Saturday 30th July 2016

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Canon Of Scripture

July 5, 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

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Pence: Trump and I will send Roe v. Wade “to the ash heap of history”

Indiana Governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence claimed on Thursday that if he and Donald Trump reach the White House, “We’ll see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” “I’m pro-life and I…Continue Reading

Trump Is Driving Catholic Voters Toward Clinton

Donald Trump has held onto the support of evangelical Christians even as he has screwed up the name of a book of the Bible, said he doesn’t feel he needs forgiveness for anything, and struggled to answer the question that…Continue Reading

Catholic Tim Kaine Now Supports Taxpayer-Funded Abortion

Well, of course, the media thinks that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president, is the most Catholic of Catholics. The Washington Post gushed over him, calling the senator the “Pope Francis Catholic” due to Kaine’s work…Continue Reading

Pro-abort VP candidate Tim Kaine gets standing O at Mass, bishop mum on denying Communion

RICHMOND, Virginia, July 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-abortion Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine received a standing ovation at his parish on Sunday and several Catholic priests praised his nomination. Meanwhile, as Catholics call for Kaine to be denied…Continue Reading

Anti-abortion duo behind Planned Parenthood videos cleared

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas judge on Tuesday dismissed the last remaining charge against two California anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. District Judge Brock Thomas dismissed the tampering with…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Islam is ‘fundamentally a form of government’

Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a telephone interview that Islam is “fundamentally a form of government.” Speaking with Religion News Service, the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta said that “when they (Muslims) become the majority in any…Continue Reading

Nienstedt: misconduct allegations retribution for opposition to gay marriage

In other words, he’s the real victim here. Marino Eccher of the PiPress says, “John Nienstedt, the former archbishop of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said accusations of sexual misconduct against him were part of a false smear campaign in response…Continue Reading

5 faith facts on Mike Pence: A ‘born-again, evangelical Catholic’

(RNS) While an official announcement has not yet been made, IndyStar and other media outlets are reporting that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will be presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate. Pence became governor of the Hoosier State in…Continue Reading

Trump In Tatters As Catholic Voters Shift Their Support To Hillary Clinton

A new Pew poll on religion and the 2016 campaign revealed devastating news for Republicans as Catholic voters have shifted their support to Hillary Clinton. A new Pew poll on religion and the 2016 campaign revealed devastating news for Republicans…Continue Reading

St. Anne Catholic Church prepares for 136th annual novena

There used to be a steady flow of stories, tales of miracle cures. They were covered in the Daily Journal, the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, in the early 1900s. The Catholic church in St. Anne, a village of 1,239,…Continue Reading

More deception in the war on Card. Sarah

Speaking at a liturgy conference in London, Card. Sarah, clearly not acting in his role as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made a personal appeal to priests to say Mass ad orientem and the world is coming down on his head.…Continue Reading

Cardinal Caffarra on Marriage, Family, Amoris Laetitia, & Confusion in the Church

cardc

Editor’s note: the following is an exclusive interview with Cardinal Carlo Caffara, conducted by OnePeterFive’s Dr. Maike Hickson. Cardinal Caffarra is Archbishop emeritus of Bologna and former member of the Pontifical Council for the Family. It was in a letter to Cardinal…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  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 145 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

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

The Catholic Paths of Pence and Kaine

pk

Two vice-presidential candidates handled disagreeing with the church differently. The dinner reception celebrating my ordination as a priest 27 years ago brought together friends and family, some of whom I had not seen for a long time. While I was speaking with my brother, an aunt came by and remarked to him, “You didn’t go up for Communion at your brother’s first Mass? What’s that about?” My brother, who hadn’t practiced his faith for years,…Continue Reading

Did Tim Kaine Truly Get a Catholic Education?

During his speech at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia emphasized that his “faith became something vital” during his studies at a Jesuit high school. And Kaine has mentioned the importance of his Jesuit education a number of times recently in campaign speeches. But from his time in high school until now, it doesn’t seem Kaine has ever learned to embrace the fullness of the Catholic faith.…Continue Reading

Catholics urged to fast, pray for peace; group plans novena for nation

By Catholic News Service • Posted July 27, 2016 MANCHESTER, N.H. (CNS) — Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester is urging Catholics to pray and fast for peace in response to the ongoing violence in the U.S. and around the world. “The current civil unrest in our country, the acts of unspeakable violence in Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and in Nice, France, the violence and political instability in Turkey, and the ongoing suffering in the…Continue Reading

Pope Francis on his way to Poland

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is on his way to Poland for his 15th Apostolic Journey aborad and where he will also be participating in World Youth Day events. The Alitalia Airbus A321 on which he is travelling is scheduled to land in Krakow at 16.00. He is accompanied on board the plane by a Pontifical Delegation and some 70 members of the press. Before setting off for the airport a group of young refugees of…Continue Reading

An eighty-four year old priest brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists during Mass in a Church in Normandy – The seed of hate

2016-07-26 L’Osservatore Romano Paris, 26. Shock and horror at the “absurd violence”, radical condemnation for “every form of hatred” and prayer for the victims. These were the first sentiments expressed by Pope Francis – through the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi – at yet another episode of jihadist terror in Francis, barely two weeks from the attack in Nice of 14 July. Two men armed with knives broke into a…Continue Reading

Will Putin Get A Pulitzer?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Waving off the clerics who had come to administer last rites, Voltaire said: “All my life I have ever made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies look ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” The tale of the thieved emails at the Democratic National Committee…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred . . . The Indissolubility Of Marriage, As Affirmed By The Liturgy

By JAMES MONTI Later this year, as you may have already read, a revised edition of the Order of Celebrating Matrimony is going to be promulgated in the United States, featuring notably a new, more accurate translation of the Latin text revised according to the principles of the Holy See’s 2001 instruction Liturgiam Authenticam. Additionally,…Continue Reading

James Patrick: The Loss Of A Child

By DONALD DeMARCO We had five healthy and happy children. “God giveth and God taketh away.” And so, in His inscrutable wisdom, He called our sixth child to His home the day after he was born. It would have been far more difficult for us if we had lost our first child. And it would…Continue Reading

Companions Of Jesus

By JAMES DRUMMEY Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Below is a talk given by James Drummey, editor of the Catholic Replies column, at a retreat in Vermont, June 11, 2016. We are publishing his talk in two parts because of its length.) + + + Of all the 73 books in the Bible, only one —…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred . . . The Indissolubility Of Marriage, As Affirmed By The Liturgy

By JAMES MONTI Later this year, as you may have already read, a revised edition of the Order of Celebrating Matrimony is going to be promulgated in the United States, featuring notably a new, more accurate translation of the Latin text revised according to the principles of the Holy See’s 2001 instruction Liturgiam Authenticam. Additionally,…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Sacraments Of Christian Initiation

By DON FIER Two key features have been always present in the Church’s liturgy, dating back to apostolic times: There is one and the same Paschal Mystery and it is celebrated in a variety of forms. There is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I recall thinking that when I was younger I understood that G.K. Chesterton alluded to the Church’s cultural diversity when noting that Christianity would be externally different for us had Christ been born in China or elsewhere. The many Christian symbols, such as the dove, the fish, the lamb, and the ship, would have been supplanted by others. The…Continue Reading

Have Trust In God’s Promises

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Nineteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Wisdom 18:6-9 Heb. 11:1-2, 8-19 Luke 12:32-48 In the first reading today we are told that the ancient Jews knew the night of the Passover beforehand so that they would have courage through the sure oaths that had been made to them. It seems to us to be…Continue Reading

From Casuistry To Mercy… Toward A New Art Of Pleasing?

By MSGR. MICHEL SCHOOYANS Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Michel Schooyans wrote the following essay for LifeSiteNews, which graciously granted reprint permission to The Wanderer. The essay is appearing in two parts because of its length; part one appeared in last week’s issue. (John-Henry Westen, editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews, provided this background information about the essay: (“Msgr. Michel Schooyans, a top…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Profile Of A “Saturday Vigil Commando”

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Meet the Saturday vigil commando: She will go to Mass any day of the week, at practically any time of the day, except Sunday. She is a veritable fixture at the Saturday vigil Mass and will even return to the parish on Sundays faithfully once per month to help count the offertory collection, but will…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Olaf

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Vikings! The word Viking comes from a Scandinavian word vik meaning bay or creek, with the extended word meaning pirate. The images the word brings to mind are amazing ships landing around Europe, even on the northeastern fringes of North America, to raid, pillage, and destroy. Although this did happen to some extent, the Vikings also…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. John Cassian

By CAROLE BRESLIN Frequently, the lives of the saints demonstrate that God calls us to go in directions that we would never consider unless it became clear that it is God’s will. St. Francis Xavier went to the Far East, St. Damien died in Hawaii on the opposite side of the world from his native Belgium, and St. John Cassian…Continue Reading

COMPLETE 3 PART Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Insights On The State Of The Church In The Aftermath Of The Ordinary Synod On The Family

Cburke3

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, recently traveled from Rome to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., a magnificent place of worship which he founded and dedicated. (His Eminence graciously granted an extensive interview to The Wanderer during which he…Continue Reading