Bible canon question

*“The Church did not officially include * until the 1500s.”

Wouldn’t this be true of, well, the New Testament, as well - if not the entire Bible?

If I understand my recent reading, Trent was the first declaration of the canon as dogma. But this applied to the whole canon, not just the Deuterocanonical books, right? There wasn’t an earlier declaration of the NT, and then the OT/Deuteros at Trent.**

From the Council of Carthage in 397 AD. (Canon 36)

[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon, twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Ezra, two books of the Maccabees. Moreover, of the New Testament: Four books of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles one book, thirteen epistles of Paul the apostle, one of the same to the Hebrews, two of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, the Apocalypse of John.

Thus [it has been decided] that the Church beyond the sea may be consulted regarding the confirmation of that canon; also that it be permitted to read the sufferings of the martyrs, when their anniversary days are celebrated. (From Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, translated and published in English as The Sources of Catholic Dogma)

As zz pointed out, Maccabbees was consistently in the canon from at least the 4th century onward. I would even argue the Council of Rome in 382 was at least the first. Any of those councils including Maccabbees are also official representations of those regions and, collectively, show the consistency in the whole Church, through Trent and to the present day. Trent’s proclamation was more a response to the Protestant movement which, at times, questioned or denied the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical and other books, including Maccabbees. For example, in a debate with Johann Eck, Luther reversed his position on Maccabbees, now denying it’s canonicity, after Eck had appealed to it during a debate on Purgatory.

Right, I got all that - Hippo, the 2 Carthages, Florence. But it seems that Trent was, in reaction to Luther, et al, the one in which the Church finally put its foot down and said, “That’s it, this is the canon, it’s official dogma, anathema on those who reject this list, etc.” This is why Protestants argue that it wasn’t “official” until Trent, even though really all Trent did was say, “This is the list we’ve been using for, like, 1000 years (see all the previous lists), and now it’s officially official.”

My question is less about the Deuteros than about the treatment of the entire Bible - OT and NT. If the above is correct, then I believe that all the books of the Bible were treated the same. So the NT was “officially” canonized at the same time as the OT including Deuteros. Does that make sense?

You are correct, the anti-Catholic illogic would apply to Matthew or Romans also.

Great, thank you!

I wanted to be sure I was right before responding to that accusation. :slight_smile:

Fact of the matter is that official canons in religions tend to only form in reaction to a threat that either threatens to promote documents with spurious ideas or wishes to denigrate the orthodoxy of texts that are near-universally accepted. Canons are then assembled that become a “measuring stick” by which the orthodoxy of teachings and texts can be judged. Christians generally came to agreement on what books constitute the NT in reaction to groups like the Marcionites. The Marcionites were a gnostic group and were the first to promulgate a fixed “Christian” canon. It may be said that the threat of Gnostic texts and canons were what created the need for Christians to formulate a standard canon to prevent the faithful from being misguided. Thus, Christians gradually came to agree on the current canon of 27 books (though, I believe, Ethiopian Christians continue to maintain a broader canon with additional texts, as well as the more narrow 27-book canon).

Regarding the OT, there wasn’t an immanent need to have a strict canon. Everyone agreed on the main books (which are more or less what Protestants claim to be **all **of the OT), but there were additional books that Christians have always revered as inspired. The ancient Christians used the Greek term “anagignoskomena” to refer to them. Exactly what constituted the anagignoskomena was determined by local tradition. That is why, to this day, Latin Catholics, Greeks, Russians, and Ethiopians all have slightly different OTs. At Trent the Church of Rome promulgated an official list of OT books. By doing so, it officially recognised the local Latin tradition of what books are in the anagignoskomena. As they had made their list an official canon in the Wetern Church, their version of the anagignoskomena is often called it the “Deuterocanon”/“second canon”.

Protestants are scandalised by this fact, because they have an erroneous notion that the anagignoskomena are additions to the canon of books the Apostles inherited as Jews. In fact, the Jewish canon, as Jews divide it, currently includes the Torah/Law, Nevi’im/Prophets, and Kethuvim/Writings. The first of these two were standardised by the time of the Apostles, but the third part, the Kethuvim, is traditionally believed by scholars to have only been fully standardised after the time of the Apostles. Thus the Apostles never received a finalised canon of the OT to which Christians latter added. In fact, when the Apostles quoted scriptures, they generally used the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation. Early Greek-speaking Christians continued using the Septuagint as their OT, because that is what the Apostles used. Not only did the Septuagint contain what Protestants consider “extra books,” there were also variants of the Septuagint. That is, not all Septuagints had the same books.

In short, the OT in Christianity has always been more fluid than many people, especially Protestants, think.

The Council of Trent only affirmed the canon as it had been since the 4th century because of the reformers attacks upon it.

That argument is historically ignorant. I’m glad you came in and asked.

Why did Florence address the Canon? I.e., what was the historical context/issue for discussing it?

And did Florence really close the Canon? I’ve heard it both ways from various sources.

Here’s the context of where and why the canon, OT and NT, was addressed at Florence. Session 11 (1442)


"…It professes that one and the same God is the author of the old and the new Testament — that is, the law and the prophets, and the gospel — since the saints of both testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates their books, whose titles are as follows.

Five books of Moses, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, Esdras, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, namely Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; two books of the Maccabees; the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; fourteen letters of Paul, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, to the Colossians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two letters of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude; Acts of the Apostles; Apocalypse of John.

Hence it anathematizes the madness of the Manichees who posited two first principles, one of visible things, the other of invisible things, and said that one was the God of the new Testament, the other of the old Testament…"

Scroll up to the beginning to see links to the docs from Florence

Manichees are heretics addressed at Florence, as are Protestants whose errors were addressen at Trent

Thanks for the response. I’m with you on the reaffirmation of the list from Hippo, Carthage, Florence, and Trent.

My particular question for this thread has to do with whether or not - dogmatically speaking - there is any difference between the treatment of the Deuterocanonical books and the New Testament. I.e., if, for the sake of argument, the Deuteros were not dogmatically included until Trent, then neither was Matthew, or Hebrews, or Galatians, or 1 John, etc. However, if the NT was dogmatically defined in some earlier list, then so were the Deuteros, as they were (as far as I can tell) always in the same lists from the councils.

EDIT: (I’ll admit to getting a little off-track in a couple posts as I was asking about the status of the declaration in the Papal Bull from Florence. I think that is an infallible declaration, isn’t it?)

:wink: and there you have it. When pope Damasus I, (Decreed ) the canon in 382 @ the council of Rome, and that same canon was affirmed at the councils of Hippo and Carthage as well, and the ecumenical councils of Florence and Trent, the point is, the canon (OT & NT) had not changed since 382.

As I posted earlier

Decree of Pope Damasus I

From Jurgens “Faith of the Fathers”, scroll to pg 406 for this quote [/FONT] +of+Pope+St.+Damasus+I,+Council+of+Rome. +382+A.D&source=bl&ots=ZeUc7S4cIZ&sig=cU TkVsWkzas9JkjusNcC0I1H6Sc&hl=en&sa=X&ei= V2wUVMH3Fo2MyASvuILABQ&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBw#v =onepage&q=The%20Decree%20of%20Pope%20St .%20Damasus%20I%2C%20Council%20of%20Rome .%20382%20A.D&f=false

See CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Infallibility - New Advent and look for “Decree” either papal or ecumenical council in the article

The Early Church didn’t give much thought to the Canon of the Old Testament. They simply adopted whatever was in use at the synagogue down the street.

Martin Luther did EXACTLY the same thing. Only he did it 1500 years later.

In the Apostolic Age, most synagogues would have included the Greek texts, so early Christians would have used them as well. But, by Luther’s time, many Jewish leaders had reached a consensus to exclude OT passages which were originally written in Greek, during the Hellenistic period.

Christians, of course, should have no objection to Greek Scripture, since the NT was originally written in Greek.

May I draw your attention to the following

Septuagint Or Masoretic Text? - Jimmy Akin

Deuterocanonical References in the New Testament


Of the many threads I’ve seen on this topic, this one is one of my favorites. :thumbsup:

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