Sunday, December 26, 2010

Luther and the Canon: did he have help?

The canon was settled for centuries before Luther excluded the books he did not like?

It is a common misconception that Luther was basically acting alone and in a summary manner in rejecting the apocrypha, and did not include James and Hebrews in his Bible, but from what i have learned in reality the rejecting and questioning of a few books by Luther, whose views were part inn a process of development, was based upon the judgment of scholars of Rome and scholarly principles. Luther and the Reformers treated the Apocrypha as did many in the centuries preceding them, which was that these books are not to be held as equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.

Substantial dissent existed through the centuries and right into Trent, even among some of the best scholars over the apocryphal books. (Hubert Jedin Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent: St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947; pp. 278, 281-282). Among them was Cardinal Seripando. The Roman Catholic historian (and expert on Trent) Hubert Jedin explained “he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship” at the Council of Trent.” Jedin writes that his position was “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).

Despite decrees by early councils such as Hippo, Carthage and Florence, the decision of Trent in 1546 was the first “infallible” 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) after a vote of 24 yea, 15 nay, with 16 abstaining (44%, 27%, 29%). This definition, coming over 1400 hundreds years after the last book was written, was issued in reaction to Martin Luther and the Reformation. And in so doing, it arguably chose to follow a weaker tradition in pronouncing the apocryphal books to be inspired, while the canon of Trent is not exactly the same as that of Carthage and other councils.

As for James and Hebrews,

“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

Luther's questioned Hebrews by pointing out that throughout Church history it has had a “reputation” of uncertain canonicity. Erasmus had a critical attitude to the same four New Testament books Luther did. Cardinal Cajetan questioned the canonical status of Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Jude (among others).

“The Epistle of James is classed by Eusebius (in Bk. III. chap. 25) among the antilegomena (disputed books). The ancient testimonies for its authenticity are very few: It was used by no one, except Hermas, down to the end of the second century. Iren`us seems to have known the epistle (his works exhibit some apparent reminiscences of it), but he nowhere directly cites it. The Muratorian Fragment omits it, but the Syriac Peshito contains it, and Clement of Alexandria shows a few faint reminiscences of it in his extant works, and according to Eusebius VI. 14, wrote commentaries upon "Jude and the other catholic epistles." (see Bk. III. chap. 25, note 1).” Source: Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series II, Vol. 1 http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/footnote/fn14.htm

“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

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. One particular was Cardinal Seripando. The Roman Catholic historian (and expert on Trent) Hubert Jedin explained “he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship” at the Council of Trent. 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 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#P137_49234

And it is should be stated that, as helpful as they are, ecclesiastical decrees themselves are not what established writings as Scripture (much less can ecclesiastics declare they are assuredly infallible, when speaking in accordance with their infallibly defined formula), but as with true men of God, writings which were wholly inspired of Him became progressively established as such due to their unique enduring qualities, with further revelation being complementary what was manifest prior as from God, and the moral effects and other supernatural Divine attestation which often accompanied it, and which results from trusting and obeying it. (1Cor. 2:15) More on the criteria and processes of acceptance of canonical books can be seen here.

However, it is possible to affirm Scripture as wholly inspired of God and yet deny its truth (which i do when i think or act contrary to its faith), but Roman Catholic liberal scholarship also impugns upon the integrity of the Word of God by its adherence to the discredited JEDP theory, and Catholics themselves have complained that it relegates numerous historical accounts in the Bible to being fables or folk tales, among other denials. (St. Joseph’s medium size, NAB, Catholic publishing co., copyright 1970, 92)

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posted on Tuesday, December 07, 2010 7:42:11 PM
by daniel1212
( ("Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," Acts 3:19))

the canon of Trent is not 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 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

As for 382, first, the Council of Rome was not an ecumenical council but a local one, as was Carthage and Florence, as judged by Rome, thus their decrees were not infallible binding pronouncements for the universal church. The Catholic Encyclopedia states also, "only the decisions of ecumenical councils and the ex cathedra teaching of the pope have been treated as strictly definitive in the canonical sense, and the function of the magisterium ordinarium has been concerned with the effective promulgation and maintenance of what has been formally defined by the magisterium solemne or may be legitimately deduced from its definitions." http://www.bible-researcher.com/gelasius.html

Second, the claim about the Council of Rome (382) approving an infallble canon of Scripture depends upon the Decretum Gelasianum, which is disputed (among RC's themselves), based upon evidence that is was pseudepigraphical, being a sixth century compilation put together in northern Italy or southern France at the beginning of the 6th cent. More: http://www.tertullian.org/articles/burkitt_gelasianum.htm

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