A misconception about the Council of Trent


#1

I used to believe the Council accepted all of the books as Canon which were in the Latin Vulgate at the council but this is false. 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh were rejected and put in an appendix to the Latin Vulgate which remains that way in traditional Vulgates. In the Vulgate however 1 and 2 Esdras are 3 and 4 Esdras as Ezra is 1 Esdras and Nehemiah is 2 Esdras in the Vulgate. Prayer of Manasseh is a beautiful prayer traditionally ascribed to Manasseh who was the king of Judah who sinned and was taken captive to Babylon and remorse for his sins. 1 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh are Canon in Orthodox churches and 2 Esdras is Canon in Slavonic Bibles. I just thought this was interesting as I didn’t realize Trent did reject some books which had been in the Vulgate for all that time. 2 Esdras is actually a very interesting apocalyptic book and 1 Esdras is basically the same as Ezra-Nehemiah besides a story in the third chapter that is included only in that version. Just thought I’d share what I learned today because I was totally unaware. I guess Orthodox Bibles also include 3 Maccabees and Psalm 151 and Greek Orthodox Bibles have 4 Maccabees as an appendix. Interesting though since they base their Old Testamen off of the Greek Septuagint and I thought Jerome translated from both the Septuagint and Hebrew scriptures and made note that the books differed. Most people are aware that Catholics have more books than Protestants who rejected books not in the Hebrew Bible but I’m not sure if many are aware that Orthodox Bibles have even more books than we do. What is the Catholic view of these books accepted by Orthodox Christianity? I believe one Orthodox community even accepts Enoch and Jubilee. Just looking for some insight.


#2

Here’s a pretty good explanation for why there are more books in the Orthodox bible.

catholicbridge.com/orthodox/why_orthodox_bible_is_different_from_catholic.php

As far as the Catholic view, I’m not sure if the Church has an official opinion on those other books. Trent just confirmed the canon of the Council of Carthage as the official canon of the Church and infallibly declared those books as inspired. It was more concerned with answering the Protestant reformers who were saying these books were NOT inspired than in answering whether the books that the Orthodox used were also inspired.

That’s how I understand it anyways. Someone here can correct me if I’m wrong.


#3

As Robyn noted above, the Council confirmed the Canon of Scripture that was defined in the 4th Century. It was an answer to which books ARE the Inspired Word of God, not to which books are not.

For even more history on the Canon, select the Canon of the Old and New Testaments, respectively.
newadvent.org/cathen/c.htm

The Canon defined at Carthage WAS the Latin Vulgate, which is what is also confirmed at Trent.

I used to believe the Council accepted all of the books as Canon which were in the Latin Vulgate at the council but this is false.

No, it’s actually true. The Latin Vulgate did not change at Trent.

1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh were rejected and put in an appendix to the Latin Vulgate which remains that way in traditional Vulgates. In the Vulgate however 1 and 2 Esdras are 3 and 4 Esdras as Ezra is 1 Esdras and Nehemiah is 2 Esdras in the Vulgate.

Where did you read this? And are you sure you are referencing the correct “vulgate”?


#4

Does it not follow that any books not confirmed as inspired must not be inspired. The canon was closed at Trent.


#5

*It was an answer to which books ARE the Inspired Word of God, not to which books are not. *

I don’t think it necessarily follows. I don’t doubt that the Canon we have will always remain as it is, but that doesn’t mean that it necessarily follows that any books not confirmed must not be inspired. The Council only set out to solemnly declare as “sacred and canonical” all the books of the Old and New Testaments “with all their parts as they have been used to be read in the churches, and as found in the ancient vulgate edition”.
(blue and quotes from the afore-linked Catholic Encyclopedia link)

Does that mean it was “closed”? I don’t know. I would think that it is, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is therefore closed.


#6

I’ll qualify that a little.

First off, there was yet no ‘Vulgate’ at the time. Both the synod of Hippo in 393 and the synod of Carthage in 397 that apparently issued a canon of Scripture happened while St. Jerome was in Bethlehem, still going through his private project of translating Old Testament books from Hebrew texts. In fact, Hippo happened around a year after he had just completed the first books he worked on (Samuel-Kings, Psalms iuxta hebraicum). He had just begun.

In fact - I think I’ve pointed this a lot of times already - the Vulgate as we know it today is a later collection. It is a combination of most of Jerome’s translations of Scripture or revisions he made of earlier translations - the gospels for the NT; the protocanonical books, Tobit, Judith, and the ‘extra’ bits of Daniel and Esther for the OT - with other books that are regarded as Scripture (not made by Jerome, but either earlier translations or revisions by someone else).

And of course, there’s the fact that both are local synods. Carthage declared its approval of the canon at Hippo pending ratification by “the Church beyond the sea” (i.e. Rome), but I think it hardly made a sort of universal impact. (But note Jerome’s comment about “the Nicene council” below.) At best, it would have only made an impact in the Latin West - and Jerome at that time was in the East.

You can tell by looking at Jerome himself. In his prefaces to his various OT translations, you can notice an evolution of thought regarding the deuterocanon.

When he began, he still held them into something close to scorn. His reason for not being totally cool with them was essentially because Jews don’t consider them to be Scripture. (Note: not because they were not in Hebrew. Jerome realized at least that 1 Maccabees is (originally) a Semitic work.) In his preface to the book of (Samuel-)Kings, Jerome essentially waxed eloquent on how there are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and how there are twenty-two protocanonical books (as per the Jewish way of counting them), and how these twenty-two books, if you count them another way, add up to twenty-four - the same number of the elders that sit before God and the Lamb up in Heaven as per Revelation. He sort of addresses the deuteros with a brief - the cynic in me would like to say ‘sort of dismissive’ - comment: “This prologue to the Scriptures may be appropriate as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so we may be able to know whatever is outside of these is to be set apart among the apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon, and the book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith and Tobias, and The Shepherd are not in the canon.”

Midway through the project, in his preface to the Books of Solomon (398) Jerome says: “just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.” It’s telling that he says that ‘the Church … reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures’; apparently, he’s at this point still ignorant of - or ignoring? - any declaration or act that did officially define them as canonical Scripture. This was just a year after Carthage, note.

Finally, by the end of his project (the mid-400s) Jerome was forced to admit that the deuteros are Scripture, because the Church had said so. The last OT books Jerome ever translated were Tobit and Judith, which he made from late Aramaic versions/paraphrases that were available to him. And he did these two books because two bishop friends of his asked him to. In his preface to Judith he says, “Because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand …” In the preface for Tobit, he pretty much says that he’s bowing to the will of the bishops / the Church, even if it meant backing away from his former opinion: “For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops.”

Still, old habits seem to die hard, since Jerome’s translation method on the two books were not as careful as his earlier material - he rendered both of them hastily in a rather free way compared to the more literal approach he made in the other books. For Judith, he admitted that “I have given to this (book) one short night’s work translating more sense from sense than word from word; I have removed the extremely faulty variety of the many books; only those which I was able to find in the Chaldean words with understanding intact did I express in Latin ones.” (To be honest, Jerome doesn’t seem to be very pleased here. “I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work” - ‘short night’ here being an idiomatic translation of the Latin lucubratiunculum “little lamp,” in other words, the amount of work possible to be do in a night by the light of a very small, unrefilled oil lamp. :D)


#7

I dug up a few past posts of mine re. the Vulgate.

(From 2012)

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9432179&postcount=4
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9432181&postcount=5
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9432189&postcount=6
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9432204&postcount=7

(Something more recent)

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13874815&postcount=2
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13878635&postcount=8
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13878844&postcount=10
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13882369&postcount=16
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13882377&postcount=17
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=13882926&postcount=18


#8

Hey Patrick,
This “transition” of Jerome’s seems to support the position that the supposed Canon of Damascus found in the Gelatin Decree was NOT from the Council of Rome in 382.

I’m not asserting that as fact, and I would like the Decretum to be validly from 382. But it just doesn’t make sense, as far as Jerome’s rejection/acceptance of the Deuteros. Why would he not accept them, if they were declared Scripture by Damasus? He had great respect for Damasus, as a friend and pope.


#9

Exactly.

Now Jerome does mention in his preface to Judith that Judith was found “by the Nicene Council” to be Scripture. We can assume that he was referring to the Council of Nicaea here. (The acts for Nicaea are lost; we have only the list of canons promulgated by the council, none of which mention anything about the canon of Scripture, although it’s possible that the canon was one of the issues they talked about there.)

But the question I have is: why did Jerome apparently only know about this supposed declaration by Nicaea or if he already knew about it, only take it seriously when he was pretty much done with the ‘Hebrew OT into Latin’ project? In the earlier stages of his task he seemed pretty confident about his preference of the 24/39-book Jewish canon:

"And thus there are likewise twenty-two books in the Old Law, that is, five of Moses, eight of the Prophets, nine of the Hagiographa. Although some may write Ruth and Cinoth among the Hagiographa, and think of counting these books among their number, and then by this to have twenty-four books of the Old Law, which the Apoclypse of John introduces under the number of twenty-four elders worshipping the Lamb and offering their crowns, prostrated on their faces, and crying out with unwearying voice: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty, Who was and Who is, and Who will be.

“This prologue to the Scriptures may be appropriate as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so we may be able to know whatever is outside of these is to be set apart among the apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon, and the book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith and Tobias, and The Shepherd are not in the canon. I have found the First Book of the Maccabees is Hebrew, the Second is Greek, which may also be proven by their styles.” (Prologue to Samuel-Kings, 393)

===

“Therefore, I have shown these things to you as a difficulty of Daniel, which among the Hebrews has neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three young men, nor the fables of Bel and the dragon, which we, because they are spread throughout the whole world, have appended by banishing and placing them after the skewer, so we will not be seen among the unlearned to have cut off a large part of the scroll. I heard a certain one of the teachers of the Jews, when he derided the history of Susanna and said it to have been forged by an unknown Greek, to propose that which Africanus also proposed to Origen, these etymologies to come down from the Greek language: “to split” from “mastich” and “to saw” from “oak.” On which subject we are able to give this understanding to those of our own language, as we might, for example say it to have said of the oak tree (illice), “you will perish there (illico)” or of the mastic tree (lentisco), “May the angel crush you like a lentil (lentem) bean" or “You will not perish slowly (lente)" or “Pliant (lentus), that is, flexible, you are led to death” or anything which fits the name of the tree. Then he jested for there to have been so much leisure time for the three young men, that in the furnace of raging fires they played with (poetic) meter, and called in order all the elements to the praise of God. Or what miracle and indication of Divine inspiration is it, either a dragon having been killed by a lump of tar or the tricks of the priests of Bel having been discovered, which things are better accomplished by the wisdom of a clever man rather than by the prophetic Spirit? When indeed he came to Habakkuk and had read him having been carried off from Judea to Chaldea carrying a dish, he requested an example where we might have read in all the Old Testament any one of the saints to have flown with a heavy body and in a short time to have passed over so great a space of lands. To which, when one of us rather a little too quick to speaking had brought Ezekiel into the discussion and said him to have been moved from Chaldea to Judea, he derided the man and from the same scroll proved Ezekiel to have seen himself moved in the Spirit. Finally also our Apostle, namely as an erudite man and one who had learned the Law from the Hebrews, was also not daring to affirm himself taken away in the body, but had said “Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows.” By these and arguments of such kinds he exposed / accused (arguebat) the apocryphal fables in the book of the Church." (Prologue to Daniel, ca. 394)

===

“Neither should it disturb anyone that the book edited by us is one, nor should they be delighted by the dreams of the third and fourth books of the apocrypha *, both because among the Hebrews the words of Ezra and Nehemiah are confined to one scroll, and those things which are not found among them, nor are of the twenty-four elders, = not of the 24 protocanonical books] are for throwing away.” (Prologue to Ezra-Nehemiah, ca. 394-395)

===

“Therefore, just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.” (Preface to the Solomonic Books, ca. 398)*


#10

(Continuing here since I reached the limit)

Personally, I just find it a bit odd that Jerome would not be aware of the decision of such an important, ecumenical synod such as Nicaea (it certainly was important and has more universal impact than either Hippo or Carthage combined) that Judith was scripture after he spent more than a whole decade lambasting the deuteros - including Judith - in his cover prefaces.

But then again, after some browsing I’ve seen a few writers offer a theory that what actually happened was that somewhere during Nicaea, Judith was cited as though it was a scriptural book. Jerome could have gotten wind of that purported use of Judith and had to admit that it at least is more than apocrypha. (That might explain why aside from this passing reference by Jerome, there’s otherwise little on the way of suggesting that Nicaea did deal with the canon of Scripture: it’s not so much that Nicaea drew up a canon as in Hippo and Carthage, but that a particular book (Judith) was made use of as the (other) scriptural books. (The problem of course is that since very little first-hand material from the council survives, how and when exactly this occurred. In other words it’s all just speculation.)


#11

Yes, I’m not sure which Nicea Council he was even referring to. The first was way back in 325, right? We might be able to believe that Constantine ordered a “canon” with his commission to Eusibius, right? Wasn’t he asked to make 50 bibles?

Anyway, it gets confusing to establish a “first” canon. I think it’s safe to say Carthage and Hippo, but before that, like Nicea, or Rome are lacking actual records.


#12

Maybe what is important here, is to distinguish the difference between the Vulgate and the Canon of Scripture?


#13

Wow, thanks so much for the deeper historical background! I had not fully connected those dots as of yet. This is very interesting, indeed!


#14

In Jerome’s time there was only one council of Nicaea (the second council of Nicaea happened in 787), so that’s likely what he was referring to.

We might be able to believe that Constantine ordered a “canon” with his commission to Eusibius, right? Wasn’t he asked to make 50 bibles?

Yeah, the fifty Bibles do presuppose the existence of a list, but given that these fifty Bibles did not survive we don’t know exactly what books they containe. However, we could make a guess by looking at two manuscripts made at roughly the same period as these Bibles: Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.

The OT canon in these two manuscripts are mostly similar - the only difference is in the order of some books (the order of books from Genesis to Paraleipomena/Chronicles is consistent, as early Christian canon lists attest to; however, beyond that there is more variance) and the inclusion of a handful of texts: Sinaiticus didn’t seem to have Baruch, while Vaticanus didn’t seem to have all four books of Maccabees.

Half of the OT portion of Codex Sinaiticus (ca. mid-4th century) survives today: much of the protocanonicals, five out of the seven deuteros (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, 1 Maccabees), as well as 4 Maccabees. (Missing books in brackets)

Genesis-Exodus]-Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy
Joshua-Judges-Ruth]
1-4 Kingdoms (Samuel-Kings)]
1 Paraleipomena (Chronicles)
2 Paraleipomena]
1 Esdras]
2 Esdras (Ezra-Nehemiah)

Esther
Tobit
Judith

1 Maccabees
4 Maccabees

Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Baruch]
Epistle of Jeremiah]
Ezekiel]
Daniel]
Minor Prophets (Hosea-Amos-Micah]-Joel-Obadiah-Jonah-Nahum-Habbakuk-Zephaniah-Haggai-Zechariah-Malachi)

Psalms + Psalm 151
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Wisdom
Sirach
Job

The slightly earlier Codex Vaticanus (ca. early-to-mid 4th century), meanwhile, lacks all four books of Maccabees (it doesn’t seem to have contained those books originally) but has Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah. Otherwise it contains the same books as Sinaiticus.

Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy)
Joshua-Judges-Ruth
1-4 Kingdoms
1-2 Paraleipomena
1 Esdras
2 Esdras (Ezra-Nehemiah)

Psalms + Psalm 151
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Job
Wisdom
Sirach

Esther
Judith
Tobit

Minor Prophets (Hosea to Malachi)
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Baruch
Lamentations
Letter of Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Daniel

By comparison, here’s the books included in the Codex Alexandrinus made during the following (5th) century:

Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy)
Joshua-Judges-Ruth
1-4 Kingdoms
1-2 Paraleipomena

Minor Prophets (Hosea to Malachi)
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Baruch
Lamentations
Letter of Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Daniel

Esther
Tobit
Judith
1 Esdras
2 Esdras (Ezra-Nehemiah)
1-4 Maccabees

Psalms + Psalm 151, Odes, Prayer of Manasseh
Job
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Wisdom
Sirach
Psalms of Solomon


#15

Yes, I think so.

For the record, there was even some variation in early Vulgate manuscripts in what books they contained.

A couple of centuries after Jerome’s death, his translation had developed into different textual versions.

In Italy, a 71 book-canon (counting Maccabees as a single book and excluding Baruch) formed the standard text of the Vulgate as it became established in the 5th and 6th centuries. Out of all the versions this Italian-Northumbrian text (represented by Codex Amiatinus and Codex Fuldensis) is currently considered the best, and hence has formed the basis for most recent Vulgate revisions.

The case was slightly different in other areas like Spain. The Spanish text is as old as the Italian, but is less reputable from a textual viewpoint. It has many textual quirks such as the retention of many traditional Vetus Latina readings and interpolations into the text such as the infamous Johannine Comma. Some Spanish editions also included a Vetus Latina translation of ‘missing’ book of Baruch as well as 3-4 (1-2) Esdras.

The Irish text, meanwhile, is marked by beautiful manuscripts but has a bumber of textual peculiarities such as conflations and inversions of word order.

Out of all the local versions, the French text is usually considered the worst. France was open to the importation of new texts and subsequently became the land of mixed texts without any local character of its own. Spanish, Italian and Irish Vulgate traditions were all reflected in northern French Bibles, which by the end of the 8th century featured a wide variety of highly variable texts. Gaul was ‘invaded’ by the Irish tradition from the north and the Spanish version from the south: not surprisingly, the French text apparently managed to combine the worst of both worlds.

Because of the huge variance among the textual traditions, there was a movement during the Carolingian period to produce a ‘standard’ version of the text. The English scholar Alcuin of York produced a version, which he presented to Charlemagne in 801, based on the Italian text, but with the major change of substituting Jerome’s Gallican Psalter - translated from the Septuagint - for his third version from the Hebrew. (That’s why it is called ‘Gallican’: Alcuin favored this version of the Psalms.)

Alcuin’s contemporary Theodulf of Orleans produced a second, widely-influential independent recension of the Vulgate, also based largely on Italian manuscripts, but with variant readings from Spanish texts and patristic citations, indicated in the margin. Theodulf kept Jerome’s Hebrew Psalter, and also incorporated Baruch (and with it, the Letter of Jeremiah) within the book of Jeremiah.

Aside from Alcuin and Theodulf, attempts to produce a standard Vulgate text were also made by other individuals and groups throughout the following three centuries, although none of them ever gained supremacy.

It was the explosive growth of medieval universities, especially the University of Paris during the 12th century that created a demand for a new sort of Vulgate. While heretofore the norm was to assign Scriptural books or sections of books their own separate volumes, with the advent of the university, scholars needed the entire Bible in a single, portable and comprehensive volume, which they could rely on to include all Biblical texts which they might encounter in partristic references.

The result of the demand was the Paris Bible, which reached its final form around 1230. Its text owed most to Alcuin’s revision and always presented the Psalms in the Gallican version; but readings throughout were in many places adjusted to be more consistent with patristic citations (which would very frequently have been based on Old Latin or Greek texts). Baruch is now always included, as too were 3 (1) Esdras; and usually, appended to the book of Chronicles, the Prayer of Manasseh.

The Paris Bible was so influential that the early printed Bibles took it as their base text and adopted its canon: the 73 canonical books plus 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. The Clementine Vulgate also included these three apocryphal books in an appendix ne prorsus interirent “lest they perish entirely” (the earlier Sistine Vulgate omitted the three books outright; the Clementine reinstated them, albeit in an appendix), although unofficial copies and more recent Catholic Bibles just omit this section wholesale.


#16

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