The Canon of Scripture

I am an ex-Catholic who has been attending a Reformed church for the last 4 years and is now seriously considering a return to the Catholic Church. During my time as a Reformed Christian, I have read quite a bit of anti-Catholic material. James White in particular has been a favourite of mine, and I have watched several of his debates with Catholics.

Here is one of his articles attacking Catholic teaching - it’s a fictional dialogue between a Catholic and a Protestant.

One of the things that he mentions is that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage were local councils and therefore not binding on the whole Church. How does a Catholic answer this claim? I do know that the Second Council of Nicea in 787 did declare that the decrees of one of these Councils (I can’t remember which) are to be considered as decrees of an Ecumenical Council. But what about before then?

He also mentions that scholars have said that the Council of Rome never took place. Is there anything that Catholics have written about this?

Another thing that he mentions is that Cardinal Cajetan, in his commentary on the Old Testament, wrote that all the Deuterocanonical books (except Baruch) were counted by St Jerome as outside the Canon and were placed in the Apocrypha. Why would a cardinal write such a thing if the Canon of Scripture had been determined previously (at least by Nicea II)?

Any answers you can give would be great and would help me on my way back to the Church.

I’m no expert and can’t help with the query about the nicea787 but my understanding is that the early councils point to a Tradition in the church of recognizing the dueterocanon books. the point that these are only local councils is not considered an issue in anyway for Catholic confidence in them. Various early church fathers refer to different books of the deuterocanon as “scripture” or some other description that conveys a confidence in them along with the other books. (E.g. Sirach: Cyprian in Treatise 7 on the mortality ch9, others if you like)
My understanding with Jerome is that while he may of commented on the deutrocanon, he clarified his comment in latter writings(see Against Rufinus 11:33)

He also mentions that scholars have said that the Council of Rome never took place. Is there anything that Catholics have written about this?

leave this to others,

Another thing that he mentions is that Cardinal Cajetan, in his commentary on the Old Testament, wrote that all the Deuterocanonical books (except Baruch) were counted by St Jerome as outside the Canon and were placed in the Apocrypha. Why would a cardinal write such a thing if the Canon of Scripture had been determined previously (at least by Nicea II)?

Any answers you can give would be great and would help me on my way back to the Church.

See above re Jerome

Hello and welcome back:

I have a few thoughts for you.

Yes, I have heard the Protestant arguement that councils were local. This is an attempt to create a narrative where the see of Rome had no influence on others. Hogwash.

At a high level, Irenaeus of Lyon contradicts this in his second century writings:

  1. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church **founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, **that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as thetradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who existeverywhere.

  2. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and theirtraditions before his eyes.

Next, the councils at Carthage indicated pending ratification from the “church across the sea”, that is, Rome:

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Hippo

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_biblical_canons

Additionally, while Jerome initially questioned the apocryphal books, he later accepted them.

Either way, Luther did not have authority to decide the canon. Additionally, a Protestant would need to prove that, after a certain point, God revoked authority from the synods of bishops. Like the great apostasy, they can’t really prove that God abandoned His promise to be with the church until the end (Matthew 16 and Matthew 28).

One apologist I trust is former evangelical Dr David Anders. In his interview on The Journey Home, where he systematically shows Protestant versions of events to be fabricated, he indicates there were different canons used by different churches until the councils set the canon. The link is below:

youtu.be/R5NT32Y-Mrk

Lastly, friend, Dr Paul Thigpen describes Luther using his own words. Is this where you really want to place your trust? The link to the presentation is below:

youtu.be/ROhumu2OlgQ

I won’t argue that Hippo and Carthage were binding on the Whole Church. But what Council did provide Reformed (or Protestant) acceptance of a 66 book Canon?

We regard Hippo and Carthage as fixing the Canon, and relying on Sacred Tradition. Their authority was no small thing. Was it Infallible? Probably not. That’s why Trent affirmed this same Canon (and all its parts) again.

In the end, I am convicted of the belief that, in order for us to have confidence in a “body of Scripture” as a definite Rule of Faith, we must also rely on tradition and Church authority. The Catholic faith calls these Sacred Tradition and Magisterium.

When, where, and who are churches claiming they determined their Canon? And what was the “Rule of Faith” prior to this? But don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the Catholic faith diminishes the “Rule of Scripture”. In fact, I believe it applies it more accurately. However, there have been times in history when many in the Church neglected Scripture. And that always has a negative consequence!

As for the Council of Rome, 382, I’m not convinced that decree, with its Canon, is legitimate. I don’t think that Damasus declared a Canon.

Have you seen the recent debate between James White and Trent Horn? James White only makes one reference in the debate to Church Fathers and is not able to cite the reference. Whenever White is pressed on a point he can’t defend, he often changes the topic to attacking the Church. Here’s the debate:
youtube.com/watch?v=72TRODe8BdA

:thumbsup: I said a prayer for you. Keep an open heart and an open mind as you continue on your journey home.

James White in particular has been a favourite of mine, and I have watched several of his debates with Catholics.

I am not a fan of Dr. White’s. Nor would I be a fan of a Catholic apologist that is ignorant and condescending to others faith as he is. It was difficult but I read the article you sited. The problem I have is when anyone writes like this…

Catholic Answers reaches new lows in utterly miserable misuse of historical facts, let alone egregiously poor writing.

One adjective is plenty in my book.

Mr. Morrow presents us with three simply moronic Protestants who glibly trot down the path to papal slaughter without a second’s meaningful fight.

Not only is he condescending to the Catholic Church he is obviously condescending to his fellow Protestants.

When someone is condescending to others in there writings, even if they might be correct in their theology, there is no way they are being guided by the Holy Spirit, who guides us to LOVE one another.

One of the things that he mentions is that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage were local councils and therefore not binding on the whole Church. How does a Catholic answer this claim?

I wish I could answer this question for you, others here probably could. However, when speaking with someone like Dr. White your answer isn’t what they are looking for anyway. He is more than prepared to rebut anything you would say. However, my response to Dr. White would be I am unfamiliar with that, I will have to do more research. I would continue conversing with him by saying…Since you are able to say these councils aren’t binding on the whole Church you obviously believe Jesus left us an authoritative Church. Would you be able to give me a list of which councils are binding so I can look into those as well?

You see here is the problem when you are your own authority, you have to keep making up excuses why someone else is wrong. It’s only a matter of time before one of you excuses actually proves another fact. Unless Dr. White can give you a list of which councils are binding on the Church he has no way of claiming which aren’t. Which makes his entire question nothing more than a smoke screen, meant for confusion not teaching.

He also mentions that scholars have said that the Council of Rome never took place. Is there anything that Catholics have written about this?

Another thing that he mentions is that Cardinal Cajetan, in his commentary on the Old Testament, wrote that all the Deuterocanonical books (except Baruch) were counted by St Jerome as outside the Canon and were placed in the Apocrypha. Why would a cardinal write such a thing if the Canon of Scripture had been determined previously (at least by Nicea II)?

Any answers you can give would be great and would help me on my way back to the Church.

I’ve been a life long Catholic but have only taken my faith seriously the past few years. I research about 2 to 4 hours a day but haven’t gotten to the councils as of yet. In my opinion I wouldn’t really worry yourself about the councils as of yet. Dr. White likes to bring stuff like that up just to throw up a smoke screen. He does it to bring doubt into the picture. Take for instance in the article he presents more misdirection here…

“OK, the New Testament…was a process undertaken by the early Church, which was thoroughly Catholic.”

“Catholic, or Roman Catholic?” John asked.

Paul looked surprised by the question. “There is a difference?”

“Of course” John replied. “Catholic simply means ‘universal,’ and it was a term used in the early Church to differentiate true believers from those outside. ‘Roman Catholic’ carries far more ‘baggage’ than the mere term ‘Catholic.’ It includes, as it is used by modern Roman apologists, the idea of Papal authority, doctrines such as purgatory, indulgences, Marian dogmas, etc. The early church was ‘catholic’ but it was surely not ‘Roman Catholic.’”

Once again he proves to much. His argument here is all balanced on his misdirection the Catholic and Roman Catholic are 2 different things. Catholic is Catholic period. I am Catholic as was my relatives from 2000 years ago. Nothings changed. Here he is hoping you don’t realize Roman is just the Rite.

There are three major groupings of Rites based on this initial transmission of the faith, the Roman, the Antiochian (Syria) and the Alexandrian (Egypt). Later on the Byzantine derived as a major Rite from the Antiochian, under the influence of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. From these four derive the over 20 liturgical Rites present in the Church today.

As I said above put the councils on the back burner. I would concentrate more on…

Matthew 16:18-19
18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[a] and on this rock** I will build my church, and the powers of death[c] shall not prevail against it.[d] 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,[e] and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”**

If you can come to terms that Jesus was smart enough to leave us a visible shepherd here on earth, everything else will just fall into place. I raise sheep and I can tell you Jesus calls us sheep for a reason. They are the most self centered animal I have ever raised. They want what they want and get into so much trouble when I am not around. Sheep knowing they have shepherd doesn’t keep them in line, they need to see the shepherd to keep them on the path.

God Bless

Thanks for the link I haven’t seen that yet. Dr. Anders is one of my favorites. I learn so much from his Called to Communion talk show. That guy is down to earth, speaks at the common mans level and brilliant in his explanations.

Others have addressed the issues raised already.

I’ll just add a few things here.

The Fathers in the early Church who had issue with the 7 books in question(Like Jerome) did so for one primary reason - they were in Greek. And the Jews they were conversing with at that time wanted no part of them. Not only because these folks were now speaking Hebrew, primarily, but because the Christians were using those 7 books to convert their fellow Jewish brethren…

Read Wisdom chapter 2 - that guy described can only be the Lord. Seems very similar to the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. This is the primary reason why the Jews distanced themselves from the Septuagint, imo. But there are documented cases of orthodox Jewish Rabbis still quoting from the 7 books like 3 or 4 centuries after Christ. And there are Jews in North Africa to this very day who still accept it as a canon. White tries to make it appear that this issue was so cut and dry and it just wasn’t.

Ultimately, White throws up some nice smoke screens, but at the end of the day, the Church has been remarkably consistent on the Canon. From 405AD till today, same canon.

orginally posted by Michael85

He also mentions that scholars have said that the Council of Rome never took place. Is there anything that Catholics have written about this?

The Bible was established with the Deuterocanonical books included at the council of Rome by the Holy Roman Catholic Church in 382 AD. This is an historical fact.
All seven books were included in the Bible in 382 AD.

Luther decided for himself that those books were not holy Scripture, but he did not remove them from the Bible. These books were then put in the back of the Protestant Bible by the publishers and then about 130 years ago the publishers simply dropped them from being printed.

If you have the time, here is what the Pope, at the Council of Rome, said:

"It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. The list of the Old Testament begins: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book: Leviticus, one book;Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Jesus Nave, one book; of Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; of Kings, four books [First and Second Books of Kings, Third and Fourth Books of Kings]; Paralipomenon, two books; One Hundred and Fifty Psalms, one book; of Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise, Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), one book;
Likewise, the list of the Prophets: Isaiah, one book; Jeremias, one book; along with Cinoth, that is, his Lamentations; Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee, one book; Amos, one book; Micheas, one book; Joel, one book; Abdias, one book; Jonas, one book; Nahum, one book; Habacuc, one book; Sophonias, one book; Aggeus, one book; Zacharias, one book; Malachias, one book.
Likewise, the list of histories: Job, one book; Tobias, one book; Esdras, two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; of Maccabees, two books.
Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, one to the Corinthians [2 Corinthians is not mentioned], one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians [First Epistle to the Thessalonians and Second Epistle to the Thessalonians], one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy [First Epistle to Timothy and Second Epistle to Timothy], one to Titus, one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews.
Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book.
Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles [First Epistle of Peter and Second Epistle of Peter]; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles [Second Epistle of John and Third Epistle of John]; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament.
Likewise it is decreed: After the announcement of all of these prophetic and evangelic or as well as apostolic writings which we have listed above as Scriptures, on which, by the grace of God, the Catholic Church is founded, we have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

It was binding in a sense, anyway, as we have the same bible today, 1600 years later.

Just wasn’t officially, official.

Just like it took like 300 years for the Church to make the Trinity and deity of Christ officially, official.

And we cant dismiss those synods because there is dialogue back and forth with the Pope…They are taking direction from him and reporting back to him.

I would argue, that, the sort of primitive era contributed to the lack of Ecumenical councils then. Contrary to the protestant position that the those evil, Pope-ish, Catholics are slyly corrupting the church in dark basements in north Africa :rotfl:

Although my Bible has a table of contents in it, I would not know those books are inspired if it were not for the Church telling me so. The truth is I don’t care whether or not this councils were local because ultimately I believe my Church has the authority to tell me which councils are binding.

tertullian.org/decretum_eng.htm

Yes, that’s what was in the document. But is the document really from 382? Where was that document found? And why did St Jerome question the Deuteros if Damasus officially declared them Scripture?

And for that matter, why doesn’t Hippo or Carthage refer to this decree, if it had St Pope Damusus’ approval?

It might seem lame, but I find Wikipedia to be a balanced source of information on most religious questions. From Wikipedia it is clear that there really was a Council of Rome in 382, the only question is whether the Biblical Canon was established at this council:

This historical synod at Rome gained additional importance long afterwards. According to a document appended to some manuscripts of the so-called Decretum Gelasianum or “Gelasian Decretal” and given separately in others, at this council the authority of the Old and New Testament canon would have been affirmed in a decretal, sometimes referred to as the damasine list. The document was first connected to this council of Rome in 1794, when Fr. Faustino Arevalo (1747–1824), the editor of Coelius Sedulius, expressed his theory that the first three chapters of the five found in the Decretum were really the decrees of a Roman council held a century earlier than Gelasius, under Damasus, in 382.

Arevalo’s conclusions were widely accepted until the early 20th century. A study by the Protestant scholar Ernst von Dobschütz concluded this decretal to be a forgery, perhaps from a scholar of the 6th century. Von Dobschütz cited the inclusion of a quote by Augustine, textual variations in a later Spanish version, and the decree’s obscurity as decisive evidence that the document is the product of an anonymous 6th century author.[1] However, many scholars such as William Jurgens hold that the decretal originated with Pope Damasus and was later edited by Pope Gelasius near the end of the fifth century.[2] Others have expanded upon this hypothesis by speculating that Gelasius inserted the quote from Augustine while editing the original decree.[3]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Rome#Decretum_Gelasianum_and_damasine_list

In any event, Pope Gelasius decreed the books to be included in the canon in the 5th Century, and the Pope’s word is final, regardless of any council.

On top of this, both the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox have the same Biblical Canon as Roman Catholics, so it’s not as though Rome made it up in the Middle Ages. It is ludicrous to suggest that all of the original Apostolic churches are mistaken in this matter, but that some post-Renaissance intellectuals in the 16th Century suddenly discovered the truth.

Because it’s the decree of Pope Gelasius, from the following century.

Yes, that seems to make more sense. Why it’s attributed to Damasus, is strange. So while I admit that I don’t know, for certain, if Damasus actually promoted a Canon, I don’t think we (Catholics) should rightly use the Council of Rome as an origin of the Canon of Scripture. It is just too unreliable.

Wikipedia says:

This historical synod at Rome gained additional importance long afterwards. According to a document appended to some manuscripts of the so-called Decretum Gelasianum or “Gelasian Decretal” and given separately in others, at this council the authority of the Old and New Testament canon would have been affirmed in a decretal, sometimes referred to as the damasine list. The document was first connected to this council of Rome in 1794, when Fr. Faustino Arevalo (1747–1824), the editor of Coelius Sedulius, expressed his theory that the first three chapters of the five found in the Decretum were really the decrees of a Roman council held a century earlier than Gelasius, under Damasus, in 382.

Arevalo’s conclusions were widely accepted until the early 20th century. A study by the Protestant scholar Ernst von Dobschütz concluded this decretal to be a forgery, perhaps from a scholar of the 6th century. Von Dobschütz cited the inclusion of a quote by Augustine, textual variations in a later Spanish version, and the decree’s obscurity as decisive evidence that the document is the product of an anonymous 6th century author.[1] However, many scholars such as William Jurgens hold that the decretal originated with Pope Damasus and was later edited by Pope Gelasius near the end of the fifth century.[2] Others have expanded upon this hypothesis by speculating that Gelasius inserted the quote from Augustine while editing the original decree.[3]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Rome#Decretum_Gelasianum_and_damasine_list

Personally, I have no problem simply following the traditional account of what has been passed down to us.

Well what account is that?

Which “Protestant” council declared 66 books to be the canon - and by what authority? Which elders spoke and where was it held? A single rebellious man did that. Since James White is the accuser, the burden is upon James White to demonstrate the legitimacy of Christians following a single man who decided to adopt the Pharisaic canon. The canon of the Pharisees. Think about that.

James White, and 100% of post-reformation Christians hold Luther to be de facto infallible in determining the canon - all the while rejecting papal infallibility. The vast majority of them reject Luther on many other things, then depart with the license he granted them and develop their own conflicting doctrines. If Luther had some special celestial warrant to determine the canon, then one ought to be a Lutheran.

Another point is that James White rejects all councils except for the first (Acts 15) - if he even considers that to be a council. Luther rejected both the Church as well as the Apostolic Tradition. The bible points to the Church. Jesus points to the Church. Paul points to the Church and Tradition. James White rejects the Church (opposing Christ and Paul), rejects Tradition (opposing Paul), points briefly to Luther, then to James White. See a problem?

James White is trying to reverse-engineer Jerome into a Luther. Not going to happen. Luther declared himself to be his own authority (“Doctor Luther will have it so!”) while Jerome subjected himself to authority. Huge difference. Jerome had personal reservations about the books from the Septuagint, but he never once said “Jerome will have it so!” He humbled himself while Luther’s exalted himself. Humility versus pride.

It is simple fact that the majority of OT quotes in the NT come from the Septuagint. To therefore dismiss the Septuagint out of hand is nonsensical. As to the Church ruling very late on the canon, the Church is not a simple doctrine-making machine. Rather, councils are called to oppose heresy. Councils do this exactly as that first Acts 15 council did. Rejecting the human desire to set doctrine early and often, the Church acts slowly and deliberately, being the repository and defender of revealed truth.

In contrast, the reformation boiled down to the question of Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?”

Here is my understanding.

This decree of Damasus(disputed only by protestants, BTW) Was merely a attempt to get the ball rolling. The pontiff wanted the Bishops of North Africa to give their input yay/nay and report their findings back to him.

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. And he did this for four reasons:

North Africa was not part of the theology schools of either Alexandria or Antioch, which were the two intellectual factions that had caused the Arian controversy.
North Africa had the most bishops per capita of anywhere in the universal Church at the time, so they would reflect a good sample of universal opinion among the bishops.
The North African Church had a traditional custom of meeting in council (either at Carthage or at Hippo) every two years, which would give them the ability to hash things out effectively; and
Many of the North African bishops were renowned scholars, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, who participated in the debate and helped to formulate the canon.
So, at both the councils of Hippo (393) and at Carthage (397), the North African bishops worked out the final canon of the both the Old and New Testaments for the universal Church. This is the present canon of the Catholic Church, which the North Africans then submitted to Rome for final ratification

catholicbridge.com/orthodox/why_orthodox_bible_is_different_from_catholic.php

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