Thursday 21st February 2019

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Canon Of Scripture

January 24, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

For several weeks in this series we’ve been examining how God, in His loving Providence, has made Himself known to us. We’ve discussed the twofold means by which His divine Revelation has been transmitted to mankind — Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture — and how the two together are inseparable elements of a single Deposit of Faith. Most recently, we’ve examined how Sacred Scripture is read and interpreted through the eyes of the Church, that is, through the complementary use of the literal and spiritual senses of interpretation. The question we’ll now seek to answer is how the specific content to be included in the Bible was determined. In other words, how did the Canon of Scripture come to be and how are we to be assured of its integrity? After all, versions of the Bible authorized by the Catholic Church contain a different number of books than bibles used by many Protestant denominations.
First, let’s briefly consider what a biblical canon is and why we need it. In his Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John Hardon, SJ, defines canon as “an established rule for guidance, a standard, or a list of such rules; in biblical usage the catalogue of inspired writings known as the Old and New Testaments, identified as such by the Church” (p. 78). The Bible did not come complete with a table of contents or an index to tell us which writings, and how many, were divinely inspired and should be accepted as canonically authentic. However, God did leave His Church with the means to accomplish that very thing: The bishops, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were given the authority to define the Canon of Scripture and the promise of preservation from error in doing so.
Now, let’s consider an erroneous idea many have that is more common than one might think — that the Bible can simply be taken for granted. As Fr. Hardon expresses it, “They assume that it was ‘always there,’ without realizing that the history of the Bible gives a fair cross-section of the history of God’s revelation to the human race” (The Catholic Catechism, p. 43). And as stated in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner by Fr. Henry Wright in his book Where We Got the Bible, “The Bible did not drop down from Heaven ready-made, as some seem to imagine; it did not suddenly appear upon the earth, carried down from Almighty God by the hand of an angel or seraph” (p. 8).
In reality, the Bible, as approved by the Catholic Church, consists of 73 separate books that were penned over a span of approximately 1,500 years by more than 40 different human authors, all inspired by one Divine Author. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “it was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the Canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament . . . and 27 for the New” (CCC, n. 120). In contrast, versions of the Bible used by most Protestants consist of 66 books, only 39 in the Old Testament. What accounts for this significant difference? We’ll look at some biblical history before answering that question.
Since at least the beginning of the Christian era, the composition of the Pentateuch or Torah (i.e., the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) has been credited to Moses. Most scholars now hold that these books are made up of various written documents dating from the ninth to fourth century before Christ. “Nevertheless, given the explicit statements of Christ and the Apostles [e.g., Luke 24:44] about the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch, the Catholic Church has officially held that the first five books of the Bible are somehow of Mosaic authorship” (The Catholic Catechism, p. 44). The precise dating of Moses’ lifetime is not known, but many sources believe he lived around the 14th century B.C.
Following the composition of the books of the Pentateuch, which are referred to as the Law, two other classifications of books became part of the Old Testament: the Prophets and the Writings (or Hagiographa). According to Fr. Wright, “At what date precisely the volume or ‘canon’ of the Old Testament was finally closed and recognized as completed forever is not absolutely certain” (Where We Got the Bible, p. 13). Some authorities contend it was around 430 B.C. under Esdras and Nehemias; others say it wasn’t until about 100 B.C. when the Writings were added. Fr. Wright asserts, “Whichever contention is correct, one thing at least is certain, that by this last date . . . the Old Testament existed precisely as we have it now” (ibid., p.14).
Thus far, our discussion has been with respect to the Old Testament as written in Jewish Hebrew. As legend goes, however, the third-century B.C. Egyptian king Ptolemy II desired a copy of Jewish law for the Library of Alexandria. At the behest of the Jewish high priest Eleazer, six scholars from each of the twelve tribes of Alexandria (a total of 72) were recruited to do the translation. It came to be known as the Septuagint and derives its name from the Latin versio septuaginta interpretum, or “translation of the seventy interpreters” (often referred to as LXX, the Roman numeral designation for 70). This Greek translation included the full 46-book Old Testament canon. In his Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. Hardon emphatically describes the Septuagint as “the most important translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek” and goes on to state that “as time went on, it steadily became a Christian possession and Jews lost interest in it” (p. 499).

Praying For The Dead

We now return to the question that was posed earlier: Why do Protestant versions of the Bible have fewer books than versions approved by the Catholic Church? In the centuries prior to the coming of the Messiah, there was a second version of the Old Testament consisting of only 39 books that was used by the Jews in Palestine. Books not present in that version which appear in the Alexandrian Septuagint include: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees (as well as parts of Esther and Daniel). Many contend that it wasn’t until the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD, well after the establishment of the Catholic Church, that the Jews settled upon the Palestinian canon.
The Catholic Church refers to these seven Old Testament books as “deuterocanonical” (second canon) and recognizes them as divinely inspired and part of the biblical canon. On the other hand, Protestants refer to them as “apocryphal” (of doubtful authenticity) and reject them as non-canonical. Fr. Hardon says, “Protestants apply the term improperly to denote Old Testament books not contained in the Jewish canon but received by Catholics under the name deuterocanonical” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, p. 33). It is interesting to note that it wasn’t until the 16th-century Protestant Reformation that the seven books were rejected, the principal reason being that these books were in conflict with new Protestant doctrines. For example, 2 Macc. 12:39-46 supports the Catholic practice of praying for the dead, a teaching rejected by Protestantism.
For their part, the apostles and early Christians accepted the Alexandrian Septuagint from the very time the Church was established. Seemingly incontrovertible evidence of the inspired and apostolic nature of the Alexandrian version is contained in the very text of New Testament books. As Fr. John L. McKenzie, SJ, points out in his Dictionary of the Bible, the longer Alexandrian Septuagint “became the Bible of the Church in the first generation of Christians, and 300 of the 350 citations from the Old Testament in the New Testament are quoted according to the LXX” (p. 787).
Next week we’ll complete our discussion of the Old Testament, consider the canonicity of the books of the New Testament, and examine the process by which the Catholic Church, though her synods, papal decrees, and ecumenical councils, authoritatively defined the Canon of Scripture.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Load More...

Pope picks liberal cardinals Cupich, Marx, Tagle for featured talks at Vatican Abuse Summit

ROME, February 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, and Cardinal Antonio Tagle of the Philippines will be featured speakers at the Vatican’s upcoming summit on clerical sex abuse titled, “The Protection of Minors…Continue Reading

SD BISHOP CALLS CATHOLIC GROUP ‘EVIL’ FOR OPPOSING CARDINAL CUPICH

RAPID CITY, S.D. (ChurchMilitant.com) – A bishop is calling a Catholic apostolate “evil” for being critical of Cdl. Blase Cupich. Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota issued a statement to be read from all parish pulpits the weekend of Feb. 9–10 condemning…Continue Reading

The Christian Faith: The only valid and the only God-willed religion

The Truth of the filial adoption in Christ, which is intrinsically supernatural, constitutes the synthesis of the entire Divine Revelation. Being adopted by God as sons is always a gratuitous gift of grace, the most sublime gift of God to…Continue Reading

Roberts joins Supreme Court’s liberal wing in blocking Louisiana abortion law

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Supreme Court’s liberal wing on Thursday in temporarily blocking a Louisiana law that would have placed restrictions on abortion clinics, in the high court’s first major ruling on abortion since the confirmation of Associate Justice…Continue Reading

Supermodel Takes On Catholic Poland With Sex Education Campaign

Supermodel Anja Rubik could be a symbol of any modern, progressive European country. After joining a campaign to defend women’s rights, she started tackling school sex education and published a book for teenagers that sought to counter the teachings of…Continue Reading

Cardinals endorse campaign to stop homosexual networks in Church

February 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Gerhard Müller – the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – commented on a recently launched campaign to Stop homosexual networks in the Catholic Church as organized by the Swiss organization…Continue Reading

Back on Twitter, Bishop Tobin rebukes Catholic pols who support abortion rights

PROVIDENCE — After a months-long hiatus, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence has returned to Twitter to pointedly remind Rhode Island’s Catholic legislators — and the state’s Catholic governor — of his “track record on dealing with pro-abort…Continue Reading

US bishop rebukes Virginia Governor for ‘staggering’ infanticide remarks

ARLINGTON, Virginia, January 31, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The staunchly pro-lifeCatholic Bishop of Arlington, Virginia, has strongly rebuked pro-infanticidecomments made earlier this week by Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. Bishop Michael Burbidge today called Northam’s comments a “staggering admission” that reveals just “how far abortion…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: ‘We must provide sex education in schools’

ROME, January 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis is advocating sex education in schools, saying he believes children “must” be taught “objective” lessons about human sexuality that aren’t “soaked with ideological colonization.” During an inflight press conference on his return…Continue Reading

Trump blasts Virginia Democrats for defending infanticide

January 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump lambasted Virginia Democrats for supporting abortion up until, during, and even after birth, calling Delegate Kathy Tran’s comments on her bill permitting abortion even as a woman goes into labor “terrible.” Virginia…Continue Reading

Catholic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo Vows to Sign Bill Legalizing Abortions Up to Birth

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is pushing a radical pro-abortion bill in her state while claiming to be Catholic. The legislation, which contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church, would legalize abortions for basically any reason up to birth. A…Continue Reading

Undiscovering Columbus: Notre Dame President Puts Explorer Under Wraps

The University of Notre Dame has capitulated to several left-of-center causes and ideologies that threaten its reputation as the premier Roman Catholic college in the nation. The most recent submission to contemporary ideologies is the decision to cover the murals…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Dubia cardinals to bishops at Vatican abuse summit: ‘Will you also be silent?’

Cburke3

VATICAN, February 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, the two remaining dubia cardinals, wrote an open letter to the Presidents of the worldwide Bishops’ Conferences meeting in the Vatican for the Summit on sexual abuse. “The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the Church,” they write, “promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.” The Church hierarchy, however, wishes…Continue Reading

Vatican sex abuse cover-up unravels as prosecutors home in on bishop protected by Pope Francis

February 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Argentinean prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation for alleged sexual abuse against a bishop and close personal friend appointed and protected by Pope Francis, according to the attorney general’s office of the province of Salta, Argentina. The target of the investigation is Gustavo Zanchetta, who was named bishop of the diocese of Orán by Pope Francis in 2013. Zanchetta suddenly fled his diocese and resigned from his office in July…Continue Reading

McCarrick laicized by Pope Francis

mckarick

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 01:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered this week the laicization of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington, and a once powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world. The decision followed an administrative penal process conducted by the CDF, which found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament…Continue Reading

Daleiden decries gov’t ‘collusion’ with Planned Parenthood in body parts case

SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life advocate David Daleiden decried what he said was “collusion” that he witnessed happening in court yesterday between California’s deputy attorney general and abortion organizations.

Bishop Schneider: Abuse summit will be ‘doomed’ if it doesn’t address homosexuality

KAZAKHSTAN, February 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan said that the upcoming Vatican abuse summit is “doomed to failure” if the “predominant role” of homosexuality in the crisis is not addressed. “If the upcoming Summit on Clerical Sexual Abuse in the Vatican will not address the issue of the moral relativism and the non-belief in the perennial validity of the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue as the deepest cause of clerical…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Supreme Court . . . Blocks Law Regulating Louisiana Abortion Doctors

By CHRISTINE ROUSSELLE WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA) — The Supreme Court has blocked from taking effect a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to hold admitting privileges at hospitals nearby to abortion clinics. The court issued a stay on Thursday evening, February 7. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay blocking the law…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic . . . The Exhumation Of The Equal Rights Amendment

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is a professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the…Continue Reading

God Counts The Tears Of Women

By DONALD DeMARCO The Talmud states that God counts the tears of women. This is a beautiful statement and underscores the compassion that God has for all women. Moreover, it is a compassion that should be shared by men, for the same text warns men that “they do not cause their wives pain.” Rabbi Chaim…Continue Reading

Abortion And The Green New Deal… De-Developing And Dehumanizing The United States

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate — www.creators.com — distributes his column. All rights reserved.) + + + Do you know who said the following? “If you further decided to buy a small car that would last 30 years, be easily repairable and…Continue Reading

Has Trump Found The Formula For 2020?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN (Editor’s Note: This column was released February 8, before further developments in Virginia.) + + + His State of the Union address, say the two networks, met with the approval of 76 percent of all viewers — 97 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of independents, and 30 percent of Democrats. Seventy-two…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Cardinal Mueller Issues Manifesto . . . A Quasi Correction Of Pope Francis’ Pontificate

By JOHN-HENRY WESTEN and MAIKE HICKSON (LifeSiteNews) — Gerhard Cardinal Mueller, the former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, has released a Manifesto which reads like a correction of many of the doctrinal errors Pope Francis has taught during his tenure as Pope. The cardinal intended to release the manifesto on February 10. That date is the eve of the…Continue Reading

Be Like God And Love Your Enemies

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 1 Cor. 15:45-49 Luke 6:27-38 In the second reading today St. Paul teaches there are two Adams, the first Adam is of Earth, the second, Jesus, is from Heaven. St. Paul points out that the natural came first, then the spiritual, so…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… “Men Are Not Women” And Other Inconvenient Facts

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Of course men are not women, you might respond — it’s a matter of fact. You can certainly say that for yourself if you so choose, but you cannot say it for everyone. Not anymore. The politically correct absconding from the use of reason is exploding into a political and social lobby of ever-increasing proportions.…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Some words of wisdom from Fr. George Rutler in the parish bulletin of The Church of St. Michael in New York City: “The other day, intemperate journalists accused youths from a Catholic high school in Covington, Ky., of making racial threats against an elderly Native American during the March for Life. Videos proved that there was no truth…Continue Reading

Cardinal Zen In New Book… Vatican’s China Strategy Was All About Compromise And Surrender

  By MAIKE HICKSON Joseph Cardinal Zen, For Love of My People I Will Not Remain Silent, Ignatius Press: 2019, www.ignatius.com; paperback, 153 pages. (LifeSiteNews) — Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen has strongly criticized in a new book the Vatican’s recent dealings with China, stating that the “strategy was wrong,” adding that it was “all about compromise and surrender.” He has…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara

By CAROLE BRESLIN India has almost as many people (1.37 billion) as China (1.42 billion), which has three times the land area. Of the population of India, under three percent are Christian. In Kerala, a state on the southwest coast of India, nearly 20 percent are Christian. Perhaps the greater proportion is a result of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, who…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Jacoba Of Settesoli

By CAROLE BRESLIN Two millennia of Catholicism have produced saints from all walks of life: rich and poor — and the wealthy who became poor, such as St. Francis of Assisi who renounced his inheritance, St. Anthony of Egypt who gave his wealth away, and St. Thomas Aquinas who became a poor monk. There have also been those who lived…Continue Reading