How the canon of Scripture was established


#1

What specific criteria was used in order to establish the New Testament canon?

I would like to play the devils advocate from time-to-time, on this thread, in order to hopefully help others answer many of the false criterions given by non-Catholic Christians, both past and present.


#2

[quote=Bishopite]What specific criteria was used in order to establish the New Testament canon?
[/quote]

What do you mean by “establish?” Do you mean the criteria used by Athanasius and the Council of Hippo (where the NT Canon we know today was first promulgated) or do you mean the Council of Trent (when the Canon first gained universial and infallable definition)?


#3

The Church recognized which books make up the Canon of Scripture. The criteria the Church used was apostolic Tradition alone. Look in the Catechism. Since this apostolic Tradition came from God, then we must say that the Canon established by Divine Revelation


#4

We’re talking about the deuterocanon? Jesus taught from them isn’t that good enough? look at Deuteronomy and Tobit, each teaches on marriage, one teaches marriage can be annulled by a letter, the other, that marriage is a life long commitment, endowed by God, the two become one, which is the teaching of Jesus?


#5

[quote=Bishopite]What specific criteria was used in order to establish the New Testament canon?

I would like to play the devils advocate from time-to-time, on this thread, in order to hopefully help others answer many of the false criterions given by non-Catholic Christians, both past and present.
[/quote]

I had a lengthy post all finished . . . and it got “eaten up” in cyberspace! I’ll re-post when I have the time . . . but to sum up, it was the authority of the Church to make the final decision; and the authority of the Church “trumped” other “specific criteria”.

Many blessings,


#6

[quote=David Zampino]I had a lengthy post all finished . . . and it got “eaten up” in cyberspace! I’ll re-post when I have the time . . . but to sum up, it was the authority of the Church to make the final decision; and the authority of the Church “trumped” other “specific criteria”.

Many blessings,
[/quote]

Correct. The “specific criteria” is that it was the canon which the Church declared as such. Not a small point either.

Phil


#7

Bishopite - If I understand your question correctly, you are wanting to know the method of selection, since some books were hotly contested. Many, for example, thought Revelations was not inspired, but it got included. Many thought 1 Clement was inspired, but it got left out. Is your question, “How were these decisions made?”

If so, this is what I heard. . . It is from a very spurious source (The Skeptics Guide to the Bible), so please take it with a grain of salt. . . This book claims the decisions were made by the bishops by popular vote. According to this book, the Gospel of Luke made it by one vote. Again, this is a very questionable source - I’d like to hear from others who know more.


#8

[quote=forthright]Bishopite - If I understand your question correctly, you are wanting to know the method of selection, since some books were hotly contested. Many, for example, thought Revelations was not inspired, but it got included. Many thought 1 Clement was inspired, but it got left out. Is your question, “How were these decisions made?”

If so, this is what I heard. . . It is from a very spurious source (The Skeptics Guide to the Bible), so please take it with a grain of salt. . . This book claims the decisions were made by the bishops by popular vote. According to this book, the Gospel of Luke made it by one vote. Again, this is a very questionable source - I’d like to hear from others who know more.
[/quote]

“The Skeptics Guide to the Bible” made this one up out of whole cloth! This has been one of my particular areas of interest for the past 7+ years, and I can state categorically that no, NO credible evidence exists for this! :slight_smile:

As a matter of fact, both Luke and Acts were among the very first books accepted – without question – throughout the Christian world, going back to the early 2nd century. They both are found in the old Roman Proto-Canon and in usage by Polycarp (c. AD 150) and by Justin Martyr (c. AD 165).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d. AD 202) argued – passionately – in his work “Against the Heresies” the following:

“It is not possible that the Gospels can either be more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principle winds, and since the church is scattered throughout the whole world, and since the pillar and support of the church is the Gospel and the Spirit of Life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality all over and reviving men.” “Against the Heresies”, Book 3.xi.8,9.

I don’t know where the “Skeptics” got their “information”, but even a secular scholar can easily debunk it.

Blessings,


#9

[quote=Bishopite]What specific criteria was used in order to establish the New Testament canon?

I would like to play the devils advocate from time-to-time, on this thread, in order to hopefully help others answer many of the false criterions given by non-Catholic Christians, both past and present.
[/quote]

This article by Charles the Hammer indicates that the main criteria were apostolicity, true doctrine (regula fidei), and widespread geographical usage.


#10

[quote=Bishopite]What specific criteria was used in order to establish the New Testament canon?

I would like to play the devils advocate from time-to-time, on this thread, in order to hopefully help others answer many of the false criterions given by non-Catholic Christians, both past and present.
[/quote]

From " catholic-resources.org/Bible/NT_Canon.htm " (scroll to bottom of the page.
**Four Criteria for Canonicity **(why certain books were eventually accepted into the NT Canon, but others were rejected):
[list=1]
*]**Apostolic Origin **– attributed to and/or based on the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their closest companions).
*]**Universal Acceptance **– acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the Mediterranean world (by the end of the fourth century). (That is Catholic communities)
*]**Liturgical Use **– read publicly along with the OT when early Christians gathered for the Lord’s Supper (their weekly worship services). (The Divine Liturgy or Mass)
*]**Consistent Message **– containing theological ideas compatible with other accepted Christian writings (incl. the divinity and humanity Jesus).
[/list]


#11

[quote=Ignatius]From " catholic-resources.org/Bible/NT_Canon.htm " (scroll to bottom of the page.
Four Criteria for Canonicity (why certain books were eventually accepted into the NT Canon, but others were rejected):
[list=1]
*]Apostolic Origin – attributed to and/or based on the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their closest companions).
*]Universal Acceptance – acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the Mediterranean world (by the end of the fourth century). (That is Catholic communities)
*]Liturgical Use – read publicly along with the OT when early Christians gathered for the Lord’s Supper (their weekly worship services). (The Divine Liturgy or Mass)
*]Consistent Message – containing theological ideas compatible with other accepted Christian writings (incl. the divinity and humanity Jesus).
[/list]
[/quote]

This list is correct, as far as it goes – but many Protestants would give the same list for the same reason.

The Protestant Harry Gamble in “The New Testament Canon: It’s Making and Meaning” lists five criteria – Apostolicity, Catholicity, Orthodoxy, Traditional Usage, and Inspiration.

The Catholic Raymond Brown lists only three criteria – Apostolicity (whether real or putative), Importance of the Addressed Community, and Conformity to the Rule of Faith.

The Protestant Bruce Metzger lists three – Conformity to the Rule of Faith, Apostolicity, and Consensus.

The (Fundamentalist) Protestant Merrill Tenny lists three – Inspiration, Apostolicity, and Traditional Usage.

The Protestant Robert Gundry lists two – Apostolicity and Orthodoxy.

In all cases, Catholics and Protestants will (and have) disagreed on how to define words like “Inspiration” or “Apostolicity”.

This is why, regardless of the list of criteria given by a particular scholar, the end point remains the same. The Authority of the Church, specifically as it is constituted in the person of the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Councils.


#12

[quote=David Zampino]This list is correct, as far as it goes – but many Protestants would give the same list for the same reason.

The Protestant Harry Gamble in “The New Testament Canon: It’s Making and Meaning” lists five criteria – Apostolicity, Catholicity, Orthodoxy, Traditional Usage, and Inspiration.
. . .
The Protestant Bruce Metzger lists three – Conformity to the Rule of Faith, Apostolicity, and Consensus.

The (Fundamentalist) Protestant Merrill Tenny lists three – Inspiration, Apostolicity, and Traditional Usage.

The Protestant Robert Gundry lists two – Apostolicity and Orthodoxy.

[/quote]

That may be, but their arguments are mute since their chuches were’nt around when the Catholic Church, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, determined the Canon of the New Testament.

Your Brother in Christ


#13

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches infallibly:

#120
" It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books"
The Church councils merely investigated which books the apostles handed down in Tradition as inspired.

Since apostolic Tradition comes from God, it is ultimately God who decided which books were inspired. It is not the result of human reasoning.

John Henry Newman learned this of this criteria while he was still a protestant from reading the Church Fathers. I learned it from him. Later I found it in the Catechism. All the other reasons are bogus. It is faster to go right to the Church for all questions rather than read the writings of scripture scholars and theologians who are never infallible and who are the source of all heresies.


#14

[quote=DavidFilmer]What do you mean by “establish?” Do you mean the criteria used by Athanasius and the Council of Hippo (where the NT Canon we know today was first promulgated) or do you mean the Council of Trent (when the Canon first gained universial and infallable definition)?
[/quote]

First of all, I didn’t ask this question because I don’t know how or by what method the Catholic Church recognized the canon as some have assumed, I know what criteria the Church used.

I’m doing this for those who may be confused as to how the canon was decided, emphasis on the 27 books of the New Testament.

You are right Dave, but I would assert that the first time the canon was authoritatively cited was in 382 AD at the council of Rome under pope Damasus. This was the first time the canon was formally established which is what I mean by “establish.” Trent affirmed and infallibly declared what the council of Rome first infallibly cited. Athanasius came up with the correct canon but I just read that he disputed the book of Esther which wouldn’t give him the full OT and NT canon, however, I’m putting emphasis on the NT canon.


#15

[quote=Bishopite]First of all, I didn’t ask this question because I don’t know how or by what method the Catholic Church recognized the canon as some have assumed, I know what criteria the Church used.

I’m doing this for those who may be confused as to how the canon was decided, emphasis on the 27 books of the New Testament.

You are right Dave, but I would assert that the first time the canon was authoritatively cited was in 382 AD at the council of Rome under pope Damasus. This was the first time the canon was formally established which is what I mean by “establish.” Trent affirmed and infallibly declared what the council of Rome first infallibly cited. Athanasius came up with the correct canon but I just read that he disputed the book of Esther which wouldn’t give him the full OT and NT canon, however, I’m putting emphasis on the NT canon.
[/quote]

I’ve read that the authenticity of the decree of Damasus is… sketchy at best, and that it isn’t genuine. Check the wiki and tell me what you think.


#16

[quote=dcdurel]The Church recognized which books make up the Canon of Scripture. The criteria the Church used was apostolic Tradition alone. Look in the Catechism. Since this apostolic Tradition came from God, then we must say that the Canon established by Divine Revelation
[/quote]

Congratulations! You have hit the nail on the head; this is what I was looking for. Apostolic Tradition is HOW the Church recognized the canon both OT and NT.

“By means of the same Tradition the full canon of the sacred books is known to the Church and the holy Scriptures themselves are more thoroughly understood and constantly actualized in the Church. Thus God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the spouse of his beloved Son.” (Vatican ll, Dei Verbum 8)

I asked the question, NOT because I didn’t know but for those who didn’t or don’t know what “criteria” the Catholic Church used.

Now, can I play the devils advocate and pose a question to you or anyone else?

How would you answer this affirmation by some Protestants:

The canon was established by Scripture itself because the canonical books are self-authenticating.


#17

[quote=RobNY]I’ve read that the authenticity of the decree of Damasus is… sketchy at best, and that it isn’t genuine.

"**The canon of Scripture, Old and New Testament, was finally settled at the Council of Rome in 382, under the authority of Pope Damasus I. It was soon reaffirmed on numerous occasions. **

The same canon was affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 and at the Council of Carthage in 397."(Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers found at cin.org/users/james/files/deuteros.htm)

"In 382, Jerome capitulated to Pope Damasus and the Council of Rome and accepted the Deuterocanonials as Scripture. After these Councils, there was little discussion among the medievals as to what constituted Scripture." (Robert Sungenis “Not by Scripture Alone” page 275)

I’ve also heard Tim Staples affirm this on the radio but I don’t have a quote from him.


[/quote]


#18

[quote=Bishopite]First of all, I didn’t ask this question because I don’t know how or by what method the Catholic Church recognized the canon as some have assumed, I know what criteria the Church used.

I’m doing this for those who may be confused as to how the canon was decided, emphasis on the 27 books of the New Testament.

You are right Dave, but I would assert that the first time the canon was authoritatively cited was in 382 AD at the council of Rome under pope Damasus. This was the first time the canon was formally established which is what I mean by “establish.” Trent affirmed and infallibly declared what the council of Rome first infallibly cited. Athanasius came up with the correct canon but I just read that he disputed the book of Esther which wouldn’t give him the full OT and NT canon, however, I’m putting emphasis on the NT canon.
[/quote]

I agree. The Synod of Rome, called by Pope St. Damasus I made, I believe, a definitive statement.

You are correct about St. Athanasius – he accepted Baruch, and rejected Esther and some of the other Deutero-canonical material. But his NT Canon is correct, and seems to be the earliest exposition of the 27 books.

Incidentally, the Ecumenical Council of Florence also promulgated a list of books more than 100 years prior to Trent.

Blessings,


#19

[quote=RobNY]I’ve read that the authenticity of the decree of Damasus is… sketchy at best, and that it isn’t genuine. Check the wiki and tell me what you think.
[/quote]

This question is based on how we date the “Decretum Gelasianum”, which many scholars date NOT to Pope Gelasius, but to Pope St. Damasus I, much earlier. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to this Decretal as the “Decretem Damasi” sp?

HOWEVER, even assuming that this Decretal doesn’t date to Damasus – the very decrees of the regional councils (one at Hippo, two at Carthage) concerning the content of the Canon were sent to Rome to be approved and promulgated, thus recognizing the authority of the Pope in such matters. Even if scholars want to debate the 382 date, they cannot debate that the Canon of Scripture was promulgated by the Pope by 419 (the date of the last council of Carthage).

It is also interesting to note that St. Augustine, who was present at these regional councils, gave the full list in his “On Christian Doctrine” written after these events had taken place.

Blessings,


#20

Actually, only three books written during the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic period claimed inspiration:

The Revelation of John

The Revelation of Peter

The Shepherd of Hermas

Note that the latter two were debated and REJECTED. A mere claim to inspiration is hardly self-authenticating.

Also, if the Canon is self-authenticating, the Protestants who make this argument have demolished their own best argument against the Book of Mormon, the Koran, etc.

Blessings,


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.