at Hebron, as also Isaac and Jacob, and the wives of each of them; and that Shechem was given as a portion to Joseph; and that Jerusalem is the metropolis of Judea, in which the temple of God was built by Solomon; and innumerable other statements. For the passages that are true in their historical meaning are much more numerous than those which are interspersed with a purely spiritual signification." (De Principiis, 4:17, 4:19) TOC

Theonas tells us that nothing, not even the infallible scripture interpretations of the Roman Catholic magisterium, is as beneficial to the soul as reading scripture for yourself:

"Let no day pass by without reading some portion of the Sacred Scriptures, at such convenient hour as offers, and giving some space to meditation. And never cast off the habit of reading in the Holy Scriptures; for nothing feeds the soul and enriches the mind so well as those sacred studies do. But look to this as the chief gain you are to make by them, that, in all due patience, ye may discharge the duties of your office religiously and piously - that is, in the love of Christ - and despise all transitory objects for the sake of His eternal promises, which in truth surpass all human comprehension and understanding, and shall conduct you into everlasting felicity." (The Epistle of Theonas, Bishop of Alexandria, to Lucianus, the Chief Chamberlain, 9) TOC

Perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture

Alexander of Alexandria

"The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them [the Arians] no shame, nor did the consentient doctrine of our colleagues concerning Christ keep in check their audacity against Him." - Alexander of Alexandria (Epistles on the Arian Heresy and the Deposition of Arius, 1:10)

Roman Catholics often argue that Trinitarian doctrine is absent from or unclear in scripture. But:

"God, then, is One, without violation of the majesty of the eternal Trinity, as is declared in the instance set before us. And not in that place alone do we see the Trinity expressed in the Name of the Godhead; but both in many places, as we have said also above, and especially in the epistles which the Apostle wrote to the Thessalonians, he most clearly set forth the Godhead and sovereignty of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit....But if you require the plain statement of the words in which Scripture has spoken of the Spirit as Lord, it cannot have escaped you that it is written: 'Now the Lord is the Spirit.' Which the course of the whole passage shows to have been certainly said of the Holy Spirit....So he not only called the Spirit Lord, but also added: 'But where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. So we all with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are formed anew into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord the Spirit;' that is, we who have been before converted to the Lord, so as by spiritual understanding to see the glory of the Lord, as it were, in the mirror of the Scriptures, are now being transformed from that glory which converted us to the Lord, to the heavenly glory." - Ambrose (On the Holy Spirit, 3:14:94, 3:14:101-102) TOC

Arnobius

"But they [the scriptures] were written by unlearned and ignorant ripen, and should not therefore be readily believed. See that this be not rather a stronger reason for believing that they have not been adulterated by any false statements, but were put forth by men of simple mind, who knew not how to trick out their tales with meretricious ornaments. But the language is mean and vulgar. For truth never seeks deceitful polish, nor in that which is well ascertained and certain does it allow itself to be led away into excessive prolixity. Syllogisms, enthymemes, definitions, and all those ornaments by which men seek to establish their statements, aid those groping for the truth, but do not clearly mark its great features. But he who really knows the subject under discussion, neither defines, nor deduces, nor seeks the other tricks of words by which an audience is wont to be taken in, and to be beguiled into a forced assent to a proposition. Your narratives, my opponent says, are overrun with barbarisms and solecisms, and disfigured by monstrous blunders. A censure, truly, which shows a childish and petty spirit; for if we allow that it is reasonable, let us cease to use certain kinds of fruit because they grow with prickles on them, and other growths useless for food, which on the one hand cannot support us, and yet do not on the other hinder us from enjoying that which specially excels, and which nature has designed to be most wholesome for us. For how, I pray you, does it interfere with or retard the comprehension of a statement, whether anything be pronounced smoothly or with uncouth roughness?" - Arnobius (Against the Heathen, 1:58-59) TOC

Roman Catholics often argue that scripture is unclear. We're told that we wouldn't know about doctrines like the deity of Christ, the two natures of Christ, the Trinity, etc. if the RCC hadn't taught us those doctrines at the Council of Nicaea and elsewhere. Robert Sungenis made such an argument in his debate on the papacy with James White and Robert Zins at Boston College in 1995. Phil Porvaznik, another Roman Catholic apologist, said the following in a debate with me:

"We don't know with certainty until the Church has made her definition. Same can be asked of Jesus: how do we know his divinity goes back to eternity, that he was equal in substance and nature with God the Father, and this continues once he became a man. After all, Jesus said while on earth 'the Father is greater than I' (John 14:28) and similar texts suggest the Son's subordination to the Father (1 Cor 11:3; 15:28). The Church ruled on this at the Council of Nicaea (and subsequent Councils) so now we can be sure about the deity of Christ and the orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity."

Athanasius, who attended the Council of Nicaea, disagreed. He explained that Jesus' eternality and the teachings of Nicaea are *clearly* Biblical:

"It is plain then from the above that the Scriptures declare the Son's eternity; it is equally plain from what follows that the Arian phrases 'He was not,' and 'before' and 'when,' are in the same Scriptures predicated of creatures." (Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1:4:13)

"And let them [the Arians] blame themselves in this matter, for they set the example, beginning their war against God with words not in Scripture. However, if a person is interested in the question, let him know, that, even if the expressions [used by those who oppose Arianism] are not in so many words in the Scriptures, yet, as was said before, they contain the sense of the Scriptures, and expressing it, they convey it to those who have their hearing unimpaired for religious doctrine." (Defense of the Nicene Definition, 5:21)

"Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture" (De Synodis, 6)

"A Desire to learn and a yearning for heavenly things is suitable to a religious Emperor; for thus you will truly have 'your heart' also 'in the hand of God.' Since then your Piety desired to learn from us the faith of the Catholic Church, giving thanks for these things to the Lord, we counselled above all things to remind your Piety of the faith confessed by the Fathers at Nicaea. For this certain set at nought, while plotting against us in many ways, because we would not comply with the Arian heresy, and they have become authors of heresy and schisms in the Catholic Church. For the true and pious faith in the Lord has become manifest to all, being both 'known and read' from the Divine Scriptures." (Festal Letter 56:1)

"And this is usual with Scriptures, to express itsellf in inartificial and simple phrases." (Four Discourses Against the Arians, 4:33) TOC

"For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life,--to wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book. After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages." - Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, 2:9)

"For this reason, where they cannot interpret them [the scriptures] otherwise according to their own sentence, be it ever so clear and manifest, they answer that it is obscure and uncertain because wrong and perverse they dare not call it." - Augustine (Of the Work of Monks, 10)

Unlike the Roman Catholic apologists who argue that the Trinity is unclear in scripture, Augustine considered the doctrine to be taught "plainly and without leaving room for doubt or hesitation" in Matthew 3:16-17:

"For we behold and see as it were in a divine spectacle exhibited to us, the notice of our God in Trinity, conveyed to us at the river Jordan. For when Jesus came and was baptized by John, the Lord by His servant (and this He did for an example of humility; for He showeth that in this same humility is righteousness fulfilled, when as John said to Him, 'I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?' He answered, 'Suffer it to be so now, that all righteousness may be fulfilled'), when He was baptized then, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a Dove: and then a Voice from on high followed, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' Here then we have the Trinity in a certain sort distinguished. The Father in the Voice,-the Son in the Man,-the Holy Spirit in the Dove. It was only needful just to mention this, for most obvious is it to see. For the notice of the Trinity is here conveyed to us plainly and without leaving room for doubt or hesitation. For the Lord Christ Himself coming in the form of a servant to John, is doubtlessly the Son: for it cannot be said that it was the Father, or the Holy Spirit. 'Jesus,' it is said, 'cometh;' that is, the Son of God. And who hath any doubt about the Dove? or who saith, 'What is the Dove?' when the Gospel itself most plainly testifieth, 'The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove.' And in like manner as to that voice there can be no doubt that it is the Father's, when He saith, 'Thou art My Son.' Thus then we have the Trinity distinguished." (Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, 2:1) TOC

Basil contradicted the popular Roman Catholic argument that scripture is insufficient for proving Trinitarian doctrine:

"But all who maintain that either Son or Spirit is a creature, or absolutely reduce the Spirit to ministerial and servile rank, are far removed from the truth. Flee their communion. Turn away from their teaching, They are destructive to souls. If ever the Lord grant us to meet, I will discourse to you further concerning the faith, to the end that you may perceive at once the power of the truth and the rottenness of heresy by Scriptural proof." (Letter 105) TOC

The third century Roman bishop Dionysius didn't agree with the modern Roman Catholic apologists who claim that scripture is insufficient to prove Trinitarian doctrine. He refers to numerous Trinitarian doctrines, and he says that they're taught in scripture. He refers to how scripture "demands" Trinitarian doctrine. He refers to how "any one" can see a doctrine like the deity of Christ in scripture, and he refers to people who reject the deity of Christ being "openly convicted":

"For these indeed rightly know that the Trinity is declared in the divine Scripture, but that the doctrine that there are three gods is neither taught in the Old nor in the New Testament....And if Christ is the Word, the Wisdom, and the Power,-for the divine writings tell us that Christ is these, as ye yourselves know,-assuredly these are powers of God....But why should I discourse at greater length to you about these matters, since ye are men filled with the Spirit, and especially understanding what absurd results follow from the opinion which asserts that the Son was made? The leaders of this view seem to me to have given very little heed to these things, and for that reason to have strayed absolutely, by explaining the passage otherwise than as the divine and prophetic Scripture demands....Finally, any one may read in many parts of the divine utterances that the Son is said to have been begotten, but never that He was made. From which considerations, they who dare to say that His divine and inexplicable generation was a creation, are openly convicted of thinking that which is false concerning the generation of the Lord." (Against the Sabellians, 1-2) TOC

The Roman presbyter Gaius, in the process of refuting people who altered the text of scripture, refers to the faith of scripture as "simple":

"The sacred Scriptures they have boldly falsified, and the canons of the ancient faith they have rejected, and Christ they have ignored, not inquiring what the sacred Scriptures say, but laboriously seeking to discover what form of syllogism might be contrived to establish their impiety. And should any one lay before them a word of divine Scripture, they examine whether it will make a connected or disjoined form of syllogism; and leaving the Holy Scriptures of God, they study geometry, as men who are of the earth, and speak of the earth, and are ignorant of Him who cometh from above. Euclid, indeed, is laboriously measured by some of them; and Aristotle and Theophrastus are admired; and Galen, forsooth, is perhaps even worshipped by some of them. But as to those men who abuse the arts of the unbelievers to establish their own heretical doctrine, and by the craft of the impious adulterate the simple faith of the divine Scriptures, what need is there to say that these are not near the faith? For this reason is it they have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them." (Fragments of Caius, 2:3). TOC

Gregory of Nyssa didn't agree with the modern Roman Catholic apologists who claim that doctrines such as the deity of Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit aren't clear in scripture:

"For that there is a Word of God, and a Spirit of God, powers essentially subsisting, both creative of whatever has come into being, and comprehensive of things that exist, is shown in the clearest light out of the Divinely-inspired Scriptures." (The Great Catechism, 4) TOC

"For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text." - Hilary of Poitiers (On the Trinity, 2:3)

Roman Catholics often argue that the Council of Nicaea had to clarify Trinitarian doctrines that are either unclear in or absent from scripture. Hilary of Poitiers disagreed. He explains that what Nicaea taught about the deity of Christ was known to him, through the study of scripture, before he had even heard of the Nicene creed. He explains that the distinctions in Greek terminology associated with the Council of Nicaea were known to him from scripture:

"I call the God of heaven and earth to witness, that when I had heard neither word, my belief was always such that I should have interpreted o0moiou/sion by o0moou/sion. That is, I believed that nothing could be similar according to nature unless it was of the same nature. Though long ago regenerate in baptism, and for some time a bishop, I never heard of the Nicene creed until I was going into exile, but the Gospels and Epistles suggested to me the meaning of o0moou/sion and o0moiou/sion." (On the Councils, or the Faith of the Easterns, 91) TOC

Roman Catholics tell us that scripture is insufficient, and they often refer to scripture being unclear. We're often told that Trinitarian doctrine, for example, either is unbiblical or is unclear in scripture. But Hippolytus, a church father of the second and third centuries, who lived in Rome, disagreed. In the process of refuting anti-Trinitarian heresies, he advocated sola scriptura and explained that scripture itself (not scripture *and* an infallible interpreter) is sufficient to refute these heresies:

"Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, and lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died....But the case stands not thus; for the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner....the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth...The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated....The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages [of scripture] by these men, and then to explain their real meaning....For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it....if they choose to maintain that their dogma is ratified by this passage [of scripture], as if He owned Himself to be the Father, let them know that it is decidedly against them, and that they are confuted by this very word....Many other passages [of scripture], or rather all of them, attest the truth. A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one....What, then, will this Noetus, who knows nothing of the truth, dare to say to these things? And now, as Noetus has been confuted, let us turn to the exhibition of the truth itself, that we may establish the truth, against which all these mighty heresies have arisen without being able to state anything to the purpose. There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us took; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them." (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 1-4, 7-9) TOC

"A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in acquaintance with them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall plainly under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures....the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all" - Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 2:27:1-2) TOC

Roman Catholics tell us that their denomination must interpret the scriptures for us. For example:

"it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good" (Council of Trent, Rules on Prohibited Books, 4).

"I [Pope Pius IX] accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers." (First Vatican Council, 2:3).

"Everybody knows that those heresies, condemned by the fathers of Trent, which rejected the divine magisterium of the Church and allowed religious questions to be a matter for the judgment of each individual, have gradually collapsed into a multiplicity of sects, either at variance or in agreement with one another; and by this means a good many people have had all faith in Christ destroyed." (First Vatican Council, 3:5).

"But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God,whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation", 2:10.

Apparently, the church father John Cassian disagreed. Instead of telling people to look to a Roman Catholic magisterium led by a Pope for infallible scripture interpretations, he refers to the perspicuity of scripture and how we can understand the Bible through personal effort:

"WE knew also Abbot Theodore, a man gifted with the utmost holiness and with perfect knowledge not only in practical life, but also in understanding the Scriptures, which he had not acquired so much by study and reading, or worldly education, as by purity of heart alone: since he could with difficulty understand and speak but a very few words of the Greek language. This man when he was seeking an explanation of some most difficult question, continued without ceasing for seven days and nights in prayer until he discovered by a revelation from the Lord the solution of the question propounded. This man therefore, when some of the brethren were wondering at the splendid light of his knowledge and were asking of him some meanings of Scripture, said that a monk who wanted to acquire a knowledge of the Scriptures ought not to spend his labour on the works of commentators, but rather to keep all the efforts of his mind and intentions of his heart set on purifying himself from carnal vices: for when these are driven out, at once the eyes of the heart, as if the veil of the passions were removed, will begin as it were naturally to gaze on the mysteries of Scripture: since they were not declared to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit in order that they should remain unknown and obscure; but they are rendered obscure by our fault, as the veil of our sins covers the eyes of the heart, and when these are restored to their natural state of health, the mere reading of Holy Scripture is by itself amply sufficient for beholding the true knowledge, nor do they need the aid of commentators, just as these eyes of flesh need no man's teaching how to see, provided that they are free from dimness or the darkness of blindness.

For this reason there have arisen so great differences and mistakes among commentators because most of them, paying no sort of attention towards purifying the mind, rush into the work of interpreting the Scriptures, and in proportion to the density or impurity of their heart form opinions that are at variance with and contrary to each other's and to the faith, and so are unable to take in the light of truth." (The Twelve Books on the Institutes of the Coenobia, 5:33-34)

He explains that some passages of scripture are difficult to understand, but he still leaves the responsibility of interpreting with the individual, not with an infallible Roman Catholic hierarchy:

"The authority of holy Scripture says on those points on which it would inform us some things so plainly and clearly even to those who are utterly void of understanding, that not only are they not veiled in the obscurity of any hidden meaning, but do not even require the help of any explanation, but carry their meaning and sense on the surface of the words and letters: but some things are so concealed and involved in mysteries as to offer us an immense field for skill and care in the discussion and explanation of them.

And it is clear that God has so ordered it for many reasons: first for fear lest the holy mysteries, if they were covered by no veil of spiritual meaning, should be exposed equally to the knowledge and understanding of everybody, i.e., the profane as well as the faithful and thus there might be no difference in the matter of goodness and prudence between the lazy and the earnest: next that among those who are indeed of the household of faith, while immense differences of intellectual power open out before them, there might be the opportunity of reproving the slothfulness of the idle, and of proving the keenness and diligence of the earnest.

And so holy Scripture is fitly compared to a rich and fertile field, which, while bearing and producing much which is good for man's food without being cooked by fire, produces some things which are found to be unsuitable for man's use or even harmful unless they have lost all the roughness of their raw condition by being tempered and softened down by the heat of fire. But some are naturally fit for use in both states, so that even when uncooked they are not unpleasant from their raw condition, but still are rendered more palatable by being cooked and heated by fire.

Many more things too are produced only fit for the food of irrational creatures, and cattle, and wild animals and birds, but utterly useless as food for men, which while still in their rough state without being in any way touched by fire, conduce to the health and life of cattle. And we can clearly see that the same system holds good in that most fruitful garden of the Scriptures of the Spirit, in which some things shine forth clear and bright in their literal sense, in such a way that while they have no need of any higher interpretation, they furnish abundant food and nourishment in the simple sound of the words, to the hearers: as in this passage: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord; and: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.'

But there are some which, unless they are weakened down by an allegorical interpretation, and softened by the trial of the fire of the spirit cannot become wholesome food for the inner man without injury and loss to him; and damage rather than profit will accrue to him from receiving them: as with this passage: 'But let your loins be girded up and your lights burning;' and: 'whosoever has no sword, let him sell his coat and buy himself a sword;' and: 'whosoever taketh not up his cross and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me;' a passage which some most earnest monks, having 'indeed a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge' understood literally, and so made themselves wooden crosses, and carried them about constantly on their shoulders, and so were the cause not of edification but of ridicule on the part of all who saw them. But some are capable of being taken suitable and properly in both ways, i.e., the historical and allegorical, so that either explanation furnishes a healing draught to the soul; as this passage: 'If any one shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;' and: 'when they persecute you in one city, flee to another;' and: 'if thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.' It produces indeed 'grass for the cattle' also, (and of this food all the fields of Scripture are full); viz., plain and simple narratives of history, by which simple folk, and those who are incapable of perfect and sound understanding (of whom it is said 'Thou, Lord, wilt save both man and beast') may be made stronger and more vigorous for their hard work and the labour of actual life, in accordance with the state and measure of their capacity.

Wherefore on those passages which are brought forward with a clear explanation we also can constantly lay down the meaning and boldly state our own opinions. But those which the Holy Spirit, reserving for our meditation and exercise, has inserted in holy Scripture with veiled meaning, wishing some of them to be gathered from various proofs and conjectures, ought to be step by step and carefully brought together, so that their assertions and proofs may be arranged by the discretion of the man who is arguing or supporting them. For sometimes when a difference of opinion is expressed on one and the same subject, either view may be considered reasonable and be held without injury to the faith either firmly, or doubtfully, i.e., in such a way that neither is full belief nor absolute rejection accorded to it, and the second view need not interfere with the former, if neither of them is found to be opposed to the faith: as in this case: where Elias came in the person of John, and is again to be the precursor of the Lord's Advent: and in the matter of the 'Abomination of desolation' which 'stood in the holy place,' by means of that idol of Jupiter which, as we read, was placed in the temple in Jerusalem, and which is again to stand in the Church through the coming of Antichrist, and all those things which follow in the gospel, which we take as having been fulfilled before the captivity of Jerusalem and still to be fulfilled at the end of this world. In which matters neither view is opposed to the other, nor does the first interpretation interfere with the second.

And therefore since the question raised by us, does not seem to have been sufficiently or often ventilated among men, and is clear to most people, and from this fact what we bring forward may perhaps appear to some to be doubtful, we ought to regulate our own view (since it does not interfere with faith in the Trinity) so that it may be included among those things which are to be held doubtfully; although they rest not on mere opinions such as are usually given to guesses and conjectures, but on clear Scripture proof." (Conferences, 8:3-5) TOC

John Chrysostom didn't agree with Roman Catholicism's low view of the clarity of scripture:

"All things are dear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain." (Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5) TOC

Apparently, Julius Africanus didn't view scripture as being as unclear as Roman Catholics suggest it is. He refers to the clarity of Biblical prophecy, such as Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy, which is surely one of the more difficult passages of scripture. He says that Jews and other non-Christians can easily understand these things:

"But I am amazed that the Jews deny that the Lord has yet come, and that the followers of Marcion refuse to admit that His coming was predicted in the prophecies when the Scriptures display the matter so openly to our view." (The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus, 18) TOC

"Pay attention, therefore, to what I shall record out of the holy Scriptures, which do not need to be expounded, but only listened to." - Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 55) TOC

"For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all." - Lactantius (Divine Institutes, 6:21) TOC

Roman Catholics often refer to doctrines such as the deity of Christ and His two natures as being absent from or unclear in scripture. Phil Porvaznik, for example, wrote:

"We don't know with certainty until the Church has made her definition. Same can be asked of Jesus: how do we know his divinity goes back to eternity, that he was equal in substance and nature with God the Father, and this continues once he became a man. After all, Jesus said while on earth 'the Father is greater than I' (John 14:28) and similar texts suggest the Son's subordination to the Father (1 Cor 11:3; 15:28). The Church ruled on this at the Council of Nicaea (and subsequent Councils) so now we can be sure about the deity of Christ and the orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity."

Melito of Sardis, on the other hand, refers to such doctrines as "assured" by what we're told about Jesus in the Bible. He tells us that any "person of intelligence" can see Christ's deity and His two natures just by knowing some of the basic facts about His life:

"For there is no need, to persons of intelligence, to attempt to prove, from the deeds of Christ subsequent to His baptism, that His soul and His body, His human nature like ours, were real, and no phantom of the imagination. For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages." (Fragments, 7). TOC

Some passages of scripture are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16), but Roman Catholics exaggerate that difficulty and propose the wrong solution to it. Origen doesn't seem to have thought that scripture is as unclear as Roman Catholics claim it is, nor did he think the solution to some passages being unclear was to look for an infallible interpretation from the Roman Catholic denomination:

"What a mind, then, must we have to enable us to interpret in a worthy manner this work [the gospel of John], though it be committed to the earthly treasure-house of common speech, of writing which any passer-by can read, and which can be heard when read aloud by any one who lends to it his bodily ears? What shall we say of this work? He who is accurately to apprehend what it contains should be able to say with truth, 'We have the mind of Christ, that we may know those things which are bestowed on us by God.'" (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1:6)

"Now this is our answer to his allegations, and our defence of the truths contained in Christianity, that if any one were to come from the study of Grecian opinions and usages to the Gospel, he would not only decide that its doctrines were true, but would by practice establish their truth, and supply whatever seemed wanting, from a Grecian point of view, to their demonstration, and thus confirm the truth of Christianity. We have to say, moreover, that the Gospel has a demonstration of its own, more divine than any established by Grecian dialectics. And this diviner method is called by the apostle the 'manifestation of the Spirit and of power:' of 'the Spirit,' on account of the prophecies, which are sufficient to produce faith in any one who reads them" (Against Celsus, 1:2)

"Observe now the difference between the fine phrases of Plato respecting the 'chief good,' and the declarations of our prophets regarding the 'light' of the blessed; and notice that the truth as it is contained in Plato concerning this subject did not at all help his readers to attain to a pure worship of God, nor even himself, who could philosophize so grandly about the 'chief good,' whereas the simple language of the holy Scriptures has led to their honest readers being filled with a divine spirit" (Against Celsus, 6:5)

Though Origen often allegorized, and he advocated scriptural interpretations that he claimed only the more spiritual Christians could understand, he never appealed to the Roman Catholic concept of following infallible scripture interpretations from a worldwide denomination led by a Pope. Apparently, he thought that scripture was clear for the most part, and that less clear interpretations could be attained by more mature Christians, but not by means of an infallible Roman Catholic hierarchy. TOC

Roman Catholic apologists often cite the doctrine of the two natures of Christ as an example of something that either isn't Biblical or is unclear in scripture. Supposedly, we need the authority of the RCC to tell us what to believe on the issue. Theodoret disagreed:

"Holy Scripture clearly teaches us both natures [of Christ]." (Letter 99)

Roman Catholic apologists often tell us that the Council of Nicaea went beyond what scripture teaches in its defense of Trinitarian doctrine. They tell us that we need more than scripture to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. Theodoret disagreed:

"We shall therefore endeavor to persuade Arius to acknowledge the substance of the Holy Trinity, and we shall adduce proofs of this position from Holy Scripture." (Dialogues, 2) TOC

Theonas tells us that nothing, not even the infallible scripture interpretations of the Roman Catholic magisterium, is as beneficial to the soul as reading scripture for yourself:

"Let no day pass by without reading some portion of the Sacred Scriptures, at such convenient hour as offers, and giving some space to meditation. And never cast off the habit of reading in the Holy Scriptures; for nothing feeds the soul and enriches the mind so well as those sacred studies do. But look to this as the chief gain you are to make by them, that, in all due patience, ye may discharge the duties of your office religiously and piously - that is, in the love of Christ - and despise all transitory objects for the sake of His eternal promises, which in truth surpass all human comprehension and understanding, and shall conduct you into everlasting felicity." (The Epistle of Theonas, Bishop of Alexandria, to Lucianus, the Chief Chamberlain, 9) TOC

Theophilus of Antioch doesn't seem to have thought that scripture is as unclear as Roman Catholicism claims. When discussing the prophetic books of scripture, which are some of the most difficult to understand, he said that people can understand the books sufficiently by reading them:

"And why should I recount the multitude of prophets, who are numerous, and said ten thousand things consistently and harmoniously? For those who desire it, can, by reading what they uttered, accurately understand the truth, and no longer be carried away by opinion and profitless labour....Moreover, it is said that among your writers there were prophets and prognosticators, and that those wrote accurately: who were informed by them. How much more, then, shall we know the truth who are instructed by the holy prophets, who were possessed by the Holy Spirit of God! On this account all the prophets spoke harmoniously and in agreement with one another, and foretold the things that would come to pass in all the world. For the very accomplishment of predicted and already consummated events should demonstrate to those who are fond of information, yea rather, who are lovers of truth, that those things are really true which they declared concerning the epochs and eras before the deluge" (Theophilus to Autolycus, 2:35, 3:17) TOC

Discerning the Canon

Athanasius, who rejected the Roman Catholic Old Testament canon, agreed with evangelicals that the canon of the Old Testament is to be derived from the Jews. He didn't have any concept of waiting for an infallible ruling from the RCC:

"There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews" (Festal Letter 39:4)

But, since he didn't have an ex cathedra ruling from the bishop of Rome on the subject, Athanasius probably didn't have much confidence in his conclusions, right? No, instead, he refers to how he's "fully persuaded" (39:3). He refers to his canon as "handed down, and accredited as Divine; to the end that any one who has fallen into error may condemn those who have led him astray" (39:3). It sounds like he was confident in his conclusions *without* any allegedly infallible ruling from the Roman Catholic denomination. Athanasius didn't agree with the canonical arguments of today's Roman Catholic apologists. TOC

Athenagoras, without any infallible ruling from the RCC, recognizes books as Divinely inspired scripture, and he derives doctrine from those books. He refers to the books themselves, without any infallible ruling from the RCC, being "fitting grounds" for defending the doctrines of Christianity:

"If we satisfied ourselves with advancing such considerations as these, our doctrines might by some be looked upon as human. But, since the voices of the prophets confirm our arguments-for I think that you also, with your great zeal for knowledge, and your great attainments in learning, cannot be ignorant of the writings either of Moses or of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the other prophets, who, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired, the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute;-what, then, do these men say? 'The Lord is our God; no other can be compared with Him.' And again: 'I am God, the first and the last, and besides Me there is no God.' In like manner: 'Before Me there was no other God, and after Me there shall be none; I am God, and there is none besides Me.' And as to His greatness: 'Heaven is My throne, and the earth is the footstool of My feet: what house will ye build for Me, or what is the place of My rest?' But I leave it to you, when you meet with the books themselves, to examine carefully the prophecies contained in them, that you may on fitting grounds defend us from the abuse cast upon us." (A Plea for the Christians, 9) TOC

Augustine's canon wasn't the same as Roman Catholicism's, but it was close. However, the means by which he arrived at that canon is contrary to the means advocated by modern Roman Catholics:

"The most skillful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding, still with such knowledge as reading gives,-those of them, at least, that are called canonical. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth, so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices adverse to a sound understanding. Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal." (On Christian Doctrine, 2:8)

Augustine says nothing of an infallible ruling of a worldwide denomination led by a Pope. Rather, he refers to a general consensus of evidence from multiple churches. TOC

Clement of Alexandria didn't think he needed an infallible ruling from the RCC in order to recognize which books are scripture and which aren't:

"It will naturally fall after these, after a cursory view of theology, to discuss the opinions handed down respecting prophecy; so that, having demonstrated that the Scriptures which we believe are valid from their omnipotent authority, we shall be able to go over them consecutively, and to show thence to all the heresies one God and Omnipotent Lord to be truly preached by the law and the prophets, and besides by the blessed Gospel. Many contradictions against the heterodox await us while we attempt, in writing, to do away with the force of the allegations made by them, and to persuade them against their will, proving by the Scriptures themselves....He, then, who of himself believes the Scripture and voice of the Lord, which by the Lord acts to the benefiting of men, is rightly regarded faithful. Certainly we use it as a criterion in the discovery of things. What is subjected to criticism is not believed till it is so subjected; so that what needs criticism cannot be a first principle. Therefore, as is reasonable, grasping by faith the indemonstrable first principle, and receiving in abundance, from the first principle itself, demonstrations in reference to the first principle, we are by the voice of the Lord trained up to the knowledge of the truth....Since also, in what pertains to life, craftsmen are superior to ordinary people, and model what is beyond common notions; so, consequently, we also, giving a complete exhibition of the Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves, from faith persuade by demonstration." (The Stromata, 4:1, 7:16) TOC

Julius Africanus apparently had no concept of getting his canon of scripture from the Roman Catholic magisterium, nor was he aware of an apostolic tradition supporting the RCC's Old Testament canon. He explains that though he once accepted the apocryphal History of Susanna, he rejected it after his own personal examination of the evidence against the book's canonicity. And though Roman Catholics reject the concept that the Old Testament canon was entrusted to the Jews, Julius Africanus considered the Jews' rejection of the History of Susanna as "fatal" to the book's canonicity:

"In your sacred discussion with Agnomon you referred to that prophecy of Daniel which is related of his youth. This at that time, as was meet, I accepted as genuine. Now, however, I cannot understand how it escaped you that this part of the book is spurious. For, in sooth, this section, although apart from this it is elegantly written, is plainly a more modern forgery. There are many proofs of this....But a more fatal objection is, that this section, along with the other two at the end of it, is not contained in the Daniel received among the Jews." (A Letter to Origen from Africanus About the History of Susanna) TOC

Roman Catholic apologists often tell us that we need an infallible ruling from their denomination's hierarchy in order to know the canon of scripture. Supposedly, we can't have much confidence in our canon if it isn't supported by the alleged infallibility of the Roman Catholic denomination.

The church fathers disagreed. They arrived at their canon through personal examination of the evidence, and they held other people accountable for obeying what's taught in that canon. They referred to those books having the highest of authority. Instead of thinking that they needed to wait for an ex cathedra ruling of the bishop of Rome, or wait for a ruling such as that given by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, the church fathers relied on the sort of personal judgment that modern Roman Catholic apologists condemn.

Melito of Sardis, for example, who rejected the Roman Catholic Old Testament canon, tells us how he arrived at that canon:

"Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting: Since thou hast often, in thy zeal for the word, expressed a wish to have extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour and concerning our entire faith, and hast also desired to have an accurate statement of the ancient book, as regards their number and their order, I have endeavored to perform the task, knowing thy zeal for the faith, and thy desire to gain information in regard to the word, and knowing that thou, in thy yearning after God, esteemest these things above all else, struggling to attain eternal salvation. Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below." (cited in Eusebius, Church History, 4:26:13-14)

Apparently, neither Melito nor the person he's writing to thought that the means of arriving at a reliable canon was an infallible ruling from a worldwide denomination led by a Pope. Instead, Melito relies on his own examination of evidence, and he refers to his conclusions as reliable. TOC

Tatian doesn't seem to have agreed with the popular Roman Catholic claim that we need an infallible ruling from the Roman Catholic hierarchy to identify scripture for us:

"I sought how I might be able to discover the truth. And, while I was giving my most earnest attention to the matter, I happened to meet with certain barbaric writings [the scriptures], too old to be compared with the opinions of the Greeks, and too divine to be compared with their errors; and I was led to put faith in these by the unpretending ease of the language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and the declaration of the government of the universe as centred in one Being. And, my soul being taught of God, I discern that the former class of writings lead to condemnation, but that these put an end to the slavery that is in the world, and rescue us from a multiplicity of rulers and ten thousand tyrants, while they give us, not indeed what we had not before received, but what we had received but were prevented by error from retaining." (Address to the Greeks, 29) TOC

Distribution of Scripture

The RCC has an inconsistent record regarding the distribution and reading of the scriptures. Sometimes, the RCC has encouraged both. Other times, the RCC has opposed both to some degree. For example:

"Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed them over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any other way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them." (Council of Trent, Rules on Prohibited Books, 4).

John Chrysostom disagreed. He wanted people to read and hear scripture as often as possible and to possess copies of the Bible. He included unbelievers, even young children. For example:

"this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this" (Homilies on the Gospel According to St. John, 32:3)

"It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures!...For it is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom....How many persons, do you suppose, have spoken upon the Gospels? And yet all have spoken in a way which was new and fresh. For the more one dwells on them, the more insight does he get, the more does he behold the pure light." (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 19)

"And so ye also, if ye be willing to apply to the reading of him [Paul] with a ready mind, will need no other aid. For the word of Christ is true which saith, 'Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' (Matt. vii. 7.)...For from this it is that our countless evils have arisen - from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this that there are negligent lives; from this labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must needs be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking the worst darkness." (Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, The Argument)

"Do you wish your son to be obedient? From the very first 'Bring him up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.' Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this, 'Honor thy father and thy mother'; so that this makes for thee. Never say, this is the business of monks. Am I making a monk of him? No. There is no need he should become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian. For it is of all things necessary for laymen to be acquainted with the lessons derived from this source; but especially for children....Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures. Alas, that so constantly as I repeat this, I am looked upon as trifling! Still, I shall not cease to do my duty." (Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, 21, v. 4) TOC

Supplement A: Additional quotes

Chrysostom (349-407); from sections 2 & 3 of his 3rd sermon on Lazarus:

And with good cause He calleth the Scriptures “a door,” for they bring us to God, and open to us the knowledge of God, they make the sheep, they guard them, and suffer not the wolves to come in after them. For Scripture, like some sure door, barreth the passage against the heretics, placing us in a state of safety as to all that we desire, and not allowing us to wander; and if we undo it not, we shall not easily be conquered by our foes. By it we can know all, both those who are, and those who are not, shepherds. NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Homily 59.

2. Many other such things there are that beset our soul; and we have need of the divine remedies that we may heal wounds inflicted, and ward off those which, though not inflicted, would else be received in time to come—thus quenching afar off the darts of Satan, and shielding ourselves by the constant reading of the Divine Scriptures. It is not possible—I say, it is not possible, for any one to be secure without constant supplies of this spiritual instruction (translator’s note, “Or without constantly making use of spiritual reading”).

As the instruments of their art are the hammer and anvil and pincers, so the instruments of our work are the apostolic and prophetic books, and all the inspired and profitable Scriptures.

Let us then not neglect the possession of the sacred books. For gold, whenever it becomes abundant, causes trouble to its possessors; but these books, when carefully preserved, afford great benefit to those who possess them.

But what,” say they, “if we do not understand the things we read?” Even if you do not understand the contents, your sanctification in a high degree results from it. However, it is impossible that all these things should alike be misunderstood; for it was for this reason that the grace of the Holy Spirit ordained that tax-gatherers, and fishermen, and tent-makers, and shepherds, and goatherds, and uninstructed and illiterate men, should compose these books, that no untaught man should be able to make this pretext; in order that the things delivered should be easily comprehended by all—in order that the handicraftsman, the domestic, the widow, yea, the most unlearned of all men, should profit and be benefited by the reading. For it is not for vain-glory, as men of the world, but for the salvation of the hearers, that they composed these writings, who, from the beginning, were endued with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Show great eagerness to learn; then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness; but if no human being can teach you that which you seek to know, He himself will reveal the whole...

Let us not, beloved, neglect our salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. x. 11). The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused. It is impossible—I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. (Four Discourses of Chrysostom, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, 3rd Sermon, §2-3 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1869), pp. 62-68. See Concionis VII, de Lazaro 3.2-3 PG 48:993-996 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1857-87). Cf. PG 62:485. F. Allen, trans.)

But how shall any one who is unskillful as these men pretend, be able to convict the gainsayers and stop their mouths? or what need is there to give attention to reading and to the Holy Scriptures, if such a state of unskillfulness is to be welcome among us? Such arguments are mere makeshifts and pretexts, the marks of idleness and sloth. But some one will say, “it is to the priests that these charges are given:” — certainly, for they are the subjects of our discourse. But that the apostle gives the same charge to the laity, hear what he says in another epistle to other than the priesthood: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,” and again, “Let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one,” and there is a general charge to all that they “be ready to” render an account of their faith, and to the Thessalonians, he gives the following command: “Build each other up, even as also ye do.” (NPNF1: Vol. IX, The Christian Priesthood, Book 4, §7-8)

But what do the multitude say? “I do not hear what is read,” saith one, “nor do I know what the words are which are spoken.” Because thou makest a tumult and confusion, because thou comest not with a reverent soul. What sayest thou? “I know not what things are said.” Well then, for this very reason oughtest thou to give heed. But if not even the obscurity stir up thy soul, much more if things were clear wouldest thou hurry them by. Yea, this is the reason why neither all things are clear, lest thou shouldest indulge indolence; nor obscure, lest thou shouldest be in despair.

And whereas that eunuch and barbarian (Acts 8:20.) said none of these things, but surrounded as he was with a crowd of so important affairs and on his journey, had a book in his hands and was reading: dost thou, both abounding in teachers, and having others to read to thee privately, allege to me thine excuses and pretexts? Knowest thou not what is said? Why then pray that thou mayest learn: but sure it is impossible to be ignorant of all things. For many things are of themselves evident and clear. And further, even if thou be ignorant of all, even so oughtest thou to be quiet, not to put out them that are attentive; that God, accepting thy quietness and thy reverence, may make the obscure things also plain. (NPNF1: Vol. XII, Homilies on First Corinthians, Homily 36.9)

Caesarius, bishop of Arles (470-543): I will say something about which you are not ignorant. We know that some merchants who are illiterate look for literate mercenaries; although they themselves do not know letters, they acquire immense profits by having others write their ideas. Now, if those who are unlearned hire literate mercenaries in order to obtain earthly wealth, why do not you, whoever you are that is illiterate, seek with the price of reward someone to read over the sacred Scriptures for you, so that you may be able to acquire eternal rewards through them? It is definitely a fact, brethren, that anyone who diligently seeks this believes that it will profit him for eternity.

However, if a man neither will read the text himself nor willingly listen to others do so, he does not believe that he can derive any good at all from it. Therefore, I beg and exhort you, dearly beloved, if any of you know letters, read the sacred Scriptures rather frequently; those of you who do not should listen with attentive ears when others read it. The light and eternal food of the soul is nothing else but the word of God, without which the soul can neither see nor live. Just as our body dies if it does not receive food, so, too, our soul is killed if it does not receive the word of God. (FC, Vol. 31, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons (1-80), Sermon 6.2 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1956), pp. 39-40.)

Another may report: I recall that my bishop said that a man who knows letters should be eager to read sacred Scripture, and one who does not should look for someone and ask him to read God’s precepts to him so that with God’s help he may fulfill what was read. Again, another may say: I heard my bishop say that just as merchants who are illiterate hire learned mercenaries so that they may acquire wealth, so Christians should seek, ask, and if necessary, pay for someone to read the sacred Scriptures to them; that just as a trader gets money by having someone else read, so Christians should obtain eternal life in this way. If you do this and admonish each other, you can both live devoutly in this world and afterwards attain to the bliss of eternal life. (Ibid. Sermon 6.8, pp. 44-45)

I beseech you, beloved brethren, be eager to engage in divine reading whatever hours you can. Moreover, since what a man procures in this life by reading or good works will be the food of his soul forever, let no one try to excuse himself by saying he has not learned letters at all. If those who are illiterate love God in truth, they look for learned people who can read the sacred Scriptures to them. (Ibid, Sermon 8.1, p. 49)

Therefore consider at once, brethren, and carefully notice that the man who frequently reads or listens to sacred Scripture speaks with God. See, then, whether the Devil can overtake him when he perceives him in constant conversation with God. However, if a man neglects to do this, with what boldness or with what feelings does he believe God will grant him an eternal reward, when he refuses to speak with Him in this world through the divine text? (Ibid, Sermon 8.3; p. 52)

Commenting on Rev. 22:10: Just as the divine Scriptures are sealed for those who are proud and who love the world more than God, so are they opened for those who are humble and who fear God. (William C. Weinrich, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XII, Revelation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), p. 398. Cf. Commentary on the Apocalypse 22.10, Homily 19)

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): For he is the best student who does not read his thoughts into the book, but lets it reveal its own; who draws from it its sense, and does not import his own into it, nor force upon its words a meaning which he had determined was the right one before he opened its pages. Since then we are to discourse of the things of God, let us assume that God has full knowledge of Himself, and bow with humble reverence to His words. For He Whom we can only know through His own utterances is the fitting witness concerning Himself. (NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book 1, §18).TOC

Supplement B: Roman Catholic hindrance of Biblical literacy, and its modern NAB interpretations.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)

And the common people heard him gladly.” (Mk. 12:37)

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me." (John 5:39)

"And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me. {45} Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, " (Luke 24:44-45)

"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15)

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Act 17:11)

"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:2)

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. " (2 Timothy 2:15)

Summary: It has been established that historically Rome did not overall encourage Bible literacy among the laity, and can be said to have even discouraged it. And until recently little of the Bible was read in Mass, and today this is still not much. “At mid-century study of Bible texts was not an integral part of the primary or secondary school curriculum. At best, the Bible was conveyed through summaries of the texts.” (The Catholic Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. RG16) Even by 1951 just a little of the gospels and the epistles were read on Sundays, with just 0.39% of the Old Testament (aside from the Psalms) being read at Vigils and major feast days in 1951. (http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm) While that amount has increased since Vatican Two, only going to Mass will not give one a functional knowledge of Scripture. The average Catholic does not even get to Mass weekly, less alone daily as would be needed to get just 12.7% of the Bible over the two year reading cycle (based on stats from last source). TOC

    Preface:

    While accusations of censure of Bible reading by Rome are sometimes exaggerated, and while Roman Catholicism did print Bibles in the common (“vulgar”) tongue (and in a notable encouragement, Pius VI in his letter to Martini, commended the printing and reading of his translation of his Bible into Italian), yet for too much of her history it is evidenced that the church of Rome did not place a priority upon personal Biblical literacy among the laity, but actually hindered it. While for a long time she effectively exercised civil power and for some time could even (unScripturally) require civil authorities to torture theological dissidents and possible witnesses against them, yet enabling the laity to read was not a high priority, nor on providing copies of the Scriptures in the common tongue and placing them in the hands of the laity (before the printing press and a long time after). The hindrance of personal Bible reading by laity included requiring special permission from the clergy to privately read Scripture, and more rarely, in some places Rome outright banned the laity from reading any translations in the common language. As but few could read the Scriptures in Latin, much less Hebrew or Greek, this amounted to a prohibition upon the multitudes against personal Bible reading. Translations in the language of the laity and without restrictions on reading were even judged by Trent as “doing more harm than good.

    This suppression was based upon the position of “sola ecclesia,” that the Roman church only is the supreme authority and sufficient infallible authority on faith and morals. As stated in 1528 by Dominican Johannes Mensing, "Scripture can deceive, the Church cannot deceive. Who does not perceive then that the Church is greater than Scripture and that we can entrust ourselves better to the Church than to Scripture." (“Gründliche vnterricht: Was eyn frommer Christen von der heyligen Kirchen, von den Vetern vnd der heyligen schrifft halten sol”)

    However, while Rome has presumed to "infallibly' declare that she is infallible whenever she speaks in accordance with her infallibly defined (scope and subject-based) formula (but which does not insure infallible interpretation of her), the fact is that Scripture is the only transcendent material authority on faith and moral that is affirmed to be wholly inspired (God-breathed), and which writings were progressively established as being of God (like as true men of God are) due to their unique heavenly qualities, supernatural attestation and conflation and complementarity to what was previously established as being from God. And it is abundantly evidenced to be the standard for obedience and establishing truth claims.

    Moreover, while today Bible reading is somewhat encouraged in Roman Catholicism, and many quote it in defense of their church, it is not their real authority as only interpretation that has authority is that which Rome provides. Its authority is further impugned by the overall liberal interpretive approach of most of her modern scholarship, such as is seen (below) in the approved commentary in the official Roman Catholic Bible for America.

    Historical overview:

  • It is indisputable that in Apostolic times the Old Testament was commonly read by Jews (John 5:47; Acts 8:28; 17:2,11; 3Tim. 3:15). Roman Catholics admit that this reading was not restricted in the first centuries, in spite of its abuse by Gnostics and other heretics. On the contrary, the reading of Scripture was urged (Justin Martyr, xliv, ANF, i, 177-178; Jerome, Adv. libros Rufini, i, 9, NPNF, 2d ser., iii, 487); and Pamphilus, the friend of Eusebius, kept copies of Scripture to furnish to those who desired them. Chrysostom attached considerable importance to the reading of Scripture on the part of the laity and denounced the error that it was to be permitted only to monks and priests (De Lazaro concio, iii, MPG, xlviii, 992; Hom. ii in Matt., MPG, lvii, 30, NPNF, 2d ser., x, 13). He insisted upon access being given to the entire Bible, or at least to the New Testament (Hom. ix in Col., MPG, lxii, 361, NPNF, xiii, 301). The women also, who were always at home, were diligently to read the Bible (Hom. xxxv on Gen. xii, MPG, liii, 323). Jerome recommended the reading and studying of Scripture on the part of the women (Epist., cxxviii, 3, MPL, xxii, 1098, NPNF, 2d ser., vi, 259; Epist., lxxix, 9, MPG, xxii, 730-731, NPNF, 2d ser., vi, 167). The translations of the Bible, Augustine considered a blessed means of propagating the Word of God among the nations (De doctr. christ., ii, 5, NPNF, 1st ser., ii, 536); Gregory I recommended the reading of the Bible without placing any limitations on it (Hom. iii in Ezek., MPL, lxxvi, 968). — New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia

  • There was far more extensive and continuous use of Scriptures in the public service of the early Church than there is among us.” (Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary, The Catholic Publication Society, 1887, page 509)

  • Through most of the fourth century, the controversy with the Arians had turned upon Scripture, and appeals to past authority were few. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 Volume Special Edition under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus Catholic Truth Committee, The Encyclopedia Press Inc., New York, 1913, Volume 6, page 2)

  • Our present convenient compendiums -- the Missal, Breviary, and so on were formed only at the end of a long evolution. In the first period (lasting perhaps till about the fourth century) there were no books except the Bible, from which lessons were read and Psalms were sung. Nothing was written, because nothing was fixed. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 Volume Special Edition under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus Catholic Truth Committee, The Encyclopedia Press Inc., New York, 1913, Volume 9, page 296)

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13635b.htm):

    (1) During the course of the first millennium of her existence, the Church did not promulgate any law concerning the reading of Scripture in the vernacular. The faithful were rather encouraged to read the Sacred Books according to their spiritual needs (cf. St. Irenæus, "Adv. haer.", III, iv).

    (2) The next five hundred years show only local regulations concerning the use of the Bible in the vernacular. On 2 January, 1080, Gregory VII wrote to the Duke of Bohemia that he could not allow the publication of the Scriptures in the language of the country. The letter was written chiefly to refuse the petition of the Bohemians for permission to conduct Divine service in the Slavic language. The pontiff feared that the reading of the Bible in the vernacular would lead to irreverence and wrong interpretation of the inspired text. ( St. Gregory VII, "Epist.", vii, xi).

    The second document belongs to the time of the Waldensian and Albigensian heresies. The Bishop of Metz had written to Innocent III that there existed in his diocese a perfect frenzy for the Bible in the vernacular. In 1199 the pope replied that in general the desire to read the Scriptures was praiseworthy, but that the practice was dangerous for the simple and unlearned. ("Epist., II, cxli; Hurter, "Gesch. des. Papstes Innocent III", Hamburg, 1842, IV, 501 sqq.)....

  • It is only in the beginning of the last five hundred years that we meet with a general law of the Church concerning the reading of the Bible in the vernacular. On 24 March, 1564, Pius IV promulgated in his Constitution, "Dominici gregis", the Index of Prohibited Books . According to the third rule, the Old Testament may be read in the vernacular by pious and learned men, according to the judgment of the bishop, as a help to the better understanding of the Vulgate.

    The fourth rule places in the hands of the bishop or the inquisitor the power of allowing the reading of the New Testament in the vernacular to laymen who according to the judgment of their confessor or their pastor can profit by this practice.

    Sixtus V reserved this power to himself or the Sacred Congregation of the Index, and Clement VIII added this restriction to the fourth rule of the Index, by way of appendix.

    Benedict XIV required that the vernacular version read by laymen should be either approved by the Holy See or provided with notes taken from the writings of the Fathers or of learned and pious authors. It then became an open question whether this order of Benedict XIV was intended to supersede the former legislation or to further restrict it.

    This doubt was not removed by the next three documents: the condemnation of certain errors of the Jansenist Quesnel as to the necessity of reading the Bible , by the Bull "Unigenitus" issued by Clement XI on 8 Sept., 1713 (cf. Denzinger, "Enchir.", nn. 1294-1300); the condemnation of the same teaching maintained in the Synod of Pistoia, by the Bull "Auctorem fidei" issued on 28 Aug., 1794, by Pius VI; the warning against allowing the laity indiscriminately to read the Scriptures in the vernacular, addressed to the Bishop of Mohileff by Pius VII, on 3 Sept., 1816.

    But the Decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of the Index on 7 Jan., 1836, seems to render it clear that henceforth the laity may read vernacular versions of the Scriptures, if they be either approved by the Holy See, or provided with notes taken from the writings of the Fathers or of learned Catholic authors. The same regulation was repeated by Gregory XVI in his Encyclical of 8 May, 1844.

    In general, the Church has always allowed the reading of the Bible in the vernacular, if it was desirable for the spiritual needs of her children; she has forbidden it only when it was almost certain to cause serious spiritual harm. (Catholic Encyclopedia>Scripture)

    Early to Middle Ages (mainly):

  • A Catholic dictionary states that, “In early times the Bible was read freely by the lay people. and the Fathers encouraged them to do so...No prohibitions were issued against the popular reading of the Bible...New dangers came in during the Middle Ages...To meet those evils, the Council of Toulouse, France (1229) and Terragona, Spain, (1234) [local councils], forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible. (Toulouse was in response to the Albigensian heresy, and while this reveals a recourse of restrinction of access to Scripture when faced with challenges, it is understood that when the Albigensian problem disappeared, so did the force of their order, which never affected more than southern France.) http://www.lazyboysreststop.org/true_attitude.htm; A Catholic Dictionary: William Edward Addis, ?Thomas Arnold, p. 82

    While it is claimed that a general prohibition of Bible reading was never unconditionally forbidden, yet not only was reading forbidden without special permission, but since the laity usually could not read Latin, what the decrees such as the synods of Toulouse and Tarragona amount to is a prohibition on reading Scripture for most, even if local and a small portion was allowed.

  • Council of Toulouse, 1229, Canon 14: "We prohibit the permission of the books of the Old and New Testament to laymen, except perhaps they might desire to have the Psalter, or some Breviary for the divine service, or the Hours of the blessed Virgin Mary, for devotion; expressly forbidding their having the other parts of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue" (Pierre Allix, Ecclesiastical History of Ancient Churches of the Albigenses, published in Oxford at the Clarendon Press in 1821, reprinted in USA in 1989 by Church History Research & Archives, P.O. Box 38, Dayton Ohio, 45449, p. 213).

  • Owing to lack of culture among the Germanic and Romanic peoples, there was for a long time no thought of restricting access to the Bible there. Translations of Biblical books into German began only in the Carolingian period and were not originally intended for the laity. Nevertheless the people were anxious to have the divine service and the Scripture lessons read in the vernacular. John VIII in 880 permitted, after the reading of the Latin gospel, a translation into Slavonic; but Gregory VII, in a letter to Duke Vratislav of Bohemia in 1080 characterized the custom as unwise, bold, and forbidden (Epist., vii, 11; P. Jaff�, BRG, ii, 392 sqq.). This was a formal prohibition, not of Bible reading in general, but of divine service in the vernacular...

  • With the appearance, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, of the Albigenses and Waldenses, who appealed to the Bible in all their disputes with the Church, the hierarchy was furnished with a reason for shutting up the Word of God. (Philip Schaff, Bible reading by the laity, restrictions on. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers)

  • Pius IV (1499 -1565) required bishops to refuse lay persons leave to read even Catholic versions of Scripture unless their confessors or parish priests judged that such reading was likely to prove beneficial.” (Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, 1887, page 82)

  • During the Middle Ages prohibitions of books were far more numerous than in ancient times. Their history is chiefly connected with the names of medieval heretics like Berengarius of Tours, Abelard, John Wyclif, and John Hus. However, especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there were also issued prohibitions of various kinds of superstitious writings, among them the Talmud and other Jewish books. In this period, also, the first decrees about the reading of translations of the Bible were called forth by the abuses of the Waldenses and Albigenses. What these decrees (e.g. of the synods of Toulouse in 1229, Tarragona in 1234, Oxford in 1408) aimed at was the restriction of Bible-reading in the vernacular [the common tongue; the only language most could read] A general prohibition [in any language] was never in existence. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, (v3, pg. 520; http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Censorship_of_Books)

  • Council of Trent

  • Session XXV: Rule IV of the Ten Rules Concerning Prohibited Books Drawn Up by The Fathers Chosen by the Council of Trent and Approved by Pope Pius:

  • Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/trent-booksrules.asp)

  • The most stringent censorship decree after the Reformation was the Papal bull “Inter Solicitudines,” issued by Pope Leo X, December 1516, which Leo X ordered censorship to be applied to all translations from Hebrew, Greek, Arabic and Chaldaic into Latin, and from Latin into the vernacular. [While its focus is on singing, its injunction against singing "anything whatever in the vernacular in solemn liturgical functions," as "the language proper to the Roman Church is Latin," would likely also apply to reading of Scripture.] (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 90).

  • In addition to the printed books being seized and publicly burnt, payment of a hundred ducats to the fabric of the basilica of the prince of the apostles in Rome, without hope of relief, and suspension for a whole year from the possibility of engaging in the printing, There Is To be imposed upon anyone presuming to act otherwise the sentence of excommunication. Finally, if the offender's contumacy Increases, he is to be punished with all the sanctions of the law, by His bishop or by our vicar, in such a way that others will have no incentive to try to follow His example. (Papal Bull, Inter Sollicitudines; December 1516) [Wiki Translation].

  • When English Roman Catholics created their first English biblical translation in exile at Douai and Reims, it was not for ordinary folk to read, but [primarily] for priests to use as a polemical weapon.—the explicit purpose which the 1582 title-page and preface of the Reims New Testament proclaimed. Only the Jansenists of early seventeenth-century France came to have a more positive and generous attitude to promoting Bible-reading among Catholics" (Oxford University professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History, 2003, p. 406; p. 585.)

    Douay-Rheims

  • The Douay–Rheims Bible...is a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English undertaken by members of the English College, Douai in the service of the Catholic Church.

    Which translation we do not for all that publish, upon erroneous opinion of necessity, that the Holy Scriptures should always be in our mother tongue, or that they ought, or were ordained by God, to be read impartially by all, or could be easily understood by every one that readeth or heareth them in a known language; or that they were not often through man's malice or infirmity, pernicious and much hurtful to many; or that we generally and absolutely deemed it more convenient in itself, and more agreeable to God's Word and honour or edification of the faithful, to have them turned into vulgar tongues, than to be kept and studied only in the Ecclesiastical learned languages.

    Not for these nor any such like reasons do we translate this sacred book, but upon special consideration of the present time, state, and condition of our country, unto which diverse things are either necessary or profitable and medicinable now that otherwise, in the peace of the Church, were neither much requisite, nor perchance wholly tolerable.

    In our own country, notwithstanding the Latin tongue was ever (to use Venerable Bede's words) common to all the provinces of the same for meditation or study of Scriptures, and no vulgar translation commonly used or employed by the multitude, yet they were extant in English even before the troubles that Wycliffe and his followers raised in our Church,..

    Which causeth the Holy Church not to forbid utterly any Catholic translation, though she allow not the publishing or reading of any absolutely and without exception or limitation, knowing by her Divine and most sincere wisdom, how, where, when, and to whom these her Master's and Spouse's gifts are to be bestowed to the most good of the faithful. (http://www.bombaxo.com/douai-nt.html)

    INDEX OF PROHIBITED BOOKS:

  • The Index of Prohibited Books was first published in 1544, and the Inquisition in Rome prepared the first Roman Index, issued by Paul IV in 1559. It contained more than a thousand interdictions divided into three classes: authors, all of whose works were to be prohibited;...

  • The number of writers and works placed on the Roman Index from the mid-sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth amounted to about four thousand...

  • The defense against Protestantism always remained a major pre-occupation of Roman censors. Protection of the political and juridical rights and privileges of the church, the pope, and the hierarchy also find a notable echo in the Index. Thus, writings favoring Gallicanism and those advocating the right of civil authorities to intervene in ecclesiastical affairs appear prominently, alongside polemical works dealing with the political intervention of the Holy See, such as during its conflict with the Republic of Venice in 1606–1607, or the oath of loyalty in England during the pontificate of Paul V (1605–1621).” (http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/eemw_03/eemw_03_00542.html)

  • The Bull Unigenitus, published at Rome, September 8, 1713, as part of its censure of the propositions of Jansenism*, also condemned the following as being errors:

  • 79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

  • 80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

  • 81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

  • 82. The Lord's Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

  • 84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

  • 85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication. (INNOCENT XIII 1721-1724 BENEDICT XIII 1724-1730, CLEMENT XII 1730-174, http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Clem11/c11unige.htm)

    INTER PRAECIPUAS (On Biblical Societies) of Pope Gregory XVI, MAY 8, 1844:

  • 1. Among the special schemes with which non-Catholics plot against the adherents of Catholic truth to turn their minds away from the faith, the biblical societies are prominent. They were first established in England and have spread far and wide so that We now see them as an army on the march, conspiring to publish in great numbers copies of the books of divine Scripture. These are translated into all kinds of vernacular languages for dissemination without discrimination among both Christians and infidels. Then the biblical societies invite everyone to read them unguided.

  • In the many translations from the biblical societies, serious errors are easily inserted by the great number of translators, either through ignorance or deception. These errors, because of the very number and variety of translations, are long hidden and hence lead the faithful astray...

  • 3. For this end the same biblical societies never cease to slander the Church and this Chair of Peter as if We have tried to keep the knowledge of sacred Scripture from the faithful. However, We have documents clearly detailing the singular zeal which the Supreme Pontiffs and bishops in recent times have used to instruct the Catholic people more thoroughly in the word of God, both as it exists in writing and in tradition.

  • 5. ..the school of Jansenius. Borrowing the tactics of the Lutherans and Calvinists, they rebuked the Apostolic See on the grounds that because the reading of the Scriptures for all the faithful, at all times and places, was useful and necessary, it therefore could not be forbidden anyone by any authority...

  • 11. Therefore, taking counsel with a number of Cardinals, and weighing the whole matter seriously and in good time, We have decided to send this letter to all of you. We again condemn all the above-mentioned biblical societies of which our predecessors disapproved. We specifically condemn the new one called Christian League founded last year in New York and other societies of the same kind, if they have already joined with it or do so in the future. Therefore let it be known to all that anyone who joins one of these societies, or aids it, or favors it in any way will be guilty of a grievous crime. Besides We confirm and renew by Our apostolic authority the prescriptions listed and published long ago concerning the publication, dissemination, reading, and possession of vernacular translations of sacred Scriptures. (http://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/g16inter.htm)

  • "A dumb and difficult book was substituted for the living voice of the Church...We must also keep in mind that whenever or wherever reading endangers the purity of Christian thought and living the unum necessarium it has to be wisely restricted." — A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953) pp. 11-12.

    Modern era

    Providentissimus Deus: On the study of Holy Scripture, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII , November 18, 1893,

  • 6. It is in this that the watchful care of the Church shines forth conspicuously. By admirable laws and regulations, she has always shown herself solicitous that "the celestial treasure of the Sacred Books, so bountifully bestowed upon man by the Holy Spirit, should not lie neglected."25 She has prescribed that a considerable portion of them shall be read and piously reflected upon by all her ministers in the daily office of the sacred psalmody. She has ordered that in Cathedral Churches, in monasteries, and in other convents in which study can conveniently be pursued, they shall be expounded and interpreted by capable men; and she has strictly commanded that her children shall be fed with the saving words of the Gospel at least on Sundays and solemn feasts.26 Moreover, it is owing to the wisdom and exertions of the Church that there has always been continued from century to century that cultivation of Holy Scripture which has been so remarkable and has borne such ample fruit. (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13provi.htm)

  • While the above encyclical was partly motivated by the rise of the historical-critical method of analyzing Scripture, which impugns its authority, yet liberal scholarship reigns in Roman Catholicism. See below for more.

    Officiorum ac Munerum, Encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII. The prohibition and censorship of books Apostolic Constitution, January 25, 1897

  • 5. Editions of the Original Text and of the ancient Catholic versions of Holy Scripture, as well as those of the Eastern Church, if published by non-Catholics, even though apparently edited in a faithful and complete manner, are allowed only to those engaged in Theological and Biblical Studies, provided also that the Dogma of Catholic Faith are not impugned in the Prolegomena or Annotations.

  • 6. In the same manner, and under the same conditions, other versions of the Holy Bible, whether in Latin or in any other dead language, published by non-Catholics, are permitted. 5. Editions of the Original Text and of the ancient Catholic versions of Holy Scripture, as well as those of the Eastern Church, if published by non-Catholics, even though apparently edited in a faithful and complete manner, are allowed only to those engaged in Theological and Biblical Studies, provided also that the Dogma of Catholic Faith are not impugned in the Prolegomena or Annotations.

  • 6. In the same manner, and under the same conditions, other versions of the Holy Bible, whether in Latin or in any other dead language, published by non-Catholics, are permitted.

  • 23. Those only shall be allowed to read and keep books prohibited, either by Special Decrees or by these General Decrees, who shall have obtained the necessary permission, either from the Apostolic See or from its delegates.

  • 41. All the faithful are bound to submit to preliminary Ecclesiastical Censorship at least those books which treat of Holy Scripture, ..

  • 48. Those who, without the Approbation of the Ordinary, print, or cause to be printed, books of Holy Scripture, or notes of commentaries on the same, incur ipso facto excommunication, but not reserved.

  • 49....We Decree that these presents and whatsoever they contain shall at no time be questioned or impugned for any fault of subreption, or obreption, or of Our intention, or for any other defect whatsoever; but are and shall be ever valid and efficacious, and to be inviolably observed, both Judicially and extra-Judicially, by all of whatsoever rank and pre-eminence. And We declare to be invalid and of no avail, whatsoever may be attempted knowingly or unknowingly contrary to these, by any one, under any Authority or pretext whatsoever; all to the contrary notwithstanding. (http://www.users.qwest.net/~slrorer/Censorship.htm)

    Spiritus Paraclitus, Pope Benedict XV encyclical of 1920: "A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, with the veneration due the divine Word, make a spiritual reading from the Sacred Scriptures. A plenary indulgence is granted if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour."

    DeI Verbum, Pope Paul vi on November 18, 1965: Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful...But since the word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. [Note: The ecumenical Council of Trent declared that the Catholic Church, "ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever (Council of Trent, fourth Session)", and restricted access to it.] And should the opportunity arise and the Church authorities approve, if these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them.

  • Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations (Canon 825 §1).

    The Catholic Study Bible: At mid-century the Scripture were read in Latin at Mass. There were few selections from the Old Testament, and a rather small number of New Testament passages dominated... Since Vatican 2...the Old Testament is very prominent and almost the entire New Testament...is represented...At mid-century study of Bible texts was not an integral part of the primary or secondary school curriculum. At best, the Bible was conveyed through summaries of the texts...Now the texts of the Bible form the primary resource for Catholic religious education at all levels. (The Catholic Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. RG16)

    U.S,. conference Catholic bishops: Up until the mid-twentieth Century, the custom of reading the Bible and interpreting it for oneself was a hallmark of the Protestant churches springing up in Europe after the Reformation...Catholics meanwhile were discouraged from reading Scripture.

    Identifying the reading and interpreting of the Bible as “Protestant” even affected the study of Scripture. Until the twentieth Century, it was only Protestants who actively embraced Scripture study. That changed after 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. This not only allowed Catholics to study Scripture, it encouraged them to do so... The Charismatic movement and the rise of prayer groups exposed Catholics to Scripture even more. (http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/study-materials/articles/changes-in-catholic-attitudes-toward-bible-readings.cfm)

    Vatican Two: With Vatican two (1966) came a marked difference in the Roman Catholic stance toward general Bible reading. Abolishes the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, which was founded in 1557.

    • Enchiridion of Indulgences: "A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due to the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour." (Enchiridion of Indulgences. Authorized English edition. 1969. Catholic Book Publishers. New York. Page 68. # 50) TOC

  • * a distinct movement within the Catholic Church from the 16th to 18th centuries. It opposed Pelagianism (and semi-Pelagianism), and what is saw as the "relaxed morality" of Jesuitism and its frequent communion, and it followers identified themselves as rigorous followers of Augustinism, and it thus shared some tenets of Calvinism (though its pious Catholic founder, Jansen, rejected the doctrine of assurance). Its key conflict with Roman Catholic soteriology is that it denies the role of free will in the acceptance and use of grace.

  • The Bull condemns 101 propositions which are taken verbatim from the last (and enlarged edition of Pasquier Quesnel's book entitled Abrégé de la morale de l'Evangile ("Morality of the Gospel, Abridged") , first published 1671. The work was approved by the French bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, and the last edition of 1693 was highly recommended by the new bishop of Châlons, Gaston-Louis de Noailles.

  • Pope Clement XI condemned it in a brief, July 13, 1708, but Noailles, who had become Archbishop of Paris and cardinal, was not prepared to withdraw his approbation of it. This resulted in the Pope issuing the Bull Unigenitus, and later the Bull "Pastoralis officii" on 28 Aug., 1718, excommunicating all that refused to accept the Bull "Unigenitus," as Noailles, who did withdraw his approval of Morality of the Gospel, worked to prevent unconditional acceptance of the Bull "Unigenitus," but relented shortly before his death. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jansenist)

  • The 101 propositions were overall “Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.”

  • Among the condemned propositions were that: grace works with omnipotence and is irresistible; without grace man can only commit sin; Christ died for the elect only; every love that is not supernatural is evil; without supernatural love there can be no hope in God, no obedience to His law, no good work, no prayer, no merit, no religion; the prayer of the sinner and his other good acts performed out of fear of punishment are only new sins, etc. http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2010/11/alleged-errors-of-paschasius-quesnel.html TOC

Remarks on the New American Bible

The commentary in the the New American Bible (NAB, the American bishop's official* Bible for use in America, including the edition provided by the Vatican's own web site, (2002 Copyright: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM) impugns the integrity of the Word of God by its adherence to the discredited JEDP theory, and by relegating numerous historical accounts in the Bible to being fables or folk tales, among other denials, along with other problems. Certain Catholics themselves have complained about its liberalism, such as seen in a comprehensive criticism by a Catholic apologist. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/nab.douglass.html)

In addition, some NAB footnotes assert alleged contradictions in Scripture, and Catholics are divided on whether the Vatican Two statement in Dei Verbum (which was seen as a response to a behind-the-scenes debate at Vatican II about inerrancy), that the Bible “teaches without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation," supports the position that the Bible is only immune from error within a certain limited area, versus what Pope Leo XIII, in Providentissimus Deus and Pope Benedict XV Spiritus Paraclitus state. However, the real authority for Catholics is their self-proclaimed infallible magisterium, although there is disagreement as to how many infallible statements there are, and the full meaning of these as well as multiple other non-infallible teachings canm be subject to some interpretation.

I myself first became aware of the basic liberal bent in the NAB when reading the notes in the NAB, St. Joseph’s medium size, Catholic publishing co., copyright 1970, which has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur stamps of sanction. The NAB has gone through revisions, but I have found the same O. T. footnotes in “The Catholic Study Bible,” Oxford University Press, 1990, which also has the proper stamps, and uses the 1970 O.T. text and the 1986 revised N.T. And a Roman Catholic apologist using the 1992 version also lists some of the same errors described below, and is likewise critical of the liberal scholarship behind it (though he elsewhere denigrated Israel as illegally occupying Palestine), while a Roman Catholic cardinal is also crtical of the NAB on additional grounds.

And as noted below, even the 2011 NAB Revised Edition (NABRE) contains some of the errors of liberal scholarship. (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/index.cfm)

The study aids therein teaches that, "The Bible is God’s word and man’s word. One must understand man’s word first in order to understand the word of God." ("A Library of Books," p. 19) and warns,

You may hear interpreters of the Bible who are literalists or fundamentalists. They explain the Bible according to the letter: Eve really ate from the apple and Jonah was miraculously kept alive in the belly of the whale. Then there are ultra-liberal scholars who qualify the whole Bible as another book of fairly tales. Catholic Bible scholars follow the sound middle of the road.” (15. “How do you know”)

However, they are clearly driving on the left.

It “explains”, under “Literary Genres” (p. 19) that Genesis 2 (Adam and Eve and creation details) and Gn. 3 (the story of the Fall), Gn. 4:1-16 (Cain and Abel), Gn. 6-8 (Noah and the Flood), and Gn. 11:1-9 (Tower of Babel: the footnotes on which state, in part, an imaginative origin of the diversity of the languages among the various peoples inhabiting the earth”) are “folktales,” using allegory to teach a religious lesson.

It next states that the story of Balaam and the donkey and the angel (Num. 22:1-21; 22:36-38) was a fable, while the records of Gn. (chapters) 37-50 (Joseph), 12-36 (Abraham, Issaac, Jacob), Exodus, Judges 13-16 (Samson) 1Sam. 17 (David and Goliath) and that of the Exodus are stories which are "historical at their core," but overall the author simply used mere "traditions" to teach a religious lesson. After all, its understanding that “Inspiration is guidance” means that Scripture is “God’s word and man’s word.” What this means is that the NAB rejects such things as that the Bible's attribution of Divine sanction to wars of conquest, “cannot be qualified as revelation from God,” and states,

Think of the ‘holy wars’ of total destruction, fought by the Hebrews when they invaded Palestine. The search for meaning in those wars centuries later was inspired, but the conclusions which attributed all those atrocities to the command of God were imperfect and provisional." (4. "Inspiration and Revelation," p. 18)

It also holds that such things as “cloud, angels (blasting trumpets), smoke, fire, earthquakes,lighting, thunder, war, calamities, lies and persecution are Biblical figures of speech.” (8. “The Bible on God.”)

The Preface to Genesis in my St. Joseph's 1970 NAB edition attributes it to many authors, rather than Moses as indicated in Dt. 31:24, and the footnote to Gn. 1:5 refers to the days of creation as a “highly artificial literal structure.”

Even in the the current online NABRE, the The footnote (http://www.usccb.org/bible/gn/1:26#01001026-1) to Gn. 1:26 states that “sometimes in the Bible, God was imagined as presiding over an assembly of heavenly beings who deliberated and decided about matters on earth,” thus negating this as literal, and God as referring to Himself in the plural (“Us” or “Our”) which He does 6 times in the OT. Likewise, the footnote to Ex. 10:19 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/ex/10:19#02010019-1) regarding the Red Sea informs readers regarding what the Israelites crossed over that it is literally the Reed Sea, which was probably a body of shallow water somewhat to the north of the present deep Red Sea.” Thus rendered, the miracle would have been Pharaoh’s army drowning in shallow waters!

And after affirming all of the Bible is the word of of, in its preface to the Pentateuch, it asks, "How should a modern religiously minded person read the Pentateuch?," and in answering that it asserts (consistent with the aforementioned discredited liberal JEDP theory, which holds the Pentateuch was not written mainly by Moses, but was the work of later writers, editors and redactors as late as the sixth century BC), "The story had to be reinterpreted, and the Priestly editor is often credited with doing so. A preface (Gn 1) was added, emphasizing God’s intent that human beings continue in existence through their progeny and possess their own land. Good news, surely, to a devastated people wondering whether they would survive and repossess their ancestral land. The ending of the old story was changed to depict Israel at the threshold of the promised land (the plains of Moab) rather than in it." (http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?src=_intros/pentateuch-intro.htm)

Its (NABRE) footnote (http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/6#01006001-1) in regards to Gn. 6 and the sons of heaven having relations with the daughters of men explains it as apparently alluding to an old legend.” and explains away the flood as a story that ultimately draws upon an ancient Mesopotamian tradition of a great flood.” Its teaching also imagines the story as being a composite account with discrepancies. The 1970 footnote on Gen. 6:1-4 states, This is apparently a fragment of an old legend that had borrowed much from ancient mythology.” It goes on to explain the “sons of heaven” are the celestial beings of mythology.”

In addition, even the ages of the patriarchs after the flood are deemed to be “artificial and devoid of historical value.” (Genesis 11:10-26)

All of which impugns the overall literal nature the O.T. historical accounts, and as Scripture interprets Scripture, we see that the Holy Spirit refers to such stories as being literal historical events (Adam and Eve: Mt. 19:4; Abraham, Issac, Exodus and Moses: Acts 7; Rm. 4; Heb. 11; Jonah and the fish: Mt. 12:39-41; Balaam and the donkey: 2Pt. 2:15; Jude. 1:1; Rev. 2:14). Indeed “the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety” (2Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9), and if Jonah did not spend 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the whale then neither did the Lord, while Israel's history is always and inclusively treated as literal.

Regarding the Gospels, the teaching of my 1970 NAB speculates that some of the miracle stories of Jesus in the New Testament (the fulfillment of of the Hebrew Bible) may be “adaptations” of similar ones in the Old Testament, and that the Lord may not have actually been involved in the debates the gospel writers record He was in, and thinks that most of which Jesus is recorded as saying was probably “theological elaboration” by the writers.

Going beyond the Holy Spirit condensing or expanding the words of Christ, as seen by duplicate accounts, it states under "Reading the Gospels,

The Church was so firmly convinced that the risen Lord who is Jesus of history lived in her, and taught through her, that she expressed her teaching in the form of Jesus’ sayings. The words are not Jesus but from the Church.” “Can we discover at least some words of Jesus that have escaped such elaboration? Bible scholars point to the very short sayings of Jesus, as for example those put together by Matthew in chapter 5, 1-12”

It does allow that the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod, was “extremely probable,” and that people leaving Bethlehem to escape the massacre, is equally probable, but outside the historical background to this tradition, “the rest is interpretation.” This means is taught as justified due to the authors intent.

It additionally conveys such things as that Matthew placed Jesus in Egypt to convince his readers that Jesus was the real Israel, and may have only represented Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, to show that Jesus wa the s like Moses who received the law on Mount Sinai. (St. Joseph edition, 1970; How to read your Bible, "The Gospels," 13e, f, g. and i)

The “Conditioned thought patterns” (7) hermeneutic also paves the way for the specious argumentation of feminists who seek to negate the headship of the man as being due to condescension to culture, a very dangerous hermeneutic, and unwarranted when dealing with such texts as 1Cor. 11:3.

In addition, the current edition will not use render “porneia” as “sexual immorality” or anything sexual in places such as 1Cor. 5:1; 6:13; 7:2; 10:8; 2Cor. 12:21; Eph. 5:3; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5; 1Thes. 4:3; but simply has “immorality,” even though in most cases it is in a sexual context.

It is a slippery slope when historical statements are made out to be literary devices, and Muslims have taken advantage of the NAB's liberal hermeneutic to impugn the veracity of the Bible, http://www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Shabir-Ally/nab.htm.

As stated, the NAB has gone through revisions, and one of the changes i have noted between the 1970 NAB and the online version of today, is that the former has “justice” (which perhaps the social gospel Catholics preferred) over “righteousness' in such places as Rom 4:5,6, and that David “celebrates” the man..., while the online NAB has “But when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the unGodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. So also David declares the blessedness of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works”.

On the other hand there are Catholics who only sanction the Douay-Rheims Bible, yet one Roman Catholic apologist criticizes it as well. (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=4300&CFID=45541857&CFTOKEN=30609021)

*Catholic sources state: There is only one English text currently approved by the Church for use in the United States. This text is the one contained in the Lectionaries approved for Sundays & Feasts and for Weekdays by the USCCB and recognized by the Holy See. These Lectionaries have their American and Roman approval documents in the front. The text is that of the New American Bible with revised Psalms and New Testament (1988, 1991), with some changes mandated by the Holy See where the NAB text used so-called vertical inclusive language (e.g. avoiding male pronouns for God). Since these Lectionaries have been fully promulgated, the permission to use the Jerusalem Bible and the RSV-Catholic at Mass has been withdrawn.” http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/bible_versions.htm

The New American Bible (1970) was adopted by the US bishops for use in the Lectionary. However, the revised Lectionary in use in US churches today incorporates RNAB texts, and it required correction before it could be approved for use in the liturgy. (http://www.adoremus.org/0705ChoosingBible.html)

The lectionary readings are based upon the 1970 Old Testament including Psalter and 1986 New Testament, but with revisions for liturgical use, mainly replacing pronouns with their antecedents and supplying brief introductory titles. Presently (as of 2013), the only English text of the Lectionary approved for use in the latin-rite Dioceses of the United States of America is the Lectionary based on the NAB with Revised New Testament (sometimes unofficially referred to as the RNAB). The NABRE is expected be incorporated, but which is expected to be a decade or more away. (Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director, Permissions and Bible Utilization, USCCB Publishing)

The original version of the New American Bible (NAB) was published in 1970. The translation of the New Testament was revised and published in 1986. The translation of the Book of Psalms (the Psalter) was revised in 1991. A revision of the translation of the Old Testament, including the Psalter, was published in March 2011...[Mass] readings are typically read from a Lectionary, not a Bible, though the Lectionary is taken from the Bible. -http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/faq.cfm

The U.S. bishops state that “any translation of the Sacred Scriptures that has received proper ecclesiastical approval ‒ namely, by the Apostolic See or a local ordinary prior to 1983, or by the Apostolic See or an episcopal conference following 1983 ‒ may be used by the Catholic faithful for private prayer and study.” After 1983 only the Apostolic See and the episcopal conferences have authority to approve Bible translations. The USCCB (American bishops) owns the copyright for the NAB and its revisions including the NABRE.

TOC

Supplement C: Infallibility and the Roman Catholic Canon, its formation and evidence against the Apocrypha

This is provided in response to the Roman Catholic polemic that the canon was settled until Luther came along and rejected some books, resulting in the Protestant canon, which is a distortion of facts which will be provided below. And which helps answer the question as to the who and how the books of the Bible were determined. For a list of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible (and brief description of each), see here.

Contents

Preface

The apocryphal books

The canon prior to Luther and Trent canon

The antiquity of the 39 book O.T. canon

The LXX (Septuagint)

Council of Jamnia

When was the first “infallible” Roman Catholic definition of the Biblical canon?

Prior lists were by councils that were not ecumenical/infallible

Dissent before and in Trent

Is the canon of Trent the same as that of Hippo and Carthage?

Essential means of establishment of Scripture

Preface: The issue of the Catholicism and the canon of Scripture is an issue of authority and determination of Truth, and thus this preface is provided. It is also often asserted by Roman Catholics that they gave the world the Bible and thus they are the infallible interpreters of it, but even if it could be said that the Catholic church of Trent was the same as that of the first century (which it clearly deviates from), this logic would require us to submit to Judaism. For (unlike the Roman church) the Bible clearly affirms that the Jews, over which were the Scribes and Pharisees who “sat in Moses' seat,” (Mt. 23:2) were the instruments and stewards of Divine revelation, as “unto them were committed the oracles of God,” and more, and “of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” (Rm. 3:2; 9:4,5) But it is evident that neither a commission to teach, nor formal decent of office or promises of preservation (Gn. 28:15; Lv. 10:11; Dt. 4:31; 17:8-13; 31:6,8; Num. 23:19,23; Josh. 1:5; Neh. 9:31; 1Sam. 12:22; 1Ch. 28:20; Ps 37:25,28; 89:31-37; Isa 41:10; Jer. 23:39; Mal. 3:6) meant that they were assuredly infallible, and both men of God and writings of God were established as being so without an assuredly infallible magisterium. (Lk. 24:44)

Therefore first century souls recognized a holy man in the desert and an itinerant Preacher as being of God even though the Jewish magisterium rejected them. (Mk. 11:27-33) And thus Christianity began in dissent from those, who like Rome, presumed of themselves more than what was written, (cf. 1Cor. 4:6), including assured veracity, and thus they were reproved from Scripture by Christ and His apostles for teaching as doctrines mere traditions of the elders, (Mk. 7:2-16) while the Lord established His claims upon Scriptural substantiation, in text and in power, as did the apostles and early church. (Mt. 22:23-45; Lk. 24:27,44; Jn. 5:36,39; Acts 2:14-35; 4:33; 5:12; 15:6-21;17:2,11; 18:28; 28:23; Rm. 15:19; 2Cor. 12:12, etc.)

True men of God, writings of God, and thus the books of the Bible, became established as being of God in the light of their Heavenly qualities, virtues and the manner of Divine supernatural attestation often afforded them,. While the powers that be were to affirm such as being of God, yet they were so even if the magisterium failed to do so. And thus the church began.

Going back further, God supernaturally affirmed the faith of Abraham, and the same God confirmed that faith in providing undeniable attestation to Moses, who apparently wrote most of the Torah. And as written, Scripture became the standard for obedience and testing truth claims, as is abundantly evidenced . And as Scripture attests to writings being recognized and established as being of God, then Scripture provides for a canon.

Protestants are attacked as having no certitude of doctrine, because although they have an infallible authority (Scripture), they do not have an assuredly infallible interpreter which Roman Catholics claim is needed for determining what Truth is, and what it means. (For unlike what Rome as well as cults effectively do, Protestant magisteriums do not claim assured infallibility for whatever they teach on faith and morals to the church universal.) But this Roman and cultic basis for determining Truth would preclude souls from having assurance of truth before the church Rome presumed she was necessary for it, while the Protestant disallowance of assured infallibility does not mean they cannot realize infallible truths (even “there is a Creator” would qualify) or have Scriptural assurance of Truth insomuch as the Scriptures promise assurance, based upon conformity to Scripture and the manner of attestation it affirms. (1Jn. 5:13)

Moreover, the basis for assurance for a Roman Catholic that Rome is the One True infallible Church magisterium is the premise of the assured infallibility of Rome. And as Rome has presumed to infallibly declared she is and will be perpetually infallible whenever she speaks in accordance with her infallibly defined (scope and subject-based) formula, this renders her declaration that she is infallible, to be infallible, as well as all else she accordingly declares, including which books belong in the Bible. And by which circular reasoning Roman Catholics have assurance, and which infallible teaching they are required to give implicit “assent of faith” to. (Realizing the circularity of their polemical claims, Roman Catholic apologists attempt to argue for the necessity of the Roman magisterium by appealing to Scripture simply as if a reliable historical document that they argue supports Rome. But if a soul can judge Scriptural books as being persuasive reliable historical documents, then they can also realize that an assuredly infallible magisterium was not necessary to know which books are Scripture, nor was such a magisterium necessary or the basis upon which the NT church began. Thus the goal of RC apologists is to convince souls they must see all evidence through the eyes of Rome.)

Yet while Roman Catholics are to give the highest level of assent of faith to infallible pronouncements, which ones and which parts of teachings are infallible out of potentially hundreds is itself also a matter of fallible interpretation, with only a few being settled, and it is also held that the “guarantee” of infallibility does not extend to the reasons and arguments behind it. Nor do RCs know for sure what magisterial level many other teachings fall under, and thus whether they can dissent from them.

Furthermore, while Catholics claim a supreme infallible interpretive authority, they have not only made a fallible decision to trust in their purportedly “infallible” authority, but they also do not have an infallible interpreter of their infallible authority, and thus engage in fallible interpretation of its teachings. In addition, much or most (depends upon RC interpretation) of what Roman Catholics believe and practice comes from the Ordinary magisterium, in which are teachings which can allow for some error and for more interpretation and some possibility of some degree of dissent. And in practical effect what is manifest is that Catholics vary in their understanding of Catholic doctrine (as well as disagree with it). Thus what level a magisterial teaching belongs to, and the meaning of such to varying degrees, and what degree of dissent may be allowed, is much a matter that is left to fallible judgment.

Finally, the unity that results from implicit assent to an assuredly infallible magisterium is that which cults effectively practice, and is inferior in quality to that which is based upon the supremacy of Scripture, and its means of “manifestation of the truth,” by which the apostles persuaded men, by the Scriptures and the power of God. (2Cor. 4:2; 6:1-10) The more this is a manifest reality, then they more unity, and thus the level of unity of the NT church was under manifest apostles, “in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God..,” (2Cor., 6:4) And the greater the claim to authority, then the greater the attestation must be, and by which Rome is disqualified as warranting faith in all her claims, which include those that even apostles did not make.

And instead of the books of the Bible owing their establishment to her “infallible decree, they were essentially established upon the same basis as souls of recognized men of God as being so, and the Son of God as being so, and upon which the church began.

The apocryphal books, referred to as deuterocanonical books by Catholics

While the 27 books of the New Testament had ancient support is not in dispute between Catholics and Protestants, the Apocrypha refers to extra books included in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, though their lists are not quite the same, but which are not contained in the Protestant (and most popular) canon of inspired Scripture, as they are manifested to be of an inferiorquality or questionable integrity, the Wisdom of Solomon perhaps being the best, although for much of Protestant history they were typically printed in a separate section of their Bibles. The Roman Catholic books are: Tobit; Judith; Additions to Esther (Vulgate: Esther 10:4-16:24); Wisdom; Sirach (also called Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus); Baruch, including the Letter of Jeremiah (additions to Jeremiah in the Septuagint); Additions to Daniel, which are the Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (which in the Vulgate was Daniel 3:24-90) and Susanna (Vulgate: Daniel 13, Septuagint: prologue) as well as Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate: Daniel 14, Septuagint: epilogue); 1 Maccabees; 2 Maccabees. The Greek Orthodox adds 1 Esdras, 3 +4 Maccabees and Psalm 151.

The apocryphal books are relatively obscure, and one of their notable accounts is the tale of Tobit, which concerns a women, Sarah, who has lost seven husbands because Asmodeus, the demon of lust, and ‘the worst of demons,’ abducts and kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated!

And about a man, Tobias, who was sleeping with his eyes open while birds dropped dung into in his eyes (sound sleeper!) and blinded him. And who later is attacked by a fish leaping out of the river to devour him! But the angel Raphael has him capture it and he later burns the fish’s liver and heart to drive away the demon Asmodeus away to Upper Egypt, enabling him and Sarah to consummate their marriage.

Which story is like that of Jewish fables and commandments of men, (Titus 1:14) found in the Talmud, such as “He who drinks in pairs, his blood is upon his own head,” as one can be possessed by demons by drinking an even number of cups of wine, versus an odd number. One man who was thus possessed hugged a palm tree to deal with it, and the tree cried out and the man burst. [Talmud - Mas. Pesachim 110a; http://halakhah.com/pdf/moed/Pesachim.pdf]

^

The canon prior to Luther and Trent

Overview:

While Roman Catholic apologists often argue that the canon was indisputably settled from the 4th century onward until Luther changed it, this is contrary to what research reveals.

Luther was not alone in questioning or rejecting certain books, and his views (like early church leaders) were part of a process of development, and had the support of scholarly principles, and that of substantial Catholic scholarship from antiquity and right into Trent over the certain books, especially those of the apocrypha. (Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent: St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947; pp. 278, 281-282. More)

Luther and the Reformers (overall) treated the Apocrypha as many others did, which was that these books were not to be held as equal to the Scriptures, but were useful and good to read, but not for establishment of doctrine. Luther's Bible included all the books, but following Catholic tradition, he placed doubtful ones separately, while his views on some of these books (which he prefaced them with) may have changed in later years. Due to his shorter New Testament canon (Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Revelation of John being seen as doubtful), the 66 book Protestant canon is not the same as his, but it is more ancient than that of Rome's, as its 39 book O.T. canon is that which was most likely held by Palestinian Jews from before the 3rd century. The Catholic Encyclopedia (Canon of the Old Testament) affirms, “the protocanonical books of the Old Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews, and the Old Testament as received by Protestants.” “...the Hebrew Bible, which became the Old Testament of Protestantism.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm) Thus, together with the 27 book N.T. canon that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism hold in common, and which was overall settled early in church history, the 66 book canon of Protestantism clearly has ancient support. This does not mean that the apocryphal book are of no value, and but they can be edifying, if not equally so, I would opine that the Wisdom of Solomon would be the one that comes closest to being held as Scripture, yet it wrongly (apparently) ascribes itself to being from Solomon, and its possible dating by scholars can extend to just after the resurrection.

Decrees by non-ecumenical early councils such as Hippo, Carthage and Florence were not infallible, and thus doubts and disputes among scholars continued right into Trent. The decision of Trent in 1546 was the first “infallible” indisputable and final definition of the Roman Catholic canon, (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. II, Bible, III (Canon), p. 390; The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent : Rockford: Tan, 1978), Fourth Session, Footnote #4, p. 17, and see below) apparently after an informal vote of 24 yea, 15 nay, with 16 abstaining (44%, 27%, 29%) as to whether to affirm it as an article of faith with its anathemas on those who dissent from it.

This definition, coming over 1400 hundred years (April 8th, 1546) after the last book was written — and after Luther died (February 8,1546) — was issued in reaction to Martin Luther and the Reformation, and in so doing, it not only went against a tradition of substantial weight in pronouncing the apocryphal books to be uninspired, but there is even confusion over whether the canon of Trent is exactly the same as that of Carthage and Hippo. Thus , if the canon list was dogma prior to Trent, then there were many Catholics throughout history who would have been de facto excommunicated. More. (Also, some of the books of the Pseudepigrapha were invoked by some church fathers, and found their way into other canons of various Eastern churches, which also differ with that of Rome, but which is seldom made a major issue by Roman Catholic apologists, unlike as with Protestants).

In addition, present Roman Catholic liberal scholarship impugns the integrity of the Word of God by its adherence to the discredited JEDP theory, and its official Bible for America relegates numerous historical accounts in the Bible to being fables or folk tales, etc. (as shown below).

A page to see on Luther and the canon is here. (Note that inclusion of any link cannot infer complete affirmation by me of all that a site may contain, but that they at least substantiate what is claimed, and usually more pertinent information.)^

The antiquity of the 39 book O.T. canon versus the inclusion of the apocrypha

The strongest evidence shows the apocryphal books were not included in the Hebrew Canon of Jesus day. The Palestinian canon from before the earliest (late century) conciliar lists Roman Catholics point to is held by many as being identical to the Protestant Old Testament, differing only in the arrangement and number of the books, while the Alexandrian canon, referred to as the Septuagint is seen as identical to the Catholic Old Testament. Ancient evidence as well as the Lord's affirmation of a tripartite canon in Lk. 24:44 weighs in favor of the Palestinian canon — if indeed there was a strict separation — being what He held to. Note that the so-called “Council” of Jamnia, and see below, is considered to be theoretical, with some scholars arguing that the Jewish canon was fixed during the Hasmonean dynasty (140 and c. 116 B.C.). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jamnia) The Catholic Encyclopedia itself affirms the Palestinian canon as consisting of the same books. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm)

The ancient 1st century Jewish historian Josephus only numbered 22 books of Scripture, which is seen to reflect the Jewish canon at the time of Jesus, and corresponding to the 39 book Protestant canon, which divides books the Jews referred to as single works.

Researchers also state,

[Josephus] also limits his books to those written between the time of Moses and Artaxerxes, thus eliminating some apocryphal books, observing that "(Jewish) history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time."

Also in support of the Jewish canon excluding the apocrypha we also have Philo, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher (20 BC-AD 40) who never quoted from the Apocrypha as inspired, though he prolifically quoted the Old Testament and recognized the threefold division

While other have different opinions, in the Tosfeta (supplement to the Mishnah) it states, "...the Holy Spirit departed after the death of Haggai, Zecharaiah, and Malachi. Thus Judaism defined the limits of the canon that was and still is accepted within the Jewish community." Once that limit was defined, there was little controversy. Some discussion was held over Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, but the core and bulk of the OT was never disputed. (Tosfeta Sota 13.2, quoted by German theologian Leonhard Rost [1896-1979], Judaism Outside the Hebrew Canon. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971; http://www.tektonics.org/lp/otcanon.html)

The available historical evidence indicates that in the Jewish mind a collection of books existed from at least 400 B.C. in three groups, two of them fluid, 22 (24 by another manner of counting) in number, which were considered by the Jews from among the many other existing books as the only ones for which they would die rather than add to or take away from them, books which they considered veritably from God...The Apocrypha are not included. (http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/rev-henry/11_apocrypha_young.pdf)

Although some apocryphal books contain a few texts which correspond to New Testament ones, this is also true of some works which are found outside the apocrypha, which the Bible sometimes quotes from. (Acts 17:28; Jude 1:14) Texts from the apocrypha were occasionally quoted in early church writings, and were considered worthy reading even if not included as Scripture, but the apocrypha was not accepted in such early O.T. lists as that of Melito (AD 170) bishop of the church in Sardis, an inland city of Asia Minor, who gives a list of the Hebrew canon, minus Esther, and makes no mention of any of the apocryphal/deuterocanonical books:

Of Moses five, Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four of Kingdoms1 two of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, Solomon's Proverbs or Wisdom,2 Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah,3 the Twelve [minor prophets] in one book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras.4

1. 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.

2. Proverbs was sometimes called "Wisdom" according to Eusebius, (Ec clesiastical History 4.22.9.)

3. Understood to include Lamentations, not being the custom of the times to list it separately.

4.Ezra and Nehemiah were then counted as one book, and sometimes was called simply Esdras (Greek for Ezra). (http://www.bible-researcher.com/melito.html)

Origen in the 2nd century (c. 240) rejected the apocrypha as he held to the Palestinian canon (plus the Letter of Jeremiah), and likewise Cyril of Jerusalem (plus Baruch), but like St. Hilary of Poitiers (300-368) and Rufinus who also rejected the apocrypha, Origen used them or parts thereof , as others also did with these second class books.

Jerome (340-420), the preeminent 3rd century scholar rejected the Apocrypha, as they did not have the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and were not received by all, and did not generally work toward "confirmation of the doctrine of the Church." His lists of the 24 books of the O.T. Scriptures corresponds to the 39 of the Protestant canon,

Jerome wrote in his Prologue to the Books of the Kings,

This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a helmeted [i.e. defensive] introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is outside of them must be placed aside among the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd [of Hermes?] are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees is found in Hebrew, but the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style.

In his preface to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs he also states,

As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.” (Shaff, Henry Wace, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, p. 492)

The Catholic Encyclopedia (in the face of ancient opposition) states,

An analysis of Jerome's expressions on the deuterocanonicals, in various letters and prefaces, yields the following results: first, he strongly doubted their inspiration; secondly, the fact that he occasionally quotes them, and translated some of them as a concession to ecclesiastical tradition, is an involuntary testimony on his part to the high standing these writings enjoyed in the Church at large, and to the strength of the practical tradition which prescribed their readings in public worship. Obviously, the inferior rank to which the deuteros were relegated by authorities like Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome, was due to too rigid a conception of canonicity, one demanding that a book, to be entitled to this supreme dignity, must be received by all, must have the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and must moreover be adapted not only to edification, but also to the "confirmation of the doctrine of the Church", to borrow Jerome's phrase. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the Old Testament; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm)

Like as Luther's inclusion of books in his Bible which he disallowed as canonical, the apocryphal books had been disallowed by Jerome as properly canonical even though they were included in them.

It is argued that Jerome later accepted the apocrypha due to him later translating them and including them in his Latin Vulgate, but what he translated with certainty only includes a couple (Tobit and Judith), and which was due to a request in the later case and (likely) pressure in both, and which he could allow due to some Catholic sanction. Regarding Judith he states, “But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request.” And as regards Tobit: “But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops.”

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

Anastasius (c. 367) of Antioch in the 4th century also considered the apocryphal book inferior in quality, and held to the Palestinian canon except that he included Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe) and omitted Esther (which never actually mentions God and it canonicity disputed among Jews for some time).

Gregory of Nazianzus (330 – 390) concurred with the canon of Anastasius.

The list of O.T. books by the Council of Laodicea (363) may have been added later, and is that of Athanasius but with Esther included. It also contains the standard canon of the N.T. except that it omits Revelation, as does Cyril, thought to be due to excessive use of it by the Montanist cults

John of Damascus, eminent theologian of the Eastern Church in the 8th century, and Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople in the 9th century also rejected the apocrypha, as did others, in part or in whole.

The fourth century historian Euesibius also provides an early Christian list of both Old and New Testament books. In his Ecclesiastical History (written about A.D. 324), in three places quoting from Josephus, Melito and Origen, lists of the books (slightly differing) according to the Hebrew Canon. These he calls in the first place 'the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, undisputed among the Hebrews;' and again,'the acknowledged Scriptures of the Old Testament;' and, lastly, 'the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament.' In his Chronicle he distinctly separates the Books of Maccabees from the 'Divine Scriptures;' and elsewhere mentions Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom as 'controverted' books. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/eusebius.html)

Cyril of Jerusalem (d. circa. 385 AD) exhorts his readers “Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them.” (http://www.bible-researcher.com/cyril.html)

His lists supports the canon adopted by the Protestants, combining books after the Hebrew canon and excludes the apocrypha, though he sometimes used them, as per the standard practice by which the apocrypha was printed in Protestant Bibles, and includes Baruch as part of Jeremiah.

Likewise Rufinus:

38.But it should also be known that there are other books which are called not "canonical" but "ecclesiastical" by the ancients: 5 that is, the Wisdom attributed to Solomon, and another Wisdom attributed to the son of Sirach, which the Latins called by the title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book but its character. To the same class belong the book of Tobit and the book of Judith, and the books of Maccabees.

With the New Testament there is the book which is called the Shepherd of Hermas, and that which is called The Two Ways 6 and the Judgment of Peter.7 They were willing to have all these read in the churches but not brought forward for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they named "apocrypha,"8 which they would not have read in the churches.

These are what the fathers have handed down to us, which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place, for the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the Word of God they should draw for drinking. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/rufinus.html)

Summing up most of the above, the Catholic Encyclopedia states,

At Jerusalem there was a renascence, perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly unfavourable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all books to be read privately which are not read in the churches. In Antioch and Syria the attitude was more favourable. St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and, like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received by all and the apocrypha. The 59th (or 60th) canon of the provincial Council of Laodicea (the authenticity of which however is contested) gives a catalogue of the Scriptures entirely in accord with the ideas of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Oriental versions and Greek manuscripts of the period are more liberal; the extant ones have all the deuterocanonicals and, in some cases, certain apocrypha.

The influence of Origen's and Athanasius's restricted canon naturally spread to the West. St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus followed their footsteps, excluding the deuteros from canonical rank in theory, but admitting them in practice. The latter styles them "ecclesiastical" books, but in authority unequal to the other Scriptures. St. Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavourable to the disputed books... (Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the Old Testament, eph. mine)

The Catholic Encyclopedia also states as regards the Middle Ages,

In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages [5th century to the 15th century] we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them, another one distinctly unfavourable to their authority and sacredness, while wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among those we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity. The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome's depreciating Prologus (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm) ^

The LXX (Septuagint)

The Septuagint (LXX) is a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, beginning in the 3rd century B.C. and thought to be completed (as regards Jewish translators) early in the 2nd century A.D. The title LXX refers to the 70 scribes, and with “Septuagint” from “septuaginta” denoting 70 in Latin (In his City of God 18.42, while repeating the story of Aristeas with typical embellishments, Augustine adds the remark, "It is their translation that it has now become traditional to call the Septuagint" — The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, p. 72).

As for type of translation, it was more a paraphrase,

It was not a literal translation, however, since it incorporated commentary in the text, consciously attempting to harmonize biblical and Greek thought and to include halakhic and aggadic ideas which were current in Palestinian commentary. Some interesting features of the text are its deletion of all anthropomorphic expressions and the provision of many readings of the text which are different from the standard masoretic version. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0013_0_12632.html

The Septuagint was favored by the principal force behind early acceptance of the apocrypha, that being Augustine, who believed the miraculous legend of its translation. According to one account from the Talmud, (BT Megillah 9a, Of 3.) and which contains many strange ideas, Philadelphus [Ptolemy II] sent for seventy-two Hebrew scholars, six from each tribe of Israel, to undertake the work. He secluded these men on the island of Phares, where each worked separately on his own translation, without consultation with one another. According to the legend, when they came together to compare their work, the seventy-two copies proved to be identical.

This story, while highly unlikely, convinced many that the Septuagint had a supernatural quality which helped gain its acceptance for several hundred years, until the time of Jerome some four hundred years after Christ. (http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/lxx.html)

The story of the origin of the LXX was embellished as time went on and is considered a fable by scholars, and Jerome chided Augustine for criticizing his differences from it and misunderstanding the nuances of his translations (http://www.bible-researcher.com/vulgate2.html).

Greek was the common language in the Roman empires, and the N.T. does reference the LXX heavily, which certifies that at least these parts of the Torah (see below) were faithful translations, while this was followed by the Hebrew Masoretic translations (due to Jewish doubt on the LXX) and which Jerome affirmed, and which all major Bible translations translate the O.T. from.

However, Philo of Alexandria (1st c A.D.) states that only the Torah (the first 5 books of the O.T.) was commissioned to be translated, leaving the rest of the O.T. following in later centuries, and in an order that is not altogether clear, nor do all LXX manuscripts have the same apocryphal books and names.

For many reasons (though Jamnia can be excepted) it is held that the Septuagint is of dubious support for the apocrypha.

Catholics argue that since Christ and the NT quotes from the LXX then we must accept the books we call the apocrypha. However, this presumes that the Septuagint was a uniform body of texts in the time of Christ which contained all the apocryphal books at that time, but for which there is no historical evidence. The earliest existing Greek manuscripts which contain some of them date from the 4th Century and are understood to have been placed therein by Christians.

Furthermore, if quoting from some of the Septuagint means the whole is sanctioned, then since the Psalms of Solomon, which is not part of any scriptural canon, is found in copies of the Septuagint as is Psalm 151, and 3 and 4 Maccabees (Vaticanus [early 4th century] does not include any of the Maccabean books, while Sinaiticus [early 4th century] includes 1 and 4 Maccabees and Alexandrinus [early 5th century] includes 1, 2, 3, and 4 Maccabees and the Psalms of Solomon), then we would be bound to accept them as well.

Moreover, simply because Scripture quotes from a source does not make the whole of it canonical, as Scripture can include an inspired utterance such as from Enoch, (Jude. 1:14,15; Enoch 1:9) but the book of Enoch as a whole is not Scripture. (Enoch also tells of over 400 foot height angelic offspring, and of angels (stars) procreating with oxen to produce elephants, camels and donkeys: 7:12-15; 86:1-5.)

Edward Earle Ellis writes, No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocrypha, and no uniform Septuagint ‘Bible’ was ever the subject of discussion in the patristic church. In view of these facts the Septuagint codices appear to have been originally intended more as service books than as a defined and normative canon of Scripture,” (E. E. Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity [Baker 1992], 34-35.

British scholar R. T. Beckwith states, Philo of Alexandria's writings show it to have been the same as the Palestinian. He refers to the three familiar sections, and he ascribes inspiration to many books in all three, but never to any of the Apocrypha....The Apocrypha were known in the church from the start, but the further back one goes, the more rarely are they treated as inspired. (Roger T. Beckwith, "The Canon of the Old Testament" in Phillip Comfort, The Origin of the Bible [Wheaton: Tyndale House, 2003] pp. 57-64)

Manuscripts of anything like the capacity of Codex Alexandrinus were not used in the first centuries of the Christian era, and since in the second century AD the Jews seem largely to have discarded the Septuagint…there can be no real doubt that the comprehensive codices of the Septuagint, which start appearing in the fourth century AD, are all of Christian origin.

Nor is there agreement between the codices which the Apocrypha include...Moreover, all three codices [Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus], according to Kenyon, were produced in Egypt, yet the contemporary Christian lists of the biblical books drawn up in Egypt by Athanasius and (very likely) pseudo-Athanasius are much more critical, excluding all apocryphal books from the canon, and putting them in a separate appendix. (Roger Beckwith, [Anglican priest, Oxford BD and Lambeth DD], The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church [Eerdmans 1986], p. 382, 383; http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/01/legendary-alexandrian-canon.html)

Likewise Gleason Archer affirms,

Even in the case of the Septuagint, the apocryphal books maintain a rather uncertain existence. The Codex Vaticanus (B) lacks [besides 3 and 4] 1 and 2 Maccabees (canonical, according to Rome), but includes 1 Esdras (non-canonical, according to Rome). The Sinaiticus (Aleph) omits Baruch (canonical, according to Rome), but includes 4 Maccabees (non-canonical, according to Rome)... Thus it turns out that even the three earliest MSS or the LXX show considerable uncertainty as to which books constitute the list of the Apocrypha.. (Archer, Gleason L., Jr., "A Survey of Old Testament Introduction", Moody Press, Chicago, IL, Rev. 1974, p. 75; http://www.provethebible.net/T2-Integ/B-1101.htm)

The German historian Martin Hengel writes,Sinaiticus contains Barnabas and Hermas, Alexandrinus 1 and 2 Clement.” “Codex Alexandrinus...includes the LXX as we know it in Rahlfs’ edition, with all four books of Maccabees and the fourteen Odes appended to Psalms.” “...the Odes (sometimes varied in number), attested from the fifth century in all Greek Psalm manuscripts, contain three New Testament ‘psalms’: the Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Nunc Dimittis from Luke’s birth narrative, and the conclusion of the hymn that begins with the ‘Gloria in Excelsis.’ This underlines the fact that the LXX, although, itself consisting of a collection of Jewish documents, wishes to be a Christian book.” (Martin Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture [Baker 2004], pp. 57-59)

Also,

The Targums did not include these books, nor the earliest versions of the Peshitta, and the apocryphal books are seen to have been later additions, and later versions of the LXX varied in regard to which books of the apocrypha they contained. “Nor is there agreement between the codices which of the Apocrypha include. (Eerdmans 1986), 382.

And Cyril of Jerusalem, whose list rejected the apocrypha (except for Baruch) exhorts his readers to read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters,” the latter referring to the Septuagint but not as including the apocrypha. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/cyril.html) ^

Council of Jamnia

Many refer to a Council of Jamnia as authoritatively setting the Hebrew canon around 100 A.D., but modern research research no longer considers that to be the case, or that there even was a council, while some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed earlier by the Hasmonean dynasty (140 and c. 116 B.C.). — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jamnia

Robert C. Newman writes,

Among those who believe the Old Testament to be a revelation from the Creator, it has traditionally been maintained that the books composing this collection were in themselves sacred writings from the moment of their completion, that they were quickly recognized as such, and that the latest of these were written several centuries before the beginning of our era.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus appears to be the earliest extant witness to this view. Answering the charges of an anti- Semite Apion at the end of the first century of our era, he says:

We do not possess myriads of inconsistent books, conflicting with each other. other. Our books, those which are justly accredited, are but two and twenty, and contain the record of all time....” — Josephus, Against Apion, 1,8 (38-41)

On the basis of later Christian testimony, the twenty-two books mentioned here are usually thought to be the same as our thirty-nine,2 each double book (e.g., 1 and 2 Kings) being counted as one, the twelve Minor Prophets being considered a unit, and Judges-Ruth, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Jeremiah-Lamentations each being taken as one book. This agrees with the impression conveyed by the Gospel accounts, where Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Palestinian Jewish community in general seem to understand by the term "Scripture" some definite body of sacred writings."

"...the pseudepigraphical work 4 Ezra (probably written about A.D. 1208)...admits that only twenty-four Scriptures have circulated publicly since Ezra's time."

Newman concludes,

"In this paper we have attempted to study the rabbinical activity at Jamnia in view of liberal theories regarding its importance in the formation of the Old Testament canon. I believe the following conclusions are defensible in the light of this study. The city of Jamnia had both a rabbinical school (Beth ha- Midrash) and court (Beth Din, Sanhedrin) during the period A.D. 70-135, if not earlier. There is no conclusive evidence for any other rabbinical convocations there. The extent of the sacred Scriptures was one of many topics discussed at Jamnia, probably both in the school and in the court, and probably more than once. However, this subject was also discussed by the rabbis at least once a generation earlier and also several times long after the Jamnia period. No books are mentioned in these discussions except those now considered canonical. None of these are treated as candidates for admission to the canon, but rather the rabbis seem to be testing a status quo which has existed beyond memory. None of the discussions hint at recent vintage of the works under consideration or deny them traditional authorship. Instead it appears that the rabbis are troubled by purely internal problems, such as theology, apparent contradictions, or seemingly unsuitable content...

But no text of any specific decision has come down to us (nor, apparently, even to Akiba and his students). Rather, it appears that a general consensus already existed regarding the extent of the category called Scripture, so that even the author of 4 Ezra, though desiring to add one of his own, was obliged to recognize this consensus in his distinction between public and hidden Scripture." — Robert C. Newman, "THE COUNCIL OF JAMNIA AND THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON," Westminster Theological Journal 38.4 (Spr. 1976) 319-348. ^

When was the first “infallible” Roman Catholic definition of the Biblical canon?

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the New Testament, (1917), states (emphasis mine throughout the proceeding),

► “The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm)

"The Tridentine decrees from which the above list is extracted was the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to the Church Universal.(Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm;

► “Catholic hold that the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church.” “The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the OT Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent." (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic University of America , 2003, Vol. 3, pp. 20,26.

The Catholic Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. RG27: "The final definitive list of biblical books (including the seven additional Old Testament books) was only drawn up at the council of Trent in 1546. “Most Christians had followed St. Augustine and included the 'Apocrypha' in the canon, but St. Jerome, who excluded them, had always had his defenders." (Joseph Lienhard, The Bible, The Church, And Authority [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1995], p. 59)

"...an official, definitive list of inspired writings did not exist in the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent (Yves Congar, French Dominican cardinal and theologian, in Tradition and Traditions" [New York: Macmillan, 1966], p. 38).

As Catholic Church historian and recognized authority on Trent (2400 page history, and author of over 700 books, etc.), Hubert Jedin (1900-1980) observes, it also put a full stop to the 1000-year-old development of the biblical canon (History of the Council of Trent [London, 1961] 91, quoted by Raymond Edward Brown, American Roman Catholic priest and Biblical scholar, in The New Jerome biblical commentary, p. 1168)

The question of the “deutero-canonicalbooks will not be settled before the sixteenth century. As late as the second half of the thirteenth, St Bonaventure used as canonical the third book of Esdras and the prayer of Manasses, whereas St Albert the Great and St Thomas doubted their canonical value. (George H. Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church: The Crisis of the Protestant Reformation (London: Burns & Oates, 1959), pp. 16-17)

It may be a surprise to some to know that the “canon,” or official list of books of the Bible, was not explicitly defined by the Church until the 16th century though there was a clear listing as early as the fourth century. (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus: A Popular Overview of the Catholic Faith, rev. ed. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1985, p. 21)

"For the first fifteen centuries of Christianity, no Christian Church put forth a definitive list of biblical books. Most Christians had followed St. Augustine and included the 'Apocrypha' in the canon, but St. Jerome, who excluded them, had always had his defenders." (Joseph Lienhard, S.J., A.B., classics, Fordham University, “The Bible, The Church, And Authority;” [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1995], p. 59)

"in the fifth century a more or less final consensus [on the New Testament canon] was reached and shared by East and West. It is worth noting that no ecumenical council in the ancient church ever ruled for the church as a whole on the question of the contents of the canon." (Harry Gamble, in Lee McDonald and James Sanders, edd., The Canon Debate [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002], p. 291) ^

Prior lists were by councils that were not ecumenical/infallible.

► “...at the present day, and for many centuries in the past, only the decisions of ecumenical councils and the ex cathedra teaching of the pope have been treated as strictly definitive in the canonical sense...” (The Catholic encyclopedia, http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=6099)

► “Neither Catholics nor the Orthodox recognize Rome or Carthage or Hippo as Ecumenical in their list.” http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm http://orthodoxwiki.org/Ecumenical_Councils#List_of_the_Seven_Ecumenical_Councils.

► “The Council of Florence (1442) contains a complete list of the books received by the Church as inspired, but omits, perhaps advisedly, the terms canon and canonical. The Council of Florence therefore taught the inspiration of all the Scriptures, but did not formally pass on their canonicity.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm)

► “The seventh Ecumenical Council officially accepted the Trullan Canons as part of the sixth Ecumenical Council. The importance of this is underscored by canon II of Trullo which officially authorized the decrees of Carthage, thereby elevating them to a place of ecumenical authority. However, the Council also sanctioned were the canons of Athanasius and Amphilochius that had to do with the canon and both of these fathers rejected the major books of the Apocrypha. In addition, the Council sanctioned the Apostolical canons which, in canon eighty-five, gave a list of canonical books which included 3 Maccabees, a book never accepted as canonical in the West.101 Furthermore, the Apostolical canons were condemned and rejected as apocryphal in the decrees of Popes Gelasius and Hormisdas.102 Thus indicating that the approval given was not specific but general.” (http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/Apocrypha3.html)

The claim that the Council of Rome (382) approved an infallible canon is contrary to Roman Catholic statements which point to Trent, and depends upon the Decretum Gelasianum, the authority of which is disputed (among RC's themselves), based upon evidence that it was pseudepigraphical, being a sixth century compilation put together in northern Italy or southern France at the beginning of the 6th cent. In addition the Council of Rome found many opponents in Africa.” More: http://www.tertullian.org/articles/burkitt_gelasianum.htm

Therefore what can be said is that although the Roman Catholic canon was largely settled by the time of Carthage, it was not infallibly defined (thus disallowing dissent), and thus substantial disagreement did exist even in the deliberations of Trent, despite decrees by early councils such as Hippo, Carthage and Florence. The canon of Trent was issued in reaction to Martin Luther and the Reformation, apparently, as said, after a vote of 24 yea, 15 nay, with 16 abstaining (44%, 27%, 29%) as to whether to affirm it as an article of faith with its anathemas on those who dissent from it.

While Roman Catholics often charge that Luther excluded some books as being Scripture due to doctrinal reasons, Rome can be charged with the same motivation for adding apocryphal books, while Luther did have some scholarly reasons and concurrence in Rome (see below) for his exclusions. ^

Dissent before and in Trent

Among those dissenting at Trent was Augustinian friar, Italian theologian and cardinal and papal legate Girolamo Seripando. As Catholic historian Hubert Jedin (German), who wrote the most comprehensive description of the Council (2400 pages in four volumes) explained,he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship” at the Council of Trent.” Jedin further writes:

►: “Tobias, Judith, the Book of Wisdom, the books of Esdras, Ecclesiasticus, the books of the Maccabees, and Baruch are only "canonici et ecclesiastici" and make up the canon morum in contrast to the canon fidei. These, Seripando says in the words of St. Jerome, are suited for the edification of the people, but they are not authentic, that is, not sufficient to prove a dogma. Seripando emphasized that in spite of the Florentine canon the question of a twofold canon was still open and was treated as such by learned men in the Church. Without doubt he was thinking of Cardinal Cajetan, who in his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews accepted St. Jerome's view which had had supporters throughout the Middle Ages.” (Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), pp. 270-271)

►“While Seripando abandoned his view as a lost cause, Madruzzo, the Carmelite general, and the Bishop of Agde stood for the limited canon, and the bishops of Castellamare and Caorle urged the related motion to place the books of Judith, Baruch, and Machabees in the "canon ecclesiae." From all this it is evident that Seripando was by no means alone in his views. In his battle for the canon of St. Jerome and against the anathema and the parity of traditions with Holy Scripture, he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship.” (ibid, 281-282; https://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?blogid=1&query=cajetan)

Cardinal Cajetan who himself was actually an adversary of Luther, and who was sent by the Pope in 1545 to Trent as a papal theologian, had reservations about the apocrypha as well as certain N.T. books based upon questionable apostolic authorship.

"On the eve of the Reformation, it was not only Luther who had problems with the extent of the New Testament canon. Doubts were being expressed even by some of the loyal sons of the Church. Luther's opponent at Augsburg, Cardinal Cajetan, following Jerome, expressed doubts concerning the canonicity of Hebrews, James, 2 and 3 John, and Jude. Of the latter three he states, "They are of less authority than those which are certainly Holy Scripture."63

The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms this saying that “he seemed more than three centuries in advance of his day in questioning the authenticity of the last chapter of St. Mark, the authorship of several epistles, viz., Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, Jude...”— http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03145c.htm

Erasmus likewise expressed doubts concerning Revelation as well as the apostolicity of James, Hebrews and 2 Peter. It was only as the Protestant Reformation progressed, and Luther's willingness to excise books from the canon threatened Rome that, at Trent, the Roman Catholic Church hardened its consensus stand on the extent of the New Testament canon into a conciliar pronouncement.64 http://bible.org/article/evangelicals-and-canon-new-testament#P136_48836

Theologian Cardinal Cajetan stated, in his Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament (dedicated to Pope Clement VII ):

"Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St. Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus, as is plain from the Protogus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome.

Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.”

Following Jerome, Cajetan also relegated the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament to a secondary place where they could serve piety but not the teaching of revealed doctrine. Jared Wicks tr., Cajetan Responds: A Reader in Reformation Controversy (Washington: The Catholic University Press of America, 1978). See also Cardinal Cajetan, "Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament," Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford, 1957), p. 180.)

Cajetan was also highly regarded by many, even if opposed by others: The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "It has been significantly said of Cajetan that his positive teaching was regarded as a guide for others and his silence as an implicit censure. His rectitude, candour, and moderation were praised even by his enemies. Always obedient, and submitting his works to ecclesiastical authority, he presented a striking contrast to the leaders of heresy and revolt, whom he strove to save from their folly." And that "It was the common opinion of his contemporaries that had he lived, he would have succeeded Clement VII on the papal throne.” Catholic Encyclopedia>Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan

In more detail,

►“This question was not only a matter of controversy between Catholics and Protestants: it was also the subject of a lively discussion even between Catholic theologians. St Jerome, that great authority in all scriptural questions, had accepted the Jewish canon of the Old Testament. The books of Judith, Esther, Tobias, Machabees, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, which the majority of the Fathers, on the authority of the Septuagint, treated as canonical, Jerome described as apocryphal, that is, as not included in the canon though suitable for the edification of the faithful…The general of the Franciscans Observant, Calvus, dealt thoroughly with the problems raised by Cajetan in a tract drawn up for the purposes of the Counci1. He defended the wider canon, and in particular the canonicity of the book of Baruch, the story of Susanna, that of Bel and the dragon, and the canticle of the three children (Benedicite). On the other hand, he refused to accept the oft-quoted Apostolic Canons as authoritative for the canonicity of the third book of Machabees. The general of the Augustinians, Seripando, on the contrary, was in sympathy with Erasmus and Cajetan and sought to harmonise their views with the Florentine decree on the ground that the protocanonical books of the Old Testament, as "canonical and authentic", belong to the canon fidei, while the deuterocanonical ones, as "canonical and ecclesiastical books", belong to the canon morum. Seripando, accordingly, follows the tendency which had made itself felt elsewhere also in pre-Tridentine Catholic theology, which was not to withhold the epithet "canonical" from the deuterocanonical books, yet to use it with certain restrictions.”

“Two questions were to be debated, namely, should this conciliar decision be simply taken over, without previous discussion of the subject, as the jurists Del Monte and Pacheco opined, or should the arguments recently advanced against the canonicity of certain books of the Sacred Scriptures be examined and refuted by the Council, as the other two legates, with Madruzzo and the Bishop of Fano, desired? The second question was closely linked with the first, namely should the Council meet the difficulties raised both in former times and more recently, by distinguishing different degrees of authority within the canon?

With regard to the first question the legates themselves were not of one mind. In the general congregation of 12 February, Del Monte, taking the standpoint of formal Canon Law, declared that the Florentine canon, since it was a decision of a General Council, must be accepted without discussion. On the other hand Cervini and Pole, supported by Madruzzo and a number of prelates familiar with the writings of the reformers and the humanists, urged the necessity of countering in advance the attacks that were to be expected from the Protestants by consolidating their own position, and of providing their own theologians with weapons for the defence of the decree as well as for the instruction of the faithful...The discussion was so obstinate that there remained no other means to ascertain the opinion of the Council than to put the matter to the vote. The result was that twenty-four prelates were found to be on Del Monte's side, and fifteen (sixteen) on the other. The decision to accept the Florentine canon simpliciter, that is, without further discussion, and as an article of faith, already contained the answer to the second question.” — Jedin,, History of the Council of Trent, pgs 55,56

The late (if liberal) British bishop and Scripture scholar B.F. Westcott reported, “Some proposed to follow the judgment of Cardinal Caietan [as sometimes spelled] and distinguish two classes of books, as, it was argued, had been the intention of Augustine. Others wished to draw the line of distinction yet more exactly, and form three classes, (1) the Acknowledged Books, (2) the Disputed Books of the New Testament, as having been afterwards generally received, (3) the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. (B.F. Westcott, The Bible In The Church, p. 256)

Another argument for the canonicity of the apocryphal books is that some were used by some early church leaders, yet some of the books of the Pseudepigrapha were also invoked by some church “fathers,” and found their way into other canons of various Eastern churches. And since Jude 1:14 evidently quotes from the Book of Enoch 1:9, then according to the logic of this argument that book would be Scripture also, even though Enoch also states in section 7:1-4 (in a section of the Book of Enoch dated to about 250 B.C.B.) that the "giants" mentioned in Genesis 6:4 were 300 cubits (or about 450 feet, though i think i read somewhere that an Egyptian manuscripts makes it more like 40 feet). The apostle Paul even quoted truth uttered by a pagan prophet, (Acts 17:29) but such does not sanction the whole source.

While some ancients reference texts from (what we call) the apocryphal books, texts from books of the Pseudepigrapha and otherwise non-canonical books (as per Trent) were also referenced or alluded to by some church “fathers”, and books which also found their way into other canons of various Eastern churches.

As Jerome explains,

In his famous ‘Prologus Galeatus’, or Preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings, he declares that everything not Hebrew should be classed with the apocrypha, and explicitly says that Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias,and Judith are not in the Canon. These books, he adds, are read in the churches for the edification of the people, and not for the confirmation of revealed doctrine” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the Old Testament)

The distinction then is that while “good,” they were not for doctrinal use. As the above source states regarding St. Athanasius, “Following the precedent of Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor recognized no other formal canon of the Old Testament than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity, as is evident from his general usage.

An excerpt from the Prologue to the Glossa ordinaria (an assembly of “glosses,” that of brief notations of the meaning of a word or wording in the margins of the Vulgate Bible) expresses this distinction:

The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into doubt or contention,or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogma, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. (note 124, written in AD 1498, and also found in a work attributed to Walafrid Strabo in the tenth century... http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/Apocryphaendnotes3.html)

Also, among other authorities, different canons were sanctioned by the Council in Trullo (Quinisext Council) in 692 and the seventh Ecumenical Council (787)

And just prior to Trent, The Polyglot Bible (1514) of Cardinal Ximenes separated the Apocrypha from the canon of the Old Testament and soon received papal sanction.

In addition,

►“Luther's translation of the Bible contained all of its books. Luther also translated and included the Apocrypha, saying, "These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read." He expressed his thoughts on the canon in prefaces placed at the beginning of particular Biblical books. In these prefaces, he either questioned or doubted the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation (his Catholic contemporaries, Erasmus and Cardinal Cajetan, likewise questioned the canonicity of certain New Testament books). Of his opinion, he allows for the possibility of his readers to disagree with his conclusions. Of the four books, it is possible Luther's opinion fluctuated on two (Hebrews and Revelation). Luther was of the opinion that the writers of James and Jude were not apostles, therefore these books were not canonical. Still, he used them and preached from them.” (Five More Luther Myths; http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2089)

Regarding James and Hebrews,

Most writing from before 200 do not mention the Epistle of James. One significant text does quote James: The Shepherd of Hermas, written before 140 M66. The theologian and biblical scholar, Origen, quotes James extensively between 230 and 250. He mentions that James was Jesus' brother, but does not make it clear if the letter is scripture M138. Hippolytus and Tertullian, from early in the third century, do not mention or quote James. Cyprian of Carthage, in the middle of the third century, also makes no mention. The "Muratorian Canon," from around 200, lists and comments on New Testament books, but fails to mention James, Hebrews, and 1 and 2 Peter. Yet by 340 Eusebius of Caesarea, an early Christian historian, acknowledges that James is both canonical and orthodox, and widely read. However, he categorizes it, along with the other catholic epistles, as "disputed texts" M203. Two Greek New Testaments from that time each include James, along with the other catholic epistles M207. In 367 Athanasius lists the 27 New Testament books we presently use as the definitive canon M212. But the battle for James was not won. Bishops in 428 and 466 rejected all the catholic epistles M215. Early bibles from Lebanon, Egypt, Armenia, India and China do not include James before the sixth century M219. A ninth century manuscript from Mount Sinai leaves out the catholic epistles and the Syriac Church, headquartered in Kerala, India, continues to use a lectionary without them still today M220. (James and Canon: The Early Evidence: http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/james/Background/Canon.htm

Another researcher states,

He [Luther] had a low view of Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Revelation, and so when he published his New Testament in 1522 he placed these books apart at the end. In his Preface to Hebrews, which comes first in the series, he says, "Up to this point we have had to do with the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation."'

And on James, he states in his preface,

Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients,1 I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle; and my reasons follow.

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15.”

In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ.” (Antilegomena; http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html )

But Luther's rejection of these does not mean he did not include them in his translation, and thus some may think he held them as inspired Scripture, which he did not, and as he did also did with the apocrypha (in a separate section as in ages past), but this not make them inspired Scripture.

In terms of order, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation come last in Luther’s New Testament because of his negative estimate of their apostolicity. In a catalogue of “The Books of the New Testament” which followed immediately upon his Preface to the New Testament… Luther regularly listed these four—without numbers—at the bottom of a list in which he named the other twenty-three books, in the order in which they still appear in English Bibles, and numbered them consecutively from 1–23… a procedure identical to that with which he also listed the books of the Apocrypha

Likewise the Apocrypha:

The editors of Luther’s Works explain, “In keeping with early Christian tradition, Luther also included the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. Sorting them out of the canonical books, he appended them at the end of the Old Testament with the caption, ‘These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.’

It also should be understood that as with early church fathers, Luther was working his way through his theology and the canonization of Scripture. Also of note is that the words “canon” and “Scripture” could be used less formally sometimes than they would be later on. (And it would not be until the year of Luther's death that Trent presented its finalized canon.) The canon which Protestantism came to hold is that of the ancient 39 book Old Testament and the 27 book New Testament canon. Which, like authoritative Old Testament writings by time of Christ, came to be accepted due to their qualities and other Divine attestation through the consensus of the faithful, without a purportedly infallible conciliar decree.

The page to see on Luther's canon is here.

Here is information as regards Eastern Orthodox Acceptance Of The Hebrew Canon

Information on the formal criteria and processes of acceptance of books can be seen here.

Webster provides substantial works on the unsettled status of the apocryphal books prior to Trent, such as seen here, here and here.

See a list and basic summary of the 66 books of the Bible, and more links on the exclusion of the apocrypha here. ^

Is the canon of Trent the same as that of Hippo and Carthage?

Not only was the canon not settled before Trent, with Trent arguably following a weaker scholarly tradition in pronouncing the apocryphal books to be inspired, but it is a matter of debate whether the canon of Trent is exactly the same as that of Carthage and other councils:

The claim that Hippo & Carthage approved the same canonical list as Trent is wrong. Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) received the Septuagint version of 1 Esdras [Ezra in the Hebrew spelling] as canonical Scripture, which Innocent I approved. However, the Vulgate version of the canon that Trent approved was the first Esdras that Jerome designated for the OT Book of Ezra, not the 1 Esdras of the Septuagint that Hippo and Carthage ( along with Innocent I) received as canonical. Thus Trent rejected as canonical the version of 1 Esdras that Hippo & Carthage accepted as canonical. Trent rejected the apocryphal Septuagint version of 1 Esdras (as received by Hippo and Carthage) as canonical and called it 3 Esdras.” More

Roman Catholic apologist Gary Michuta, states,

"This is a matter of record, not of interpretation. On March 29, 1546 the Council Fathers took up the fourth of fourteen questions (Capita Dubitationum) on Scripture and Tradition. At issue was whether those books that were not included in the official list, but were included in the Latin Vulgate (e.g. The Book of Esdras, Fourth Ezra, and Third Maccabees), should be rejected by a Conciliar decree, or be passed over in silence. Only three Fathers voted for an explicit rejection. Forty-two voted that the status of these books should be passed over in silence.

It is a historical fact." Responding to this, Protestant apologist James Swan states,

► “Let's grant Michuta's assertion that Trent passed over in silence on the book of Esdras in question. This means in the Roman system, as interpreted by Michuta, the possibility exists that the book in question is canonical, but not currently in the canon. Therefore, it is possible that the Bible is missing a book, in which case, Roman Catholics cannot be certain they have an infallible list of all the infallible books. In which case, their arguments stating they have canon certainty crumbles. It would also possibly mean, the canon is still open. Michuta notes that 42 people at Trent voted to pass over the book in silence. If Michuta is correct on his interpretation of Trent, these 42 people solved the problem of the contradiction between Hippo, Carthage, and Trent, but created the problem of an unclosed canon, and thrust Catholics into uncertainty.”

It was Jerome, who is considered the only Church father who was a true Hebrew scholar, who was responsible for separating Ezra and Nehemiah to be designated as 1 and 2 Esdras respectively as separate books in an official Bible and who relegated 1 Esdras of the Septuagint to a noncanonical status which later became designated as III Esdras. He did this because he followed the Hebrew canon.” (http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1911)

The New Catholic Encyclopedia states concerning the status of 1 Esdras among the fathers who followed the 'Septuagintial plus':

"The origin of 3 Esdras cannot be adequately explained....Until the 5th century, Christians very frequently ranked 3 Esdras with the Canonical books; it is found in many LXX MSS [Septuagint manuscripts] and in the Latin Vulgate (Vulg) of St. Jerome. Protestants therefore include 3 Esdras with other apocrypha (deuterocanonical) books such as Tobit or Judith. The Council of Trent definitively removed it from the canon." (New Catholic Encyclopedia; New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), Volume II, Bible, III,pp. 396-397. http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3407700673/apocrypha.html).

As for the Vulgate, the apocrypha was included, apparently after Jerome died, but not universally in all versions:

► “At the end of the fourth century Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome, the most learned biblical scholar of his day, to prepare a standard Latin version of the Scriptures (the Latin Vulgate). In the Old Testament Jerome followed the Hebrew canon and by means of prefaces called the reader's attention to the separate category of the apocryphal books. Subsequent copyists of the Latin Bible, however, were not always careful to transmit Jerome's prefaces, and during the medieval period the Western Church generally regarded these books as part of the holy Scriptures.” (http://www.gnte.org/ecopub/apocrypha.htm)

"In his famous 'Prologus Galeatus', or Preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings, he (Jerome) declares that everything not Hebrew should be classed with the apocrypha, and explicitly says that Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias,and Judith are not in the Canon. These books, he adds, are read in the churches for the edification of the people, and not for the confirmation of revealed doctrine" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Canon of the Old Testament). http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1948

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

Essential means of establishment of Scripture

Finally, it is should be stated that, as helpful as they are, ecclesiastical decrees themselves are not what established writings as Scripture (much less can Rome declare that it is assuredly infallible, whenever she speaks in accordance with her supposedly infallibly defined formula), but as with true men of God, writings which were wholly inspired of Him became progressively established as being such due to their conflation and complementarity to what was prior manifest as being from God, and by unique enduring qualities, (Ps. 119) and the holy effects and other supernatural Divine attestation which results from trusting and obeying the Word of God. (1Thes. 2:13) In contrast, the Sadducees erred, “not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Mt. 22:29)

To reiterate what was expressed at the beginning of this section, Abraham's faith and morality was supernaturally attested to by God, as was that of Moses, whose writings further expanded and defined the faith and morality which was of God, which became the standard by which further revelation would be tested and substantiated by. (Is. 8:20) The writing of the word of God being normally written, immediately or afterward, and becoming the authority for faith and doctrine, is a principal continuously seen in Scripture for establishing truth claims as being of God.* (Mt. 22; Jn. 5:36,39; 14:11; Lk. 24:27,44; Acts 17:2;11; 28:23; Rm. 15:19) True men of God themselves, especially those who added new teaching to to Scripture, were established as being of God by a holiness and doctrine which conformed to that which was written, and the effects of believing, which in turn affirmed the veracity and Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. And to be the church of living God so must we, in proportion to grace given and our claims (and i sadly yet come much short of what I could be, yet I look in faith to Ps. 138:8).

Here is more in the formation of the canon, and here as regards Luther overall.

*Partial list of references to Divine written revelation being written (Scripture) and references to it, substantiating the claim that as they were written, the written word became the standard for obedience and in establishing truth claims. The following rarely includes simple allusions to Scripture, which are abundant, but supplies a multiplicity of references to what was written or quotes thereof: Ex. 17:14; 24:4,7,12; 31:18; 32:15; 34:1,27; 35:29; Lv. 8:36; 10:10,11; 26:46; Num. 4:5,37,45,49; 9:23; 10:13; 15:23; 16:40; 27:23; 33:2; 36:13; Dt. 4:13; 5:22; 9:10; 10:2,4; 17:18,19; 27:3,8; 28:58,61; 29:20,21,27; 30:10; 31:9,11,19,22,26; 33:4; Josh. 1:7,8; 8:31,32,34,35; 10:13; 14:2; 20:2; 21:2; 22:5,9; 23:6; 24:26; Jdg. 3:4; 1Sam. 10:25; 2Sam. 1:8; 1Ki. 2:3; 8:53,56; 12:22; 2Ki. 1:8; 14:6; 17:37; 22:8,10,13,16; 23:2,21; 1Ch. 16:40; 17:3,9; 2Ch. 23:18; 25:4; 31:3; 33:8; 34:13-16,18,19,21,24; 34:30; 35:6,12; Ezra 3:2,4; 6:18; Neh. 6:6; 8:1,3,8,15,18; 9:3,14; 10:34,36; 13:1; Psa. 40:7; Is. 8:20; 30:8; 34:16; 65:6; Jer. 17:1; 25:13; 30:2; 36:2,6,10,18,27,28; 51:60; Dan. 9:11,13; Hab. 2:2;

Mat. 1:22; 2:5,15,17,18; 3:3; 4:4,6,7,10,14,15; 5:17,18,33,38,43; 8:4,17; 9:13; 11:10; 12:3,5,17-21,40,41; 13:14,15,35; 14:3,4,7-9;19:4,5,17-19; 21:4,5,13,16,42; 22:24,29,31,32,37,39,43,44; 23:35;24:15; 26:24,31,54,56; 27:9,10,35; Mark 1:2,44; 7:3,10; 9:12,13; 10:4,5; 11:17; 12:10,19,24,26 13:14; 14:21,47,49; 15:28; Lk. 2:22,23.24; 3:4,5,6; 4:4,6-8,10,12,16,17,18,20,25-27; 5:14; 7:27; 8:10; 10:26,27; 16:29,31; 18:20,31; 19:46; 20:17,18, 28,37,42,43; 22:37; 23:30; 24:25.27,32,44,45,46; Jn. 1:45; 2:17,22; 3:14; 5:39,45-47; 6:31,45; 7:19,22,23,38,42,43,51,52; 8:5,17; 9:26; 10:34,35; 12:14,15,38-41; 15:25; 17:12; 19:24,28,36,37; 20:9,31; 21:24; Acts 1:20; 2:16-21,25-28,34,35; 3:22,23,25; 4:11,25,26; 7:3,7,27,28,32,33,37,40,42,43,49,50,53; 8:28,30,32,33; 10:43;13:15,27,29,33,39; 15:5,15-17,21; 17:2,11; 18:13.24,28; 21:20,24; 22:12; 23:3,5; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23,26,27; Rom 1:2,17; 2:10-21,31; 4:3,7,17,18,23,24; 5:13; 7:1-3,7,12,14,16; 8:4,36; 9:4,9,12,13,15,17,25,-29,33; 10:11,15,19; 11:2-4,8,9,26,27; 12:19,20; 13:8-10; 14:11; 15:3,4,9-12,21; 16:16,26,27; 1Cor. 1:19,31; 2:9; 3:19,20; 4:6; 6:16; 7:39; 9:9,10; 10:7,11,26,28; 14:21,34; 15:3,4,32,45,54,55; 2Cor. 1:13; 2:3,4; 3:7,15; 4:13; 6:2;16; 7:12; 8:15; 9:9; 10:17; 13:1; Gal. 3:6,8,10-13; 4:22,27,30; 5:14; Eph. 3:3,4; (cf. 2Pt. 3:16); Eph. 4:8; 5:31; 6:2,3; (cf. Dt. 5:16); Col. 4:16; 1Thes. 5:27; 1Tim. 5:18; 2Tim. 3:14,16,17; Heb. 1:5,7-13; 2:5-8,12,13; 3:7-11,15; 4:3,4,7; 5:5,6; 6:14; 7:17,21,28; 8:5,8-13; 9:20; 10:5-916,17,28,30,37; 11:18; 12:5,6,12,26,29; 13:5,6,22; James 2:8,23; 4:5; 1Pet. 1:16,24,25; 2:6,7,22; 3:10-12; 5:5,12; 2Pet. 1:20,21; 2:22; 3:1,15,16; 1Jn. 1:4; 2:1,7,8,12,13,21; 5:13; Rev. 1:3,11,19; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,12,14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5; 22:6,7;10,18,19 (Note: while the Bible reveals that there is revelation which is not written down, (2Cor. 12:4; Rv. 10:4) yet interestingly, i know of no place where the phrase “the word of God” or “the word of the Lord” manifestly refers to unwritten revelation that was not subsequently written down. Note also that establishing truth claims is shown to be done both by way of doctrinal conformity to what had been written, and secondarily by the manner of effectual and often manifest supernatural attestation by the power of God which Scripture reveals the Truth of God being given (and most overtly to the authority of those who added new teachings to Scripture), and obedience to it, to the glory of God, though the many references to this aspect, such as Josh. 3:7 (cf. Is. 63:12); 2Ki. 18:6,7; Mk. 16:20; Jn. 5:36; 14:11,12; Acts 4:33; 15:7-18; Rm. 15:19; Gal. 4:6; 1Thes. 1:3-10, Heb. 2:3,4, are not provided here).

^

TOC

Supplement D: Church “fathers” and the place of Scripture

While overall contending for many core Scriptural truths, the church fathers are charged with not always being consistent with themselves, and as usually lacking the unanimous consent which Roman Catholicism claims for its doctrines, though Rome allows defining non-unanimous as “unanimous” according to the theory of the development of doctrine.

Vatican 1 also prohibits anyone from interpreting the Bible contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, although no infallible list of all the fathers exists (nor of all “infallible” teachings), and the most complete written compilation of the Fathers (Oxford/Edinburgh "Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," compiled by Anglicans) fills 38 volumes, and it is held that this work contains only a small selection of the writings of the Church Fathers. The perspicuity of their writings is also a challenge, and i do not find any of the samples I have read by them to be more understandable than the Scriptures, and or as edifying, and they also lead to differing doctrinal stands.

While church father were at variance with Scripture and evangelical Protestant faith in certain teachings, it is also apparent that church fathers can often be seen to be at variance with the modern church of Rome. Moreover, while Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox (EO) both largely base their claim to supremacy on church Tradition, they disagree on who all the fathers were and on aspects of what Tradition teaches, resulting in different “traditions.” These include things such as how many immersions in baptism, the use of images, instrumental music and more, with each one picking which ones it will keep. EO apologist Clark Carlton writes, The Orthodox Church opposes the Roman doctrines of universal papal jurisdiction, papal infallibility, purgatory, and the Immaculate Conception precisely because they are untraditional.” (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 135)

Therefore it can be seen that holding to church Tradition does not solve the problem of divisive differences, and holding to a supreme autocratic power over the church (the pope) to define Truth is a prime cause of division between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox, among others. However, truth, being exclusive by nature, is divisive, and the goal of the Godly is not simply unity, but Scriptural unity which relies upon persuading honest souls by “the manifestation of the truth,” (1Cor. 4:2), and which must above all be based on that which has been established as being infallible.

Roman Catholicism effectively holds that this supreme authority is their assuredly infallible magisterium (as the magisterium claims to infallibly define both the extent and meaning of Scripture, and requires assent of faith to its decrees), which has infallibly defined itself to be infallible whenever it speaks according to its infallibly defined formula, which autocratic circularity renders their own decree that she is infallible to be infallible, and precludes any possibility of error no matter what evidence is presented. That is, according to their interpretation only their interpretation can be correct in any conflict.

Under this presumption Rome decrees her oral church Tradition (things passed on) to be equal with Scripture, reasoning that since much of Scripture came out of Tradition, therefore it is also infallible. However, both weeds (or “tares”) and wheat come out of the same ground, yet they are not equal, and not all that was passed on or is inspired, even from those whom God used to write Scripture. However, Scripture is the part of tradition that has been established as wholly God-breathed, and is the only transcendent material source of Divine revelation on faith and morals on earth that Scripture affirms to be so. (2Tim. 3:16).

The Divine writings which make up Scripture were essentially progressively established as being of God due to their doctrinal conformity and complementarity to what had been prior established are being from God, and by the manner of effectual attestation it reveals that God gave to them, especially to new Scriptural teachings and those who preached them. (Josh. 3:7 (cf. Is. 63:12); 2Ki. 18:6,7; Mk. 16:20; Jn. 5:36; 14:11,12; Acts 4:33; 15:7-18; Rm. 15:19; Gal. 4:6; 1Thes. 1:3-10, etc.) And it is the evangelical gospel of grace that most effects manifest regeneration and its fruits, as the church that supports the truth is that of the living God. (1Tim. 3:15)

And as all Scripture is God-breathed, it is assuredly infallible, and by which all other truth claims and all teaching and preaching on faith and morals by the church must be judged by. And in particular, being God-breathed, infallible, tangible, transcendent and testable, and the extent of it being settled, by its nature Scripture stands supreme over the non-codified nebulous essence called oral Tradition, which is supremely susceptible to undetected corruption.

What Rome essentially does is presume to be as one of the inspired writers (even though she denies she is inspired like them), but rather than being moved by the Holy Spirit to pen Scripture, (2Pt. 1:20,21) she claims His guidance in what basically is the “channeling” of certain traditions into dogma or church law, and effectively adds to the canon such things as purgatory, prayer to departed saints, mandatory clerical celibacy, etc., which require extrapolating out of texts or reading into them meanings which are not there, while being contrary to what is most clearly taught.

In contrast to Scripture, we are not promised therein that the teaching office of the church will perpetually always be right whenever it speaks to the whole church on faith or morals, which Rome claims for herself, but it is evidenced that the “word of God” was usually written, and as it was it became the standard for obedience and by which further revelation was tested by and (if true) established as being from God.

Therefore, rather than holding that that church is the supreme infallible authority (sola ecclesia, or SE), the historical Protestant position has been that of Sola Scriptura (SS), which basically means that Scripture alone is the supreme infallible authority on earth, the sure “rule” “norm” or authority on faith and morals, and formally (providing basic truths) and materially (affirming such things as the church and means of discernment and teaching) sufficient. Yet in contrast to how Roman Catholic apologists (RCAs) often describe SS, “sola” does not mean that only the Bible can be used in understanding and teaching truth, nor that explicit texts are required, but that Scripture is what supremely is determinative of truth under God.

While Catholics often assert that holding to SS means that the interpreters see themselves as infallible, or that they cannot be sure of beliefs, yet appealing to Scripture as infallible is not the same as holding to assured formulaic infallibility, while Protestants can claim to be at least as sure of certain teachings of Scripture as Roman Catholics can claim to be of certain teachings of their church, and Rome does not claim that proclaiming her decrees a infallible means that they will be rightly understood.

Likewise, Protestants can claim that their canon contains all of infallible Scripture, but while Catholics assert that their magisterium provides additional infallible teachings, yet they cannot be sure that what they believe to be infallible decrees from the supreme source really are infallible — which they have a right to know before they yield the assent of faith Rome which requires of them — as there is no infallible canon of all such. In other words, while overall the canon of Protestantism's supreme authority (Scripture) was settled quite early, the RC cannot tell what all the infallible decrees from its supreme authority consist of, as there is no infallible canon of all infallible decrees.

In addition, while Catholics often attempt to argue that being the instrument of New Testament revelation (which they assert Rome uniquely was as regards the N.T.) and stewards of it makes Rome the assuredly infallible interpreters of Scripture, this leap of specious logic would have required submission to the Jews, as unlike a church in Rome, they were explicitly affirmed to be the instruments and stewards of Divine revelation. (Rm. 3:2; 9:4) But which did not confer on them an assured perpetual infallible magisterium, nor was this necessary, as God knows how to raise up men from without the formal magisterial office to correct them by Scripture, which the Lord did when those who sat in the seat of Moses (Mt 23:2) presumed to teach as doctrine the unscriptural “tradition of the elders.” (Mk. 7:3-16)

A Roman Catholic premise is also that its “living” magisterium is necessary to provide answers to divisive issues in a timely manner is not reality, as this can take generations, and still leaves many things which RCs can disagree on, especially what Scripture texts mean.

Lay Catholics not only interpret which teachings are infallible, and what they mean, as well as the meaning of teachings from the non-infallible magisterium (from whence the bulk of Roman Catholic teaching comes from, and in which some dissent is allowed), but they also have much liberty to interpret the Bible in order to support Rome, as long as they do not contradict her, according to their understanding of what she teaches. And which has resulted in varying attempts to wrest support for teachings which were not soundly derived from Scripture in the first place, but were a product of her selective use of her amorphous Tradition.

As far as assurance is concerned however, the Scriptures do promise this, based upon Scriptural conformity to texts and fruit and attestation, objectively examined. (Acts 17:2,11; 1Thes. 1:5; 2Tim. 3:14; 1Jn. 3:19; 5:13) While the magisterium is Scriptural and critical, no promise is given of assured formulaic infallibility, but God raises up men from without the formal office to correct it, as needed, with the Scriptures being abundantly evidenced to be the supreme infallible material standard for obedience and testing truth claims.

What the Catholic premise overall misses is that of how truth was Scripturally established, which was not through a perpetual assuredly infallible magisterium as per Rome, but that ultimately by Divine power, and essentially the Scriptures were established as being from God due to that, with the manifest power of God attesting to men of God and what they wrote, and that becoming the standard for obedience and future truth claims, with divine writings being established as from God due to their conflation and complementarity with what has been previously established as Scripture, and heavenly qualities and effects, and often by other supernatural attestation given them by God, consistent with His word. (Josh. 3:7 (cf. Is. 63:12); 2Ki. 18:6,7; Mk. 16:20; Jn. 5:36; 14:11,12; Acts 4:33; 15:7-18; Rm. 15:19; Gal. 4:6; 1Thes. 1:3-10, Heb. 2:3,4, Rv. 12:11, etc.) And likewise was apostolic authority which affirmed the Scriptures. (Rm. 15:19; 1Cor. 2:4,5; 4:19)

And it is the historical evangelical preaching of the gospel of the grace of God, (versus its institutional Catholic counterpart), which convicts souls “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” (Jn. 16:9) which has most effected manifest regeneration, in correspondence to Scripture, To God be the glory, though we (i) come short of all that He would do if we stood in the way, and more fully and firmly walked in the old gospel paths of Scripture. TOC

Link to index page (http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/Ancients_on_Issues.html). To download the file that these compilations are from, download this file (http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/cbnrc.exe) for Windows-based computers, and install the executable to a location you choose, then run the CBNRC.chm file)