In this e-mail exchange between guest apologist Brock Restovich and Chad (a Baptist), Chad demonstrates the hole Protestantism has dug for itself in regards to Sacred Tradition, alternately refusing it and relying on it.
Thanks again for your email. Below is my response to your part 1. I will read your part 2 either tonight or tomorrow and then form a cogent, logical response (hopefully). I also want to thank you for your Christian charity in discussing these matters. I truly appreciate this as we grow closer in truth. Please understand that I have the utmost respect for you and your love for Christ. For brevity sake, I tried to keep my answers to the point, so please do not assume any negative tone. Emails are poor conveyors of tone. I’m sure you will agree that there is so much we can say about these topics that it’s hard to try to fit it in one email. With that being said, I pray that you and I will continue to grow in Christ and to nurture our evolving relationship.
Chad: Wow!! Your email has made my brain hurt. LOL!! I absolutely LOVE discussing these types of issues as I can tell you do as well. I have broken your email down into 2 parts: Part 1 is your question
How do we know which books should and which books should not be included in the canon of scripture?
Part 2 is an argument that you made concerning the Catholic church being the entity to canonize scripture. So I will attempt to address both parts. Let’s dive in: This is an excellent question. First of all Canonocity is determined by God. It is not the antiquity, authenticity, or religious community that makes a book canonical or authoritative. A book is valuabe because it is canonical, and not canonical because it is or was considered valuable. Its authority is established by God and merely discovered by God’s people.
Brock: “A book is valuable because it is canonical, and not canonical because it is or was considered valuable”? Chad, as I see it, this statement contains some serious defects in it and is detrimental to the sola scriptura position. How do you know which books were “considered valuable” or not? How do we know that the Gospel of Mark was considered valuable? Also, some Christians believed the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians to be “valuable”… so valuable that they actually believed it to be inspired Scripture. Should it, therefore, be included in the canon of Scripture? What is more is that upon further examination of this statement, your use of “is” just begs the question. Some people consider the writings of Billy Graham valuable. Should they, too, be put into the canon of Scripture? What if a given person or community believed that James was NOT valuable? Do they have the authority to remove it from the canon? Also, my brother, I do not mean to be so critical, but look at your statement a little closer:
“Canonocity is determined by God. It is not the…religious community that makes a book canonical or authoritative…It is canonical, and not canonical because it is or was considered valuable. Its authority is established by God and merely discovered by God’s people.”
Maybe you meant to say something else, but do you see how you contradicted yourself? I am really not following your logic here. God determined the canon. It was not determined by a religious community, but it is canonical because it was considered valuable? Valuable by who? A religious community?! You, then, say
“Its authority is established by God and merely discovered by God’s people.”
Can you be more specific to who God’s “people” would be? Wouldn’t they be a “religious community” of believers? Of course they would. Also, I agree that its authority is established by God but how do you know which books make up the Bible without this “religious community” who merely recognized or discovered the canon? In other words, you admit that our knowledge of the canon of Scripture comes to us from sources outside the Bible, right? In other words, we cannot rely on Scripture alone to determine one of the most fundamental questions of Christianity: What books of the Hebrew Scriptures and what books written by early Christians should and should not be considered “inspired” by God? Also, the incorrect view and correct view charts are not supported by Scripture or Christian history. How can the Church be the “child” of the canon, when the Church existed before the canon was even set? Can’t we also say that the “discoverer” and “determiner” are essentially one and the same? You said yourself that the Bible did not just fall out of the sky. In other words, God did guide His people in recognizing His written Word. That is not the question. The question is how did He do that? Did He guide us on this question through the words of the Bible, or through Tradition? You have already acknowledged that there is no list in the Bible of which books should be in the Bible, so the answer has to be that God guided us in recognizing His Word through Tradition. Another question for you is this: Who did God give this guidance to? Did He give it to each and every Christian? Does each and every Christian have the authority to pronounce authoritatively on what is and is not God-breathed Scripture? I’m a Christian, so do I have the authority to decide which books are or are not God-breathed based on how the Holy Spirit guides me? Or, did God not give this authority to each and every Christian, but rather to the leaders of the Church that He founded? History tells us and Scripture supports that the Church came before the Bible. It was, indeed, the Church who recognized and authoritatively pronounced on what was and was not to be included in the Scriptures. In other words, there was some authority – outside of the Bible – which we needed in order to be sure the Bible was the authentic Word of God. Which means we cannot go by Scripture alone to answer all matters pertaining to Christian beliefs and practices. We need Tradition as well as Scripture.
The incorrect view places the church over the canon whereas the correct view places the church under the canon. However, this raises secondary questions, if God determines the canon, how did believers become aware of what God had done? What marks of inspiration guided the fathers as they identified and collected the inspired books? There are 5 foundational questions that lie at the very heart of the discovery process: Was the book written by a prophet of God? Prophecity determined canonicity. A prophet was one who declared what God had disclosed. This is one reason why many of the Gnostic gospels are rejected because of forgery. A book cannot be canonical if it’s not genuine. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? There were true and false prophets (Matthew 7:15) so it was necessary to have divine confirmation of the true ones. Does the message tell the truth about God? That is, does the book tell the truth about God and his world as known from previous revelations? God cannot contradict himself (2 Corinthians 1:17- 18) nor can he utter what is false (Hebrews 6:18). No book with false claims can be the word of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). Did it come with the power of God? The fathers believed the Word of God to be “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and should have transforming force (2 Timothy 3:17; 1 Peter 1:23). Was it accepted by the people of God? A prophet of God was confirmed by an act of God and was recognized as a spokesman by the people who received the message. Thus, the seal of canonicity depended on whether the book was accepted by the people. Believers in the prophet’s community acknowledged the prophetic nature of the message, as did other contemporary believers familiar with the prophet.
These tests for canonicity were not mechanical means to measure the amount of inspired literature, nor did the Holy Spirit say, “This book or passage is inspired and that one is not.” That would be disclosure and not discovery. The Holy Spirit providentially guided the examination process and gave witness to the people as they read or heard.
“The incorrect view places the church over the canon whereas the correct view places the church under the canon.”
The canon did not just tell the Church which books were inspired and which ones were not. The canon is what is in question. The Bible does not give us a list of inspired books. So how do we know? The Church determined, protected, wrote, and preserved the Scriptures throughout Christian history. The testament of the early church fathers affirms this as well as historical documents. You, then, said,
“What marks of inspiration guided the fathers as they identified and collected the inspired books?”
This is a great question, Chad! To put this another way, “What marks of inspiration guided the fathers as the they ‘determined’ and collected the inspired books?” Chad, who were these “fathers”? Were they Baptists fathers, Presbyterian fathers or were they Catholic fathers? Did these fathers believe the same doctrines as you do today? Did these fathers affirm your beliefs in doctrines such as the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, or what the Church even is? Essentially, did these fathers believe in the Bible alone as their sole rule of faith? Here is the lists of criteria that you provided: Was the book written by a prophet of God? Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? Does the message tell the truth about God? Did it come with the power of God? Was it accepted by the people of God? First, where did you get these criteria? How do you know they were the criteria for identifying and collecting the Word of God? Are these criteria in the Bible? No, they are not. So, again, I find you using Tradition in order to determine a fundamental question of Christianity: Which books are and are not the authentic Word of God. However, let’s look for a second at your criteria: Was the book written by a prophet of God? How do we know if it was or wasn’t? Was Mark a prophet of God? If you answer, “Yes”, by what authority do you say that he was? The Bible nowhere states that Mark was a prophet of God. The Letter to the Hebrews…who wrote it? How do you know who wrote it? Does the Bible tell you? With all due respect, my brother, but for someone who goes by the Bible alone, you sure do rely on a lot of extra-biblical tradition and authority for your basic beliefs. This criteria is completely useless if we go by the Bible alone.
Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? Let’s look again, at Mark. Does the Bible ever record that Mark ever performed any acts of God? Does the Bible ever record that he ever performed any miracles? No! In fact, we don’t even know for sure which “Mark” wrote Mark, do we? Not, at least, if we go by the Bible alone. Was the writer of Hebrews confirmed by acts of God? Was Luke? Does the message tell the truth about God? Chad, who is supposed to decide whether or not a book is speaking the truth about God? If the book says God is spirit…how do you know that’s true? Have you ever met God to confirm that He is spirit? No offense, but this is an absolute ridiculous criteria if you rely on the Bible alone. You determine whether a book should be in the Bible by whether or not it tells the truth about God based on what authority in regards to God? The Bible!? Talk about circular reasoning!!! And, does the book claim to be of God? How many books in the Bible claim to be of God? Do you know? The correct answer is: not all of them. How many books not in the Bible claim to be of God? A whole bunch! Did it come with the power of God?
Please read Paul’s letter to Philemon and tell me that it has a “transforming force”. Who made up these criteria? What book did you get these from? I know that it was not the Bible. What authority are you relying upon for your information here? What authority does the author have to be speaking on such things and to be proclaiming such things? Are you or the author relying on the Bible for what he says about the canon of Scripture? If you say, “Yes”, please give me book, chapter, and verse that says what he says. And if these authors or you are not relying on the Bible, then what is he or you relying on? Tradition? Whose tradition? What tradition? In other words, the Bible alone advocates do not follow their own doctrine. Sola Scriptura falls on its own face. If it’s not in the Bible, then I do not have to believe, do I? Was it accepted by the people of God? How do you know the book was accepted as God’s Word by the people to whom it was first delivered? Who was the Gospel of Mark first delivered to? You don’t know, do you? If you don’t even know who it was first delivered to, then how can you know if it was accepted by them as God’s Word? And, if they did accept it as God’s Word, then how do you know this? Again, the only way you can know it is from Tradition. The Bible doesn’t tell us how these people accepted these writings. By the way, did you know that the Corinthians accepted the Letter of Clement to them as God’s Word? Should it, therefore, be included in Scripture? Finally, on these points, why was it that all Christian Bibles contained the 7 books of the O.T. that are in the Catholic Bible, but not in the Protestant Bible, from the time the canon was officially recognized by the Catholic Church in 382 A.D. until Martin Luther came along in the 1500’s? You do know that Martin Luther threw out those 7 books of the Bible based solely on his own authority, don’t you? Also, the N.T. does not quote or allude to every O.T. book? There are several O.T. books in your Protestant Bible that are nowhere quoted in the N.T. – Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, and Nahum. What is interesting is that there are several places where the New Testament very definitely alludes to the 7 books of the Catholic Bible that are missing from the Protestant Bible. Here are just a few examples: Matthew 6:14 – Sirach 28:2; Matthew 27:39-43 – Wisdom 2:16-20; Romans 1:20-32 – Wisdom 13 and 14; Hebrews 11:35 – 2 Maccabees 7:1-42; James 1:19 – Sirach 5:11.
It is a known fact that there were major controversies amongst the Jews as to what did and did not belong in the Old Testament. It is well known by Protestant scholars that the Sadducees only accepted the first 5 books of the O.T. (The Pentateuch) as inspired Scripture. That’s it. Also, the Essenes, the Jewish sect from which we got the Dead Sea Scrolls, had a slightly different canon than the Pharisees. So there was much dispute amongst the Jews regarding the canon of Scripture. Plus, are you not aware that 2/3 of the quotes in the New Testament come from the Greek version of the Old Testament (The Septuagint), which contains the 7 books that Catholics have in their O.T. that Protestants do not?
Question: Can each of these 5 criteria be met by any Old or New Testament book?
The answer is no!
Question: Have these criteria come from the Bible, or have they been made up by men in an attempt to justify, after the fact, why they reject certain books as Scripture, even though all of Christendom accepted them as Scripture for 1100 years before the coming of Martin Luther? Where do these criteria come from? Are they from the Bible, or from the tradition of men? Chad, it’s almost as if you are under the assumption that anyone who picked up and read the Bible could know which books were inspired and which were not…almost as if it’s just so obvious. If it’s so obvious by reading them which books should and should not be considered inspired, then why was there so much dispute amongst the Jews regarding the Old Testament canon, and why so much dispute amongst Christians in the first 350 years of Christianity over the New Testament canon? You do know that many Christians disputed as to whether or not Revelation was inspired, don’t you? Other disputed books were: 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, James, and Hebrews. Plus, there were books that many early Christians considered inspired that are not now in the canon. The Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, The Letter of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Apocalypse of Paul, The Teachings of the Apostles ( The Didache), The Gospel of Paul, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, and others. If it’s that easy to determine an inspired book just by reading it, then why so much dispute among both Jews and Christians regarding the canon? Is it obvious by reading Paul’s Letter to Philemon that it is inspired Scripture? What about Leviticus? And is that your opinion or does the Bible somewhere tell us this? If it is not in the Bible, then how come you believe it? That’s about it for part 1. As I said above, I will have to read part 2 later tonight or tomorrow. Then form a response. If you want to wait to respond to this after I send part 2, that might be more beneficial. Just to keep us from repeating. Sound good?
Brock, you said, The Gospel of Matthew was actually the first book written. I agree with you here, but how do you know that? Does the Bible tell us? The answer to these questions is what I was alluding to in our conversation. The oral and written transmission of the deposit of Faith as passed on by the apostles. This is what is referred to as Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Tradition is to be respected but not exalted. There obviously was a time when God’s word was spoken. But the teachings and traditions once communicated orally by the apostles were committed by them to writing for all generations to come. All that God intends us to have is found within the Scriptures. That is not to say that traditions is worthless.
“Tradition” in the form of church confessions and council pronouncements should be respected, but such tradition is not God’s revelation, and does not have an authority equal to that of Scripture. Jesus even rebuked some of the Pharisees in Mark 7:8, Neglecting the commandments of God, you hold to the tradition of men. Likewise in Colossians 2:8 Paul warns: See to it that no one takes you captive through vain philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Any tradition that conflicts with scripture is to be rejected. here does the Bible say that “Tradition is to be respected but not exalted”? And where does Scripture say that the teachings and traditions once communicated orally by the apostles would eventually be written down?
Where does Scripture say that upon the death of the last apostle, Oral (Sacred) Tradition will cease? You are making a ton of assumptions in this paragraph, Chad. The Bible never claims to be all that God intended for us to have. In fact, John 21:25 says But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Are those other teachings of Jesus not important? I think they are. It seems as if you are saying that they are not necessary. You are twisting Scripture to say what you want it to say, Chad. Scripture never says what you claim here. You then go on to say,
Tradition in the form of church confessions and council pronouncements should be respected, but such tradition is not God’s revelation, and does not have an authority equal to that of Scripture.
This is merely your personal, fallible opinion and is definitely not supported by Scripture. Let’s look at Acts 15. In Acts 15, the apostles and bishops held the first Christian council known as the Council of Jerusalem. In this chapter, do we see the apostles and bishops appealing to Scripture in deciding the dispute. No! So, what was going on in Acts 15? Well, the Bible says that some men were teaching the brethren …unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. The Christians in Antioch did what they were taught. They had an issue, they tried to decide the matter for themselves. When that did not work, they appealed to two more witnesses, Paul and Barnabas…two guys not bad to have come to your community wouldn’t you say?! And when Paul and Barnabas could not settle the matter, they took it to the Church in Jerusalem and held a council (This is similar to Jesus’ command in Matthew 18:15-17). Scripture says The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. Which matter? They were convening over whether a Christian had to be circumcised. Remember the N.T. had not been written yet. At this point, the Bible doesn’t tell us which books had already been written, does it? Nope. So, what did they do? Did they appeal to Scripture? No! If they had, they would have decided that circumcision was indeed necessary because the O.T. said so. Then, Peter speaks for all the apostles and bishops and Scripture says that …all the assembly kept silent. Peter spoke, not appealing to Scripture, and decided the matter. Does that sound like the apostles and their successors practiced Sola Scriptura? Not to me. You go on to quote Mark 7:8 where Jesus condemns the “traditions of men”. Notice that Jesus doesn’t condemn all Traditions! He doesn’t even condemn all traditions of men. He only condemns those that nullify the very Word of God…both ORAL and WRITTEN. There is a distinction between the apostolic Tradition, which we should accept, and human traditions that negate the Word of God, which we should reject. As for Colossians 2:8, it says nothing about traditions conflicting with Scripture. Again, it is condemning those traditions that nullify the Word of God, which is both the written and oral Word. You have to keep in mind all of Scripture. You can’t pull out a verse and attach your meaning to what the author never meant to convey. Brock, you said, The Bible, itself, is an expression of the Tradition of the early church. We know that because the Church was established before the first page of the NT was even written and was definitely established before the last book of the NT was written. And as we previously discussed, the Church was around for 350 years before the Bible was even canonized.
Brock, this is simply untrue. The canon of scripture began to form in the very early days that the Bible was being written, before the Catholic church ever existed. Luke’s Gospel was recognized as scripture within a few years of its writing (1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7 as scripture) Paul’s writings were also recognized as scripture during his own day (2 Peter 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:37).
Yes, Chad, the canon began to form before it was finally canonized in 397. However, as I have already stated, there was much controversy over what was inspired and what was not until Pope Damasus I settled the issue in 382, 393, and 397 A.D. at the councils of Rome, Hippo and Carthage. After this, the canon (the Catholic Bible) was the same for 1100 years until Martin Luther threw out those 7 books on his own authority because they disagreed with his theology. What authority did Martin Luther have to do such a thing? Secondly, the Church did come before the Bible, Chad. I do not know how you can even dispute this. We read about the Church Jesus founded in its infancy in Acts. We also know, through Tradition, that the first book of the N.T. was not written for at least 10 years later and the last book was not written for more than 40-60 years later. Question: Can you have the Church without the Bible? Yes or no? Can you have the Bible without the Church? Yes or no? I believe that you are wrong when you say, that the Bible was canonized before the Catholic Church existed. I would submit to you, Chad, that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ. I am curious to know when you believe the Catholic Church began? I bet you will say something along the lines of when Constantine came into the historical picture. If this is so, please provide evidence to support your claims.
Some questions to consider while doing so are: Did the early Christians believe in the same doctrines? In other words, did they teach one doctrine that was to be believed by the Church? Did they believe in the authority of the Church? Did they believe that the bishop of Rome was prime over all other churches? Did they worship like Catholics of today? Did they believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Did they believe that oral tradition would cease with the death of the last apostle or did they believe in apostolic succession? Now, it is true that 1 Timothy quotes Luke 10:7 as Scripture. Also, Peter does say that Paul’s writings are Scripture in 2 Peter 3. However, there are some questions to consider. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, St. Paul says that he wrote a previous letter to the Corinthians about not associating with immoral men. But wait a minute! The Bible only contains 2 letters to the Corinthians. Apparently, Paul wrote more letters…at least 3 that we know of. Yet one of these epistles to the Corinthians is not in the Bible. Was this letter not important? He also wrote many other epistles that are contained in the N.T. Which is Peter talking about? How do you know he is not talking about the 3rd missing letter to the Corinthians that actually came before 1 Corinthians? The answer is, you do not! Neither do I. The Bible does not answer this question. Plus, look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1:2: Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us… Apparently, there were letters purporting to be from Paul and the other disciples in which the Thessalonians believed to be from them. History also attests to this because we also know that the Corinthians believed the Letter of Clement to be inspired Scripture. However, it is not in the Bible either. So, whether Scripture quotes other N.T. or O.T. Scriptures does nothing to defend the Sola Scriptura position because the question still remains. Which books are to be included and which books are not?
Brock, you said, This brings me to another topic that we briefly talked about. Like you, I am a student of the Bible, Christian History, Logic, Theology, etc. You stated that the Bible consists of 66 Books (39 books of the OT and 27 books of the NT). This would be somewhere that I believe we would disagree. I believe and history shows us that the Bible is composed of 73 books (46 OT and 27 NT). In fact, when you look into the history of the early Church, you will see that for 1100 years, the OT consisted of the 46 books that are in the Catholic Bible’s OT. It was not until the Reformation, in which Martin Luther, threw out those 7 books which were Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, Wisdom, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees. A little study of the early Church shows that the Christians widely accepted those books for the vast majority of Christian history. This statement right here I believe needs some qualification to it. If you mean that the Christians widely accepted those books because they were useful for devotional and historical purposes, then I would probably agree with you. One can demonstrate respect for a book without canonizing it. But, if you mean that Christians widely accepted those books because they were inspired writings, I would disagree with you. The Roman Catholic Church decided these books belonged in the Bible shortly after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In fact, the Council of Trent canonized these books some 1500 years after they were written, largely as a reaction against the Protestant Reformation.
Here is my qualification. From 397 until the 16th century (1100 years to be conservative), the Bible consisted of 73 O.T. books. 1100 years…as opposed to the last 400 years since the protestant reformation. Given these numbers, Chad, would you say the vast majority of these Christian years would be on the 400 or 1100 year side? The 1100 year side! That would be counted as the vast majority wouldn’t you say? Secondly, when you look before 382 A.D., there is still much dispute over which books are inspired and there was no set canon. It simply is not there. Thirdly, Trent officially declared the deuterocanonical books part of the canon infallibly once and for all because Martin Luther and his minions caused an uproar during the Reformation.
However, I encourage you to read the Council of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage which lists the deuterocanonical books as part of the O.T. canon. See the following quotations: Council of Laodicea (363 A.D.): THESE ARE THE BOOKS OF THE O.T. WHICH OUGHT TO BE READ: GENESIS OF THE WORLD EXODUS FROM EGYPT LEVITICUS NUMBERS DEUTERONOMY JESUS OF NAVE JUDGES, RUTH ESTHER FIRST AND SECOND OF KINGDOMS THIRD AND FOURTH OF KINGDOMS FIRST AND SECOND OF PARALIPOMENON FIRST AND SECOND ESDRAS BOOK OF ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY PSALMS PROVERBS OF SOLOMON ECCLESIASTES SONG OF SONGS JOB TWELVE PROPHETS ISAIAS JEREMIAS AND BARUCH, LAMENTATIONS AND LETTERS EZECHIEL DANIEL THESE ARE THE BOOKS OF THE N.T.: THE FOUR GOSPELS, ACCORDING TO MATTHEW, ACCORDING TO MARK, ACCORDING TO LUKE, AND ACCORDING TO JOHN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES THE SEVEN CATHOLIC EPISTLES, AS FOLLOWS: ONE OF JAMES, TWO OF PETER, THREE OF JOHN, ONE OF JUDE THE FOURTEEN EPISTLES OF PAUL: ONE TO THE ROMANS, TWO TO THE CORINTHIANS, ONE TO THE GALATIANS, ONE TO THE EPHESIANS, ONE TO THE PHILIPPIANS, ONE TO THE COLOSSIANS, TWO TO THE THESSALONIANS, ONE TO THE HEBREWS, TWO TO TIMOTHY, ONE TO TITUS, ONE TO PHILEMON.
Did you notice that they omitted the Book of Revelation? Seems to still be no agreement among the canon. Also, did you notice that one of the 7 deuteroncanonical books is listed…Baruch? Hmm.
The Decree of Damasus (A.D. 382): BELONGING ALSO TO THE ACTS OF THE COUNCIL OF ROME OF 382 A.D. IS A DECREE OF WHICH THREE PARTS ARE EXTANT (CALLED THE GELASIAN DECREE). IT IS NOW COMMONLY HELD THAT THE PART OF THE GELASIAN DECREE DEALING WITH THE ACCEPTED CANON OF SCRIPTURE IS AN AUTHENTIC WORK OF THE COUNCIL OF ROME OF 382 A.D.…IT IS NOW ALMOST UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED THAT THESE PARTS ONE AND TWO OF THE DECREE OF DAMASUS ARE AUTHENTIC PARTS OF THE ACTS OF THE COUNCIL OF ROME. Council of Rome, Pope Damasus I (382 A.D.): 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 O.T. BEGINS: GENESIS, ONE BOOK EXODUS, ONE BOOK LEVITICUS, ONE BOOK NUMBERS, ONE BOOK DEUTERONOMY, ONE BOOK JESUS NAVE (JOSHUA), ONE BOOK OF JUDGES, ONE BOOK RUTH, ONE BOOK OF KINGS, FOUR BOOKS (1-2 SAMUEL, 1-2 KINGS) PARALIPOMENON, TWO BOOKS (1-2 CHRONICLES) ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY PSALMS, ONE BOOK CANTICLES OF CANTICLES (SONG OF SOLOMON), ONE BOOK LIKEWISE, WISDOM, ONE BOOK ECCLESIASTICUS, ONE BOOK LIKEWISE, THE LIST OF THE PROPHETS: ISAIAS, ONE BOOK JEREMIAS, ONE BOOK, ALONG WITH CINOTH, THAT IS, HIS LAMENTATIONS EZECHIEL, ONE BOOK DANIEL, ONE BOOK OSEE (HOSEA), ONE BOOK AMOS, ONE BOOK MICHEAS (MICAH), ONE BOOK JOEL, ONE BOOK ABDIAS (OBADIAH), ONE BOOK JONAS, ONE BOOK NAHUM, ONE BOOK HABACUC, ONE BOOK SOPHONIAS (ZEPHANIAH), ONE BOOK AGGEUS (HAGGAI), ONE BOOK ZACHARIAS, ONE BOOK MALACHIAS, ONE BOOK LIKEWISE, THE LIST OF HISTORIES: JOB, ONE BOOK TOBIAS, ONE BOOK ESDRAS (EZRA AND NEHEMIAH), 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, TWO TO THE CORINTHIANS, ONE TO THE EPHESIANS, TWO TO THE THESSALONIANS, ONE TO THE GALATIANS, ONE TO THE PHILIPPIANS, ONE TO THE COLOSSIANS, TWO TO TIMOTHY, ONE TO TITUS, ONE TO PHILEMON, ONE TO THE HEBREWS LIKEWISE, ONE BOOK OF THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN (REVELATION) AND THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, ONE BOOK LIKEWISE, THE CANONICAL EPISTLES, SEVEN IN NUMBER: OF THE APOSTLE PETER, TWO EPISTLES; OF THE APOSTLE JAMES, ONE EPISTLE; OF THE APOSTLE JOHN, ONE EPISTLE; OF THE OTHER JOHN, A PRESBYTER (PRIEST), TWO EPISTLES; OF THE APOSTLE JUDE THE ZEALOT, ONE EPISTLE THUS CONCLUDES THE CANON OF THE N.T. hese lists purported, here, are exactly as the Catholic Bible today 16 centuries later.
It remained that way for 1100 years, Chad, until the Martin Luther threw the 7 books out on his own. Notice, also, that this is the first time that all 27 books of the N.T. were listed completely without one of the Epistles or Revelation excluded. Why do you accept the authority of the Catholic Church to canonize the N.T. but not the O.T., especially when I’ve shown so much dispute among books in general in the Bible? This rips a gigantic hole in your statement about the Council of Trent. What this tells me, Chad, is this: You, like I was and so many others are still, are ignorant to what the Church calls development of dogma. Please understand this. I am not saying you are stupid. It is quite clear from our conversations that you are an intelligent person. What I mean by ignorant is that you, like I once was, are simply uneducated or misinformed on this matter. The Church simply restated what the Church has always taught and believed, and only formally defines dogma when there is a dispute resulting in possible schism or heresy.
Though it is true that some early church leaders quoted several of the apocryphal books as Scripture, it is also true that many early church leaders rejected these books. One of the earliest Christian lists of OT books is that of Melito, the bishop of Sardis, who in A.D. 170 affirmed all the OT books (except Esther) but did not mention a single apocryphal book. Moreover, in A.D. 367 the great champion of orthodoxy, Athanasius (a bishop of Alexandria), wrote his “paschal letter”, in which he listed all the books of the NT and all the OT books except Esther. Although, he did also mention some of the apocryphal books, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Judith, and Tobit, he said these are …NOT INDEED INCLUDED IN THE CANON, BUT APPOINTED BY THE FATHERS TO BE READ BY THOSE WHO NEWLY JOIN US, AND WHO WISH FOR INSTRUCTION IN THE WORD OF GODLINESS.
It is true that many early church leaders quoted and believed the deuterocanonical books as inspired Scripture, and it is also true that many early church fathers rejected some, not all of the deuterocanonical books. Either way, this proves nothing for your position. Why do I say that? I say that because these same fathers of the early church also believed that the Shepherd of Hermas, Clements Letter to the Corinthians, and others were inspired Scripture and therefore should be included into the N.T. There were also those who simply rejected some of the books of the N.T. as we have it today. Some rejected Revelation. Others that were rejected were James, Jude, 2 and 3 John, etc. Until these fourth century councils, Chad, there was much dispute among Christians (Catholics) on what was inspired and what was not. After the Church spoke in these councils, other known fathers of the Church, as a matter of their own personal opinion, would not have considered them canonical. However, each one that stated this also said that SO SAYETH ROME. In other words, the Church has spoken further illustrating the supreme authority of Jesus’ Church. We can discuss this more later if you would like.
Unlike the New Testament books, which claim to be inspired (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Peter 3:16) none of the apocryphal books claim to be inspired. Further, no apocryphal book was written by a true prophet or apostle of God. And no apocryphal book was confirmed by divine miracles, something that happened often with the prophets in the OT and apostles in the NT (see 1 Kings 18 and Hebrews 2:4). Finally, no apocryphal book contains predictive prophecy, which would serve to confirm divine inspiration.
I dealt with this issue in great detail in part 1 of my response. Bottom line, Chad, is: so what? Where does the Gospel of Mark claim to be inspired? It doesn’t! So, what if it did? Are you saying that we should believe a book is inspired just because it says it is? The Koran says it’s inspired, does that make it so? Of course not! Not all O.T. books are quoted from the N.T. Not all the books in the Bible were written by Apostles or Prophets. Was Luke an Apostle or Prophet? Was Mark? Did either one of these guys perform a single miracle? Not all writers of the Bible performed miracles. Here’s something for you to think about. When was Genesis written down? It was written hundreds of years after these events happened. Tradition says, and Protestants as well as Catholics affirm, that Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible. Yet, Moses wrote these hundreds of years later, after they happened. How would Moses know about these events? Events such as The Fall, Noah, Abraham, etc? One word, Tradition. I will deal more with this issue below. However, you quoted Hebrews 2:4. Did you read what the very first verse said? Therefore, we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Heard, not read. Preaching, not reading. Oral Tradition. This is what the Catholic Church says Sacred Tradition is…The very Word of God.
One other issue to think about is that no new testament writer ever quoted from the apocryphal books as scripture or gave them the slightest authority as inspired books. Jesus virtually ignored these books which would have not been the case had he considered them scripture. We see Jesus many times quoting scripture from the OT, but never once from the apocryphal books. If they are inspired scripture, why does Jesus NOT give his stamp of approval for them?
You say that no N.T. writer ever quoted from these books. First, that’s not true. Second, even if it was, so what? In my part 1 response, I listed several O.T. books not quoted at all in the N.T. Your statement above proves nothing for the Sola Scriptura position. Third, in part 1, I also listed quotes and allusions to the deuterocanonical books from the N.T. writers. Fourth, why does Jesus NOT give his stamp of approval on Obadiah, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Zephaniah, Esther, Judges, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, and Nahum by quoting them? Fifth, Jesus does provide us with an allusion to Tobit 7:18 in Matthew 11:25: Lord of heaven and earth… This is what Tobit 7:18 says: Be brave, my child; the Lord of heaven and earth grant you joy… In Matthew 7:16,20, Jesus’ quote of You will know them by their fruits… alludes to Sirach 27:6: The fruit discloses the cultivation. Take a look at Hebrews 11:35. This passage from Hebrews very definitely is quoting from 2 Maccabees 7, which is not in your Protestant OT but is in the Catholic OT. As you stated yesterday, the Bible is not self-authenticating. In other words, we do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God just because the Bible says so. If we did, then we would have to believe that the Koran was also inspired because it says so. We both know that the Koran is NOT inspired. But what authority are we relying on to tell us what the Bible is in the first place? Was it not the Catholic Church that wrote, and preserved the Scriptures throughout the first 15 centuries of the Church? All my research points to the Catholic Church as canonizing the Bible. And you said,
Again, you need to qualify this statement, are you saying that the Catholic church determined the canon or discovered it? One view places the Catholic church as authority over the canon which is an incorrect view. I agree that the catholic church played a major role in the process, but some like to give it a greater role than it actually has. To quote F. F. Bruce, “The NT canon was not demarcated by the arbitrary decree of a council: When at last a church council – the Synod of Carthage in AD 397 – listed the 27 books of the NT, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity.”
I am saying both! I am sorry, but the burden of proof is on you, Chad, to qualify your belief that it wasn’t the Catholic Church who wrote, and preserved the Sacred Scriptures. There was simply no other church around. I will ask you again. Can you have the Church without the Bible? This should be an easy answer because the answer is “yes”. We had the Church without the Bible for 350 years. Yes, we had the Scriptures that make up the Bible as we know it, but we also had other writings claiming inspiration and were believed to be inspired. So, officially, there was no “Bible” for 350 years after the death and ascension of Jesus. Next, Mr. Bruce’s statement, not withstanding, is not necessarily true as I have shown. There was much confusion as to what was Scripture. How can these books possess authority over Christians when Christians were confused as to which of these books held authority? As to which books were actually the inspired, inerrant Word of God? Next, what role do you believe the Catholic Church played in the canonization process? And why do you believe that? Also, realize that the majority of the population was illiterate. Most people could not read so how was the Bible going to be beneficial to them without a proper guide to read and interpret the Scriptures for them? Then as time passed, the monks of the Catholic Church copied down all the manuscripts by hand and distributed it to all the Catholic Churches around the world. There was no printing press and these manuscripts were copied down onto sheep velum. The Velum was extremely expensive. It was reported to be worth 3 years wages. So not everyone could afford a Bible. This is why the Catholic Church has all those stained glass windows, paintings, and statues depicting Bible stories. It was the Bible for the poor and for those who could not read. And because these Bibles were so expensive, the Church chained them to the pulpit so no one would steal them. 3 years wages left on the table! It would have been gone in a second. I said, The other topic related to this was whether the Word of God was given to us in written or oral form. I said yesterday that God’s Word should not be reduced to just its written form. And you said,
Written transmission can be tested and verified in a way that oral transmission cannot. We have numerous manuscript evidence that points to the reliability of the written record. We cannot test oral transmission this way. Remember the telephone game? Where one person whispers something to someone and then to someone else then at the end it resembles nothing like what was originally said.
So, what we are really talking about, Chad, whether you will admit this or not, is simply a lack of faith in Christ to protect His Church and Her teachings as passed down from the Apostles. A lack of faith in Christ promise in Matthew 28:18-20 when He says All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Could the Holy Spirit, through the Catholic Church, have guided the bishops – which are the successors to the Apostles – in accurately and faithfully passing on the Traditions that Paul taught by “word of mouth”? Yes or no? And if these Apostolic teachings or Traditions were passed on faithfully from one generation to the next, shouldn’t we consider them to also be the word of God? Yes or no? I said, The Bible clearly tells us that we should hold fast to both the written and the oral transmission of God’s Word (2 Thessalonians 2:15). And you said,
Brock, you are using these verses as “proof texts” for for your point of view which I would challenge you to be careful of. At first glance, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 might seem to support your position. Brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or be letter from us. Notice the critically important words, “from us” (that is the apostles). Paul was talking to people he had personally taught as an apostle of God. Paul had earlier passed down some apostolic teachings about the 2nd coming of Christ to the Thessalonian church which is the context of this letter and Paul reminds them to hold firm to those things. The apostles for a time communicated their teachings orally until those teachings could be permanently recorded in written form. Once the apostles committed their teachings to written form, and then died, the written scriptures alone became our final authority for matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3: 15-17).
Proof texts? No, my brother, I am not. This interpretation fits in perfectly with the other passages of the N.T. (and therefore, the O.T.) that I listed in which you completely ignored. I am afraid that you have engaged in a little eisegesis. You want me to believe that Paul is saying that everything that he preached orally is contained in those 2 very short letters of his? That’s not logical, Chad. Again, look at 2 Thessalonians 2:2. There were other letters claiming to be from Paul that the Thessalonians actually believed to be from Paul, and Paul authoritatively tells them to ignore those “purported” letters. Now, you might say, “No, I am talking about 1 Thessalonians.” Again, what do we find Paul saying there? 1 Thessalonians 2:13. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God… Also, look at 1 Corinthians 15:1,11: Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you hold it fast – unless you believed in vain…Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Again, what the Corinthians heard by Paul’s preaching, not read. Listen to Jesus’ words in Luke 10:16: He who hears you (The Apostles), hears me. Constantly, the N.T. is speaking of the living voice of the Church, not just Sacred Scripture.
There are so many passages that thoroughly refute your interpretation and belief that all Oral Tradition was eventually written down and that it is not the word of God. 1 Corinthians 11:2, I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. Scripture says that these Traditions both oral and written are the very Word of God! Further, St. Paul actually commends them for keeping those oral Traditions. Now, you believe that the first 5 books of the O.T. are inspired Scripture don’t you? I do as well. But why do you believe that? Moses wrote Genesis down hundreds of years after the fact. He was not there during those times to witness it for himself. The only way Moses knew about those were through Tradition. Remember the telephone game? Could these Traditions have changed before Moses heard them? Absolutely. Did they? According to your logic, they had to have because God’s people are incapable of faithfully and accurately passing on those oral Traditions. But you won’t actually admit that, will you? Of course not! Because you believe, as I do, that those oral Traditions were accurately and faithfully passed down to Moses and he accurately wrote them down… You believe that the book of Genesis is inspired Scripture, even though it was oral Tradition passed down from hundreds of years. What’s the difference, Chad? The difference is that you have been born into a tradition of men that began around the Protestant Reformation. I challenge you (a friendly challenge) to provide me with quotes from Scripture supporting Sola Scriptura and from the early church. It is my contention that no one believed as you do before the Reformation regarding Sola Scriptura. Not one single church father ever professed that the Bible is the sole authority for a Christian. As Patrick Madrid once said, Sola Scriptura is unhistorical, unbiblical, and unworkable!
[Chad says farewell:] I have enjoyed this dialogue. I hope to continue discussing the things of God with you. I really do enjoy discussing view points with people that are different from mine. It helps me see if there is a flaw in my thinking as well as understand those who hold to a different position. Feel free to point out any flaws that I may have overlooked. Hope to see you soon. CHAD
Again, Chad, thank you for your time. I just want to say that I appreciate your thoughtfulness and willingness to discuss these matters. I also want to reiterate that I do not mean any disrespect in my responses. I am very direct out of respect for both our time and intellect. Please remember that emails are poor conveyors of tone and that I am saying these words with the utmost charity and respect as I know you are. I really like you and hope that we can become good friends and hope to continue discussing these matters further. Thanks again, for blessing me with your love and respect. I hope you have a great rest of the week. Please continue to pray for me and pray about these things I have written. I want to leave you with a quote from the early 2nd century father, Papias, from Eusebius’s History of the Church, book 3, chapter 39: HE SHOWS, IN FACT, BY THE LANGUAGE HE USES, THAT HE RECEIVED THE DOCTRINES OF THE FAITH THROUGH ACQUAINTANCES OF THE APOSTLES… (Eusebius) From Papias: I SHALL NOT HESITATE TO SET DOWN FOR YOU ALONG WITH MY INTERPRETATIONS WHATEVER I LEARNED WELL FROM THE PRIESTS AND RECALL CLEARLY, BEING THOROUGHLY CONFIDENT OF THEIR TRUTH… IT DID NOT SEEM TO ME THAT I COULD GET SO MUCH PROFIT FROM THE CONTENTS OF BOOKS AS FROM A LIVING AND ABIDING VOICE. What “living and abiding voice” is Papias talking about?
The Catholic Legate
July 1, 2011