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  #1  
Old Oct 20, '07, 6:23 am
Leopard Leopard is offline
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Default Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

From another thread:
Quote:
It is not mentioned in the Scriptures but it is mentioned in the second-century Christian writing, Protoevangelium of James, chapter 17. So, it is a very early Christian tradition.
We know that early non-Biblical writings include authentic works of the Church, like the Didache, but also gnostic, arian, or other non-orthodox works, or counterfeit works from later centuries purported to be of apostolic origin. And there are probably works that fall in the middle of the spectrum too, authentic ancient works not especially valued by the early Church but not especially corrupted by content not compatible with Christianity either.

Can anyone recommend a good resource that could help those unfamiliar with these ancient writings to judge how much worth to accord these various writings, such as the Protoevangelium of James cited above?
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  #2  
Old Oct 20, '07, 8:20 am
Todd Easton Todd Easton is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

The article on "Apocrypha" in the Catholic Encyclopedia should be of some help. Many of these early writings are classified as either Jewish, Catholic, or heretical.
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  #3  
Old Oct 20, '07, 5:54 pm
AspiringDeacon AspiringDeacon is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

If your question is how to know how much worth to give to these ancient non-inspired writings, I think the answer we have been given by the Church is clear - those writings can be used to show that infallible teachings of the Magisterium of the Church were taught since the earliest days of Christianity, but not everything taught by the scholars is true because they are not infallible/inspired writings (if so they would be in the Bible). So we can use them to validate that which the Church tells is came from early days did in fact come from then, but we cannot use those writings to validate new or other teachings as correct.
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Old Oct 21, '07, 10:57 am
Daniel Marsh Daniel Marsh is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Apocrypha of the New Testament.

Title Page.

Introductory Notice.

Translator's Introductory Notice.

Apocryphal Gospels.

The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles.

Apocryphal Apocalypses.

The Protevangelium of James.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.toc.html

Apocrypha
- Apocalypse of Peter (c. 130)
- Protoevangelium of James (c. 150)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

It is false.
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  #5  
Old Oct 21, '07, 12:15 pm
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SpiritMeadow SpiritMeadow is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by AspiringDeacon View Post
If your question is how to know how much worth to give to these ancient non-inspired writings, I think the answer we have been given by the Church is clear - those writings can be used to show that infallible teachings of the Magisterium of the Church were taught since the earliest days of Christianity, but not everything taught by the scholars is true because they are not infallible/inspired writings (if so they would be in the Bible). So we can use them to validate that which the Church tells is came from early days did in fact come from then, but we cannot use those writings to validate new or other teachings as correct.

Isn't that a bit circular? You can use them to support the Magisterium in anything, but you must ignore them if it conflicts?
I think that's a pretty odd marriage myself. What authority would they have then? The obvious answer would be none. In a debate you would be soundly trounced for that blunder.

Perhaps I've missed something.
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Old Oct 22, '07, 11:45 am
ChadS ChadS is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Let me suggest one thing. Don't worry about all the purported "Gospel of" and "Acts of" books written by Gnostics and other heretics (usually several centuries after the death of the last apostle). If they happen to contain something that is true or accepted as part of Holy Tradition it is conincidence or an example of people trying to make their writings seem true and authentic by linking them with things known to be true.

Instead I'd suggest focus on the writings accepted by the Church that were written by the early Church fathers and other orthodox Christians from the first few centuries. There are tons of resources out there to start with. A good place to get an idea of what is out there is here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

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Old Oct 22, '07, 1:55 pm
Peregrino Peregrino is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiritMeadow View Post
Isn't that a bit circular? You can use them to support the Magisterium in anything, but you must ignore them if it conflicts?
I think that's a pretty odd marriage myself. What authority would they have then? The obvious answer would be none. In a debate you would be soundly trounced for that blunder.

Perhaps I've missed something.
Exactly. The authority of apocrypha is somewhat convenient don't you think?
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  #8  
Old Oct 22, '07, 2:33 pm
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SpiritMeadow SpiritMeadow is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peregrino View Post
Exactly. The authority of apocrypha is somewhat convenient don't you think?
lol...no doubt


oh and to the person who said we would be better off reading the early Church fathers:

The "gnostic stuff" is good for study as they help us flesh out the world of that time, what people were saying, thinking, doing. So they are helpful in that way for sure. As to adding anything to our understanding scripturally, you are possibly right.

If you want to read early church fathers, go to my blog on the right column where it Biblical and Theological Resources....hit the "Early Christian Writings" its got a huge collection. A few other of the Thoroughly Catholic list also have some of the early church fathers I believe. The Vatican really only has from Leo III to Benedict XVI up so far.
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  #9  
Old Oct 22, '07, 2:44 pm
TMC TMC is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by AspiringDeacon View Post
If your question is how to know how much worth to give to these ancient non-inspired writings, I think the answer we have been given by the Church is clear - those writings can be used to show that infallible teachings of the Magisterium of the Church were taught since the earliest days of Christianity, ... .
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiritMeadow View Post
Isn't that a bit circular? You can use them to support the Magisterium in anything, but you must ignore them if it conflicts?
I would suggest that the seeming contradiction SpiritMeadow questions is corrected by a slightly broader reading of the worth of the ancient writings than AspiringDeacon's post would allow. Can't we agree that the writings show what was taught and believed in at least some parts of the ancient Church at the time they were written and used? Where those teachings match, or are close to, today's teachings we can point to the consistency. That is meaningless unless we can point to places they don't match and note the inconsistency.

Each ancient writing can only serve as evidence of beliefs at the time and place that it was written and used. If the existence of a teaching at variance with modern teaching in an ancient writing does not tend to show that the teaching varied (at least at that place and time), then the existence of a consistency cannot show the opposite.

This inconsistency does not, in itself, call the teaching into question, of course, but it does reveal something about our history and early formation. So clearly they have important historical relevance. The tougher question is whether they have any theological or spiritual significance (beyond proving the longevity, or lack thereof, of a particular belief).

I think that they can, but in a limited way. Perhaps it is nitpicky, but I would not refer to these works as "non-inspired." We know that the canon was inspired, because according to dogma the fact that the Church included them is infallible evidence of inspiration. We don't know, I think, that other works were not inspired. Some works, such as the Apocalypse of Peter, were widely accepted in the early Church, and failed to make the canon. (Maybe they didn't want two Apocalypses? Maybe they decided it wasn't really inspired? I don't think we know why.) At least two Apostolic works, additional Epistles of Paul referred to in the existing Epistles to the Corinthians, were either lost to time before the canon or discarded as not useful, but surely were as inspired as his other writings. None of that is to say that any Catholic should accept something in a non-canonical work that is at odds with the canon, but I think that if read in proper context they can serve as more than historical oddities.
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Old Oct 22, '07, 2:55 pm
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

I agree wholeheartedly. I was not suggesting that they had no value. Quite the contrary. But Deacons statement left that as the only option. I agree they have serious historical value for showing us glimpses of the world we are so intent on knowing better. As to theological value, they are of lesser value without a doubt, but obviously this would be a case by case basis.
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  #11  
Old Oct 22, '07, 3:30 pm
Leopard Leopard is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Some of you are missing the point of my question. I already know some ancient extrabiblical writings are of tremendous value, while others are gnostic drek or the equivalent, while still others, perhaps, are somewhere in the middle.

What I asked for was a reliable source by which someone not familiar with all these obscure writings might find out which unfamiliar titles are treasures and which ones are trash. My thanks to the contributor who suggested the Catholic Encyclopedia.
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Old Oct 22, '07, 3:52 pm
AspiringDeacon AspiringDeacon is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiritMeadow View Post
I agree wholeheartedly. I was not suggesting that they had no value. Quite the contrary. But Deacons statement left that as the only option. I agree they have serious historical value for showing us glimpses of the world we are so intent on knowing better. As to theological value, they are of lesser value without a doubt, but obviously this would be a case by case basis.
My point is that they are not the Magisterium of the Church, they are NOT the teaching of the Church even at that time. Since the beginning theologians have developed theology, as did the ECF. You can see what THEY taught, that is different than what the CHURCH taught. They are also not infallible. Those points really cannot be challenged while in communion with the Church IMHO. So what is left, is that you can see Church teaching that went back to the beginning, and you can also see ideas that did not develop or were frankly wrong. Even the most famous ECF had ideas and writings with wrong ideas in them.

As to the question
Quote:
What I asked for was a reliable source by which someone not familiar with all these obscure writings might find out which unfamiliar titles are treasures and which ones are trash. My thanks to the contributor who suggested the Catholic Encyclopedia.
I gave trouble answering that, sorry, because any of them can only be read within the context of understanding the Magisterium. Someone who has little understanding of their Catholic Faith could get very confused by reading almost ANY of them. So someone saying this one is "good" must be taken with a bit of warning. The best writings I have encountered were ones like St. Augustine's Confessions, The Didache, Thomas Aquinas' Summa, or, a great source, is to get the four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours, and read the Office of the Readings Second Reading every day. It is almost always by an ECF, and these are ones the Church felt good enough about to put in the prayer of the Church!
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  #13  
Old Oct 22, '07, 7:46 pm
flyersfan1088 flyersfan1088 is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Who would have thought this question could be so confusing? "The Faith of The Early Fathers" the 3 volume set by William Jurgens is what you're looking for.
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Old Oct 23, '07, 10:12 am
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SpiritMeadow SpiritMeadow is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by AspiringDeacon View Post

I gave trouble answering that, sorry, because any of them can only be read within the context of understanding the Magisterium. Someone who has little understanding of their Catholic Faith could get very confused by reading almost ANY of them. So someone saying this one is "good" must be taken with a bit of warning. The best writings I have encountered were ones like St. Augustine's Confessions, The Didache, Thomas Aquinas' Summa, or, a great source, is to get the four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours, and read the Office of the Readings Second Reading every day. It is almost always by an ECF, and these are ones the Church felt good enough about to put in the prayer of the Church!
You know I've encountered that kind of "warning" here a lot. I find it rather condenscending as if we are children who need to be reminded by our elders that we might hurt ourselves because we don't understand. Some folks are desirous of researching things you consider worthless or unappealing. I'm sure a ton of stuff in the hands of a "new" Catholic could be confusing. Revelation comes to mind.

In any event, the OP clearly knows what he is interested it, knows its not Canon, so we should I think presume he knows he's researching outside of Dogma. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, all scholars do it, even Catholic ones.

Your intentions may be well meant and I assume they are. Still I tell you that they are insulting to folks who choose to investigate the greater depth and breadth of available ancient wriitings.
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Old Oct 31, '07, 12:56 am
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Joab Anias Joab Anias is offline
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Default Re: Early Non-Scriptural Christian Writings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leopard View Post
From another thread:

We know that early non-Biblical writings include authentic works of the Church, like the Didache, but also gnostic, arian, or other non-orthodox works, or counterfeit works from later centuries purported to be of apostolic origin. And there are probably works that fall in the middle of the spectrum too, authentic ancient works not especially valued by the early Church but not especially corrupted by content not compatible with Christianity either.

Can anyone recommend a good resource that could help those unfamiliar with these ancient writings to judge how much worth to accord these various writings, such as the Protoevangelium of James cited above?
You might find something here:

http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=5711

or here:

http://www.ccel.org/

hermeneutics
(Greek: hermeneuo, interpret)

The art and science of interpreting the Sacred Writings and of inquiring into their true sense. This science defines the laws which exegetes must follow in order to determine and explain the sense of Holy Writ. It presupposes that the interpreter have a knowledge of scriptural languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and of Semitic languages generally. Other subsidiary languages and sciences that contribute greatly to the literature of the subject or to a knowledge of the various biblical periods, their social and cultural setting, etc., are regarded as preliminary knowledge required of the exegete. Hermeneutics recognizes a twofold sense of Holy Writ, a literal and a typical. Since the literal sense is also the basis of the typical it is always present. Not every passage of the Bible has a typical sense. Before determining rules of interpretation, it must be kept in mind that the Bible has a twofold aspect: it is a literature written by men, and it is God's Word entrusted to the Church to guard and explain. As a literature the Bible requires the application of grammatical and rhetorical rules if the literal sense is to be determined. The class of literature to which each book or passage of the Bible belongs must be ascertained. The sense is then arrived at by studying the signification of the words themselves, of these words in their context, proximate and remote, in parallel passages, and in the light of the author's purpose. Because the Bible is God's Word the interpreter must treat it with reverence. He cannot admit in it errors attributable to the Author. Primitive texts, i.e., autographs, have to be free from mistakes, but textual corruptions frequently occur in the transmission of the Bible text, however not in matters of faith or morals, and not of a kind that would affect the substantial integrity or trustworthiness of the Text. The Catholic interpreter must accept the Church's definitions of the sense of Bible passages. The Church, however, has defined but few texts expressly, although in the definition of dogmas and the condemnation of errors many texts are implicitly defined. Furthermore the unanimous consent of the Fathers in interpreting any text of the Bible that pertains to faith or morals cannot be set aside, since the consent of the Fathers in such matters is proof that their interpretation has descended, as a matter of Catholic Faith from the Apostles. The sense once determined is given in translations, paraphrases, glosses, dissertations, and commentaries. See also: exegesis.
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