Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Canon - Getting the Facts Correct

I want to get back to the discussion on the canon of scripture since this is an area were Catholic’s often get their facts wrong. Here are the type of assertions that Catholic e-pologists like to make:

"The Church finished writing the bible in about 100 AD, and the Church finally decided which books belonged in about 397AD." source

"When I look at Church history I find councils of Bishops at Hippo and Ephesus deciding these matters." source

I addressed these two claims in an earlier post with excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopedia which stated that the canon of the Catholic Church was not ratified until Trent. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that there were doubts about the exact nature of the canon between the time of the Hippo/Carthage Councils (which were ecumenical councils and not binding) and the final decision of the Council of Trent in 1546 (which was the first binding/infallible ruling by the RCC).

In response I received additional comments:

"Just because the church didn't dogmatically declare the canon until Trent doesn't mean it didn't teach that same canon or give that canon to the world." source

"Sure there was discussion [about the OT canon], but do not characterize this as if the issue was not ruled upon. Give me the name and publisher of one bible between Carthage and Trent that did not have the OT deuterocanon in it." source

"Wrong. I'm not sure where you are getting that. Check out New Advent on St. Jerome: He never either categorically acknowledged or rejected the deuterocanonical books as part of the Canon of Scripture, and he repeatedly made use of them." source

"The fact remains that the bible the Catholic Church gave the world in 397 is the exact same one it gives today, with the exception of the 7 books which Luther removed." source

This resistance to the facts presented are not unique to the commenters on this blog. The claim that the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible (and therefore, to Protestants) is one of the cornerstones of Catholic apologetics. In their minds, to have assurance that our Bible actually contains the inspired Words of God (and not spurious material) we must rely on the authority of the Catholic Church. It is a silly argument on many levels, but it remains in the public forum nonetheless.

The fact is, the Catholic Church did not conclusively define HER canon until the Council of Trent in 1546. And the backup argument that the Trent canon is the same canon that had always been taught since the earlier non-binding ecumenical councils is misleading also.

So I would like to spend a few posts addressing these false claims by Roman Catholics on the canon. In the end, even if the Catholic Church had been involved in compiling the canon of scripture it wouldn’t matter one iota as it is God who ultimately decided the canon and he can use whatever means he wishes to accomplish his will. But the claims concerning the canon perpetuated by Catholic e-pologists are often misleading and sometimes completely erroneous and need to be addressed.

1 comment:

MikeL said...

Some questions:

1. What lead the Catholic Church to ratify the canon at Trent?

2. The canon ratifed at Trent matches the earlier canons adopted at Hippo, et al. around 400 A.D. Are there any examples of Bibles in use between 400 A.D. and 1500 A.D. that match the Protestant canon?

3. How was the Protestant canon arrived at? What was the process?