Sunday, January 25, 2009

Understanding of the Church and Canon (2)

Argument “Against” the Eastern Canon
There is good indication that the Christian should accept as Scripture the books agreed by the majority to be canonical. These include the whole New Testament and all of the content of the Old Testament acknowledged by all of the churches. Beyond these, I eagerly acknowledge (as many Church father’s did) what Protestants call Apocryphal books of the Old Testament to be of high value within the Church but not of the same authority.

I approach the canonical question from what is held in common and defend what is held in common. From there I request evidence for and respond to those who would argue that other books have the same authority as those already universally held. The overall case for books held in common can be found in previous posts. My current understanding of what ought to be in the Christian Old Testament operates on the idea that we inherited our OT from the Jews before the New Covenant era. This content was and is more or less known. I am willing to altar this view if it can be shown that the Jews (majority in Palestine) accepted certain apocryphal books as Scripture in the Old Testament era or that the apostles believed them to be.

Some ideas as to why we should accept the additional books into our canon have been addressed in previous posts. Here I will mention a few I have found in the past to be most weighty and only briefly voice my objections to each.

1) The apostles frequently used apocryphal books in the NT
-This is certainly true and for this reason it is a great benefit to have a copy on hand when reading the Scriptures. However, use does not equal Scripture. There are instances where pagan sources are also used and those are certainly not to be regarded as Scripture.
-I do not see that the apocryphal books are used as Scripture by the apostles. Still, admittedly lingering questions remain in regards to 1 Enoch. This however, is not accepted by the majority of the Christian churches.

2)The LXX was the Churches’ Bible.
-The LXX manuscripts are diverse and are a collection of books from different places from different times and the lists of apocryphal books within the collections differ. There was not one translation circulating around. Beyond this, the historical context of its use must be considered along with my reasons for accepting the books not under question.

3) Some Church Fathers quoted parts of the apocrypha as Scripture
-I reject some of the beliefs of the Church fathers on the canon because I look at what was considered canonical by the majority of the Jews in Palestine before the resurrection and operate on the assumption that the apostles followed that pattern unless indication can be given otherwise. Beyond this, a pattern of canonical confusion in the Church that is not found among the Jews becomes evident as the Gentile Church becomes larger. The confusion is evident internally and is also acknowledged as many sought the East for guidance (it is the Eastern Church that showed more concern in this regard).

4)More books are found at Qumran
-The Jews at Qumran were an extreme exception and should be treated according to their wishes. They disassociated themselves from the rest of the Jewish community thinking the temple was corrupt. Many of the books they used were not regarded as Scripture by the Jews in Palestine. Beyond this, they included books from their own communities that were certainly not accepted by the Christian Church at any time and did not have others such as: Judith, Wisdom, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, 1 and 2 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh and 3 and 4 Maccabees.
-There is no way to tell (at least according to Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.) whether the fragments of Proverbs, Qohelet, Sirach, Tobit, Letter of Jeremiah and Psalm 151 are “regarded as authoritative or canonical in any sense.”

In sum, I do not approach the question of canon forcing a Protestant perspective (though that is where I initially started having known nothing of the canon and only knowing the books in ours) and wanting to destroy the Eastern Orthodox canon(s). I now start with what seemed to be the case with the Jews (by extension the apostles) and approach other books on a case by case basis and so far, it seems only the Ethiopian Orthodox might potentially be pleased with one of my findings.

28 comments:

MG said...

Catz--

Is this all that you are planning to write on the subject for now? If so, I will probably have a response up within a week.

Catz206 said...

yes

Matt said...

Great post!
If I may add my two cents...

The deuterocanonical/apochryphal books have been part of the liturgical life of the Church since the very beginning. They were part of the canon approved by the Council of Rome in 382, the Synod of Hippo in 393, and the Council of Carthage in 397. They were in the fifth-century Latin Vulgate (St Jerome's translation), in the Middle English translation by John Wycliffe in 1382, and in the Bibles that Gutenberg printed in the mid 1400’s.

The Church as a whole accepted them well into the 16th century. Doesn't that give them authority?

Catz206 said...

Hey Matt, thankx for the kind words and I am sorry I did not get your message until sooner. I have been tied up working on putting together a case for the deity and resurrection of Christ along with some personal matters.

As for your question,
The council of Rome: It is actually doubtful (as far as I know) that the Gelasian decree was promulgated by Pope Damascus at the council of Rome in 382. Rather, it seems to have been a private compilation from somewhere in Italy in the early sixth century.
Hippo and Carthage: I treat the two together because Hippo was summarized in the latter. First, correct me if I am wrong but these are not ecumenical councils accepted by the East (Carthage being provincial)? Second, the books are laid out along the lines approved by Augustine. Augustine accepted these on the authority of the legend of the 70. I don’t accept the authority of the legend.
Jerome’s Latin Vulgate: Jerome actually made a distinction between two categories of Old Testament books. In addition to this, books were actually added to the Latin Bible that Jerome did not even mention should have been read “for the edification of the people.” I like many throughout Church history find apocryphal texts valuable and wish my own Bible had them in in their own section for easy references (and these are available).
Wycliffe: Used based off of the vulgate and a similar distinction made as Jerome. Ex) “Though the book of Tobias is not of belief, it is a full devout story, and profitable to the simple people, to make them keep patience and God’s hests’”
Gutenberg: Later version of latin vulgate.

Many of those in your list stem from one source: really, we have: the Gelasian letter which is not from the council of Rome, Augustine (whose authority in the 70 I do not accept) and Jerome who makes a distinction in authority of books. Those used for establishing doctrine and those not.

It was only in 1546 that the West at least set its decision on the limits of the OT canon and I believe the East took a lot longer (1950?). The time before then has not been consistent within the Christian Church and even now there are disagreements between RC, EO and Prot on the OT canon.

So, to answer your question: no, I do not find them authoritative on the grounds you have listed but thank you very much for the dialogue. It has been a while. : )

Matt said...

I'm sorry if I didn't articulate my question clearly, but the question wasn't really "do you not accept the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books on the basis of these councils," but rather "do you not accept the books, despite their consistent use by the Church through the ages as evidenced by these councils, translations, printings, etc?"

If not, then on what authority do you base your rejection of these books?

Just curious.

Thanks,
Matt

p.s. No, they are not Ecumenical Councils.

Catz206 said...

"do you not accept the books, despite their consistent use by the Church through the ages as evidenced by these councils, translations, printings, etc?"

Overall, I would not say the use of the books as Scripture has been consistent. Certainly there were Church fathers who did use them as such as well as many who rejected them on this level. Beyond this, not all of the books are used or are in the same way used by all of the Church (Church=RC, EO and Prot...ect).

If it would be helpful (let me know)I could post various canon lists online and some of the evolution and fluctuation may be more easily seen.

I personally do find them valuable and use them in a similar way others throughout Church history have- I simply do not accept them as inspired.

For questions on authority please see other posts. There are two that are titled that way as well.

P.S. For an Ecumenical Council that both East and West accept the closest OT canon list is from St. Athanasias

Catz206 said...

Oh, one thing to clarify too: I reject the appeal to the council of Rome because the Gelasian decree was not promulgated by Pope Damascus at the council of Rome in 382.

I think the earliest the RC church might have at least (putting Athanasias aside) is the council of Hippo. ...I don't take synods to be on the same level of an EC.

Matt said...

I apologize for the late reply.

I admit that I have not read all of your posts, but from the ones that I did read, I gather (please correct me if I am mistaken) that you recognize Scripture as the sole binding authority on the Christian Faith. (This is precisely the thinking that drove me away from Protestantism because 1) the Sciptures don't claim this authority for themselves, and 2) with the thousands of conflicting interpretations of Scripture to choose from, how could I be sure that mine was right?)

"Overall, I would not say the use of the [deuterocanonical/apocryphal] books as Scripture has been consistent. Certainly there were Church fathers who did use them as such as well as many who rejected them on this level."

In fact the very same thing can be said of several books of the new Testament as well: 2 Peter, 2&3 John, Hebrews, James, Jude, Revelation. Their inclusion in the NT canon was hotly debated. Are these authoritative or just "valuable"?

"I don't take synods to be on the same level of an EC."

Do you in fact take the decisions of Ecumenical Councils to be authoritative at all? Just curious,

David Nilsen said...

Matt,

"1) the Sciptures don't claim this authority for themselves, and 2) with the thousands of conflicting interpretations of Scripture to choose from, how could I be sure that mine was right?)"

It is true that the Bible nowhere says "there is no divine authority or revelation outside of these 66 books", but how is that an argument against Sola Scriptura? Just because the Bible does not explicitly says something, that doesn't mean it can't be true, right?

In regards to your second reason for rejecting Protestantism, how is your current position any different? After all, Catholicism has its own distinctive interpretation of Scripture, so how can you be sure that they have the right one? If you say that Rome claims to have Apostolic succession and therefore their interpretation of Scripture is authoritative, I would simply ask how you know that? After all, some of Rome's arguments for Apostolic succession rest on their interpretation of Scripture. How can you know that those interpretations are right until you have already established Rome's claim to Apostolic succession?

I trust you see my point. If you need to appeal to an infallible authority to establish Scripture, you need to appeal to an infallible authority to establish the authority of the church, and so on. If, however, you believe that you can establish the truth of Rome's claims to authority without some authoritative interpreter to tell you, then why can't the Protestant do the same with Scripture?

Matt said...

David,

If we're defining Sola Scriptura as the belief that Scriptures are the sole source of releaved truth and the sole authority for matters of faith, morals, worship, etc, then the Scriptures would have to say so, would they not? Otherwise you're deriving that teaching form another source, which of course would be contrary to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

Actually, I did not say that I am Roman Catholic. I am not. And I did not say that Scriptures are not authoritative. They are. They are the infallible, inerrant written word of God. I believe everything they say, and part of what they say is that the Church (not the Scriptures) is the "pillar and foundation of Truth" (1 Tim 3.15), and “the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” (Ep 1.23). The problem is: which "church"? One of the multitude of unaffiliated Protestant "denominations," who can agree on nothing except their rejection of the above verses? The Roman Catholic Church, which has gotten in the habit of adding new doctrines every couple generations or so, to the point where it doesn't even resemble itself from just a few centuries ago?

Or the Holy Orthodox Church, which is the only church that can be shown not to have changed it's teachings for two thousand years?

I've chosen the latter, but if you can show me another church that can claim this as well, I'm all ears.

"If you need to appeal to an infallible authority to establish Scripture, you need to appeal to an infallible authority to establish the authority of the church, and so on."

David, what makes you think the Scriptures are authoritative in the first place? The Church gave them to you. Do you believe that the Church had the authortity and Spiritual guidance to determine which books should comprise Scripture, and yet reject the ability of that same Church to interpret them for you? I'm sorry but that simply doesn't make sense. Either they are both authoritative and infallible, or they are both not.

"If, however, you believe that you can establish the truth of Rome's claims to authority without some authoritative interpreter to tell you, then why can't the Protestant do the same with Scripture?"

1) I don't accept Rome's claims, and 2) the reasons Protestants can't do this is because they have divorced themselves from the Church. The Scriptures were written by the Church, to be read and understood within the life of the Church. Look around you, David. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 Christian "denominations" out there who all disagree on key points of doctrine and practice. The one and only thing they all have in common is that they all believe in Sola Scriptura.

So, let me just tell you David, that when I realized that my choices were:

1) One of a profusion of conflicting and contradictory theological systems, which have only sprung into existence since the sixteenth century,

2) A church that claims to be the one and only Church, and that can in fact trace its history back to the first century, but which teaches things--papal infallibility, indulgences, purgatory, immaculate conception, etc--of which the early Church knew nothing, or

3) A church that can be shown to have faithfully preserved and taught the "Faith once for all delivered to the Saints" (Jude 3), unaltered and undiminished for two thousand years,

It was really a no-brainer.

Catz206 said...

Hi Matt,

No need to apologize for the late reply. I am just as guilty if not more.

Judging from your reply I am going to assume there is nothing more to say on the point of the apocryphal books?

You bring up some good additional points. Lets take one at a time so that we can treat each one adequately without confusion and because I am finding myself pressed for time (though I will try and respond more promptly). Your two points were: 1) the Sciptures don't claim this authority for themselves, and 2) with the thousands of conflicting interpretations of Scripture to choose from, how could I be sure that mine was right?). Which of these would you like to address first?

Catz206 said...

hmm I am also considering making a whole post on the regula fidei and the implications of this principle on the canon and sola scriptura.

What do you think? What are some points you think must be covered from that starting principal?

Thank you for your input

Matt said...

"Judging from your reply I am going to assume there is nothing more to say on the point of the apocryphal books?"

Yeah, sorry about that; I do tend to get distracted rather easily. Maybe we can bring it back to the topic of the OT canon.

I'll ask again and allow you to answer without dragging you off into other directions:

Are 2 Peter, 2&3 John, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation authoritative or just "valuable"?Their use by the early Church was irregular and their inclusion into the NT canon was also hotly debated. (In fact, centuries later, a certain Protestant reformer...who will remain nameless... tried to do away altogether with one of these books.)

Was the Church of the 5th and 6th centuries right to accept these and wrong to accept the OT "apocrypha"?

Is there something in the Bible that indicates that some Scripture is authoritative and some is just "valuable"? (1Tim 3.16 says "All Scripture is God-breathed," not "only those Scriptures that the Masoretes will one day accept.")

I am flattered that you would consider my input in your post on the regula fidei. I will think about that and see if I can contribute something.

Sincerely,
Matt

David Nilsen said...

Matt,

Forgive me. Somehow I got the impression that you were Catholic and so I assumed that your second charge against Protestantism was that we can't know what the Bible teaches without an infallible magesterium to tell us. But since you seem to base your acceptance of the Orthodox church on your ability to reason correctly about what Scripture teaches, then we're on the same epistemic footing so you can ignore my comments. Thanks.

Catz206 said...

Matt-
No problem. Those are great topics though :)

“Are 2 Peter, 2&3 John, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation authoritative or just ‘valuable’ ?Their use by the early Church was irregular and their inclusion into the NT canon was also hotly debated. (In fact, centuries later, a certain Protestant reformer...who will remain nameless... tried to do away altogether with one of these books.)”

Answer: When speaking of authority I think we need to make a distinction. Are we speaking of infallible, inerrant or some secondary authority? I do take 2 Peter, 2and3 John, Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation to be authoritative in an infallible sense. I take this agreement within fallible Christendom as testimony of the work of God in human history.

“Was the Church of the 5th and 6th centuries right to accept these and wrong to accept the OT "apocrypha"?”

Answer: The whole Church was right to accept the NT as inspired Scripture but to this day (and I believe in those centuries as well) still are not in agreement on the OT apocrypha. However, the scope of the OT after the apostolic period was not open for the Church to decide. The OT oracles were entrusted to the Jews by God (Romans 3:1-2) and it is from them that we inherit our Old Testament tradition.

“Is there something in the Bible that indicates that some Scripture is authoritative and some is just "valuable"? (1Tim 3.16 says "All Scripture is God-breathed," not "only those Scriptures that the Masoretes will one day accept.")”

Answer: A separate case will need to be made to indicate that the books disagreed upon throughout the Church are in fact Christian Scripture.

Matt said...

"Are we speaking of infallible, inerrant or some secondary authority?"

I'm not sure what you would classify as a secondary authority.

"The OT oracles were entrusted to the Jews by God (Romans 3:1-2) and it is from them that we inherit our Old Testament tradition."

Can you name a Jewish council that defined once and for all the canon of the OT? Do you suppose there has ever been any disagreement among the Jews on the canon of Scripture, or have they always been on the same page, so to speak?

"A separate case will need to be made to indicate that the books disagreed upon throughout the Church are in fact Christian Scripture."

The "apocryphal" books haven't been disagreed upon throughout the Church. Only by certain individuals at certain points in history (at least during the first 1500 years of Church history). Likewise for the NT books I named above. You agree that these are Christian Scripture. Why not the OT books in question? Which Church council settled the matter of the NT canon to your satisfaction and yet failed to convince you of the OT "apocrypha"?

Catz206 said...

“I'm not sure what you would classify as a secondary authority.”

Authoritative but not infallible. Ex) when I was a kid my parents were authorities over me. They were not infallible but none the less were to be obeyed.

"Can you name a Jewish council that defined once and for all the canon of the OT? Do you suppose there has ever been any disagreement among the Jews on the canon of Scripture, or have they always been on the same page, so to speak?”

Nope. Not until after the apostles. But that does not matter. The Jews did not need to have (that we know of anyway) a council like those later did in order to know which books were considered Scripture.

As for disagreement: just to clarify, when I speak of the Jews I am usually referencing the Pharisaic (most popular group) in Palestine. The Qumran community who separated themselves from the temple had different books…even ones coming out of their own community.

The important question for us however is which books the Jews in Jesus’ context upheld since it is these books whose categories he references and these books the apostles would have inherited and referred to as Scripture. Good question.

“The "apocryphal" books haven't been disagreed upon throughout the Church. Only by certain individuals at certain points in history (at least during the first 1500 years of Church history).”

“Only by certain individuals at certain points in history (at least during the first 1500 years of Church history).”

Yes, precisely. A very important period too. Many of those at this time defended their inclusion based off of a legend of 70 translators of the LXX (which they expanded to include all of the books in their copy but was in fact originally only the first 2 books of Moses) who were supposedly given a sort of divine revelation and others would actually accuse the Jews of taking books out of their canon.

There was much confusion at this period and this is why several Church fathers ended up looking to the East to see which books the Jews were actually using so that they would know which books to accept (Melito) or if they found a conflict would try and resolve it (Origen’s Hexapla).

But like I said before, I do not think the OT canon was for the early Church to decide but to take on as an inheritance.

Also, there is disagreement on the apocryphal books to this day. The Protestants don’t agree with the Eastern Orthodox churches or Catholic church, there are disagreements between the RC and EO and within the Eastern Orthodox churches (take the Ethiopian canon for example).

“Likewise for the NT books I named above. You agree that these are Christian Scripture. Why not the OT books in question? Which Church council settled the matter of the NT canon to your satisfaction and yet failed to convince you of the OT "apocrypha"?”

I think you are approaching this from: a council said this was right and you agree so why don’t you accept the other decision?

My decision is based off the overall consensus of the Church in regards to the NT canon. For the most part the Eastern Orthodox churches are in agreement, the Roman Catholic Church is and the Protestant churches. All acknowledge the same NT. Incredible. However, this differs in regards to the OT. We do not have the same consensus.

Further, like I said, and like the Scriptures we both acknowledge indicate, the OT oracles were entrusted to the Jews. We inherit this part of tradition from them.

Matt said...

Would you kindly give an example pertinent to Scripture and the Church of something that is authoritative but not infallible? Is the Church authoritative or infallible? How about the Scriptures? Or any extra-Scriptural teachings?

"The Jews did not need to have (that we know of anyway) a council like those later did in order to know which books were considered Scripture."

It's unfortunate that you don't have as much confidence in the ability of the Church to know what books constituted Scripture before Luther came along and straightened things out for them.

"I do not think the OT canon was for the early Church to decide but to take on as an inheritance."

This is truly an incredible statement. To begin with, if the early Church had no business determining what books to include in their Bible, what exactly did they have the authority to determine? Should they also have stayed clear of dogmatic statements regarding the Trinity, or the Incarnation of Christ? What gave them the authority to determine the NT canon?

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) didn't find it necessary to accept other aspects of Jewish inheritance. Why do you belive that the OT canon was untouchable--when there was no authoritative dogmatic declaration by the Jews as to what should be in that canon--when Gen 17.7, 10-11 seems pretty clear that circumcision was non-negotiable? Was this also not for the Church to decide?

The Old Testament that the early Church inherited from the Jews was the Septuagint. It wasn't until the council of Jamnia, after the Church had already been established that the Jews threw out the "apocryphal" books. But then they also condemned Christianity at that time as well.

"Many of those at this time defended their inclusion based off of a legend of 70 translators of the LXX..."

If this was the basis of their argument, they missed the point.

"I think you are approaching this from: a council said this was right and you agree so why don’t you accept the other decision?"

Well, yes I do give some credence to the councils since their purpose is to confirm what the Church already believes, and I really don't recall many Church councils that rejected the Septuagint (If there were, please correct me).
For fifteen hundred years, the Septuagint was part of the devotional life of the Church. Were there a few dissenters? Sure there were. But there was also disagreement regarding the nature of Christ. (Would you like to question the Church's wisdom on that score as well?) I'm not sure you or I could name a single doctrine of the Faith about which there wasn't some controversy.

It wasn't until the Protestant Reformation that the reformers, in their rejection of the Roman Church, decided to toss the canon of Scripture in use since the first century in favor of the Masoretic Jewish text.

"My decision is based off the overall consensus of the Church in regards to the NT canon"

My point is that there was as much disagreement on certain NT books as there was on the "apocrypha." Why did the Church get the NT right and not the OT?

So, here is what I gather from all this, and please correct me if I am wrong: You believe that 1) the Jews have more authority to determine what goes into the Christian Bible than the Church does, 2) the OT Testament canon used since the Late Middle ages should be used in favor of the OT canon used since the first century, and 3) the Church was competent to infallibly decide on the canon of the New Testament, but not the Old Testament.

Catz206 said...

“Would you kindly give an example pertinent to Scripture and the Church of something that is authoritative but not infallible? Is the Church authoritative or infallible? How about the Scriptures? Or any extra-Scriptural teachings?”

Sure, no problem. Off the top of my head 1 Peter 2:13-3:7 and Romans 13 come to mind. This is one example of authority being instituted by God but not regarded as infallible. Still, as far as a verse saying “thy church is authoritative but not infallible” you will not find it…there are many things you will not find in Scripture too. It doesn’t speak on many subjects. The burden of proof is on the one saying the Church is infallible.

The Church is definitely authoritative and instituted by God and guided by God in the ways He chooses but not infallible. This only belongs to God and His sacred Word.

“It's unfortunate that you don't have as much confidence in the ability of the Church to know what books constituted Scripture before Luther came along and straightened things out for them.”

Why unfortunate? History does mark canonical confusion over OT books- this is not something for me to decide is the case or not. It did happen and is a present reality. However, it is not by invention of Martian Luther that the apocryphal books are not accepted. There are many early fathers who did not accept them either and particularly on the Eastern side a limited canon much closer to the Jews is evident.

In short: the lack of acceptance of apocryphal books as Scripture was not the unique invention of Martian Luther and history does in fact mark canonical confusion over OT books. This may not be surprising as the Church expanded rapidly and stopped being identified with Jewish communities.

"I do not think the OT canon was for the early Church to decide but to take on as an inheritance."

This is truly an incredible statement. To begin with, if the early Church had no business determining what books to include in their Bible, what exactly did they have the authority to determine?

Incredible? How so? I see how you might disagree though.

It is not a matter of determination but of recognition on both matters. In regards to the New Covenant era the Church was and is in, the Church rightly and miraculously recognized all of the books that pertained to it. Here we do have agreement. Perhaps this is the incredible part- the Church’s agreement despite sharp differences elsewhere.



“Should they also have stayed clear of dogmatic statements regarding the Trinity, or the Incarnation of Christ? What gave them the authority to determine the NT canon?”

God.

Catz206 said...

“The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) didn't find it necessary to accept other aspects of Jewish inheritance. Why do you belive that the OT canon was untouchable--when there was no authoritative dogmatic declaration by the Jews as to what should be in that canon--when Gen 17.7, 10-11 seems pretty clear that circumcision was non-negotiable? Was this also not for the Church to decide?”

Other aspects of Jewish inheritance were set into place in order to point towards our ultimate inheritance Jesus Christ. Take circumcision. This started with the Abrahamic covenant. To Abraham God places a lot of emphasis on multiplying his descendants, giving him land and making him a great nation. Why? To bless the world through his offspring. We see this repeated throughout generations and a gradual revealing happens. The Abrahamic covenant is realized in Jesus Christ. We are in a new era in God’s work in human history. All of this to say- those things were mere shadows. Like the human high priestly system. Like the sacrifices….ect.

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near” (Hebrews 10:1).

In Acts 15 James does not throw out the prophets. Rather, he sees that God has further revelation and that this was foreseen in the prophets (vv.14-21). The very tradition of the OT prophets points to the fulfillment of these shadows (the beginning of Romans 7 is also helpful as is earlier when Paul talks about Abraham as well) in Christ. Christ as our one sacrifice. Christ as our Great High Priest. And Christ as our circumcision.

“Was this also not for the Church to decide?”

So, no the Church did not decide this but rather recognized it on the basis of God’s Word as spoken through the apostles and prophets. I would say something similar with the NT. It was for the Church to recognize and be transformed by.

Catz206 said...

“The Old Testament that the early Church inherited from the Jews was the Septuagint. It wasn't until the council of Jamnia, after the Church had already been established that the Jews threw out the "apocryphal" books. But then they also condemned Christianity at that time as well.”

…actually, no. So I do not take any more space up here. Please see my other posts on the LXX and Canon. I actually talk about this a bit. I would be interested to hear what you think about it there.
"I think you are approaching this from: a council said this was right and you agree so why don’t you accept the other decision?"

“Well, yes I do give some credence to the councils since their purpose is to confirm what the Church already believes, and I really don't recall many Church councils that rejected the Septuagint (If there were, please correct me).”

The question is whether or not any Ecumenical councils affirmed all of the books found in the LXX.

“For fifteen hundred years, the Septuagint was part of the devotional life of the Church. Were there a few dissenters? Sure there were. But there was also disagreement regarding the nature of Christ. (Would you like to question the Church's wisdom on that score as well?) I'm not sure you or I could name a single doctrine of the Faith about which there wasn't some controversy.”

Heresy went against the regula fidei and has been addressed in the Ecumenical councils. Apocryphal books have not been a topic in either.

“My point is that there was as much disagreement on certain NT books as there was on the "apocrypha." Why did the Church get the NT right and not the OT?”

Actually no. The disagreement was not the same and did not continue on. There was some reservations about some of the NT books you listed earlier but this reservation did not continue and both of our NT canons are a testimony to that.

“So, here is what I gather from all this, and please correct me if I am wrong: You believe that

1) the Jews have more authority to determine what goes into the Christian Bible than the Church does,”

This is probably an unintended mischaracterization of my view. I hold that the Church is to “recognize” and not “decide” the biblical canon. The OT era came to an end and the Church started out with the books they inherited from that era. In the New Covenant era they recognized the apostolic word as being the words of God just as the OT was.

“2) the OT Testament canon used since the Late Middle ages should be used in favor of the OT canon used since the first century,”

Perhaps if you rephrased this I could better understand what you mean here.

“3) the Church was competent to infallibly decide on the canon of the New Testament, but not the Old Testament.”

No. The Church did not infallibly decide. The Church’s decision on the NT canon was however inerrant just as it was in the Old Covenant era when God used fallible people to accomplish His ends in human history.

Sorry for the long response. These questions are very involved and I have had to cut down on a lot of info already.

Matt said...

Catz, I'm going to address some of your comments, and then I'm going to wrap this up. But before I do, I want to express my appreciation and thanks for a good, lively, non-polemical discussion. Unlike a lot of (far too many) discussions I have had with those with whom I disagree, this one never descended into prideful chaos, but maintained a respectful tone throughout, which is something I truly prize in any discussion, but especially one of a topic that is clearly of great importance to both of us. So, I sincerely thank you for your attitude of charity, and respect, and I do hope we can engage in future discussion as well.

"The burden of proof is on the one saying the Church is infallible."

We believe that when Christ promised to send His "Spirit of Truth" (Jn 14.26, 15.26, 16.12-13) that He was promising the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church, not to a particular individual (as the Roman Catholics believe), or to every individual, to determine or interpret Truth as they see fit (as Protestants believe), but to the Church, collectively, as the Body of Christ. In the Orthodox Church the truth isn't determined by what a single man says, or by what I feel inside as an individual, but it is what the whole Church accepts, and every member of the Church is responsible for guarding the true faith. Not even ecumenical councils are regarded as infallible until their findings have been accepted by the whole Church.

"The Church is...not infallible. This only belongs to God and His sacred Word."

Yes, the Scriptures are indeed infallible. But what good are infallible Scriptures without an infallible interpreter? Not very much, as evidenced by 30,000+ conflicting Christian "denominations" who have all dropped the notion of an infallible authoritative Church (but who, interestingly, all believe that the Scriptures are the final word on all matters of faith and worship).

There is one means by which we come to an understanding of the saving knowledge of Christ crucified, and one earthly conduit through which we know God communicates His good and perfect will: the Church.

"No, it's the Bible," you may say. To which I would respond, The Bible didn't just drop from the sky on the day of Pentecost, leather-bound, with a concordance and cross references. It was given to us by the Church (or by God through the Church, if you prefer). It was written, compiled, and approved by the Church. The Bible is not the "Pillar and Foundation of the Truth." The Bible is not the "Body of Christ" or "the fullness of him who fills all in all." It was not the Bible to which Christ gave the power to bind and loose. The Bible is a product of the Church (not vice versa). If we can't trust the Church, then we can't trust the Bible, which was written, delivered, and preserved, not despite the Church, but by, through, and within the life of the Church.

The Church is the body through which Christ brings salvation to the world. When we choose to jettison the tools the Church uses to accomplish this task (including determining for ourselves which books of the Bible we wish to accept), we do so at our own peril. (Prov 12.15; 14.12)

Matt said...

"The question is whether or not any Ecumenical councils affirmed all of the books found in the LXX."

I believe the answer is no. But I also don't believe any Ecumenical Council approved or affirmed any of the books of the NT canon.

"Heresy went against the regula fidei and has been addressed in the Ecumenical councils. Apocryphal books have not been a topic in either."

Okay. Then we have no reason to believe that they taught things that were contrary to the Faith (I know that's not an argument that you are making here. Just sayin...)

"Actually no. The disagreement was not the same and did not continue on. There was some reservations about some of the NT books you listed earlier but this reservation did not continue."

Between the 4th and 16th centuries, there simply was no discussion about the canons of the Old or New Testament. Not once during any of the seven Ecumenical Councils were the inclusion of any of the “apocryphal” books disputed. They were simply accepted as were the NT canon (although certainly not without controversy early on, as we have mentioned). Objections to the deuterocanonical books of the NT did arise again in the sixteenth century--as they had in the early years of the Church--around the same time that Luther and others decided to call into questions the deuterocanonical OT books.

"I hold that the Church is to “recognize” and not “decide” the biblical canon."

I'm sorry, I don't mean to be disagreeable, but I do have some difficulty with this. The canon of Scripture isn't a dogma of the Faith. It wasn't delivered to the Church on Pentecost. It is the list of books that the Church determined (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) were the perfect written testimony of the "Faith once for all delivered to the saints." The Faith exists (and has existed) independent of the Scriptures. But not independent of the Church. The Faith was delivered to the Church, not to the Scriptures. The Church, not the Scriptures, is the Pillar and foundation of Truth. Christ did not say "I will build by Bible and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." He made that promise to the Church. So, I have to disagree with you here. The Church didn't decide what the Faith was, but it did decide which books were true to the Faith and which were not. It's because of this decision that we have the 27 books of the New Testament. But if the Church had decided to canonize only three Gospels, guess what? We'd have only three Gospels. If the Church had decided to accept only 10 of Paul's epistles rather than 13. We'd have ten Pauline Epistles. Would that have diminished the Faith? Heck no! The Faith had already been delivered to the Church, and had been preached and lived out in its entirety for centuries beforehand.

"The OT era came to an end and the Church started out with the books they inherited from that era."

Okay, but there was no closed canon for the Church to inherit. The early Church used the Septuagint, as the Jews had (especially the Jews of the diaspora, well into the first century), but there had been no formal decision as to what the Scriptures included. The Jews only began to codify their canon in response to the rapid spread of Christianity among their people. (what other reason would they have had to reject the "apocrypha" in the first century other than to distinguish themselves from the Christians?). But even so, the input of the Jews post-Pentecost is meaningless to us; they had rejected Christ and had therefore forfeited their status as the true religion.

Okay, that's all for now.
Again, thanks very much for an interesting and respectful discussion.
Sincerely,
Matt

Catz206 said...

“Catz, I'm going to address some of your comments, and then I'm going to wrap this up. But before I do, I want to express my appreciation and thanks for a good, lively, non-polemical discussion. Unlike a lot of (far too many) discussions I have had with those with whom I disagree, this one never descended into prideful chaos, but maintained a respectful tone throughout, which is something I truly prize in any discussion, but especially one of a topic that is clearly of great importance to both of us. So, I sincerely thank you for your attitude of charity, and respect, and I do hope we can engage in future discussion as well.”

Thank you Matt, it has truly been a pleasure dialoguing with you and I look forward to future discussions.

“We believe that when Christ promised to send His "Spirit of Truth" (Jn 14.26, 15.26, 16.12-13) that He was promising the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church, not to a particular individual (as the Roman Catholics believe), or to every individual, to determine or interpret Truth as they see fit (as Protestants believe), but to the Church, collectively, as the Body of Christ.”

This promise seems to be made to the apostles…why think (according to these passages) the Holy Spirit will guide the whole Church in the same particular way He guided them? However, I also believe that God will continue to guide His Church- but I don’t see any reason to think from what was provided here that He will keep the Church from making mistakes or the same revelatory or infallible function as the apostles. It does seem though that the Church collectively agrees on the same core and key tenants of faith despite other differences.

“Yes, the Scriptures are indeed infallible. But what good are infallible Scriptures without an infallible interpreter?”

This adds an extra step though. One must still interpret the infallible interpreter…even still, why think one needs an infallible interpreter to interpret infallible documents?

Sola Scriptura says that Scripture is the sole source of revelation and only infallible and final norm for doctrine and practice. But- this does not mean it is not to be interpreted by the Church and according to the regula fidei.

“Not very much, as evidenced by 30,000+ conflicting Christian "denominations" who have all dropped the notion of an infallible authoritative Church (but who, interestingly, all believe that the Scriptures are the final word on all matters of faith and worship).”

Much is made of “conflicting Christian denominations” but it is interesting to note they are still Christian- as are the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches despite their initial split and differences in doctrine (even regarding infallibility). Not believing in an infallible Church may have its drawbacks but believing in one also can- especially if it simply isn’t true. One can more easily be locked into believing in error- even if an old error.

Catz206 said...

“There is one means by which we come to an understanding of the saving knowledge of Christ crucified, and one earthly conduit through which we know God communicates His good and perfect will: the Church.”

I might agree (as Martin Luther would too)…but is the Church confined to the Eastern Orthodox Church? What about Roman Catholics and Protestants? Do you believe they have faith in Jesus Christ? Do they lack adequate understanding of Christ incarnate, crucified and risen? If so, then are they Christians? If not, then doesn’t this seem to indicate they too might be part of the Church?

"‘No, it's the Bible,’ you may say. To which I would respond, The Bible didn't just drop from the sky on the day of Pentecost, leather-bound, with a concordance and cross references.”

I don’t think anyone would think that- nor would they claim it preaches itself either.

“It was given to us by the Church (or by God through the Church, if you prefer). It was written, compiled, and approved by the Church.”

I prefer: recognized by the Church. Given to the Church by God. Difference: the Bible’s source is not in the Church body but is indeed given and recognized by her.

“If we can't trust the Church, then we can't trust the Bible, which was written, delivered, and preserved, not despite the Church, but by, through, and within the life of the Church.”

Preservation of the written word and interpretation are two different things and the processes are quite different as well. Still, just something to think about: in preserving the very word itself the Church has errored. Why think the same has not occurred with oral tradition? With written we can at least look back and compare ms and catch most of the Church’s mistakes…not the same with oral.

Anyway, as far as what you said I think a distinction in function necessarily must be made between the work of the apostles and those directly connected in writing the Word (unique revelatory function) and those who received it further down the line.

“When we choose to jettison the tools the Church uses to accomplish this task (including determining for ourselves which books of the Bible we wish to accept), we do so at our own peril.”

Agreed. But I sense an assumption that Martin Luther is the one who “decided” our canon.

Catz206 said...

"The question is whether or not any Ecumenical councils affirmed all of the books found in the LXX."

“I believe the answer is no. But I also don't believe any Ecumenical Council approved or affirmed any of the books of the NT canon.”

That is correct. : ) However, even though we do not have this “clear, infallible” marker we still have Church consensus on the New Testament. The Church is in agreement and this is incredible and probably a sign of God’s continued involvement with her. However, this is not the case with the OT. We do not have the same consensus throughout the Church or in the form of an Ecumenical council on this note. A question we can ask now is: why is this the case?

“Okay. Then we have no reason to believe that they taught things that were contrary to the Faith (I know that's not an argument that you are making here. Just sayin...)”

Like I have said before- I am not “against” them. I find them to be valuable books…simply not Scripture. I also find Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis to be valuable but I would not base my doctrine off of it. …my outlook here is not in eliminating “enemies to the faith.” Rather, it is recognizing disagreements within the Church on certain valuable books and looking towards the earliest practice of believers (when there may be some sort or trace of unity) for direction.

“Between the 4th and 16th centuries, there simply was no discussion about the canons of the Old or New Testament.”

…how about Athanasius’ 39th Festal Letter? Affirms 27 NT books and some interesting ideas in regards to the OT. The relevant portion for the latter is:

But for the sake of greater accuracy I add, being constrained to write, that there are also other books besides these, which have not indeed been put in the canon, but have been appointed by the Fathers as reading-matter for those who have just come forward and which to be instructed in the doctrine of piety: the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobias, the so-called Teaching [Didache] of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. And although, beloved, the former are in the canon and the latter serve as reading matter, yet mention is nowhere made of the apocrypha; rather they are a fabrication of the heretics, who write them down when it pleases them and generously assign to them an early date of composition in order that they may be able to draw upon them as supposedly ancient writings and have in them occasion to deceive the guileless.

Catz206 said...

“Not once during any of the seven Ecumenical Councils were the inclusion of any of the “apocryphal” books disputed.”

Nope. And lucky for me this is not what I am arguing.

“Objections to the deuterocanonical books of the NT did arise again in the sixteenth century--as they had in the early years of the Church--around the same time that Luther and others decided to call into questions the deuterocanonical OT books.”

If the Jews were entrusted with the Old Covenant oracles shouldn’t we care what they thought before the New Covenant era-- especially since the apostles seem to think the new is built off of the foundation of the old? If the Church inherited this part of the canon from the Jews and the confusion is expressed early on in the Churches’ history as it became more dispersed and gentile- shouldn’t we take note? Especially since it is so early?

Also, it is a mistake to confine meaningful objections to the later period with Martin Luther. There has been a long history of uncertainty and objection. Martin Luther was not the first.

"I hold that the Church is to “recognize” and not “decide” the biblical canon."

“It wasn't delivered to the Church on Pentecost. It is the list of books that the Church determined (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) were the perfect written testimony of the "Faith once for all delivered to the saints."

However, there was an OT in use at the time of Pentecost and the testimony of those who knew Jesus at that time. The Word was there even if part of it was not yet put into written form.

I don’t see how saying what you did indicates that the Church decided the books rather than recognized them. It seems clear that we both agree that the source is God and through the Church… this seems to put the Church in a secondary position- one of acknowledging the will of God or recognizing His revelation.

“The Faith exists (and has existed) independent of the Scriptures. But not independent of the Church. The Faith was delivered to the Church, not to the Scriptures.”

I think everyone agrees the Word was spoken before it was written…that is not the issue. The issue is in knowledge of that Word. Many early Church fathers believed the spoken and written Word are one and the same- meaning: there is not some extra revelation outside of what we have preserved in writing.

I think you are correct in saying the faith was delivered to the Church. This applies to Scripture as well- which contains this faith…this testimony of the apostolic faith.

"I will build by Bible and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

How does this verse imply Church infallibility? I believe God always preserves a remnant and that satan will not truly win over the Church but anymore than that seems to read quite a bit into the text…and it does not undermine the idea that the Church recognizes Scripture.

Catz206 said...

“The Church didn't decide what the Faith was, but it did decide which books were true to the Faith and which were not.”

This seems like a process of recognition to me. …of recognizing what is the Word of God and what is not.

“It's because of this decision that we have the 27 books of the New Testament. But if the Church had decided to canonize only three Gospels, guess what? We'd have only three Gospels. If the Church had decided to accept only 10 of Paul's epistles rather than 13. We'd have ten Pauline Epistles. Would that have diminished the Faith? Heck no! The Faith had already been delivered to the Church, and had been preached and lived out in its entirety for centuries beforehand.”

Perhaps it is not about “what if” the Church accepted only three or 10 books but what books God intended for the Church to have. If God is the one working uniquely in human history in this way then it is a matter of recognition or submission to the will of God in this way.

"The OT era came to an end and the Church started out with the books they inherited from that era."

“Okay, but there was no closed canon for the Church to inherit.”

Well, we do have the NT.

“The early Church used the Septuagint, as the Jews had (especially the Jews of the diaspora, well into the first century), but there had been no formal decision as to what the Scriptures included.”

Not in the form of any ecumenical council that we know of (though apparently we don’t have such a thing either…though maybe different synods)…but this did not mean there were not a collection of books the Jews held to be God’s Word (take a look at the Josephus passage used in other posts) at the exclusion of others.

“The Jews only began to codify their canon in response to the rapid spread of Christianity among their people. (what other reason would they have had to reject the "apocrypha" in the first century other than to distinguish themselves from the Christians?).”

Unfortunately, I don’t think you have any record (I would be interested to hear if you do though- I am not all knowing) of books being taken away on this basis… and if books were affirmed on the basis of a rejection of Christianity then why are books heavily used by Christians still in their canon? Perhaps Christians utilized apocryphal books (I think so at least) but so were other books the Jews formally made canonical.

However, early in the Church you do have a record of Christians expressing confusion over what is in the Jewish canon and seeking out the Jews in order to inform their congregations (why were they so concerned with what was in the Jewish OT? Maybe they acknowledged that the OT was inherited from the Jews…especially with Christian arguments utilizing antiquity which was important for validity in the ancient world).

“But even so, the input of the Jews post-Pentecost is meaningless to us; they had rejected Christ and had therefore forfeited their status as the true religion.”

I agree that our canon should not be based off of a later Jewish decision. However, I am going for what I believe they held to be God’s Word before the NT era and what was held to by Jesus and His apostles. This is why I would need an argument against this notion.

“Okay, that's all for now.
Again, thanks very much for an interesting and respectful discussion.”

Alright, this has been a long and good conversation. Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you again!