Saturday 30th April 2016

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

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Pro-Life Group Lists Every Company Backing Planned Parenthood

A pro-life organization that has spent decades working to try to get corporations to stop giving financial donations to the Planned Parenthood abortion business has released a revised listing of companies backing the abortion giant. Life Decisions International has released…Continue Reading

Trump completes 5-state sweep; Clinton beats Sanders in most Super Tuesday III contests

Donald Trump completed a five-state sweep in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primaries, strengthening his shot at avoiding a contested convention – while Hillary Clinton scored convincing victories but was denied the same bragging rights of a primary sweep by a surprise…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood Caught Again

Kentucky is suing a new Planned Parenthood clinic after Governor Matt Bevin found out that they have illegally killed 23 unborn children. The clinic knowingly operated without a license for nearly two months. The request for a license was later…Continue Reading

Top Vatican cardinals aren’t commenting on pope’s exhortation

April 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two of the Vatican’s most senior prelates, both known for taking a strong stand for the Church’s tradition at the Synod on the Family, are declining interviews on Pope Francis’ controversial apostolic exhortation. Vatican reporter…Continue Reading

Indiana diocese: Catholic teachers must uphold Church’s moral teachings

FORT WAYNE, Indiana, April 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Another Catholic bishop has taken steps to reinforce Catholic identity in the schools of his diocese. Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades promulgated “The Mission of Our Catholic Schools and the Importance…Continue Reading

Abby Johnson to Georgetown: Pray for Cecile Richards because no one is beyond conversion

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – No one is beyond conversion, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson said at Georgetown University Wednesday, just hours after Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards delivered a lecture to a packed room at…Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Pro-life NFL star Matt Birk reveals real reason he skipped meeting with Obama

April 15, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — When football star Matt Birk decided to quietly decline an invitation to meet President Obama after winning the 2013 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, he said at the time that he was acting on…Continue Reading

Head of US Bishops’ news agency resigns, blames ‘far right blogosphere’

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews)—The editor-in-chief and director of the U.S. bishops’ official news service resigned Wednesday at the request of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference general secretary. Tony Spence, who had worked for Catholic News Service since 2004, had…Continue Reading

Scandal: More ‘Drag Shows’ at Catholic Colleges

Annual drag shows — where individuals dress up and perform as the opposite sex — have become a consistent presence on several Catholic college campuses, punctuating the spring semester with scandal and disregard for Church teaching on human sexuality. Despite…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood: Ted Cruz is ‘the biggest threat we face’

April 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Ted Cruz’s pro-life views make him the “biggest threat” Planned Parenthood faces, the abortion giant said in a fundraising email last week. Citing the Texas senator and presidential candidate’s opposition to abortion in cases of…Continue Reading

Details Released for Planned Parenthood Event at Georgetown

March 7, 2016, at 8:12 PM  |  By Adam Cassandra In a statement sent to The Cardinal Newman Society Monday night, the Archdiocese of Washington responded to the controversy surrounding the invite of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President…Continue Reading

Ted Cruz takes stand against abortion after rape: Go after the rapist, don’t kill the baby

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Texas senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has run as the most prolife candidate, and this week, Cruz once again boldly backed up his prolife credentials. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly conducted an extended…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

Commentary

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .  

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Top Catholic Philosopher: Amoris Laetitia Will “Split the Church”

Today, 28 April, an important exclusive interview with a well-known Catholic philosopher has been published in Germany. The important statements of Professor Robert Spaemann might well indicate that the wind is turning now against the “Francis Revolution”. Spaemann – who is a personal friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – says about Amoris Laetitia that there are some ways of interpreting the document against the continuous teaching of the Church. He then continues: However, the article…Continue Reading

Christians in Crisis: Report Details Dire Situation in Iraq and Syria

ZENIT.ORG People of all religions will miss Christians’ contribution to education, healthcare •April 28, 2016•Fr. John Flynn• With no end in sight to the fighting in Iraq and Syria the remaining Christian population continues to experience very difficult conditions. A recent report, “Salt of the Earth: Impact and Significance of the Christian Presence in Syria and Iraq during the Current Crisis,” details the significant contributions Christians have made to the region and what it stands…Continue Reading

Pope: Do We Know the Other Lesson From the Parable of the Good Samaritan?

Zenit.org At General Audience, Says There’s More to Learn Than ‘Who Is My Neighbor?’ •April 27, 2016•Kathleen Naab• We know the parable of the Good Samaritan is a lesson to teach us that we must love our neighbor, and that there’s no one in the category of non-neighbor, but beyond that, Pope Francis asked today, have we also learned the parable’s lesson that God treats us with the compassion of the Samaritan? “In the gestures…Continue Reading

Over 750,000 pledge to boycott Target for giving men access to women’s bathrooms

target

April 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews)—Over 750,000 people have pledged to boycott Target over the company’s new policy allowing men to use women’s bathrooms. The American Family Association, which launched the petition, says the fact that it’s generated such a large response in only five days shows how outraged Americans are. “American families are concerned about their wives and daughters being harmed by predators or voyeurs who will now have more freedom to enter women’s bathrooms,” AFA…Continue Reading

Pope to Young People: Get Back Up on Your Feet

ZENIT During Jubilee Mass for Young People, Francis Reminds Youth to Not Settle for Mediocrity •April 24, 2016•Deborah Castellano Lubov• Remember that God is always your friend, even when you let Him down. Therefore, don’t worry if you’ve fallen, get back up and start fresh. Pope Francis stressed this during his Jubilee Mass for young people this morning, reminding them that the Lord is faithful to His friends and believes in them. “Even if you…Continue Reading

If God Is Dead…

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN In a recent column Dennis Prager made an acute observation. “The vast majority of leading conservative writers . . . have a secular outlook on life. . . . They are unaware of the disaster that godlessness in the West has led to.” These secular conservatives may think that “America can…Continue Reading

Being Conscientious About Conscience

By DONALD DeMARCO My earliest recollection of an explanation of conscience was when I was a young lad sitting in a movie theater and being enthralled by Walt Disney’s 1940 classic, Pinocchio. The newly carved puppet had been brought to life by the Blue Fairy. But he was still a puppet and had not been…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “How To Fight Dissent”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of the book Call to Action or Call to Apostasy, consisting of a detailed description of the current forms of dissent and how to fight them, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) +…Continue Reading

Luther 1517-2017 . . . Five Hundred Years Of Heresy And Doctrinal Confusion

luther

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 6 (Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment in a series by Wanderer contributor Raymond de Souza on Henry VIII’s book defending the seven sacraments against Martin Luther. De Souza edited this updated version of Henry’s work, which is presented to readers in this series. (This series will appear…Continue Reading

The President, The Court, And Immigration

By JUDGE ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO In 2014, President Barack Obama signed 12 executive orders directing various agencies in the departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security to refrain from deporting some 4 million adult immigrants illegally present in the United States if they are the parents of children born here or legally present here and…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Regarding the question of whether Jesus after the Resurrection appeared first to His Mother, which is not mentioned in the Gospels, or to Mary Magdalene, which is mentioned, F.A. of Massachusetts called our attention to the following comments by St. John Paul II in an audience on May 21, 1997: “How could the Blessed Virgin, present in the…Continue Reading

Faith And Love

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Seventh Sunday Of Easter (YR C) Readings: Acts 7:55-60 Rev. 22:12-14, 16-17, 20 John 17:20-26 In the Gospel reading today we hear a portion of the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in which He prays not only for His apostles, but also for those who will believe because of their word. What a wonderful thing to…Continue Reading

Five Remedies For Sorrow From St. Thomas Aquinas

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, Washington, D.C. Monsignor kindly gave The Wanderer permission to reprint this essay from his blog. All rights reserved.) + + + Some of you who follow me on Facebook know that I just lost a beloved pet, Daniel, our rectory cat. Losing a pet…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Join Me For Pilgrimage To Italy: Mother Teresa’s Canonization

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Join our small group of pilgrims on a journey to Italy from September 1 through 9, 2016. Our adventure will of course be a spiritual one, but also cultural as we make stops to explore some of the major historic and beautiful cities of Italy as well as Rome for Mother Teresa’s canonization at St.…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . The Inquisition

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 51 In order to properly understand the historical event called the “Inquisition,” a basic, primary distinction must be made: There were three distinct inquisition tribunals in history: the Medieval Inquisition, the Roman Inquisition, and the Spanish Inquisition. Let us consider them, one by one, as their circumstances and historical contexts were very different. The…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Hugh The Great

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the 11th century, over 150 years before St. Francis of Assisi received the order from our Lord to “repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin,” the secular rulers sought to control the appointment of bishops, abbots, and even the Pope. During this period of simony and conflict, St. Hugh the Great entered…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Maria Gabriella Of Unity

By CAROLE BRESLIN Just before Italy formally entered World War I in April 1915, a poor farmer and his wife welcomed a little girl into the peaceful land of Sardinia, an island about 150 miles west of Italy. Maria Sagheddu was born on March 17, 1914, the fifth of eight children. During the war that lasted until 1918, over 1,800,000…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