I come humbled and seeking advice. I took a theology class this semester in early Christianity. In it we did an entire section which in the course syllabus was described as " books extremely popular in early Christianity which were excluded from the Canon". These books which I read include the Shepherd of Hermas, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Didache, 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, and the Protoevangelium of James. I realized reading these and historical context that these books were written during the same period as some New Testament books which were included such as Revelation to John, 2 Peter, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 and 3 John. So my question is how can we know that the right books are in the New Testament when we now know that some of these books were included in early manuscripts of the New Testament and quoted among early Christians such as Origin of Alexandria, Iraneus, and even Eusebius seems to have problems speaking of it in his Church History? I feel like I am lost and I shouldn’t be questioning the authority of the Church but I honestly am at times. I feel like the more I seek knowledge the more confusion I feel.
…have you thought about the intent of the course… is its goal to further your understanding of Christianity or to offer contrasting and conflicting information so that what is held as Christian understanding and practice should be questioned and discarted?
…is the course offering the complete ‘revelation’ of the Church’s determination to reject those books and to include the others or is it a one-sided argument?
…are the Councils that determined the Bible’s Cannon being studied alongside of the contrasting material?
Information will always be there (check out the various networks with their takes on the Bible, Jesus, Christianity, etc.); yet, it is not always leading to the Truth; rather, it is usually geared to sell something (air time, a philosophy, an agenda).
I do not know if there’s an on-line source that speaks on the reasons why those books were left out of the Canon, but, taking one book at a time, I am willing to help you regain your trust in the Church!
[FONT=“Palatino Linotype”][size=]Merry Christmas!
I am sure that Prof. Scott Hahn and other Catholic theologians are very familiar with these texts. You might want to check out their conclusions before making any big decisions.
Many of those works are still featured in the Church’s liturgy in the Office of Readings and quoted or referred in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So, they are still an important part of the patrimony of the Catholic Church. They simply did not make the cut when the New Testament canon of inspired writings was decided. Reading such early Christian writings was instrumental in my adult conversion to the Catholic Church.
the blanket explanation I hear over and over is that the excluded books were gnostic texts, which did not conform to high standard of writings that DID make their way into the canon of texts approved for liturgical use.
I am old enough to remember the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963. I was in the 8th grade of Catholic school.
Well, just in the last two months, I’ve heard of evidence that the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was really targeting Texas Governor John Connelly, and NOT Kennedy. And, some information about his possible motives has been offered in evidence of this theory.
So, what should anybody do about ALL that has been written for over 50 years that did not contain this reasonable hypothesis about LH Oswald’s motives? There are various theories about the assassination: a Cuban plot, a “mob” plot against Kennedy, a multiple assassins theory, a single gunman theory, etc. When people write about their theories, it goes on the shelf right next to the other theories. Maybe when all the information is declassified – when all the named people have died – then and perhaps ONLY then can all the writings be put into perspective. People like me are hoping to live long enough until all the information IS revealed.
In a similar fashion, the leaders of the Church, praying under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for guidance, have selected the texts that best represent the authentic teaching of Christ and the early Church as the best witnesses of the Gospel.
I bought a book of the rejected writings and gave up after reading a certain number of pages. I didn’t have a reason to read further or to even keep the book on my shelf. If you choose to take a class in studying this kind of theology – you have to remember that there have been and still are debates in theology – as when you compare Protestant views to Catholics. There is a place for such study. Personally, I am not attracted to that area of study.
The holy spirit lead the church and its bishops to compile the new testament not to mention the NT authors are either an apostle or people who knew one of the 12 which I think was one of the criteria while compiling it
The Church listed all the books described as canonical long ago. Infallibly.
Keep questioning! But keep praying for guidance and truth, too! Question authentically to understand, not to deny. Also, question the class, its agenda and its sources. Keep digging. You will find Catholic truth at the bottom of it all. Get good resources from Catholic scholars.
Some people lose their faith after seeing “Zeitgeist”, yet others stick around long enough to see that all the “evidence” that Jesus is a myth are just concoctions and unreasonable speculation. You will probably find the same with inspired scripture. Also- keep us posted and let us know what you found. It will be useful for others!
Regarding your aside about the Kennedy assassination, another portion of the classified records were made available in the 1990s through the Assassination Records Review Board. There are no longer any reasonable new theories. Oswald shot at no one. More than one shooter was involved. The rifle found was a German Mauser, not the Mannlicher-Carcano attributed to Oswald, but the scope was so badly misaligned, it was not possible to use it with any accuracy. You’ll have to wait 22 more years for the remainder of the records to be released.
Oswald was known to the CIA prior to the Assassination.
Doctor Charles Crenshaw was in Trauma Room One and directly observed the President’s wounds. It was clear to him that the President had been hit in the front of the head.
Plenty of names are on file.
If the Church got it wrong on the books that She excluded, how do we know She got it right on the books that She included?
Super question. My humble opinion is that the compilers were lead by the Holy Spirit and if you read some of the ones that didn’t make the cut you (or I when I read them) could see why it was left out…
There was a story about Mary tossing out the bath water and curing people or something like that… Maybe it was true but it just sounded like a story… maybe they wanted more writings by people directly taught and accompanied by Jesus like the other poster said…
Makes me wonder how these are being presented…
Just because something is said to be a “Theology course” does not mean it is taught as it ought to be…
Just as one of the Letter of Peter noted noted in Sacred Scripture that some have twisted even the writings of Paul to their harm…the writings too of some early Christians can be mis-presented or mistaken etc.
You should seek out Jimmy Akin on your questions.
I repost an old post of mine:
Temptations against Faith can come…the best way to fight against such is more by* flight *then by fight. (such is the age old advice --same with the temptations against the virtue of chastity). (other temptations the way is “fight” - like opposing the temptation with the opposite virtue etc in an active way).
Most “temptations of thought” are are better to “ignore”…(see long post above)
And the great Catholic Philosopher Josef Pieper Ia great intellectual) noted sometimes one has to even to simply stand fast as a kind of martyr in silence holding fast to ones Faith…in the midst of temptations against faith…even in the the midst of ones own involuntary feelings or thoughts --that assail one like arrows…(not consenting).
or as St. Therese did… simply say or write “Credo” (I believe).
Or silently make the sign of the cross…(as ones profession).
Hold fast to Jesus of Nazareth and his Church.
In him is true life! And thus in his Church.
Information can do that. It can rattle our world view and force us to hold all we thought certain in abeyance as we integrate and rebuild. We have what the Church gave us. That is certain. Did they pick the wrong books? That is a matter of faith. We have what we need.
Many “theology” classes are taught by persons hostile to the Catholic Church. Was this the case with your class?
These books which I read include the Shepherd of Hermas, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Didache, 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, and the Protoevangelium of James. I realized reading these and historical context that these books were written during the same period as some New Testament books which were included such as Revelation to John, 2 Peter, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 and 3 John. So my question is how can we know that the right books are in the New Testament when we now know that some of these books were included in early manuscripts of the New Testament and quoted among early Christians…
There were good reasons why some popular books were excluded from the canon. Some study will reveal those reasons.
I feel like I am lost and I shouldn’t be questioning the authority of the Church but I honestly am at times. I feel like the more I seek knowledge the more confusion I feel.
You don’t have to feel guilty about asking questions. It does not indicate a lack of faith. Those much more learned than you and I have had questions about the Early Church’s decisions.
The Holy Spirit guided the Church in determining which books should belong to the canon of Scripture. That same Spirit guided the Church to rule that the Gentiles shouldn’t have to be circumcised. Are we to question the validity and necessity of baptism, too? Keep in mind that the Church had just begun to sprout when the apocryphal texts were written, and there was so much more with respect to doctrine that had to be decided on before any screening could be done in light of the sacred traditions of the Church. Different theology classes are taught from many different perspectives, so be sure to critically analyse for yourself what the professor is teaching you. His perspective could very well be erroneous and incompatible with the historical facts. I’m sure there are other professors who would disagree with his thesis if in fact he is questioning the validity of the canon. Catholics who are unfamiliar with Church history could easily be persuaded by a biased Protestant Church historian that his interpretation is the correct one, unless they have read books written by Catholic and even non-Christian historians who are intellectually honest and more objective in their studies.
If you study the way that the Church Herself distinguished the canon from the non-canon, it should clear your doubts right up and eliminate any feelings you might have had that the Church wasn’t objective in Her selections. Keep in mind, at the time when the New Testament was formally “canonized,” you had people alive (mostly bishops) who were sacramental descendants of people who themselves were, in turn, descended directly from the Apostles who knew and spoke with Christ Himself while He was on earth. It was these bishops who “determined” the canon. Once you see their criteria for what went in to the canon and what was excluded, you’ll find that they did it better than modern secular attempts to do so. For example, in distinguishing true Gospel accounts from spurious ones, it was very important to the bishops that they pick only accounts written by people with only one or two degrees of separation from Christ in terms of human relation. For example, Mark’s gospel is included because he was a friend of Peter, the Apostle (one of the three closest to Jesus, in fact.)
The website Newadvent has a lot to say about these kinds of things if you just read their encyclopedic entries about each of the New Testament books.
Let’s begin by answering this question: Can the Catholic Church ever teach error?
Infallibility Explained by Reasoning from the Scriptures
Excerpted from an article by Jeffrey Mirus, PhD
It is clear even from Scripture that Peter had a special commission and special powers from Christ to care for the flock of Christ, to bind and loose, and to confirm his brothers in faith – indeed he had the very powers of the keys to the Kingdom. Obviously, these powers were essential to the Church as constituted by Christ. And Christ promised to be with the Church always to the end of time, and said that the powers of hell would not prevail against it.
Now, clearly Christ knew that Peter would not live until the end of time, so he must have intended that the power he gave to Peter would be carried on until His return. After all, Peter was to feed “my” (Christ’s) sheep, and so was serving as the vicar of Christ in Christ’s absence. When Peter died, a new vicar would take his place, and so on, until Christ returned to claim his own. The parable of the steward awaiting his Master’s return is very much to the point.
Just as clearly, Peter’s authority also enabled himself (and his successors) to set forth the manner in which their successors would be selected, either by choosing the successor personally before death, or by setting forth some other means – eventually, election by the college of cardinals.
Moreover, if these special and essential powers were to pass out of existence, it would be proof that Christ was no longer with his Church and that the powers of Hell had indeed prevailed. Therefore, again, Christ must have intended successors to Peter.
For this reason, we are not at all surprised that subsequent popes claimed to have the Petrine power and that the early Christian community accepted it without question. This authority was exercised by the fourth Pope, Clement, while St. John the Evangelist was still alive. The earliest Christians were in a position to know Christ’s will from other sources than Scripture (just as we today, under the guidance of the Church, are able to learn from Tradition).
Now we come to the specific question of infallibility, by which the successors of Peter continue to confirm the brethren. Since the successors of Peter have the same Petrine authority, which comes ultimately from Christ, to bind and loose, they have the authority to bind the faithful in matters pertaining to salvation – that is, in faith or morals. Now, if a Pope could bind the faithful to error, it would be a clear triumph of the powers of Hell, because the entire Church would be bound to follow the error under Christ’s own authority. Obviously, this cannot happen.
**Therefore, the logic of the situation demands that the Petrine power of confirming the brethren must be an infallible power. When the Pope intends by virtue of his supreme authority to teach on a matter of faith and morals to the entire Church, he MUST be protected by the Holy Spirit from error – else the powers of hell would prevail.
This is the logic behind infallibility. But, of course, it is not based solely on logic, since it is attested in Scripture and was held by the earliest Christians and the Fathers and, indeed, by the vast majority of Christians from the beginning.**
Further, it is not a new thing. It was precisely defined at Vatican I in order to clarify what was at that time a confusing issue, but this was by way of stating clearly what Christ’s teaching was, not by way of adding anything new. Vatican I therefore carefully enumerated the conditions under which the Pope was in fact infallible – the same conditions which logic demands, which Scripture suggests, and which tradition shows us in action down through the centuries.
When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called “infallible” and the teaching which he articulates is termed “irreformable”.
…as theories go… they are a dime a dozen…
Sadly, in the quest for entertainment, we have become a culture (world) of bovines: where the moo breaks wind the heads will follow… it does not matter if the purported “factors” stretch well-beyond reason and reality… just blame the Church or cite some illuminary connection (best if you include both Church and illuminary) and its gobbled up… it is the reason why the President’s assassination (and his brother’s) was never solved–and I suspect will never be solved (redirection of the true event into conspiracy theories).
…the Church, and Christianity as a whole, being a humongous and ever-present target, will forever be subjected to propaganda and theories (mostly dark and negative).
…Scriptures speak about the anti-Christ… he is not just a single person/entity that has/will enter history… the anti-Christ is both the person of Satan and his minions; knowing that Satan is the father of all lies and that he was a murderer from the Beginning, we can ascertain that those who assail Christianity do so through his will and coercion–he appeals to man’s vanity and greed… as the theories and beliefs constantly challenge God’s Salvific Plan we must remember what tipped Eve’s hand: ‘…surely, you will not die; He is just afraid that if you eat from the forbidden fruit you will become as He!’
[FONT=“Palatino Linotype”][size=]Merry Christmas!
…would you happen to have a link to a source that speaks on the various books that were rejected and the reasons for the rejection/s?
[FONT=“Palatino Linotype”][size=]Merry Christmas!