“It has thought it proper, moreover, to insert in this decree a list of the sacred books, lest a doubt might arise in the mind of someone as to which are the books received by this council.
“They are the following: of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras, the latter of which is called Nehemias, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter of 150 Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets, namely, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of Machabees, the first and second. Of the New Testament, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen Epistles of Paul the Apostle, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the Apostle, three of John the Apostle, one of James the Apostle, one of Jude the Apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the Apostle.
“If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema…” (Council of Trent, 4th Session, April 8, 1546, “Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures”)
With these words, the Roman Catholic Canon of Scripture finally was set, more than 1,200 years after the Roman bishops, with the backing of Constantine, arrogated to themselves authority over all the Christian church. This was the first council in the history of the Western Church to officially define the Canon of Scripture.
In support of the inclusion of 12 books of the Apocrypha in the canon, Trent pointed to two regional councils which met under Augustine’s leadership in Hippo (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.). The bishops of Trent claimed these councils formally defined the canon as including the Apocrypha.
There are a couple of things wrong with this claim: 1) these were regional councils not authorized to speak for the church as a whole; and 2) the endorsement they gave the Apocrypha was quite different from what the RCC claims – a matter I shall deal with later.
The claims of Trent ignore the very significant fact that there was an established canon of Scripture long before anyone met in church council at Hippo or Carthage. There is a strong body of evidence that the Old Testament canon found in the Christian Bible (non-Catholic) is the same as that used in Palestine at the time of Christ’s ministry. That canon did not include the Apocrypha. Christ referred to Scriptures in Luke 24:44:
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”
Neither Jesus nor any of the New Testament writers ever once quoted from the Apocrypha. There are 263 quotations and 370 references to the Old Testament in the New Testament and not one of them refers to the Apocrypha
The RCC herself acknowledges that the Jews did not accept the Apocrypha, for it was not a part of the Hebrew canon. A respected Catholic source informs:
“For the Old Testament, however, Protestants follow the Jewish canon; they have only the Old Testament books that are in the Hebrew Bible.” (“New Catholic Encyclopedia,” Vol. II, ‘Canon, Biblical’ (Washington D.C.: Catholic University, 1967), p. 29)
What about the Jewish canon? How was it developed? Jews believed that God reveals His will to and through inspired people. Essentially, they accepted three means for receiving divine revelation:
“Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” (Jeremiah 18:18)
Priests learned the will of God through the Urim and Thummin, which were sacred objects carried inside the breastplate of the high priest. These were used as oracular media to divine the will of God.
God Himself disclosed to Moses the means of sanctification and atonement. These became the means of sustaining the divine-human relationship.
The prophets, or wise men, were God’s spokesmen. The words they spoke were God’s words. The sayings and writings of the prophets were preserved (Isaiah 8:16, Jeremiah 36), and widely circulated in ancient times. Sometime between the 4th and 2nd Centuries B.C., the prophetic canon seems to have been firmed into two groupings. Among the Former Prophets were included the books of Joshua, Judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings. The Latter Prophets were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve.
The Hagiographa, or Writings, was a mixed collection that included the Psalms and other documents in common use. The Jews had a difficult time with the Hagiographa, because the fluidity of the ‘canon’ complicated their efforts to standardize the authoritative Scriptures.
The Samaritan canon consisted of the Torah, without either prophetic or hagiographic scriptures. The Samaritan Torah differed from the Jewish version in several places.
When the Roman army leveled the Temple, in 70 A.D., Jewish religious practice was upended. Their system of sacrificial ritual ended with the destruction of the Temple. From then on, Judaism would have to rest on the Scriptures. And this presented yet another issue. If the Scriptures were to be the rule of faith for Jews, then it was absolutely essential that the authoritative writings be identified. In 90 A.D. Jewish leaders met in Jamnia to identify and fix the Jewish canon. It was commonly believed that Ezra’s time marked the end of divine inspiration, so there was no reason to not close the canon. There was a lot of questionable religious material in circulation during that time. The Jewish religious leaders were concerned that less informed Jews might use some of this questionable material or, worse yet, begin to use the Christian writings in matters of faith. They also were concerned to keep the authoritative texts free of scribal error, and it would first be necessary to establish an official canon in order that it be preserved.
“The principles guiding the rabbis in the selection of sacred books have not come down to us in any clear-cut delineation but appear to have included the following:
“1.The writing had to be composed in Hebrew. The only exceptions, which were written in Aramaic, were Daniel 2-7, writings attributed to Ezra (Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26), who was recognized as the founding father of post-Exilic Judaism, and Jer. 10:11. Hebrew was the language of Sacred Scripture, Aramaic the language of common speech.
“2.The writing had to be sanctioned by usage in the Jewish community. The use of Esther at Purim made it possible for it to be included in the canon. Judith, without such support, was not acceptable.
“3.The writings had to contain one of the great religious themes of Judaism, such as election, or the covenant. By reclassifying the Song of Songs as an allegory, it was possible to see in this book an expression of covenantal love.
“4.The writing had to be composed before the time of Ezra, for it was popularly believed that inspiration had ceased then. Jonah was accepted because it used the name of an early prophet and dealt with events before the destruction of Nineveh, which occurred in 612. Daniel, a pseudonymous writing, had its setting in the Exile and therefore was accepted as an Exilic document.” (Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature”, Allyn And Bacon (1968, 1997), electronic version © 1997 by Internet Infidels).
Josephus, the 1st Century Jewish historian so often cited by Romish apologists, was quite explicit that the Hebrew canon included 22 books, none of which were apocryphal (Wm. Whiston, Trans., “Josephus,” (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1960), “Against Apion” 1.8, p. 609)
There are those who would argue that the Septuagent did include the Apocrypha and suggest there were actually two Hebrew canons: a Palestinian one without the Apocrypha and an Alexandrian one which did include them. This is inappropriate, however, for there is no Alexandrian canon. The Jews of Alexandria never officially canonized the LXX. Catholics like to use the term when referring to the Jewish canon, or Tanakh, in combination with the Apocrypha.
And what support is there for the claim the original Septuagent, which was translated some six centuries before the copies now on hand, did not include the Apocrypha? Well, for one thing, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (where the Septuagent was translated), did not include the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament canon. In a letter, Athanasius listed the 22 Old Testament books and the 27 canonical books of the New Testament. He added:
“These are the fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these ALONE (my emphasis) is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness.” (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, vol. IV, St. Athanasius, “Letter 39.6” (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1953), p. 552)
Cyril of Jerusalem (b. ca. 315 A.D.) was so respected by his bishop, ‘Saint’ Maximus that he was given charge of the instruction of catechumens. Cyril catalogued the canonical Old Testament books. His list did not include the Apocrypha. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Vol VII, Cyril of Jerusalem, “Catechetical Lectures” IV.33-36 (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1952), pp. 26-28)
The earliest list of the Old Testament canon that we have from a Christian writer was provided by Melito of Sardis, who died about 180 A.D. Melito, whose writings are preserved by Eusebius, went to Palestine to see for himself exactly how many books were in the Hebrew canon. He lists 22 books, which concurs with the number given by Josephus. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, vol. I, Eusebius, “Church History” IV.26.13-14 (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1952), p. 206)
Origen also lists 22 books, none of which are apocryphal, in the Hebrew canon. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, vol. I, Eusebius, “Church History” VI.25.1-2 (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1952), p. 272)
Others of the Early Church Fathers who agreed with Josephus and Origen as to the composition of the 22-book Hebrew canon, omitting the Apocrypha were: Epiphanius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzen and Hilary of Poitiers.
But Rome tells us the Apocrypha are canonical, this was ‘infallibly’ declared by the Council of Trent. What did some of those Early Church Fathers the RCC so loves to refer to have to say about these books?
Athanasius clearly declared the canonical Scriptures alone were to be used for determining doctrine, while the apocrypha were sanctioned for reading only, but were not considered part of the canon. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, vol. IV, St. Athanasius, “Letter 39.7” (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1953), p. 552)
Jerome certainly agreed with Athanasius, for he did not include the Apocrypha in his Latin translations of the Old Testament because, he said, they were not part of the Hebrew canon. He admitted the Apocrypha were useful, but not authoritative for declaring or confirming doctrine. In a commentary on two apocryphal books, The Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, Jerome wrote:
“As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of the Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church…I say this to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in the Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon…” (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,” Second Series, vol. VI, St. Jerome, “Prefaces to Jerome’s Works, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, Daniel” (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1954), pp. 492-93)
One of the modern definitions of apocrypha is: “Writings or statements of questionable authorship or authenticity.” An apocryphal story is one that probably never happened. Consequently, a lot of folks seem to believe books known as the Apocrypha are mythical works. This is another example of the need to examine ancient writings in the context in which they were written and read. Originally, apocrypha meant “hidden away”; Jews considered the books of the Apocrypha to be hidden because they were not included in the Bible. When the rabbis established the Jewish canon, they excluded all works written after the age of Ezra (5th Century B.C.). One common thread uniting all the books of the Apocrypha is that they were written after Ezra’s time.
These days, not many Jews read the Apocrypha. When the rabbis of the Talmud placed the Apocrypha outside the biblical canon, they essentially declared them of little religious significance and relegated them to the status of curiosities.
“Unlike the books of the Old Testament, which are in Hebrew, with some portions in Aramaic, the apocryphal productions are in Greek … The Jewish Church considered them uninspired, and some of their writers disclaim inspiration, (prologue to Ecclesiasticus; 11 Macc.2:23; 15:38). The Apocrypha and Pseudopigrapha were produced between about 250 B.C. and somewhere in the early Christian centuries. They are not found in the Hebrew canon: they are never quoted by Jesus; and it cannot with certainty be affirmed that the apostles ever directly allude to them …” (Davis, John D. and Henry Snyder Gehman: The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible; Philadelphia: Westminster Press (1944), p. 33)
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned that the bishops met at Trent supported their inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Catholic canon by recalling that the regional councils in Hippo and Carthage had included these books in their canons. I stated that the endorsements of these councils was not what the RCC claims. Cardinal Cajetan, in commenting on the final chapter of Esther, wrote:
“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St. Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus, as is plain from the Protogus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.” (Cardinal Cajetan, “Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament,” cited by William Whitaker in “A Disputation on Holy Scripture,” Cambridge:Parker Society (1849), p. 424)
What is Cajetan telling us? Quite simply, he is agreeing with Jerome that the word ‘canon’ was understood to have two distinct meanings. The inspired writings, authoritative for establishing doctrine were ascribed proto-canonical status. The apocrypha and ecclesiastical books, though not authoritative for setting doctrine, had value for edification and were assigned a deutero-canonical status. This is how the RCC historically understood Augustine and the Council of Carthage.
I find it interesting that Jerome and Origen, the only two Early Church Fathers considered to have been true Bible scholars and both of whom lived for a time in Palestine and were familiar with the Jewish canon, rejected the Apocrypha. Yet, in 1546, the Catholic Council of Trent went against both Catholic tradition and church practice by declaring the Apocrypha to be part of the Canon.
Why is the Roman church so set on making and keeping the Apocrypha part of the Canon of Scripture?
Could it be because so many of Rome’s innovative doctrines can only be supported by appealing to the uninspired books of the Apocrypha?
The Roman church points to a passage in 2 Maccabees to validate the doctrine of Purgatory and justify heretical prayers to and for the dead:
“So Judas having gathered together his army, came into the city Odollam: and when the seventh day came, they purified themselves according to the custom, and kept the sabbath in the place. And the day following Judas cam with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchres of their fathers. And they found under the coats o the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth the Jews: 90 that all plainly saw, for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that the that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that the who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. IT IS THEREFORE A HOLY AND WHOLESOME THOUGHT TO PRAY FOR THE DEAD, THAT THEY MAY BE LOOSED FROM SIN. (2 Maccabees 12:38-46, Douay-Rheims Bible, emphasis not in original)
The RCC’s Semi-Pelagian doctrine of salvation by works is supported by two passages from the Apocrypha:
“Water will quench a flaming fire, and alms maketh atonement for sin.” (Ecclesiasticus 3:30, Ronald Knox translation)
“It is better to give alms than to lay up gold; for alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin.” Tobit 12:8-9, 17, Ronald Knox translation)
A verse in the Apocrypha can be stretched to support the RCC’s heretical doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary:
“And I was a witty child and had received a good soul. And whereas I was more good, I came to a body undefiled.” (Wisdom 8:19,20, Douay-Rheims Bible)
A while back, I posted an account of a “magical” method for selling a house fast as provided by Mother Angelica. Well, the Apocrypha provide other spells and incantaions, among them:
“If the Devil, or an evil spirit troubles anyone, they can be driven away by making a smoke of the heart, liver, and gall of a fish…and the Devil will smell it, and flee away, and never come again anymore.” (Tobit 6:5-8. Ronald Knox translation)
Let’s see now. The Palastinian Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as inspired. Nor did the Samaritans. The Jews in Alexandria never officially accepted the LXX as canonical. The leading fathers of the Greek Church did not accept the Apocrypha as inspired writings. Principle lights among the Early Church Fathers rejected the idea of the inspiration of the Apocrypha.
“Rufinus, Jerome, Anastasius, Leontius, Gregory the Great, and John of Damascus all wrote after the provincial Councils of Carthage and Hippo under Augustine. Therefore, to say that these councils somehow authoritatively established the canon of Scripture is not true. John Cosin, in his work The Scholastical History of the Canon, cites fifty-two major ecclesiastical writers from the eighth to the sixteenth centuries who affirmed the view of Jerome. ” (William Webster, “The Church of Rome at the Bar of History,” Banner of Truth Trust:Carlisle/Edinburgh (1995), p. 11)
Nevertheless, the Council of Trent declared the Apocrypha to be canonical, and this was later reaffirmed by Vatican I. The bishops of the Roman Catholic church accorded to the amorphous collection of apocryphal books what the books themselves do not claim: divine inspiration. The Maccabean author says something quite different, as a matter of fact:
“…all such things as have been comprised in 5 books by Jason of Cyrene, we have attempted to abridge in one book. For considering the difficulty that they find that desire to undertake the narrations of histories, because of the multitude of the matter, we have taken care for those indeed that are willing to read, and as to ourselves indeed, in undertaking this work of abridging, we have taken in hand no easy task, yea. rather a business full of watching and sweat. Leaving to the authors the exact handling of every particular, and as for ourselves, according to the plan proposed, studying to brief… For to collect all that is known, to put the discourse in order, and curiously to discuss every particular point, is the duty of the author of a history. But to pursue brevity of speech and to avoid nice declarations of things, is to be granted to him that maketh an abridgement.” (2 Maccabees 2: 24-32).
“…I will also here make an end of my narration. Which if I have done well, and as it becometh the history, it is what I desired; but if not so perfectly, it must be pardoned me. For as it is hurtful to drink always wine, or always water, but pleasant to use sometimes the one, and sometimes the other, so if the speech be always nicely framed, it will not be grateful to the readers…” 2 Maccabees 15: 38-40).
And what do the inspired books say?
“The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.” (Joel 1:1)
“Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak. but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10: 19-20).
“Now we have received. not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God: that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Corinthians 2: 12-131)
Who are YOU going to believe: A self-serving Magisterium that denied more than 1200 years of the teachings, practices and beliefs of it’s predecessors? Or God Himself?
To me, that is a no-brainer.
(So, as I said earlier, I DON’T OWN THIS. It is just worthy of sharing!)