How We Got the Bible, Part 2

 

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Last week RTB editor Maureen Moser and I began a discussion of the biblical canon, including the doctrine of inspiration and the criteria for recognizing canon, particularly for the New Testament. But as we noted, the branches of Christendom view aspects of Scripture in different ways. This week we’ll look at the Old Testament and apocryphal literature.

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So, while the New Testament received challenges from the Gnostics, it seems the Old Testament faces a lot of debate within the church. Why do Catholics and Eastern Orthodox accept the Apocrypha, but Protestants don’t?

Yes, the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have a handful of Old Testament books that are not in the Protestant Old Testament. These apocryphal works include books like 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Esdras, and some additions to other canonical books.

However, the Protestants reject the Apocrypha. They point out that Jesus doesn’t quote from them and some of them teach doctrine that seems inconsistent with the broad scope of biblical teaching. For example, 2 Maccabees says it’s a helpful and wholesome thing to pray for the dead. Teachings like that trouble Protestants. What’s interesting is that, to my knowledge, the Catholic Church itself has said that the Apocrypha constitute a secondary canon (deuterocanonical).

What criteria do Protestants use for determining the Old Testament canon?

It would be something similar to what we outlined for the New Testament last week. We want to connect these books to authentic biblical authors, which for the Old Testament would be the prophets. We want to know if these books support overall biblical teaching. And we want to know if these are books that the Jews recognized early on.

Obviously, Jewish people wrote the Old Testament. How did they shape the canon?

Orthodox Jews believe that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people. These books are inspired and they reflect a historical narrative. Orthodox Jews usually consider the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) the most important part of the Old Testament.

The Jews affirmed their present canon in the first century around AD 90 at the Council of Jamnia. They divide their canon (what we call the Old Testament) into three sections: the Torah (first five books), the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), and the wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.).

What category would history books, such as 1 and 2 Kings or 1 and 2 Chronicles, fall under?

I think those books would fall under the prophets. In Hebrew the Old Testament has 24 books; in the Protestant canon it has 39. It’s the same content divided out differently. For example, the Jews consider 1 and 2 Chronicles one book and they collect the minor prophets, which constitute 12 books for Protestants, into one book as well.

So, even if the history books aren’t “prophetic” a prophet likely authored them?

Exactly. It’s important to remember that while prophets can be people who make predictions, they can also be every bit as much, if not more so, people who make proclamations. I think it’s in that secondary sense that a lot of what Christians call history books would fall under the prophet category.

How do the Jews view the Apocrypha?

The Jews agree with the Protestants and say the apocryphal books are not a part of their canon. At times Jews will agree more with Protestants than they will with Catholics and vice versa.

What’s the difficulty with the apocryphal books associated with the New Testament?

Those books include the Gnostic gospels. They were written a few centuries after the apostolic era and teach that Jesus did not have a physical body. So, these books fail the criteria laid down for recognizing inspired scripture.

Again, it’s helpful to think of canonicity as an implication of the basic view of inspiration. Martin Luther liked to say that when you hear Scripture, you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the Holy Spirit’s book even while it preserves the voices, vocabularies, and writing styles of its various authors.

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Next week we’ll conclude with a look at challenges to the canon from outside the church and ponder how the relationship between Scripture and church tradition impacts Christian apologetics.

  One thought on “How We Got the Bible, Part 2

  1. Lloyd I. Cadle
    February 18, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Ken! Hope all is well with you and your family.

    Anyway, most of the OT quotes found in the NT are from the Septuagint. Protestant authors Gleason Archer and G.C.Chirichigno in “OT Quotations In The NT: A Complete Survey” state that there are 340 places where the NT cites the Septuagint but only 33 times where it quotes from the Hebrew Canon. That means that the Apostles and Early Church Fathers quoted from the Septuagint over 90% of the time. The Septuagint contained the 7 Deuterocanonical books that were used by Christians for 1500 years as inspired Scripture.

    The table of contents are not inspired, that is why the Catholic Church gave us the 73 books of the Bible at the Council of Rome in 382 under Pope Damasus, Council of Hippo in 393 AD, Council of Carthage in AD 397, the 7th Ecumenical Council II Nicaea in 787 and the Council of Florence in 1442, Trent in 1546, Vatican 1 in 1870 and Vatican II in 1965.

    The Church depended heavily on Sacred Tradition (2 Thes 2:15) and Apostolic Succession (2 Tim 2:2) in those early years, as the Church came much before the Sacred Scriptures; as the writings of the Early Church Fathers teach us.

    Luther came along in the 1600’s and removed the 7 Deuterocanonicals and put them in the back of his Bible as unscriptural. He also wanted to do the same with Hebrews, James, Revelation, Jude and Esther because it didn’t fit his theology.

    Hopefully another Reformer doesn’t come along under his own authority and want to remove even more books with a newbie theology.

    Here is a listing of the Early Church Fathers that taught the 7 Deuterocanonical books as “Scripture” or “inspired” right along with the undisputed books: Didache: (Didache 4 c. AD 50), Pope Clement I: (Letter to the Corinthians 27:4-5 AD 70), Letter of Barnabas: (Letter of Barnabas 6 AD 75, St Polycarp of Smyrna: (Letter to the Philippians 10 AD 135), St Irenaeus of Lyons: (Bar 4:36-5:9, ibid., 5:35:1), St Hippolytus of Rome: (from commentary on Daniel AD 204), , St Cyprian of Carthage: (Testimonies concerning the Jews, Book 3 Treatise 12 15 AD 248, Letters 55:5 AD 253), Council of Rome: (Decree of Pope Damasus 2 AD 382), Council of Hippo: (Canon 36 AD 393), Council of Carthage of 397: (Canon 47 AD 397), St Augustine of Hippo, Catholic Bishop, and a Doctor of Catholic Church: (Christian Doctrine 2:8:13 AD 397), Apostolic Constitutions: (Apostolic Constitutions 8:1:2 AD 400), St Jerome: (Apology Against Rufinus 2:33 AD 401), Pope St Innocent I: (Letter Consulenti Tibi to St Exuperius AD 405), Council at Carthage of 419: (Canon 24 (27) AD 419), and again St Augustine: (Care to be had for the dead 3 AD 421).

    If you are ever in the Phoenix area, you are welcome for dinner and perhaps a Cards or Suns game. I like the D’Backs too, but when I watch their games I usually fall asleep by the third inning.

    Blessings,
    Lloyd.

  2. February 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Hi, Lloyd.

    Just a brief response:

    1. I think it is very important to understand church history and historical theology. And as you know, I’ve invested many years studying St. Augustine. I try to encourage evangelical Protestants to read and study the church fathers.

    2. The church fathers (both west and east) belong to all Christians not just to the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    3. Eastern Orthodoxy considers Roman Catholicism to be “newbie.” Being first doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right. In an important sense theology developed and was debated and nuanced so what came later may have greater insight.

    4. Even the Catholic Church refers to these books as “deuterocanonical” books (secondary canon). This seems to imply these books are not exactly on the level with the regular OT canon.

    5. You listed Jerome as supporting the apocryphal books, but my recollection was that Jerome did not place these on the same level as the OT canon.

    6. Tom Oden’s book The Justification Reader argues that the church fathers all accepted salvation by grace through faith. Have you read it?

    All the best, my friend.

    KS

  3. Lloyd I. Cadle
    February 22, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Ken – You forgot the most important question, which team is worse our D’Backs or your Lakers? With Tony LaRusa taking over the D’Backs, they should be okay in a couple of years. By the way, the great Vin Scully played a big role in getting Catholic radio on 93 KHJ in L.A. I am old enough to remember it as a rock station back in the day.

    I will briefly respond by number to your points:

    1. Yes, I know that you are a real student of St Augustine. In Catholic circles, you can hardly watch Catholic TV or listen to Catholic radio, go to a Mass or read a Catholic book without getting a bunch of St Augustine. He is the most quoted person throughout the Catholic Catechism. Him and St Thomas Aquinas are true saints in the Catholic Church.

    2. Regarding the Early Church Fathers. Hundreds of Protestant ministers have become Catholic after studying them in depth. For every one statement by an ECF that could be construed as supportative of Protestant theology, you have conservatively 50 statements that support the Catholic viewpoint, be it Eastern or Western rite.

    Many of the ECF’s were Bishops and even popes. Some of them were a part of the magisterium of their day.

    I always tell folks that if they study the ECF’s, you have to look at their whole body of work and see the majority consensus of their teachings, otherwise you can take 10% of what they say and make them sound almost anything.

    John Henry Newman, a well known convert to Cathololicism said this after a long study of the ECF’s, “The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there was a safe truth it is this, to be deep in history is to cease to be a Ptotestant.” The Early Church Fathers and their Creeds were clearly Catholic, be it Eastern or Western rite.

    3. Within the Catholic Chutch, there is the Roman rite and some 22 Eastern rite churches. Some are Byzantine, Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Chaldean, Macedonian, Greek Catholic and Russian Greek Catholic and many more. In fact, Father Mitch Pacwa and Pope Francis are big fans of the Eastern rite churches and have both conducted numerous Masses in the Eastern rite churches (Coptic etc).

    Chaldean Catholic Christians form about 90% of all Christians that were just totally wiped out by ISIS in Iran and Iraq. Please google this disaster and see how many were beheaded, churches totally destroyed and they were totally run out of their homelands which date back to the first century. The Chaldean Catholics were in Iran and Iraq six hundred years before the Muslims. No Orthodox Christian would ever call these Catholics “newbies”. They call them brothers.

    The Eastern Orthodox (which broke away during the schism) are much like the Eastern rite Catholics except in the way they view church as a federation of local churches, while Eastern rite Catholics view it as a successor of Peter as the main component. Both Eastern rite Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox have all in common as far as liturgical and cultural traditions. Many Orthodox churches have come back into the Catholic Church since the schism. Many in the East and West feel that there will eventually be a reunification.

    It should be noted that Apostolic Succession is not limited to the Petrine succession. All bishops are successors of the Apostles, that includes Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and other bishops of the ancient churches that broke away in schism from the Catholic Church yet retained valid succession.

    4. Christians have always considered the 7 Deuterocanonical books as inspired since the time of Christ. Please note the listing of Church Councils and ECF’s that I listed above.

    Deuterocanonical means that their canonicity came later (no not during Trent, but to the first Councils that I listed above), while protocanonical means the canonicity came first.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the Deuterocanonical books as inspired Scripture in CCC Part IV The Cannon of Scripture, 120 as part of the 46 OT books. In the readings of the daily Mass, the Deuterocanoncals are read as Scripture in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

    5. The above quote from St. Jerome was where he defended chapter chapter 13 of Daniel and the story of Bel and the Dragon in Daniel 14 as Scripture. Keep in mind, in dealing with the writings of the ECF’s, you have to look at the whole body of work and the majority consensus of their teachings, even if one gets off track on a teaching or a quotation. The writings have to be looked at as a whole. Otherwise you Scott Clark the quotes.

    6. No I have not read the book. In looking at grace through faith and how the ECF’s would look at it. There is the faith of James 2:19, which is the way that the likes of Sproul would adhere to (perhaps not even knowing it), which is an intellectual assent alone.

    Then there is the more common usage of faith which Paul uses in his writings in Gal 5:6, which works by charity.

    Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it: CCC 18:4, Faith: Believe all God says because it is true, CCC 18:7, Hope: To desire eternal life and trusting in God’s promises, CCC 18:22, Charity: Love of God and neighbor. When you are justified God pours all three into our hearts. The ECF’s would not approve of the Sproul intellectual assent teaching (James 2:19), but would approve of the way Paul usually uses faith in Gal 5:6.

    Blessings friend,

    Lloyd.

  4. Lloyd I. Cadle
    February 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    I apologize for any typos. Baby Grace climbs all over me sometimes when I am typing.

    She was born at one pound and three ounces at birth. I love her more than anything. If you ever get a second, you can google Baby Grace Cadle on the channel 3 news in Phoenix as a miracle baby.

    She wants to be a registered nurse nun when she grows up. She loves Mary as her mom. Better to have Mother Mary (as us Beatles fans would call her), Rev 12:17, than a Lady Gaga as a role model!

  5. February 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Lloyd:

    I don’t have time to respond in detail to your latest post because I’m working on a new book comparing Jesus with the world’s religious leaders. My schedule of speaking and writing limits my time to respond to blog posts.

    So if you’re interested in my thinking about Catholicism I’ll refer you to the book Elliot Miller and I wrote entitled The Cult of the Virgin (out of print but available on amazon.com).

    I also wrote about Catholicism in the Christian Research Journal (see http://www.equip.org/PDF/DC170-1.pdf).

    Lastly, here’s a link to my dialogue-debate with my friend Father Mitch Pacwa on the question of religious authority: http://bit.ly/1BC23uV

    If you are satisfied with being a Roman Catholic then I wish you well in your faith. I hope you can wish me well in being a Protestant. As old friends I would prefer we not use this blog site as a place to attempt to proselytize each other.

    Thanks for your understanding.

    Sincerely,

    Ken Samples

  6. Lloyd Cadle
    February 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Ken.

    You do great stuff on science. Keep it up. That young earth stuff is a joke. It takes at least 15 billion years for star light to reach us.

    If science is at odds with the Bible, you either have a poor scientist or a poor theologian!

    Blessings,

  7. March 12, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    For questions about the Canon of Scripture, I highly recommend Michael Kruger’s book Canon Revisited. Also see Kruger’s blog: http://michaeljkruger.com/

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