Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Church Fathers were Catholic- On the Canon of Scripture

I recently put a quote of one of the daily readings from Sirach 15:17-21 on my Facebook page and received an interesting comment.  That comment serves as the motivation for this post. 

The comment said along the lines of, "What is Sirach? That quote is from Ecclesiastes".  So I responded and explained that it is not from Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiastes does not even have 15 Chapters, but Sirach is also called ECCLESIASTICUS which is different than Ecclesiastes.  

This came from a dear Protestant friend who I respect dearly, but it left me so sad. 

Sad that this Christ follower is completely unaware of the Historical Bible.  The Bible used for the first 1500 years of Christianity.  The Bible first printed on the printing press, the Bible as recorded in the First King James Bible, the Bible as seen in the Latin Vulgate, the complete Septuagint, and the Bible used for most of Christian history is completely unknown to modern Protestant laity. 

It has come to a point were the seven books of the deuterocanonicals found in Catholic Bibles are not protested by Protestants, instead they are just not even known to exist by so many. 

I know this was my understanding as a Protestant. I had heard of the Apochrypha, as we called it, but I knew nothing of it, nor why I called it Apochrypha when all the great theologians pre Luther called it Scripture. 

And so it makes me sad that these books are missing from my Protestant Bibles. Historically this is because Luther adopted the Jewish Canon rather than the Greek Canon but why does he have such authority to do so? 

Imagine if a prominent Protestant theologian of today, let's say Alistair McGrath, said that all of Paul's letters should be rejected. Perhaps he presents a case for it that is somewhat convincing and in 500 years his position is the norm in Protestantism, and the letters of Paul are all but forgotten in their churches.  

Would not the people of the future defend the erroneous position they were raised in?  Would they not defend and find reason for their position to not have Paul's letters? Would not Apologists form ministries defending their position? 

Of course. 

And this is exactly what has happened with the deuterocanonicals of the Bible. The seven books were erroneously rejected by a man and that man-made tradition became the norm and a clear deviation from History. 

So what books did the Church Fathers use for their Canon?

The earliest writing we have declaring the Canon of Scripture is from the Council of Rome in 382 and the Synod of Hippo attended by St Augustine in 393 AD.  It went on to be codified at the Third Council of Carthage in 397;

"It was also determined that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in the Church under the title of divine Scriptures. The Canonical Scriptures are these: GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbersDeuteronomyJoshua the son of NunJudgesRuth, four books of Kings (1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Samuel) two books of Paraleipomena (1 and 2 Chronicles) Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and a portion of the Psalms) the books of the twelve prophets,Isaiah, JeremiahEzechiel, DanielTobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John. Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon. Because we have received from our fathers that those books must be read in the Church. Let it also be allowed that the Passions of Martyrs be read when their festivals are kept."

We of course have lots of examples even earlier in history of these seven books being quoted as Scripture, even in the New Testament. 

So why not at least have a working knowledge of these books Protestant brothers and sisters ?  Even if you don't add it back into your Bibles, let's encourage the reading of these important  and historic books. 

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