Saturday 13th February 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

Comment on this Article:

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

Trump: Pope Francis ‘doesn’t understand’ America’s problems

Donald Trump dismissed Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, arguing the Catholic leader is in the dark on America’s border crisis. “I think that the Pope is a very political person,” he said on Fox Business Network’s…Continue Reading

Washington state Republicans join Democrats to uphold transgender bathroom bill

OLYMPIA, Washington, February 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A bill to reverse a public accommodations law that allows transgender people to use opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms was blocked in the state Senate – in part thanks to three Republicans who…Continue Reading

‘Justice has been served’ – Bishop Conley on why he invited Bishop Finn to Lincoln

Lincoln, Neb., Feb 5, 2016 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln defended his decision to allow Bishop Robert Finn, former bishop of Kansas City, Mo., to take a position as chaplain of a community of…Continue Reading

Marco Rubio, David Daleiden; Chi-Town priest ‘outs’ himself

The young investigative journalist and pro-life activist David Daleiden – whom GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio recently defended – will present himself before Judge Brock Thomas in Houston on February 4. Peter Breen, special counsel for the Thomas More Society,…Continue Reading

Catholic Italy mobilises as conservatives mount last stand against same-sex unions

It has been 2,000 years since Romans gathered at the Circus Maximus to watch chariots roar around the racetrack, but a new battle was brought to the ancient site on Saturday . Clutching banners reading “We defend our children” and…Continue Reading

New documents prove Planned Parenthood profited from selling aborted body parts: pro-life group

HOUSTON, January 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A pro-life organization has released documents that may show Planned Parenthood illegally profited from the sale of aborted babies’ body parts, furthering a Texas state investigation and possibly triggering a new grand jury in…Continue Reading

TRUMP’S SPOKESWOMAN MUST APOLOGIZE

Bill Donohue comments on a remark made by Donald Trump’s national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson: On December 18, 2011, Katrina Pierson sent the following tweet: “Just saw a commercial from Catholic Church stating that Catholic Church

Faithful Catholic Education Offers Understanding of True Freedom, Says Archbishop Lucas

Catholic education prepares students to live a life of faith, but also offers students a true understanding of God-given freedom in an environment in which they can grow in virtue, said Archbishop George Lucas of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.,…Continue Reading

NFL star who refused to meet Obama over abortion gives powerful talk at March for Life

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – All the speakers at the 2016 March for Life play a pivotal role – but only one was regularly called an MVP. Matt Birk, the former center for the Minnesota Vikings and the…Continue Reading

2016 March for Life heats up blizzard-stricken Washington (PHOTOS)

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The blizzard snows are falling on the nation’s capital, layering the city in a blanket of frost that could be two to three feet thick by tomorrow morning. But for awhile this afternoon,…Continue Reading

SPECIAL REPORT: Planned Parenthood Offices Located Near Half of Catholic Colleges, Alarming Pro-Life Leaders

Half of all four-year, residential Catholic colleges in the U.S. are within five miles of Planned Parenthood facilities, a study by The Cardinal Newman Society has found. Catholic pro-life leaders warn that the close proximity of these Planned Parenthood centers…Continue Reading

81 percent of Americans support dramatically stronger pro-life reforms: Poll

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – An overwhelmingly majority – including two-thirds of self-described “pro-choice” Americans – would support greatly strengthening laws that protect the unborn, according to a new poll released this morning. In all, 81 percent of…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

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

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Cardinal Burke . . .The Great Cardinal Speaks From Krakow

Today we jump back to the Great Cardinal, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke’s visit to Krakow. The above video is from the Krakow lecture with questions, promoting his book Divine Love made flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity which appeared in Polish. The sponsor of this promotional event and the publisher of the Polish version is Christiana Polonia. Original video see here. The lecture itself was in English so there was no…Continue Reading

INTERVIEW: Leader of US Bishops Expresses His Hopes for Pope’s Mexico Visit

Archbishop Kurtz Tells ZENIT That Welcome to Immigrants Will Enrich America, Its Church February 10, 2016 Deborah Castellano Lubov The president of the US bishops’ conference, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, says Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Mexico can bear many fruits, but in particular, his welcoming message to immigrants can enrich the whole of America and its Church. In an exclusive interview with ZENIT ahead of the Pope’s highly anticipated trip to Mexico, Feb. 12-18,…Continue Reading

Pope’s Angelus reflection: Trust in the word of the Lord

(Vatican Radio) Do not be afraid but trust in the word of the Lord: that was Pope Francis message to the crowds gathered in a windswept St Peter’s Square on Sunday for the recitation of the Angelus prayer. The Pope based his reflections on the Gospel reading which tells the story of Jesus calling his first disciples by Lake Galilee. After fishing all night without a catch, they are washing their nets when Jesus gets…Continue Reading

Christie and Bush attack Cruz, Rubio for being too pro-life

Fr. Mark Hodges WASHINGTON, D.C., February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-lifers across the nation are scratching their heads and saying, “With friends like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, who needs enemies?” Their frustration comes from both Christie and Bush attacking other presidential candidates as unelectable because they are pro-life without compromise. This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie attacked Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio for not favoring aborting children conceived in…Continue Reading

INTERVIEW: Padre Pio In Rome: Saints as Living Icons of Divine Mercy

Stefano Campanella, Director of Padre Pio TV and Author of Publications on the Friar of Pietrelcina, Reflects on Significance of the Historic Transfer •February 4, 2016•Osvaldo Rinaldi• Stefano Campanella, born in 1964 in Putignano, Italy, lives with his family at San Giovanni Rotondo. He has been a parliamentary journalist and Vatican expert. Currently, he serves as director of Padre Pio TV and heads the press office of the religious province of Sant’Angelo and Padre Pio…Continue Reading

Death With Dignity: A Dangerous Pretense

By LAWRENCE P. GRAYSON Every life has value and is worthy of continuing, regardless of how old, infirmed, ill, or limited in future duration. Yet, today, an increasing number of states are empowering physicians to assist terminally ill people in committing suicide, so they can “die with dignity.” The movement, cloaked in an appealing euphemism,…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Says . . . Lent Is A Time Of Pruning And Reconciliation

By ELISE HARRIS VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — In his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis said that Lent is the perfect time to let go of selfish and indifferent attitudes, returning to God with the help of prayer, penance, and acts of charity. “Lent is a beneficial time of pruning from falsity, from worldliness, from…Continue Reading

Bloomberg Vs. Trump?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN The morning of the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump, being interviewed on Morning Joe, said that he would welcome his “friend” Michael Bloomberg into the presidential race. Which is probably the understatement of 2016. The three-term mayor of New York and media mogul whose fortune is estimated at $39 billion, making…Continue Reading

A Potpourri . . . To Be Is To Give, And Other Matters

By GEORGE A. KENDALL The most fundamental question for all of is: What are we for? What is life about? What is selfhood about? Are we here to aggrandize ourselves with things like power, wealth, brilliance? Or are we here to give ourselves? We think that by working to add to the self, we increase…Continue Reading

Blessed José Sanchez Del Rio… Miraculous Cure Of A Baby Leads To His Sainthood

MEXICO CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — The miraculous cure of a baby with brain damage through the intercession of Mexican martyr Blessed José Luis Sanchez del Rio has been approved by the Vatican, completing the final step for the teen’s path to sainthood. Pope Francis signed the decree January 21, verifying the inexplicable recovery of a…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Life Everlasting — Heaven

By DON FIER As we continue our examination of the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on the Four Last Things — Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell — we recall from last week that at the exact instant man’s immortal soul separates from his body in death, it appears before Christ for the Particular Judgment. This definitive…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I understand that plenary indulgences are available during this Jubilee Year of Mercy if one passes through the “Holy Door of Mercy” in a Catholic cathedral and meets all the other conditions for an indulgence. But what if one has no opportunity to visit a cathedral? Can the plenary indulgence still be obtained? — P.D., via e-mail. A. Yes.…Continue Reading

Listening To Jesus

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday In Lent (YR C) Readings: Gen. 15:-12, 17-18 Phil. 3:1-4:1 Luke 9:28b-36 In the Gospel reading today the apostles were blessed to hear the voice of God speaking about His Son. The first part of the statement, that Jesus is the Son of God, is pretty easy for us to handle. The second part…Continue Reading

The Year Of Consecrated Life Ends . . . Answering God’s Call And Proclaiming His Mercy

By MOST REV. LEO O’REILLY KILMORE, Ireland (ZENIT) — Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore gave this homily on Sunday, January 31 to mark the closing of the Year of Consecrated Life. The year ended February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and the World Day of Consecrated Life. Bishop O’Reilly told consecrated persons that they have been…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Jesus Gave Witness In The Public Square

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “Seems to me that Jesus wants us to love our neighbors and leave the judging up to Him.” This is a typical response of many people when they encounter the Church and her members witnessing to their faith by speaking out on moral teachings in the public square. Christian witness in a visible, public way…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Miguel Febres Cordero Munoz

By CAROLE BRESLIN There have been many saints born in Europe who came to the Americas to convert the natives and work among immigrants. These included St. Isaac Jogues, St. Frances Cabrini, and St. Damien of Molokai, to name a few. There were few saints who were born in the Americas and then went to Europe and died there far…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Boleslava Maria Lament

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church observes the Church Unity Octave from January 18 through January 25. For each day of the octave, we pray for a different form of unity. For example, on January 18, the intention is for the return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See. Another day the intention is for the restoration…Continue Reading