Question on the canon of scripture


#1

One of the arguments catholic apologists use for the Catholic church is : Without an infalliable authority, outside of scripture, how does one know what the new testament canon is? How do we know that certain books like the Gospel of Saint Thomas doesnt belong in the canon? ---------now here is my question!!! If the Protestant asks "how did the jews of the Old testament know what scripture was? They didnt have an infallible church to tell them Exodus was scripture? If the Jews didnt need an infallible Church neither do we?-------i appreciate your responses!!!


#2

It’s an interesting argument, which I’ve never heard before. My first objection to it is that the Canon wasn’t yet closed in Old Testament times — it was possible for new Scripture to be written, which is not possible now that the Canon has closed for all time.

Hey, welcome to the board!


#3

I was thinking of starting this exact thread.

We know the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God and both Jesus and the apostles held the Jews accountable to the scriptures. We also know there was no infallible authority in OT times.

Should be an interesting discussion.


#4

I would answer that from the middle of the third century B.C. on, the Jews had the same problem as the Protestants. This was when the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint was created by Greek-speaking Jews. It contained some variant renderings and whole books not found in the Hebrew scriptures, those being by and large the same books we know as the deuterocanon. The Dead Sea scrolls have provided many scripture fragments that agree with the Septuagint rather than the later Masoretic Hebrew.


#5

Ok so are we saying that the Jews in Old testament times didnt know for sure what the canon was??? hey karl you wanna chime in??? PLEASE!!!


#6

What did it mean then for the Jews to be entrusted with the oracles of God?


#7

It depended on which group of Jews you associated with. Some Jews only accepted the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) as canonical and rejected the rest of what we call the OT.


#8

You refer to Romans 3:2. So the words of God were committed to the Jews. No one has said otherwise. Now what? There still remains the task of identifying them. Which writing represents God’s Word and which does not. It is speculated that one of the reasons the Septuagint fell out of favor with the Jews was simply because it was adopted by the Greek-speaking gentile Christians who saw much of it fulfilled in Jesus.


#9

I think there is great error in treating “the Jews” as if it were one monolithic religion, especially during the 2nd Temple era.

When the Israelites (not “the Jews”) were living as a confederation of tribes in their Land (“The Land of Israel”), even then they were not one monolithic religion - a reading of the “Old Testament” is proof of that - there were always fights/arguments/wars between the tribes until there was even a split of the Land of Israel into both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judea. If there was a “canon of scripture” for the Tribes of Israel it was the Torah. There was no “Church”, as we understand the Catholic Church, to “canonize scripture”.

Accepting the “canonization of scripture” means accepting the Authority of the Catholic Church. As another sign of the rejection of that Authority by the so-called “Protestants” they rejected books that had been canonized by the Church. However, by rejecting the Authority of the Church, they have rejected all such authority in the future, and have no real way of arguing for or against the canonization of their particular choices of scripture. If a group of people want to throw out Luke’s Gospel, the various “Protestant” churches would have no real ground to stand on to argue.

Only the Catholic Church, with it’s 2,000 years of Tradition has the ability to confidently stand up and provide the Truth of Christianity. That is, if you accept the Authority of the Church. If you reject it, you reject the historical nature of Christianity, and you therefore reject the historical nature of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. If the Church doesn’t have historical Authority, then neither does Christianity. The rejection of the Authority of the Church is a direct rejection of Christianity.


#10

If the Jews couldn’t know what was and what wasn’t scripture, how could Jesus or the apostles hold them accountable to the scriptures?


#11

They were certainly all familiar with the writings of the prophets (at least the major ones like Isaiah and Jeremiah), used the Psalms in their worship and all accepted the authority of the first five books of the Law. Whatever writings were widely accepted could be held up as authority even without a formal canon - as the Gospels were in New Testament times even prior to the finalisation of the NT.


#12

I think you’re hung up on “infallible church” vs “teaching authority”.

Jewish teaching authority came from the fact that God was quite literally with them, and they were entrusted with the physical artifacts of His presence and Law (such as the Ark of the Covenant). They also had a genealogical basis for teaching authority, which is why we have such an emphasis on lineage traced back to Abraham and the other patriarchs.

When the Temple was built, God would be physically present within it and one man allowed into His presence based on the authority the man held.

The Babylonian exile of course greatly disturbed this authority, as not having access to the Temple and being subjugated within the Babylonian culture presented grave problems for maintaining the faith.

Fortunately, writing allowed Scripture to be preserved, and Judaism to persevere. It also allowed alternate traditions to proliferate, which required lots of argument and discussion to sift through (thus the competing canons).

Christ affirmed both the validity of Old Testament Scripture and the fact that Jewish understanding of and practices in light of it were wanting by the 1st century. Please note the difference here: Christ himself both vouched for the validity of Scripture while condemning the practices and teachings of this age. He then charged Peter with the founding of the Catholic Church, which then compiled the New Testament and the Holy Bible.

Now, our Protestant friends believe the Church had become corrupt by the 16th century (our Orthodox friends maintain an earlier date for this alleged corruption) and thereby lost its teaching authority (proponents of the “invisible church” maintain we never had it).

My question to them is by what authority they entered into schism, since the Catholic Church broke off from Jewish tradition on the authority of Christ himself, directly and I am unaware of a new incarnation which would have similar authority.


#13

I hope none of you ever publicly debate because you all give new meaning to the word"fillabuster"—back to my original question----how did the jew in Old testament times know that Isaiah was scripture—If the jew didnt have an infallible authority how could he know for sure that Isaiah was scripture. ??? directly answer the question–thank you


#14

Don’t get so touchy. Maybe there is just a shortage of Jewish theology authorities here on this Catholic board.


#15

They didn’t know really, simply because they had no NEED to call something ‘canonical’ or ‘scripture’ for it to have authority, or be read in their synagogues. They knew Isaiah was a prophet of God, a powerful one, that his prophecies were true and inspired and worth listening to. That was enough for them.

Read up on the early Christians - they had the same attitude. They read from things like the* Didache*, the Shepherd of Hermas and the *Letter of Clement to the Alexandrians *in their services, not just from ‘canonical’ scripture because in those early years there was no such thing as a formal canon of Scripture.

They had no trouble reading what they thought was worthwhile, and quoting it as authority, even though not all of it ended up in the Canon of the NT.


#16

Could have sworn I did, although you don’t seem to much care for my answer.

  1. The Jews did have an infallible authority—God Himself, who spoke to their leaders directly

  2. On the basis of this authority, what was and was not Scripture was defined—this is the basis of Tradition.

This is not to say that there weren’t competing canons—there were, and there were breakaway sects which hewed to a particular canon and rejected the authority behind the others.

Eventually, these schisms within the Jewish faith managed to corrupt Tradition. Christ set this aright.

Now I’ve made a clear if not compelling argument—please set me straight where I’ve erred.


#17

It was the same infallible authority back then as now. One which Protestants reject…Tradition. Do a word study on paradosis it will be quite enlightening.

Peace,
+N


#18

Hi Rookie, and welcome to the forums -

Have you ever heard of the Council of Jamnia? experiencefestival.com/council_of_jamnia It occured in 90 a.d. At this council the Rabbis set to define the scripture as related to the Jews. The issue they were up against was the spread of Christianity and what they saw as a corruption of the Jewish religion.

It is here that they tried to establish the Jewish canon, although there is some debate as to whether it was fully established. The criteria that was used to decide the canon were:
[LIST=1]
*]The books needed to be in harmony with the Torah (Pentateuch, Law of Moses)
*]They had to be written before the time of Ezra
*]They had to be written in Hebrew
*]They had to be written in Palestine[/LIST]The criteria were arbitrary and eliminated Judith (Aramaic); Wisdom and 2 Maccabees (Greek); Tobit and parts of Daniel & Esther (Aramaic & outsideof Palestine); Sirach & 1 Maccabees (Post Ezra). (Preface to NAB)

These books remained a part of the Christian canon (Look up Bryennios manuscript) because they were a part of the Septuagint which Christians were using and not subject to the Jamnia Council.

Early Christianity kept all the books of the Septuagint because it was (and remains) this Greek translation that was used by Paul and others. (Most of the known world at that time spoke Greek along with thier native languages, a legacy of Alexander the Great)

Along with the written canon, the Christians also kept an oral Tradition believing it to be equally the Word of God.
Here is a quote from a document fragment written by St. Papias around 125 a.d.:

I will not hesitate to add also for you to my interpretations what I formerly learned with care from the Presbyters and have carefully stored in memory, giving assurance of its truth. For I did not take pleasure as the many do in those who speak much, but in those who teach what is true, nor in those who relate foreign precepts, but in those who relate the precepts which were given by the Lord to the faith and came down from the Truth itself.

Subrosa


#19

Hi Rookie, and welcome to the forums -

Have you ever heard of the Council of Jamnia? experiencefestival.com/council_of_jamnia It occured in 90 a.d. At this council the Rabbis set to define the scripture as related to the Jews. The issue they were up against was the spread of Christianity and what they saw as a corruption of the Jewish religion.

It is here that they tried to establish the Jewish canon, although there is some debate as to whether it was fully established. The criteria that was used to decide the canon were:
[LIST=1]
*]The books needed to be in harmony with the Torah (Pentateuch, Law of Moses)
*]They had to be written before the time of Ezra
*]They had to be written in Hebrew
*]They had to be written in Palestine[/LIST]The criteria were arbitrary and eliminated Judith (Aramaic); Wisdom and 2 Maccabees (Greek); Tobit and parts of Daniel & Esther (Aramaic & outsideof Palestine); Sirach & 1 Maccabees (Post Ezra). (Preface to NAB)

These books remained a part of the Christian canon (Look up Bryennios manuscript) because they were a part of the Septuagint which Christians were using and not subject to the Jamnia Council.

Early Christianity kept all the books of the Septuagint because it was (and remains) this Greek translation that was used by Paul and others. (Most of the known world at that time spoke Greek along with thier native languages, a legacy of Alexander the Great)

Along with the written canon, the Christians also kept an oral Tradition believing it to be equally the Word of God.
Here is a quote from a document fragment written by St. Papias around 125 a.d.:

I will not hesitate to add also for you to my interpretations what I formerly learned with care from the Presbyters and have carefully stored in memory, giving assurance of its truth. For I did not take pleasure as the many do in those who speak much, but in those who teach what is true, nor in those who relate foreign precepts, but in those who relate the precepts which were given by the Lord to the faith and came down from the Truth itself.

Subrosa


#20

Where did God speak to the Jews and define the OT canon?


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