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Bible Study
See other Bible Study Articles

Title: How Did the Early Church Recognize the Canonicity of a Book?
Source: Christian Apologetics
URL Source: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.o ... nize-the-canonicity-of-a-book/
Published: Feb 12, 2015
Author: Bill Pratt
Post Date: 2015-02-12 17:48:40 by redleghunter
Keywords: None
Views: 11849
Comments: 56

There is a misconception, popularized by books like The Da Vinci Code, that the way the books of the Bible were chosen consisted of politically infused church councils voting on the books they liked, and voting out the books they didn’t like. However, a careful reading of church history totally disproves this misconception.

As noted in a previous post, the church understood its role as recognizing what books God, himself, had inspired. This job of recognition was something the early church took very seriously, but how did they go about doing it? What were the criteria they used?

We know that propheticity was a necessary condition for canonicity, but sometimes church fathers who were trying to assess propheticity of a book were removed by decades, or even centuries, from the original composition of the books. So what did they do?

Norman Geisler and William Nix, in their book A General Introduction to the Bible, describe the criteria that were actually employed by the early church in this process.

1.Was the book written by a prophet of God? This was the most fundamental criteria. Once this was established, the book’s inspiration was recognized.

2.Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? If there were doubts about the author’s being a true prophet of God, miracles served as divine confirmation.

3.Did the message tell the truth about God? According to Geisler and Nix, “Any teaching about God contrary to what His people already knew to be true was to be rejected. Furthermore, any predictions made about the world which failed to come true indicated that a prophet’s words should be rejected.”

4.Does it come with the power of God? Geisler and Nix explain, “Another test for canonicity was the edifying effect of a book. Does it have the power of God? The Fathers believed the Word of God is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), and consequently ought to have a transforming force for edification (2 Tim. 3:17) and evangelization (1 Peter 1:23).”

5.Was it accepted by the people of God? Geisler and Nix point out that “the initial acceptance of a book by the people to whom it was addressed is crucial. Paul said of the Thessalonians, “We also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). For whatever subsequent debate there may have been about a book’s place in the canon, the people in the best position to know its prophetic credentials were those who knew the prophet who wrote it. Hence, despite all later debate about the canonicity of some books, the definitive evidence is that which attests to its original acceptance by the contemporary believers.”

Geisler and Nix summarize:

The most important distinction to be made at this point is between the determination and the discovery of canonicity. God is solely responsible for the first, and man is responsible merely for the last. That a book is canonical is due to divine inspiration. How that is known to be true is the process of human recognition. How men discovered what God had determined was by looking for the “earmarks of inspiration.”

It was asked whether the book (1) was written by a man of God, (2) who was confirmed by an act of God, (3) told the truth about God, man, and so on, (4) came with the power of God, and (5) was accepted by the people of God. If a book clearly had the first earmark, the remainder were often assumed. Of course the contemporaries of the prophet (apostle) knew his credentials and accepted his book immediately. But later church Fathers sorted out the profusion of religious literature, discovered, and gave official recognition to the books that, by virtue of their divine inspiration, had been determined by God as canonical and originally recognized by the contemporary believing community to which they were presented.

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#1. To: GarySpFc, Vicomte13, liberator, Don, BobCeleste, Murron, CZ82 (#0)

PING

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-12   17:49:42 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: A K A Stone (#1)

PING

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-12   17:50:09 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: redleghunter (#0)

How Did the Early Church Recognize the Canonicity of a Book?

It did not! It DECIDED the canonicity by the inspiration of Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit did not ever leave the Church.

And canon means standard / measure. Canon does not mean that other writtings of the Church are not inspired, it means that the selection of the key writings were made to use it to judge other writings or teachings.

If the Holy Scriptures were lost, the Church would produce new ones.

A Pole  posted on  2015-02-12   18:00:29 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: A Pole (#3)

It DECIDED the canonicity by the inspiration of Holy Spirit.

If it supported their desired beliefs and they liked it, it was declared inspiration by the holy spirit.

I utilize the same technique for evaluating a good Bourbon.

rlk  posted on  2015-02-12   20:23:32 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: rlk (#4)

Do you have a bourbon recommendation?

Biff Tannen  posted on  2015-02-12   20:27:16 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: redleghunter (#0)

“You have to understand that the canon was not the result of a series of contests involving church politics. The canon is rather the separation that came about because of the intuitive insight of Christian believers. They could hear the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John; they could hear it only muffled and distorted way in the Gospel of Thomas mixed in with a lot of other things.

“When the pronouncement was made about the canon, it merely ratified what the general sensitivity of the church had already determined. You see, the canon is a list of authoritative books more than it is an authoritative list of books. These documents didn’t derive their authority from being selected; each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together. The early church merely listened and sensed that these were authoritative accounts.

“For somebody now to say that the canon emerged only after councils and synods made these pronouncements would be like saying, ‘Let’s get several academies of musicians to make a pronouncement that the music of Bach and Beethoven is wonderful.’ I would say, ‘Thank you for nothing! We knew it because of sensitivity to what is good music and what is not. The same with the canon.” Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, Ph.D.

Paul joins OT and NT as both Scripture Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18 joins both Old and New Testament references, and calls them Scripture. 1 Timothy 5:18 (ESV) For the Scripture says, *“You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, *“The laborer deserves his wages.” Deuteronomy 25:4 (ESV) [4] *“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain. Luke 10:7 (ESV) [7] And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for *the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen, from the grave.” John Chrysostom www.evidenceforJesusChrist.org

GarySpFC  posted on  2015-02-12   20:29:56 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: redleghunter (#0)

Also very strong authority is Athanasius. He agrees with Metzgher.

Athanasius and After
Athanasius on the New Testament

As we have seen, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, devoted most of his thirty- ninth festal letter, announcing the date of Easter in ad 367, to a statement about the canon of scripture and its limits. After his list of Old Testament books, which has been quoted above,1 he continues:
Again, we must not hesitate to name the books of the New Testament. They are as follows:
Four gospels—according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John.
Then after these the Acts of the Apostles and the seven so-called catholic epistles of the apostles, as follows: one of James, two of Peter, three of John and, after these, one of Jude.
Next to these are fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, written in order as follows: First to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians, and after these to the Galatians and next that to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and that to the Hebrews. Next are two to Timothy, one to Titus, and last the one to Philemon. Moreover, John’s Apocalypse.
These are the ‘springs of salvation’,2 so that one who is thirsty may be satisfied with the oracles which are in them. In these alone is the teaching of true religion proclaimed as good news. Let no one add to these or take anything from them.3 For concerning these our Lord confounded the Sadducees when he said, ‘You are wrong because you do not know the scriptures.’4 And he reproved the Jews, saying, ‘You search the scriptures, because … it is they that bear witness to me.’5
But for the sake of greater accuracy I must needs, as I write, add this: there are other books outside these, which are not indeed included in the canon, but have been appointed from the time of the fathers to be read to those who are recent converts to our company and wish to be instructed in the word of true religion. These are6 … the so-called Teaching of the Apostles and the Shepherd. But while the former are included in the canon and the latter are read [in church], no mention is to be made of the apocryphal works. They are the invention of heretics, who write according to their own will, and gratuitously assign and add to them dates so that, offering them as ancient writings, they may have an excuse for leading the simple astray.
Athanasius is the first writer known to us who listed exactly the twenty-seven books which traditionally make up the New Testament in catholic and orthodox Christianity, without making any distinction of status among them. His order of books, on the other hand, is not that which has become traditional: he follows the Alexandrian precedent of placing the Pauline epistles after Acts and the catholic epistles, and within the ‘Pauline’ epistles he places Hebrews between 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy, as the great uncials do.7
By the ‘apocryphal’ books, of which no mention is to be made, Athanasius means those which Origen stigmatizes as ‘false’8 and Eusebius rejects as heterodox.9 The Didach and the Shepherd, while not meeting the requirements for canonical recognition, were edifying works and might profitably be read as such. It was therefore not improper to bind such works together with the canonical books in copies of scripture, as in the Sinaitic and Alexandrine codices.10

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen, from the grave.” John Chrysostom www.evidenceforJesusChrist.org

GarySpFC  posted on  2015-02-12   20:42:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#8. To: redleghunter (#1)

Canan means “standard.” When applied to the 549. Bible, it means “the books we accept as holy and inspired by God.” In the New Testament period, the “canon” was what we now call the Old Testament, the thirty–nine books from Genesis to Malachi. The early Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, accepted these as holy and inspired. But Paul, Peter, and other apostles were writing letters that Christians also believed were inspired, and oilier authors were producing “gospels,” stories of Jesus’ life and teachings. For years there was no “canon” of these Christian writings. Some people accepted certain Christian writings as holy, while others did not.
In the year 367 a prominent bishop named Athanasius circulated his “Easter letter” to his churches. In his letter he listed the twenty–seven writings that we now call the New Testament. Hoping to keep his people from error, Athanasius said that these books—and no others—were Christian holy writings. Later, a major church council confirmed Athanasius’s list.
What did he base his “canon” on? Simply put, it excluded writings that didn’t fit with Christians’ core beliefs. Over tunic, Christians had learned that certain writings were clearly “inspired”—because the writings inspired those who read them, and also because the writings reflected the beliefs of Jesus’ original apostles, passed down by word of mouth. Christians believe this gradual process of accepting some writings and rejecting others was guided by God.

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen, from the grave.” John Chrysostom www.evidenceforJesusChrist.org

GarySpFC  posted on  2015-02-12   20:45:45 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#9. To: redleghunter (#0)

Is the New Testament canon authoritative or authoritarian?

Recently the Bible has come under attack by liberal scholars who claim that the New Testament canon was determined by the winners of a supposed struggle for dominance in the early centuries of Christianity. As the following evidence reveals, however, the canon is not arbitrary or authoritarian, but divinely authoritative.
First, the entire New Testament canon was recorded early and thus was not subject to legendary contamination. Had any part of the canon been composed after AD 70 it would most certainly have mentioned the destruction of the very temple that had given the ancient Jews their theological and sociological identity. Additionally, because Matthew and Luke likely used Mark as a source and Luke composed his gospel prior to the writing of Acts, which was completed prior to Paul’s martyrdom in the mid–60s, Mark may have been composed as early as the AD 40s, just a few years after the events recorded. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reiterates a Christian creed that can be traced to within three to eight years of Christ’s crucifixion. By contrast, the Gnostic gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas, are dated long after the close of the first century. The entire New Testament canon was recorded early and thus was not subject to contamination. . . .The authority of the New Testament is confirmed through the eyewitness credentials of its authors. . . .And extra–biblical evidence confirms the New Testament canon.
Furthermore, the authority of the New Testament is confirmed through the eyewitness credentials of its authors. John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). Likewise, Peter reminded his readers that the disciples “did not follow cleverly invented stories” but “were eyewitnesses of [Jesus’] majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Moreover, the New Testament contains embarrassing details that no authoritarian association bent on dogmatic dominance would have adopted. For instance, the Gospels present the founding members of the movement as dissident disciples who not only doubted but denied their Master. The canon was not determined by men but discovered by the community of early believers based on principles of canonicity.
Finally, extra–biblical evidence confirms the New Testament canon and knows nothing of early competing canons. Secular historians—including Josephus (before AD 100), the Roman Tacitus (around AD 120), the Roman Suetonius (AD 110), and the Roman governor Pliny the Younger (AD 110)—confirm the many events, people, places, and customs chronicled in the New Testament. Early church leaders such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Julius Africanus, and Clement of Rome—all writing before AD 250—also shed light on New Testament historical accuracy. From such sources, we can piece together the highlights of the life of Christ independent of the New Testament canon. Moreover, Eusebius of Caesarea acknowledged the centrality of the canonical Gospels and recorded their widespread use in important Christian centers including Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. As such, the canon was not determined by men but discovered by the community of early believers based on principles of canonicity.
For further study, see Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004). Luke 1:1–2
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen, from the grave.” John Chrysostom www.evidenceforJesusChrist.org

GarySpFC  posted on  2015-02-12   20:50:47 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#10. To: GarySpFC (#9)

Gary -

Do actually believe your last post?

Recently the Bible has come under attack by liberal scholars who claim that the New Testament canon was determined by the winners of a supposed struggle for dominance in the early centuries of Christianity. As the following evidence reveals, however, the canon is not arbitrary or authoritarian, but divinely authoritative.

That is a silly perspective.

Pridie.Nones  posted on  2015-02-12   20:55:38 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#11. To: Biff Tannen (#5)

Do you have a bourbon recommendation?

I seldom drink any more. I haven't for 28 years. When I did, I liked Canadian Club. The finest whiskey I've ever had in my life was brought to me by by an old sargent in 1962 in a mason jar from a bootlegger. It had some stuff floating around it it, but it was good. It tasted fine and went down smooth. We were working outside in the bitter cold. A few good swallows of it at nine in the morning would keep you warm until eleven o'clock. It had the holy ghost in it. It produced divine inspiration.

I recent years I make a batch of Swedish Punch to give to friends at Christmas. I don't drink it myself.

rlk  posted on  2015-02-12   21:13:36 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#12. To: Biff Tannen (#5)

" Do you have a bourbon recommendation? "

Well, there are a lot of good ones, in all price ranges. Everyone's tastes are different. It also depends on how you drink it: straight with a chaser; mixed with water / pop etc, etc. Remember that Bourbon is only made in Kentucky. If it is made in Tennessee, Illinois, etc, it is Whiskey. There is other differences, like how long it is stored in charred oak barrels, etc.

Any way, try this: Ancient Age 90 Proof, not the 80, but the 90 Proof. IMHO, that is the best you will find for the money. An old WWII era pilot / Doctor turned me on to it. This guy could afford anything available. That is what he drank, and he was right. For the money, it is the best.

Personally, I drink it straight in a shot glass, and follow with a chaser, usually Pepsi, sometimes branch water.

There are a lot of good ones, Knob Creek, Blantons, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Bakers, Bookers, etc, etc. And all of the newer Single batches, etc. They are all good, but for the money, Ancient Age 90 is excellent. IMHO.

Try it and let me know how you you like it. Enjoy

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Stoner  posted on  2015-02-12   22:15:56 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#13. To: A Pole, GarySpFc (#3)

The most important distinction to be made at this point is between the determination and the discovery of canonicity. God is solely responsible for the first, and man is responsible merely for the last. That a book is canonical is due to divine inspiration. How that is known to be true is the process of human recognition. How men discovered what God had determined was by looking for the “earmarks of inspiration.”

If you look at the above and read the church father's commentary on Scriptures they match.

The notion of an infallible magesterium determining what belongs to God is quite arrogant. We can clearly identify, recognize and discover as did the disciples with the example of Christ.

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-13   0:16:39 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#14. To: rlk (#11)

Maybe the booze talk needs to walk on over to another thread.

Thank you in advance.

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-13   0:17:41 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#15. To: redleghunter (#13)

The notion of an infallible magesterium determining what belongs to God is quite arrogant. We can clearly identify, recognize and discover as did the disciples with the example of Christ.

I agree!

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen, from the grave.” John Chrysostom www.evidenceforJesusChrist.org

GarySpFC  posted on  2015-02-13   0:20:50 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#16. To: redleghunter (#14)

Maybe the booze talk needs to walk on over to another thread.

It's more relevant to human life that talking about some old geezer that lived 3,000 years ago.

rlk  posted on  2015-02-13   1:25:34 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#17. To: rlk (#4)

If it supported their desired beliefs and they liked it, it was declared inspiration by the holy spirit.

I utilize the same technique for evaluating a good Bourbon.

You might know your Bourbon well, I do not deny it.

As well as these guys knew their books and spirit.

I do not mind to learn from you about Bourbon.

A Pole  posted on  2015-02-13   2:12:02 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#18. To: Stoner (#12)

There are a lot of good ones, Knob Creek, Blantons, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Bakers, Bookers, etc, etc. And all of the newer Single batches, etc. They are all good, but for the money, Ancient Age 90 is excellent. IMHO.

Try it and let me know how you you like it. Enjoy

We are establishing the canon of Good Bourbon!

A Pole  posted on  2015-02-13   2:17:52 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#19. To: redleghunter (#13)

The notion of an infallible magesterium determining what belongs to God is quite arrogant.

NOBODY is infallible. Not any pope, patriarch, bishops or even a Church council.

The Truth belongs to God, and we can only search for it and embrace it with humility when we find it.

A Pole  posted on  2015-02-13   2:23:06 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#20. To: A Pole, RLK (#18)

" We are establishing the canon of Good Bourbon! "

LOL !

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Stoner  posted on  2015-02-13   7:30:32 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#21. To: redleghunter (#0)

Looks like Demon Rum has reared its ugly head.

Tooconservative  posted on  2015-02-13   8:36:27 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#22. To: A Pole (#18) (Edited)

We are establishing the canon of Good Bourbon!

I've heard Ukrainians can make Vodka out of furniture.

I wonder if they've ever tried making it out of the Orthodox KGB's pews or pulpits?

"There is no god but the Tzar!"

VxH  posted on  2015-02-13   8:55:05 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#23. To: A Pole (#19)

NOBODY is infallible. Not any pope, patriarch, bishops or even a Church council.

The Truth belongs to God, and we can only search for it and embrace it with humility when we find it.

Indeed. Wow, we agree:)

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-13   10:15:23 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#24. To: redleghunter (#23)

NOBODY is infallible. Not any pope, patriarch, bishops or even a Church council.

The Truth belongs to God, and we can only search for it and embrace it with humility when we find it.

Indeed. Wow, we agree:)

For the Orthodox infallibility resides in the Church as a whole - when bishops, clergy and laymen of today and of the past are in consensus.

Saint Vincent from Lerins (V century Gaul) said: "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus". --- true and universal is what has been believed "everywhere, always, and by all"

A Pole  posted on  2015-02-13   10:53:10 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#25. To: redleghunter, rlk (#14)

Maybe the booze talk needs to walk on over to another thread.

Thank you in advance.

Hey Robert -- was splashing this thread with the booze comment really necessary?

Liberator  posted on  2015-02-13   13:08:48 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#26. To: TooConservative (#21)

Looks like Demon Rum has reared its ugly head.

I think the appropriate Chick tract is in order. More later.

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-13   13:37:11 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#27. To: TooConservative (#21)

This is it:

Just one more

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-13   13:43:46 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#28. To: A Pole (#24)

Saint Vincent from Lerins (V century Gaul) said: "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus". --- true and universal is what has been believed "everywhere, always, and by all"

I believe the above is captured in the piece I posted:

It was asked whether the book (1) was written by a man of God, (2) who was confirmed by an act of God, (3) told the truth about God, man, and so on, (4) came with the power of God, and (5) was accepted by the people of God. If a book clearly had the first earmark, the remainder were often assumed. Of course the contemporaries of the prophet (apostle) knew his credentials and accepted his book immediately. But later church Fathers sorted out the profusion of religious literature, discovered, and gave official recognition to the books that, by virtue of their divine inspiration, had been determined by God as canonical and originally recognized by the contemporary believing community to which they were presented.

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb." (Psalm 139:13)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-13   13:53:43 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#29. To: Stoner (#12)

I will let you know, Stoner.

By the way, I drink all liquor straight. No ice, thanks. That's it, keep going. Little more. That'll do for now.

Biff Tannen  posted on  2015-02-13   21:13:27 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#30. To: Pridie.Nones (#10)

Recently the Bible has come under attack by liberal scholars who claim that the New Testament canon was determined by the winners of a supposed struggle for dominance in the early centuries of Christianity. As the following evidence reveals, however, the canon is not arbitrary or authoritarian, but divinely authoritative.

That is a silly perspective.

I've studied the subject for 43 years. YES!

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen, from the grave.” John Chrysostom www.evidenceforJesusChrist.org

GarySpFC  posted on  2015-02-13   23:53:02 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#31. To: redleghunter (#0)

An illuminating discussion would be headed by "It's canonical...SO WHAT?"

For some traditions,canon is everything because the Book is the Alpha authority. For others, it is. Interesting but not ultimately of central importance.

Vicomte13  posted on  2015-02-14   10:07:33 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#32. To: Vicomte13 (#31)

Indeed. Or even better...it wasn't really hard for those guided by the Holy Spirit then, why now?

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-14   18:03:47 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#33. To: redleghunter (#32)

Indeed. Or even better...it wasn't really hard for those guided by the Holy Spirit then, why now?

In large part it's hard now among those who place final authority in the text. Those guided by the Holy Spirit back then did not. They placed great authority in it, but not final authority. Final authority reposed in some nebulous territory between written texts, unwritten traditions, living authorities, consensus practices of the Church, and the particular persuasiveness of charismatic individuals.

The Bible became the ULTIMATE source of authority for the FINAL resolution of ALL disputes with the Sola Scriptura doctrine of Martin Luther. That doctrine didn't exist before Luther, and it still doesn't exist in the Catholic, or Oriental or Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Those latter three no longer come to decisions the same way they did back in the day either. The Catholics have concentrated the final authority into a "Magisterium", with loosely defined borders but with a clearly supreme papacy at the head of it. The Orthodox rely very heavily on the authority of the ancient traditions and the decisions of past Councils. To Catholics and Orthodox both, there is far less discretion in decision-taking than there was, say, back in the time of the early Councils. For Catholics and the two flavors of Orthodox, those decisions taken long ago are themselves canonical, and set the rules (albeit in different ways). Scripture is NOT more authoritative than, say, the Council of Nicaea, to Catholics or the Orthodox because the Holy Spirit is believed to be have been as fully present and inspirational at Nicaea as He (or She) was when Paul or John were wielding their pens.

That last piece is not present in Protestantism: the equal authority of Church to Bible. In fact, it's heresy to the Protestants.

In turn, the refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Church over Scripture is, to Catholics and the Orthodox, to elevate the Bible over the Church, and is bibliolatry.

These two positions cannot be logically reconciled.

They are why the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were united for 1000 years despite having slightly different books of the Old and New Testaments. That is still true of different Orthodox Churches today: some have a few more books in both Testaments. This would be an absolutely fatal flaw preventing unity of Protestants with either. because Protestants consider the Bible to be of the highest authority, so if there is disagreement about THAT, there can't be unity.

Catholics and the Orthodox, and the Orthodox among themselves, were not and are not held apart by differences of the canon, because what Councils say, and Popes, and magesteria over the ages are also canonical. Canon law is canonical. It's ALL canonical, but the canon doesn't MATTER as much in any of its individual pieces.

Put in political science terms, the Catholics and Orthodox have an unwritten, living Constitution which God CAN amend at any time. Catholics believe that God very rarely actually does. Orthodox are more likely to think that God HASN'T for 1500 years or so, but in theory COULD. Protestants have a fixed written Constitution that cannot be altered until Christ returns.

The real issue is less what is IN the Canon so much as what the Canon itself MEANS. Protestants MUST fight to the last trench over what is IN the Canon, because the Canon is fixed, final and absolute - it is the ONLY perfect revelation of God to the earth, and it cannot be altered until the end of the world (and there cannot be any new revelation, for the age of prophesy has ended, therefore, anything new is by definition Satanic if it is not in the Bible and would contradict something that is).

Catholics and the Orthodox CAN'T fight to the last trench over Scripture, because that would be to elevate what is, after all, just a very holy book over what is the more Holy Church that WROTE the book, and to whom God STILL gives revelations.

My own approach is to read the Scriptures LIKE a Protestant, in order to be able to talk to Protestants in terms they will accept. I think that the Catholic canon is canonical, and accept the wider Canon of the various Oriental Orthodoxies as also being holy writings. Given that there are contradictions within the Bible itself - some pretty glaring ones when one reads carefully - there is always a process of discernment and engagement one must do in deciding what one really thinks is accurate and what isn't.

NONE of the established Churches will admit THAT. The Protestants will assert (wrongly) that the Bible does not contradict. (It does.) The Catholics and the Orthodox will, more of less strongly, say that no, you as an individual cannot decide what is accurate and what is not. You have to accept the authority of "the" (meaning: "your respective") Church.

Both of these assertions don't hold up. In the former case, the Bible does contradict quite violently in English. It contradicts very little in Hebrew or Greek...but at the price of nullifying many doctrines that hang upon the English. And there is nothing, in my experience, that will lead to more explosive arguments faster than to tell somebody that a Hebrew or Greek word doesn't mean something that it HAS to mean for a doctrine to make sense. THEN we move instantly away from a battle over the authority of Scripture itself, and straight to a battle over the authority of translators and who has the right and power and ability to TRULY translate the Scriptures.

And it rapidly becomes a waste of my time and I leave the debate.

In the latter case, the "you must submit to the decisions of the Church!" the problem, for me anyway, is that I CANNOT "submit" to something when it comes to belief. I don't tell myself "Oh, I believe THAT" and just believe it. I can't "believe" things that I don't think are true, and I can't NOT believe things that I DO think are true. To pretend I could would be dishonest.

So, the Church CAN say "If you don't believe thus and so, you are wrong". Lots of people say that. But if I am not presented with a persuasive argument that causes me to substitute that set of beliefs for what I think, threatening authority certainly isn't going to persuade me of anything...other than that whoever is threatening me with authority has got bad facts and poor logic and is just trying to bully a consensus. All that bullying can ever do with me is to cause me to lie in order to avoid the bullying. "Yes, sure, I believe and accept that"...now please go away and stop bothering me.

This is why, when the Thirty Years War and the Huguenot Wars in France, and the English Civil War/Puritan Dictatorship/Reformation in England, the net result of all of it was the collapse of faith everywhere that there had been a civil war. The Age of Reason replaced the Age of Faith because the Age of Faith ended up with bullying, and people had mental reservations. With all of the death, people paid a lot of lip service but out of fear, not love. And with the Age of Revolution, they turned the tables and exacted revenge (or justice, depending on how one looks at it) on the old bullying institutions that harmed them.

One finds a curious analogy today with cigarette smoking. Cigars are more popular than ever, and marijuana is being legalized, but cigarettes, in particular, are vilified and persecuted, even to the point of preventing people from using VAPOR cigarettes that have no second hand smoke and that are, objectively, not very harmful at all.

Why the jihad on cigarettes? Because a young generation grew up in a place where people smoked everywhere, including offices and buses and airplanes, and those who didn't smoke HATED IT, and found it oppressive...and were ignored and told to shut up and had it imposed on them by parents and older people. The wheel turned and those who had been bullied came of age, gained power, and became the majority, and now they have turned the tables and used the LOGIC that was used on them when they were little: "Now I AM IN CHARGE, and YOU are weaker. I hate cigarettes, and YOU will go stand outside in the cold if you want to smoke. (Oh, and fuck you. Don't like it? GOOD. Submit! Respect ma authoritah!)"

That is the mindset that drives the anti-smoking jihad (in all its illogic), and it's also what drove the hard lines against religion (in all their illogic). Bullying begets bullying. Bully people in "faith" and command them to "believe", or else, and you will get an outward show of obedience, and massive inward resistance.

So, when it comes to the "Canon", there are several. The Catholics have one. The Greek Orthodox have one. The Slavonic Orthodox a slightly different one (the Maccabee books). The Oriental Orthodox have Enoch and the Shepherd of Hermas and 1 and 2 Clement, and the Didache, and some others. The Protestants have their Canon. They all think they're right, but it only really makes a DIFFERENCE across the divide between Protestantism and the rest of Christianity.

The best solution? Read them all, and limit yourself to the Canon of your interlocutor (at least if you want to have a discussion - if you just want an argument, then go out of your way to find something from a book he doesn't accept as canonical, and make the canon the Big Deal that it really isn't.)

Vicomte13  posted on  2015-02-17   17:17:23 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#34. To: Vicomte13 (#33)

In large part it's hard now among those who place final authority in the text. Those guided by the Holy Spirit back then did not. They placed great authority in it, but not final authority. Final authority reposed in some nebulous territory between written texts, unwritten traditions, living authorities, consensus practices of the Church, and the particular persuasiveness of charismatic individuals.

The Bible became the ULTIMATE source of authority for the FINAL resolution of ALL disputes with the Sola Scriptura doctrine of Martin Luther. That doctrine didn't exist before Luther, and it still doesn't exist in the Catholic, or Oriental or Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The early fathers of the post apostolic period did place Scriptures as a final authority.

The Scriptures were used to validate what they proposed.

For example Cyril of Jerusalem:

"This seal have thou ever on thy mind; which now by way of summary has been touched on in its heads, and if the Lord grant, shall hereafter be set forth according to our power, with Scripture proofs. For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures."

Gregory of Nyssa:

"The generality of men still fluctuate in their opinions about this, which are as erroneous as they are numerous. As for ourselves, if the Gentile philosophy, which deals methodically with all these points, were really adequate for a demonstration, it would certainly be superfluous to add a discussion on the soul to those speculations. But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings."

Those are just two. Many more. I've read these fathers of Christian theology. They proved their claims with scriptures. They knew they were fallible men.

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-17   17:31:33 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#35. To: redleghunter (#34)

Those are just two. Many more. I've read these fathers of Christian theology. They proved their claims with scriptures. They knew they were fallible men.

If it were true that the ancients really did place the FINAL authority on the Scripture, there would not have been all of those Church Councils, and in particular, there would be no Nicene Creed.

Sola Scriptura is a doctrine of the 1500s, not the 200s.

Vicomte13  posted on  2015-02-17   19:28:51 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#36. To: redleghunter (#34)

I've read these fathers of Christian theology. They proved their claims with scriptures.

Go back and read Gregory of Nyssa as he quotes Sirach, Baruch, and Wisdom, and St. Cyril quoting those plus Bel and the Dragon, Susanna and others.

You're going to find yourself with the Catholic or the Orthodox canon if you rely on them in the way you're trying to.

Or you're going to be forced into doing something that, if you read them and see how they integrated the deuterocanonical works without asterisks, will feel dishonest to you: pretending that they didn't treat books that Luther says isn't the canon just like the other books.

The arguments of the 1500s should stay in the 1500s. One of the reasons that Pope Leo, Calvin and Luther's and Knox's arguments are so very easy to rip to shreds today is that they were bullies living in a world of religious bullies. The net result is that they produced strongly opinionated works, and lived in lands where those who strongly disagreed and took firm and unyielding stands against them died for it.

Luther cheered on the slaughter of the Anabaptists. And we know about Calvin's Geneva and Pope Leo's realm. We know about both the Protestant and Catholic martyrs of England. The net result of all of that killing of people who disagreed is that the arguments of the "great" theologians of the 1500s are spit and tissue paper and don't stand up to direct hostile attack using facts, available by quick computer searches, by men that those violent worthies of that day cannot kill.

Leo was corrupt. Calvin wrote the first edition of his Institutes as a teenage law student AND IT SHOWS.

People back THEN had to treat these bellicose men as serious, but in fact their intellectual reasoning is that of belligerent children, and their scholarship does not stand up.

The early Church fathers were much better, because they couldn't KILL each other over disagreements, and they did not come up with the rigid malarky of the 1500s.

The early Church Fathers show how it was done, and it was neither Sola Scriptura NOR "sin has no rights - burn 'em at the stake" infallible priggishness either.

Christian institutions were once humble, and when they were, they didn't behave like the bellicose men of the 1500s.

Read Gregory of Nyssa: yes, he did back what he wrote up with Scripture - score a point for Luther. But no, he never said "scripture ALONE" - take a point from Luther. And he quoted the "apocrypha" just like any other Scripture - score a point for Trent - and he never wrote a word about any infallible anything. Take a point from Trent. Score? Match null.

Best result? Read Gregory and ignore the hard doctrines of the 1500s, because Gregory was right, and the theologians of the 1500s lacked any effective peer review. And since the 1500s, everybody has become ossified and ridiculous about it. Best? Let it go and read the Scripture directly, focusing on what GOD said, just like God says to. That clears all the freight.

Vicomte13  posted on  2015-02-17   19:45:32 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#37. To: Vicomte13 (#35)

The evidence points differently. Where did the councils go for their positions? Scriptures.

Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160–235) [in defending the truth of the Trinity against the heretic Praxeas:]

It will be your duty, however, to adduce your proofs out of the Scriptures as plainly as we do, when we prove that He made His Word a Son to Himself. . . . All the Scriptures attest the clear existence of, and distinction in (the Persons of) the Trinity, and indeed furnish us with our Rule of faith. (Against Praxeas, 11)

Hippolytus (d. 235)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn. (Against Heresies, 9)

Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339)

What they [the heretics] say might be plausible, if first of all the Divine Scriptures did not contradict them. . . . They have treated the Divine Scriptures recklessly and without fear. They have set aside the rule of ancient faith; and Christ they have not known. They do not endeavor to learn what the Divine Scriptures declare, but strive laboriously after any form of syllogism which may be devised to sustain their impiety. And if any one brings before them a passage of Divine Scripture, they see whether a conjunctive or disjunctive form of syllogism can be made from it. And as being of the earth and speaking of the earth, and as ignorant of him who cometh from above, they forsake the holy writings of God to devote themselves to geometry. Euclid is laboriously measured by some of them; and Aristotle and Theophrastus are admired; and Galen, perhaps, by some is even worshiped. But that those who use the arts of unbelievers for their heretical opinions and adulterate the simple faith of the Divine Scriptures by the craft of the godless are far from the faith, what need is there to say? (Church History, 5.28.4, 13–15)

Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373) [After outlining the books of the Bible, Athanasius wrote:]

These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’ (Festal Letter 39, 6–7)

Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386) [After defending the doctrine of the Holy Spirit]:

We ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures…Let us then speak nothing concerning the Holy Ghost but what is written; and if anything be not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spoke the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Be those things therefore spoken, which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say. (Catechetical Lectures, 4.17ff)

John Chrysostom (344–407)

Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts. For how is it not absurd that in respect to money, indeed, we do not trust to others, but refer this to figures and calculation; but in calculating upon facts we are lightly drawn aside by the notions of others; and that too, though we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws? Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learnt what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things; which may we all obtain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.” (Homily on 2 Corinthians, 13.4)

And it is possible the definition of Sola Scriptura is not clear to a post modern world:

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” — Westminster Confession of Faith

Sounds like some church fathers quoted previously.

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-17   20:25:36 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#38. To: Vicomte13 (#36)

Go back and read Gregory of Nyssa as he quotes Sirach, Baruch, and Wisdom, and St. Cyril quoting those plus Bel and the Dragon, Susanna and others.

You're going to find yourself with the Catholic or the Orthodox canon if you rely on them in the way you're trying to.

Or you're going to be forced into doing something that, if you read them and see how they integrated the deuterocanonical works without asterisks, will feel dishonest to you: pretending that they didn't treat books that Luther says isn't the canon just like the other books.

I agree with your final conclusion. However want to address the initial point above.

A prominent Cardinal of the reformation era and before Trent said the following:

"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)

Luther never set a canon. Trent did. Cajetan gave us a good summary of the historic view of the church views on the Canon. Trent was a disaster IMO.

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-17   20:41:24 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#39. To: redleghunter (#38) (Edited)

Trent was a disaster IMO.

You stand by Scripture Alone, and you're certain that the Protestants are correct about what specifically constitutes Scripture, and what does not.

I have said before that I am always willing to step completely outside of all Catholic tradition and to accept the stipulation of Scripture Alone, using the Protestant canon, just exactly as demanded, never referencing Catholic anything.

Scripture Alone means just exactly that: Scripture ALONE. It is a brutally limitative doctrine. I am perfectly fine with it, because it upholds MY personal views on religion completely, with no tension.

If we read what God said out of his own mouth, in koine Greek and in ancient Hebrew, then we know precisely what he wants.

I am happy to do Sola Scriptura. In fact, I think it's the only thing that is really worthwhile.

So, shall we do Sola Scriptura?

Good, then let's open up the most authoritative book: Revelation.

Why is it the most authoritative? Because it's the last time that God spoke directly out of his own mouth in Scripture, and because it is the only place in the New Testament where God explicitly commanded somebody to take dictation, and threatened damnation to anybody who changed a letter of it.

Therefore, we need to look at koine Greek Revelation, and specifically at what God SAID in it, because images and pictures are informative, but there's no commandment in them. There is law in words of command and rebuke. So that's where we have to go.

So, shall we?

I'm not going to muck around in the fever swamps of Catholic and Protestant Tradition, because the truth is, I do not care, at all, and I am never going to.

I suppose that, given that the subject of this thread...indeed its whole purpose...is to muck around in tradition and pick fights. So if we want to do Sola Scriptura, we should start another thread.

Happy to do it. Revelation is a lot easier than Genesis, because Genesis 1:1 is written in pictographs, and Hebrew, and defines all of the words, and deals with scientific concepts, and is incredibly dense.

Revelation is a lot more straightforward, particularly when you realize that John describing imagery of what he's seeing fills most of it, but the divine beings actually TALKING and imparting direction and commandment is only a small portion of the text.

I shall await your response. As far as the subject of this thread goes - I'm done with it because it's irrelevant to me.

Vicomte13  posted on  2015-02-18   11:18:05 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#40. To: Vicomte13 (#39)

Good, then let's open up the most authoritative book: Revelation.

All of God's Words are authoritative. Revelation being the last Words of all.

We should take the the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

As in not being a "Solo Me" as some on both sides of the Tiber tend to do.

That is the reason we have the error of man's tradition. Some focus on the bits and pieces. When in fact we are instructed to look at all of the Written Words of God (Luke 24:44-45)(2 Timothy 3:16). As in the Luke 24 reference our focus on scriptures should be Christ Jesus as it is written “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Now that opens the door for quite an examination of the TaNaKh to 'see' Jesus Christ. Jesus on every page.

"For holy Scripture establishes a rule to our teaching, that we dare not “be wiser than we ought;” but be wise, as he himself says, “unto soberness, according as unto each God hath allotted the measure of faith." (Augustine of Hippo (354–430)

redleghunter  posted on  2015-02-18   11:40:34 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  



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