Okay, folks! Close your books and put your notes away! Get out a piece of paper and a pencil – did I mention that there was going to be a pop quiz at the end of this series?
Not really a test, just a chance to try out what you’ve learned about the canon on some real-life apologetic examples. The quotes below are from Protestant popular authors, the kind of books your next-door neighbor might point to as proof that the Catholic canon is bogus. The quotes are shot through with errors – how many can you spot? What would your well-reasoned response to these assertions be? And if you’d like to post a few (or all) of your answers in the combox, I would love to read what you come up with! (As an aid, I’ve linked to the posts in my series where these issues were discussed – feel free to take a peek if you need to!) Pay special attention to #9 – the subject was mentioned only peripherally in the series, but this kind of objection occurs often in the popular literature, and is easily defused.
Have at it!
1.It was not until 1546, at the Council of Trent, that the Roman Catholic Church officially declared the Apocrypha to be part of the canon (with the exception of 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh). It is significant that the Council of Trent was the response of the Roman Catholic Church to the teachings of Martin Luther and the rapidly spreading Protestant Reformation, and the books of the Apocrypha contain support for the Catholic teachings of prayers for the dead and justification by faith plus works, not by faith alone. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine)
2. The Apocryphal books were written in Greek after the close of the Old Testament canon. Jewish scholars agree that chronologically Malachi was the last book of the Old Testament canon. The books of the Apocrypha were evidently written about 200 B.C. and occur only in Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament. Since Christ accepted only the books we have in our Old Testament today, we have no reason to add to their number. (Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians)
3. Roman Catholics typically argue that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that predates the time of Christ) contained the Apocrypha. This must mean, they reason, that the Apocrypha belongs in the canon. Church fathers such as Iraneaus [sic], Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria also used the apocryphal books in public worship and accepted them as Scripture. Further, it is argued, the great theologian St. Augustine viewed these books as inspired. (Protestants respond, however, that since all these facts were already known in the early centuries of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church’s delay until the sixteenth century to declare the apocryphal books as canonical depletes these arguments of significant force.) Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures With Catholics
a. Was it written by a “prophet” of God? There is neither claim and/or proof that [the deuterocanonicals] were.
b. Did it come with the authority of God? No! There is a striking absence of the ring of authority in the Apocrypha. A step from the canon to the Apocrypha is like leaving the natural sunlight of God for the artificial candlelight of man, which at times becomes very dim indeed.
c. Did it have the power of God? There is nothing transforming about the Apocrypha. Its truth is not exhilarating, except as it is a repetition of canonical books in other books.
5. The evidence clearly supports the theory that the Hebrew canon was established well before the late first century A.D., more than likely as early as the fourth century B.C. and certainly no later than 150 B.C. A major reason for this conclusion comes from the Jews themselves, who from the fourth century B.C. onwards were convinced that “the voice of God had ceased to speak directly.” (Ewert, ATMT, 69) In other words, the prophetic voices had been stilled. No word from God meant no new Word of God. Without prophets, there can be no scriptural revelation. (Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict)
6. Contrary to the Roman Catholic argument from Christian usage, the true test of canonicity is propheticity… In fact the entire Protestant Old Testament was considered prophetic. Moses, who wrote the first five books, was a prophet (Deut. 18:15.) The rest of the Old Testament books were known as the “the Prophets” (Matt. 5:17) since these two sections are called “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). The “apostles and [New Testament] prophets” (Eph. 3:5) composed the entire New Testament. Hence, the whole Bible is a prophetic book, including the final book (cf. Rev. 20:7, 9-10). As we will see, this cannot be said for the apocryphal books. There is strong evidence that the apocryphal books are not prophetic. But since propheticity is a test for canonicity, this would eliminate the Apocrypha from the canon. (Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences)
7. Except for certain interesting historical information (especially in 1 Maccabees) and a few beautiful moral thoughts (e.g., Wisdom of Solomon), these books contain absurd legends and platitudes, and historical, geographical and chronological errors, as well as manifestly heretical doctrines; they even recommend immoral acts (Judith 9:10,13) (René Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture)
8. What then shall be said about the Apocrypha, the collection of books included in the canon by the Roman Catholic Church but excluded from the canon by Protestantism? These books were never accepted by the Jews as Scripture, but throughout the early history of the church there was a divided opinion on whether they should be part of Scripture or not. In fact, the earliest Christian evidence is decidedly against viewing the Apocrypha as Scripture, but the use of the Apocrypha gradually increased in some parts of the church until the time of the Reformation. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine)
9. For instance, the earliest Christian list of Old Testament books that exists today is by Melito, bishop of Sardis, writing about A.D. 170: “When I came to the east and reached the place where these things were preached and done, and learnt accurately the books of the Old Testament, and set down the facts and sent them to you. These are their names: Five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Joshua son of Nun, Judges, Ruth; four books of Kingdoms; two books of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job; the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah; the Twelve in a single book; Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.” It is noteworthy here that Melito names none of the books of the Apocrypha, but he includes all of our present Old Testament books except Esther. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine)
10. The fact that the Roman Catholic church, since the 16th century, considers the Old Testament to contain seven additional books which Protestants reject, does not affect this conclusion [concerning the limits of the canon]. The people of God to whom the Old Testament was given were Jews. At the time of Christ all groups of Jews agreed on the contents of the Old Testament. The New Testament was given to the Christians, who took over the Old Testament from the Jews. Among the Christians unanimity regarding the books of the New Testament came into being within a few centuries, and has continued ever since. (Allan MacRae, “The Canon of Scripture: Can We Be Sure Which Books Are Inspired by God?” in John Warwick Montgomery (ed.), Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question)
And if you are interested in reading more on the subject of the canon, may I recommend these absolutely wonderful books?
Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger: The Untold Story of the Lost Books of the Protestant Bible by Gary G. Michuta – the gold standard when it comes to books on the Catholic canon.
By What Authority: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition by Mark P. Shea – the book that sealed the deal for me when I was considering becoming Catholic. Holy Tradition can be something of a “slippery fish” for Protestants to grasp. Mr. Shea nails that fish to the carving board and slices it up so that non-Catholics can partake of its benefits!
Below is a bibliography of the sources used in this series on the canon:
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in Accordance with the Official Latin Text Promulgated by Pope John Paul II, 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2000.
Abegg, Martin, Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible. HarperCollins, 1999.
Boettner, Loraine, Roman Catholicism. The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962.
Bruce, F.F, The Canon of Scripture. Intervarsity Press, 1988.
Cross, F.L. and E.A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2. ed., Oxford University Press, 1983.
Daubney, W.H., The Use of the Apocrypha in the Christian Church, London: C.J. Clay & Sons, Cambridge University Press Warehouse, 1900.
Davidson, Samuel, The Canon of the Bible: Its Formation, History, And Fluctuations, From the Third Revised and Enlarged Edition, New York, Peter Eckler Publishing Co., 1877.
Geisler, Norman L., and Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1968.
Hastings, James, Hastings Dictionary of the Bible. Hendrikson Publishers, 1909.
Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, ed. D.A. Carson, John D. Woodbridge, Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 1995.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Geoffrey William Bromiley, et al., Grand Rapids Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, 1988-1990.
Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978.
Luther, Martin, Table Talk of Martin Luther, “Of God’s Word,” XXIV. Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society.
Lutzer, Erwin W., The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians. Kregel Publications, 1998.
Metzger, Bruce, An Introduction to the Apocrypha, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1957.
Metzger, Bruce, The Canon of the New Testament, Clarendon Press, 1992.
Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, Watson E. Mills, et al., Macon, Ga. : Mercer University Press, 1990.
McDonald, Lee Martin, and Stanley E. Porter, Early Christianity and Its Sacred Literature, Peabody, Mass. : Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.
McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Thomas Nelson, 1999.
McDowell, Josh, and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith, Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., 1980.
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker, 1949-50.
Oesterley, W.O.E., An Introduction to the Books of the Apocrypha, New York, Macmillan, 1935.
Patzia, Arthur, The Making of the New Testament, IVP Academic, 1995.
Reuss, Edward W., History of the Canon of the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Church, James Gemmell, George IV. Bridge, 1890.
Ridderbos, The Authority of the New Testament Scriptures, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963.
Schaff, Philip, The History of the Christian Church, Baker Book House, 1889.
Swete, H.B., Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, New York, KTAV Pub. House, 1968.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago : Moody Press, 1966.
Westcott, Brooke Foss, The Bible in the Church, Macmillan and Co., 1887.
I thank all of you who read along. The series began on New Year’s Day and ran through the third week of Easter, lasting considerably longer than any of my other New Year’s resolutions!
On the memorial of St Agnes of Montepulciano
Deo omnis gloria!