This is Part 38 in my series on the canon of Scripture. I would like to thank everyone who has hiked with me through the Protestant Mountains of Disinformation to expose the 39-book Old Testament canon for what it is – the personal opinion of the people who rejected the authority of the Church Jesus established. The burden of proof lies with those who rejected the deuterocanonicals, and proof that their canon is correct is the one thing they lack….
You run over in your mind one last time the two possible explanations for the canon. First, there is the story that runs along these lines:
– The writers of the New Testament based whole chapters of their writings on allusions to deuterocanonical books (this can be verified with a copy of the New Testament, a copy of the deuterocanonicals, and a list of references to those allusions found in the original KJV and Metzger’s Canon of the New Testament).
– The 1st- and 2nd-century Christians wholeheartedly embraced the deuterocanonicals as Holy Scripture (this is verifiable with a copy of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, a copy of the deuterocanonicals, and a list of references to the quotations they made from the deuteros).
– For the first four centuries of Christendom, there was no consensus as to which books constituted Holy Scripture, either the Old Testament or the New, with books like Esther, Hebrews, 2 Peter and Revelation being rejected by individual Church Fathers (this is historically verifiable by referencing the various canons put forward by individuals in the early church). The canonicity of various deuterocanonical books, however, was not called into question until after the second century A.D.
– At Hippo in 393 A.D. the bishops meeting in council used the principle set forth by several Church Fathers, that of trusting the Holy Spirit to guide the leadership of the Church in guarding the deposit of faith (as promised in 2 Timothy 1:14). They discerned a canon of Scripture containing 27 New Testament books and 46 Old Testament books, including the deuterocanonical books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and the additional portions of Esther and Daniel. The Council of Carthage four years later approved the same list of canonical books and sent it to Rome for ratification, as did another Council of Carthage in the year 419 A.D. (all of this is historically verifiable in Protestant reference material).
– From this date on you can find individuals who question whether the deuterocanonical books should be viewed as equal to other books of Scripture, but no extant Bible manuscript from the fourth century on down excludes the deuterocanonical books (this is historically verifiable). The Reformers saw fit to “rank” the books of the Bible, questioning the canonicity of seven New Testament books just as they questioned the deuterocanonicals. They ended up shunting the deuterocanonicals to an appendix (where they had never been before – this is historically verifiable) and their descendants very eventually removed them from the Bible altogether.
– The Council of Trent in 1546 declared the canon that had been accepted and ratified by councils down through eleven centuries to be the canon of Holy Scripture. It did not add any books to this canon, which was the same one discerned at the councils of Hippo and Carthage,
as well as being the same one promulgated by the Council of Florence years before Martin Luther’s birth (this is historically verifiable).
Then there is that other possible explanation for the canon, which runs along the lines of:
– The Jews utterly rejected the deuterocanonicals and never considered them to be Holy Scripture (“Many other books that did not later become a part of the Hebrew Bible… were also acknowledged as authoritative literature both among Jews of the first century and among Christians, e.g., the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach” according to McDonald and Porter, and many Protestant Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias give instances of Jewish use of the deuterocanonicals, including three citations from the book of Sirach in the Talmud which address that book as “Scripture.” And who can forget the reference to the book of Wisdom used by the chief priests at the Crucifixion?!).
– The Jewish canon was closed before the time of Christ and included only the books in the Protestant Old Testament (the popular authors write as if this were an established historical fact. The credibility of their whole hypothesis relies on the notion of a pre-Christian closed Hebrew canon. And yet Protestant scholars admit, as one author puts it, that the ‘how,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ or ‘why’ of this hypothetical canon cannot be historically established. You can find a great deal of evidence that the Jewish canon was not closed until after the time of Christ, by the rabbis whose right to “bind and loose” had been handed over by God to the Christian church).
– Jesus and His apostles never had anything to do with material from the deuterocanonical books (and yet Jesus stationed Himself at the Temple during the Festival of Lights to proclaim Himself “the one whom the Father set apart” in an apparent reference to the “setting apart” of the Temple in the books of Maccabees. As for the apostles, Paul and James both base several sizeable passages of their work on material taken from deuterocanonical sources, and the author of Hebrews lists the martyrs of the book of 2 Maccabees in his ‘roll call of faith.’
– A few in the early church were fooled by deuterocanonical writings, but most were not, because the inspired books of Holy Scripture were self-evidencing, and real Christians recognized them immediately
(this is in stark contrast to the historical evidence – many books of the New Testament as well as the Old were hotly disputed for nearly 400 years – while the majority, not the minority, of the Church Fathers considered the deuterocanonical books to be Holy Scripture).
– The Bible of the first Christians contained 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books (you can find no record of any such canon promoted by anyone until Jerome at the end of the 4th century). Over the centuries the Catholic Church junked up the canon with unbiblical additions
(this cannot be verified – it, in fact, stands in direct contrast to the historical record). The Reformers, with their knowledge of what the original canon looked like, weeded the deuterocanonicals out while leaving the real books safely ensconced in their proper place in Scripture (You have read pages and pages dedicated to the Reformers’ incredible confusion as to what constituted Holy Scripture and what did not. What you cannot find is any definite date when the actual Protestant canon was definitively determined, and by whom, and by what authority!
In fact, the Lutheran church to this day has not definitively declared a canon of Holy Scripture….)
How did the Protestant canon really take shape? Luther consulted with Jewish scholars as he worked on his Old Testament translation. From them he learned that the Hebrew canon lacked the deuterocanonical books. This made sense to him, since he was familiar with Jerome’s Prologues in Latin. It was easy for him and for the other Reformers to assume that the Hebrew canon had been decided long before the time of Christ, and that it was the canon of Jesus. They felt justified in claiming the Hebrew canon as their own. Conveniently, they were thereby able to do away with the deuterocanonical witness to the practice of praying for the dead, as well as the necessity of faith and works – both of which conflicted with the emerging Protestant doctrinal stances. Luther wanted to go further – he tried to discredit the book of James because he could not reconcile its message that “A man is justified by his works, and NOT by faith alone” with his “faith alone” theology. He removed James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation to the back of his Bible translation. Other Reformers followed suit and went even further – some felt that 2 Peter as well as 2 and 3 John should go. The Reformation confusion concerning the New Testament eventually subsided when Protestants accepted the decision of the councils of Hippo and Carthage, but Protestants drew the line at the Deuterocanon. When the Catholic Church objected that she knew, in accordance with Holy Tradition and the authority vested in her by her Divine Spouse, that the Old Testament consisted of 46 books, the Reformers smirked and smugly insisted that history was on their side….
Nowadays Protestant scholars just don’t have the bliss of that ignorance.
And because of the utter lack of proof that the Protestant canon is correct, the distinguished Dr. R.C. Sproul has admitted that the canon of your Protestant Bible is a “fallible collection of infallible books.”)
Since the Protestants deviated from the canon that was accepted for over a millennium, doesn’t the burden of proof lie with them? And historical proof is what they don’t seem to have on their side….
So… where does that leave you?
Well, right now you’re going to take a nice, long, hot shower. Then about 8:30 you’re going to return those books that your pastor kindly loaned you, and then you’re going to worship God for an hour or so. And after church is over, you’re going to ask your pastor if he has time to answer a few questions about the canon….
And after you’ve listened to his answers, you’re going to ask him if he has double-checked those answers of his with the evidence of the historical record! And when he asks you why that’s so important to you – why you don’t just take the accounts of the popular Protestant authors on faith – you’ll point him to a Bible verse that has taken on a whole new meaning for you in the past 24 hours:
“… the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth”
1 Timothy 3:15
On the memorial of St. Pedro de San José Betancur
Deo omnis gloria!