Confused on NT canon?


#1

I have heard about how the canon is the measuring stick, and how it is the inspired word of God. I have read about the two councils of Hippo and Carthage regarding the canon that would later become binding with the Council of Trent.

However, considering that many Orthodox have a different canon from the first millennium, and certain orthodox communions actually having different canons from other Orthodox communions, I’m getting somewhat confused on what a biblical canon is, and how the NT canon developed. I get even more confused by the different definitions of the canon.

My questions have many layers, so please bear with me.

  1. What is a biblical canon by definition in the first millennium? Is it the list of books to be used liturgically, or just all inspired books from God? (or is it some other definition that allows inspired works to be non-canonical???) I have heard a Protestant say it’s all the inspired word of God, while I have heard Orthodox say they are works to be used liturgically (so there are inspired works not in the canon?). At least in the first millennium, what is a biblical canon?

  2. Why weren’t books such as the Shephard of Hermas or the Didache not included in the NT for Christians in general? I understand that such works were not included because of the Council of Hippo and Carthage that maintained the 27 books of the NT that we know today but…

  3. …wouldn’t these councils have little influence on the Eastern Churches? How is it that both the East and West ended with the same NT canon of 27 books???


#2

Regarding #2: they weren’t included in the final canon because they contained teaching that was not part of the kerygma.

That is, what was first proclaimed ORALLY, through Sacred Tradition, handed down through the Apostles to the Church, was not part of what was in the Shepherd of Hermas or the Didache.


#3

It is my understanding that both of these definitions cover the same books at least theoretically, and therefore both definitions can work.

One piece of evidence for this is based on the early Christians’ devotion to the Word of God. Because they loved the Word of God so much, I think two conclusions follow: first, I don’t think any early Christian would have banned any book from the Liturgy if they thought it was inspired by God, because that would be denying God’s Word its place. And second, I don’t think they would have allowed any book to be read as part of the Liturgy unless they thought it was inspired by God, because they would want that time taken up by a book with divine value rather than a book with merely human value. Does that make sense?

is [there] some other definition that allows inspired works to be non-canonical?

I don’t think so, because if a book was inspired by God, why wouldn’t they let it into the official list?

I have heard a Protestant say it’s all the inspired word of God, while I have heard Orthodox say they are works to be used liturgically (so there are inspired works not in the canon?).

I think those attitudes are attempting to capture the same thing. If you asked the Orthodox person if the books to be read as part of the Liturgy are all inspired by God, I think he would say of course. If he did not, I don’t think he would be reflecting the early Christian attitude. Is that helpful?

  1. Why weren’t books such as the Shephard of Hermas or the Didache not included in the NT for Christians in general?

Because the early Church didn’t believe they were inspired by God, and the reason they didn’t believe that is because they had the guidance of the Holy Spirit on this matter.

I understand that such works were not included because of the Council of Hippo and Carthage that maintained the 27 books of the NT that we know today but…

  1. …wouldn’t these councils have little influence on the Eastern Churches? How is it that both the East and West ended with the same NT canon of 27 books???

I would guess that those Councils did have an impact on the Eastern Churches. It is my understanding that St. Augustine was considered as authoritative in the Eastern Church at that time as any other Church Father, and he presided over those Councils. Since they are the clearest and most authoritative definitions of the Canon that I’m aware of at that time, I think their Canons would have been transmitted to the East, or at least the East would have come across the Western Canon by interacting with Western bishops. To me, that would likely have had an impact. Does that make sense?


#4

This should answer all your questions:

catholicbridge.com/catholic/orthodox/why_orthodox_bible_is_different_from_catholic.php

From the link above:

  1. What is a biblical canon by definition in the first millennium? Is it the list of books to be used liturgically, or just all inspired books from God? (or is it some other definition that allows inspired works to be non-canonical???) At least in the first millennium, what is a biblical canon?

The term “canon” means is that a book is approved for reading at the Divine Liturgy --that is, the Mass. This is what “canon” (a Greek word meaning “rule”) originally referred to. The “canonical” books were those books which were approved for reading at the Liturgy.

Books which were not approved for reading at the Liturgy were called “apocryphal” (or “hidden”), and so excluded from the Liturgy. Among the “apocryphal” books, some were considered to be very orthodox and even inspired (but still not approved for public reading at the Liturgy), and others were considered to be uninspired or to contain errors (or even to be outright heretical). Only the “canonical” books were approved for reading at the Liturgy (the Mass).

  1. Why weren’t books such as the Shephard of Hermas or the Didache not included in the NT for Christians in general? I understand that such works were not included because of the Council of Hippo and Carthage that maintained the 27 books of the NT that we know today but…

Well, by the year 382, when the Arian heresy was finally defeated, Pope St. Damasus of Rome (who had been the librarian for the church of Rome prior to becoming Pope) took it upon himself to correct this problem, and to guarantee that it would not happen again, by initiating steps for the formation of a universal canon of Scripture which all city-churches would hold in common, which would eliminate any book which even implied Arianism (or other condemned heresies).

To “start the ball rolling” on this, Pope Damasus promoted a Biblical canon which was a synthesis of the canon of the city-church of Rome and that of the city-church of Alexandria --the two leading city-churches of the universal Church. Damasus then turned this proposed canon over to the bishops of North Africa for analysis and debate.

  1. …wouldn’t these councils have little influence on the Eastern Churches? How is it that both the East and West ended with the same NT canon of 27 books

Now, this was modified somewhat when, at both the Byzantine Council of Trullo (692) and the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II (787), both the church of Constantinople and the church of Antioch (along with Rome and Alexandria) recognized the binding canons of the Council of Carthage (397). This of course included the Carthaginian Biblical canon, which is thus TECHNICALLY binding on the modern Eastern Orthodox Church. :slight_smile:


#5

My understanding is there were Four Criteria for Canonicity:

[LIST=1]
*]**Apostolic Origin **- attributed to the or their followers.
*]**Universal Acceptance **- acknowledged by the whole Church in the Mediterranean world by the end of the fourth century.
*]**Liturgical Use **- read publicly along with the OT in the Divine Liturgy .
*]**Consistent Message **- compatible with other accepted Church teaching.
[/LIST]


#6

Here is some more interesting information with regard to the basis of New Testament citations of OT text.

The LXX, or Septuagent, is the OT Canon handed on to The Apostles and continually used from the time of Christ down to our very time by The Church. The Septuagint order for the Old Testament is evident in the earliest Christian Bibles (Jennifer M. Dines, The Septuagint, Michael A. Knibb, Ed., London: T&T Clark, 2004)

The most widely used list of OT Sacred Books was the Septuagint, which includes the Deuterocanon. It was used from the 3rd Century BC on. The Septuagint does contain all of the OT Sacred Texts including the 39 used by Protestants.
This translation is quoted in the New Testament, The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen.
(Source "“Bible Translations – The Septuagint”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 2012.)

The Pauline quotations from OT Scripture, are all taken, directly or from memory, from the Greek version. (From “Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles”. JewishEncyclopedia.com. February 2012.)

The Septuagent books were use by the preponderance of Jews from the 3rd Century until the 1st Century and by All Christians until the 16th Century,.
In the 16th Century some men in Western Europe, following their own false, man made doctrines, decided to remove some books from the Bible.
Sadly, many have chosen to follow the teachings of those men.

I invite you to prayerfully consider these things and to enter into communion with the Church founded by Jesus Christ, The Catholic Church.


#7

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