Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dr. Sippo utterly refutes Webster on the Canon

{Once again, the perfidy and gross dishonesty of Protestant anti-Catholic bigots rears its ugly head. About 11 years ago, I answered an e-mail inquiry about the assertions made by the apostate William Webster concerning the Old Testament Canon in the Catholic Church. This was an off-hand note in a private correspondence done in between patients at my medical office that was never intended to be published openly on the Internet. Nevertheless Webster got hold of it and made a scathing attack on me. He had some valid critques of the content, but basically, he failed to answer any of the significant points I had raised and continue to perpetuate his lies and errors about matters of fact.

In response, I sent a rebuttal directly to Webster correcting the mistakes in my e-mail and definitively refuting his errors. In fact over the last decade I have sent this response to him 3 times, but he has never done me the courtesy of acknowledging it. Instead, he is still harping on that original e-mail and posts it on his bulletin board while refusing to deal with any of the points that I raised in my rebuttal to him.

Someone over on the Surprised by Truth Apologetics Board is now throwing this same old e-mail back in my face. I am therefore placing the full text of my rebuttal here on my blog for the whole world to see. This will prove that Mr. Webster is neither a scholar nor a man of integrity.

It is my sincere wish that he will openly acknowledge his errors and admit them to himself as well as to the world to the glory of Jesus Christ.

Art Sippo}



Dr. Sippo Answers "Billy Burro"*
OR
Mr. Webster's Errors on the Canon Refuted


“A burro can ask more questions than a wise man can answer.”
(Old Mexican Proverb)


(* For those lacking in a knowledge of “reformation” polemical literature, this title is shamelessly based on the treatise “Dr. Luther replies to Goat Emser.” Turnabout is fair play.)


I note with dismay the response that Mr. William Webster made to my critique of his position paper on the Catholic Canon of Scripture. Mr. Webster is a well-known anti-Catholic author who writes books misrepresenting the Catholic Church and her history in order to impress uneducated Protestants. He specializes in taking known facts from history and then "explaining" them in novel ways that support his prejudices while ignoring the interpretations of serious historians. He refuses to accept the conclusions of normative historians when they conflict with his own and fails to appreciate the legitimacy of interpretations other than his own.

Webster is not a serious student of Church history and has no real desire to understand the sitz im leben of the pre-Reformation Church. He commits numerous errors and yet is very defensive about his opinions. He is not open to correction about his mistakes. His personal hatred of the Catholic Church blinds him to the possibility that we Catholics may have a rationale for our position even if he does not agree with it. Consequently, he needs to be constantly engaged in tenacious ad hominem personal attacks against anyone with the temerity to challenge his views. I for one wish he would appreciate the complexity of Church History and stop trying to interpret it in “black and white” terms using anachronistic Protestant presuppositions.

The sources of his "arguments" usually come from the works of Protestant controversialists of the 19th and early 20th Centuries many of which have been found wanting by subsequent scholarship. There is no appreciation of the wider context of Church History or of studies done apart from an anti-Catholic fortress mentality. He has no familiarity with the more genteel and exacting ecumenical work in Church History that has been done since World War II that cuts across denominational lines. He also has no idea what to make of modern religious studies. The significance of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls is lost on him. He also cannot understand the diversity of opinions among believing Christians throughout history. Like other ‘Low Church’ types, he thinks that Christianity was meant to be static and unchanging so that any development in doctrine or practice over the millennia must necessarily represent corruption.
(For some reason, he fails to see that the rapid and unrestrained “changes” in Christian teaching and practice during the Reformation must -- in light of his stasis theory -- be even more problematic.)

He has no appreciation for the historic Catholic Church and its body of teaching as works in process under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. In short, he wants to invent his own better Church in competition with the one that Jesus founded.

My previous comments on Mr. Webster's position paper on the Catholic Canon of Scripture were written off the cuff and relied on my memory alone as a source of information. They were written in private correspondence in response to an e-mail inquirer. They were not meant for publication. There were some minor lapses in areas of fact that I will attempt to rectify. I apologize for these inaccuracies. In substance though, I agree with the bulk what I wrote and will demonstrate once again that Mr. Webster has not been telling the truth. There are both specific faults in Mr. Webster's position and more general methodological ones. I will deal with the latter first as an aid to specifically refuting each of the points he tried to defend in his response to my first critique.

A) What is official Catholic teaching?

Mr. Webster likes to decide for himself which historical documents represent official Catholic teaching. His criteria for this are simply whatever he thinks will support his conclusions. As such, he dismisses the Canons of the Council of Hippo and the Bulls promulgated by Pope Eugene IV during the Ecumenical Council of Florence as unofficial. Meanwhile he raises to infallible and ecumenical status the Commentary on Job by St. Gregory the Great, the 12th Century Glossa Ordinaria on Scripture, the 102 Canons of Quinisext, and the opinions of individual Christian scholars such as St. Jerome. Let us clear up the confusion.

Let us define what the Catholic Church means by its Magisterium:

Magisterium (Lat. magister, a master): The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion, "Going therefore, teach ye all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii, 19-20). This teaching is infallible: "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (ibid.). The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or solemnly approved by pope or ecumenical council. The ordinary magisterium is continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers (q.v.) and theologians, in the decisions of Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense (q.v.) of the faithful, and various historical documents in which the faith is declared. All these are founts of a teaching,
which as a whole is infallible. They have to be studied separately to determine how far and in what conditions each of them is an infallible source of truth.

A CATHOLIC DICTIONARY (THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOP├ćDIC DICTIONARY)
Edited By Donald Attwater
New York, The Macmillan Company, 1962.
(Copyright 1958, Third Edition)


The only documents that are considered Magisterial by the Catholic Church are those that are promulgated by the Pope (with or without an Ecumenical Council) and directed towards the Universal Church as definitive teaching. In some cases, the Popes have acknowledged the unique contribution of a particular author or local synod in setting forth the teaching of the Church. In such cases, documents originating from sources other than the Pope or an Ecumenical Council have been promulgated by the Popes as Magisterial. This includes the Council of Hippo, the Councils of Carthage, and the Council of Orange II. A collection of magisterial documents can be found in the compendium known as the Denzinger Enchiridion Symbolorum. It contains excerpts from the most important documents in chronological order. If a document is in Denzinger, it is considered to represent official Church teaching. If it is not in Denzinger, it can still represent magisterial teaching if it meets the criteria noted above. Many important Christian documents -- including some written by the Popes - do not meet the criteria to be considered official Church teaching. Many divergent opinions were held by the Church Fathers even on matters of doctrine.

Many Protestant controversialists think that this disproves the truth of the Catholic faith. Strangely, they claim that an infallible teaching authority ought to lead to a static, dictatorial, and unanimous agreement in theological matters from Apostolic times up to the present. (I find this odd since their own system of interpretation - which they claim to be infallible - has not resulted in any such uniformity.)

The Catholic Church has never claimed this nor has she sought such uniformity. As the Catholic Church matured from the 1st Century onwards, there has always been open discussion of controversial matters within the community of faith. On occasion, the Magisterium has stepped in to authoritatively assert the correct solution to a dispute. In some cases it has intervened to tell both sides that they cannot condemn their opponents as heretics because the matter was not clearly decidable. The policy has been unity in what is essential, tolerance in what is not, and charity in everything.

The writings of the Fathers are therefore not considered “official” teaching per se. Rather, they are witnesses to the periods in which they lived and to the ideas and traditions that were then current. The Council of Trent taught that the consensus of all the Fathers on any matter of doctrine would render it infallibly taught (e.g., the divinity of Christ, the necessity of the atonement, baptismal regeneration, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and the substantial presence of Christ’s body & blood in the Eucharist). In those matters where there was less than full consensus, disputes sometimes arose and it often would take an act of the Magisterium to settle the issue. Ultimately, it was neither the opinion of any particular Father nor the overwhelming majority of Fathers which decided the case but the superintendence of the Holy Spirit acting through the hierarchy.

Therefore, despite Mr. Webster’s heartfelt desire, the mere fact that a document had been written by a Church Father does not automatically raise it to magisterial status no matter how popular it might have been at one time. By a strange coincidence, all of the documents Mr. Webster dismisses in his reply are recognized in Denzinger as magisterial. Meanwhile none of the ones he supports are even quoted. Yet he claims that the Catholic Church officially followed St. Jerome’s critical attitude towards the Deuterocanonical material of the Old Testament up until the Council of Trent. Since none of the works he quoted meets the criteria for magisterial status, we can see that Mr. Webster has created a phony “straw-man” Catholic Church whose teachings are not those of the real Catholic Church. He has done this to flimflam the unwary. As we will find that is not the least of his prevarications.


B) What does the term “infallible” mean when used by Catholic authors?

Mr. Webster has taken exception to my claim that the Canon of Scripture was infallibly defined by the Magisterium long before the Council of Trent. He rests his opinion in part on the use of the term “infallible” by some Catholic authors with regard to this question. In particular he alleges that Fr. Schroeder states in his translation of the documents of the Ecumenical Councils that the Council of Trent was the first instance in which the Canon of Scripture was declared infallibly by the Magisterium. He also quotes the New Catholic Encyclopedia to this effect as well. I think we can extend to Mr. Webster some leeway for his error here. Not being a Catholic scholar, he is not familiar with the conventions used in our literature. For many Catholic an author, saying that a teaching was “infallibly” taught was the equivalent of saying that it was taught by the Extraordinary Magisterium: either by a canon in an Ecumenical Council or by an ex cathedra statement of the Roman Pontiff.

Unfortunately, this use of terminology is seriously flawed and does not represent a precise understanding of defined Catholic teaching. The First Vatican Council taught the following with regard to the infallibility of the Church’s teaching:





Vatican I, Session 3,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith,
Chapter 3, Section 8

Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium. Infallible statements are therefore not restricted solely to the Extraordinary Magisterium (i.e., “solemn judgment”), but extend also to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Popes, the Hierarchy in union with him, or of a General Council.


This means that any teaching promulgated in a definitive way to the Catholic Church with the consent of the Popes is formally infallible. Some Catholic authors have been reticent about acknowledging infallibility in any document that was not formally an act of the Extraordinary Magisterium.


Note this section from the article on Infallibility in The Catholic Encyclopedia on the New Advent Web-Site:



As to the organ of authority by which such doctrines or facts are determined,three possible organs exist. One of these, the magisterium ordinarium, is liable to be somewhat indefinite in its pronouncements and, as a consequence, practically ineffective as an organ. The other two [Papal ex cathedra teaching & Ecumenical Councils], however, are adequately efficient organs, and when they definitively decide any question of faith or morals that may arise, no believer who pays due attention to Christ's promises can consistently refuse to assent with absolute and irrevocable certainty to their teaching.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm


The authors whom Mr. Webster quoted were following this scruple. They considered a teaching only to be clearly infallible when given by the Extraordinary Magisterium. In the light of Church Tradition and the teachings of Vatican I, they were technically in error. If you understand that they were using a common convention of their time, you realize that they were pointing the faithful to those sources of teaching that they thought were most unequivocal and “adequately efficient” in teaching Catholic doctrine infallibly. This unfortunate literary convention has confused many people so we can’t blame Mr. Webster for being among them.

This matter was a hot issue during the Modernist controversies in the middle of this century. Many theologians wanted to dismiss the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium as contained in Papal teaching such as encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, and other official documents.

Pope Pius XII responded to this in the encyclical Humani Generis (1949) paragraph 21:



Nor must it be thought that the things contained in Encyclical Letters do not of themselves require assent on the plea that in them the Pontiffs do not exercise the supreme power of their Magisterium. For these things are taught with the ordinary Magisterium, about which it is also true to say, 'He who hears you, hears me.' [Lk 10. 16]. . . If the Supreme Pontiffs, in their acta expressly pass judgment on a matter debated until then, it is obvious to all that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be considered any longer a question open for discussion among theologians.


There was further refinement on this matter by Vatican Council II in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, paragraph 25:



In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the
faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking…

And this infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32), by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.


I want to present a recent case in point. In 1995, Pope John Paul II issued a document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in which he reaffirmed the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that women are not valid matter for the sacrament of Holy Orders.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith made the following statement in response to a request for clarification on this matter:





This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned
Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.
Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995.
+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect


What these quotations prove is that infallibility extends beyond the Extraordinary Magisterium and includes any definitive Papal teaching on the content of the Catholic Faith as such. The Canons of Ecumenical Councils are considered to be Extraordinary Magisterial teaching. The other published material (i.e., the exposition preceding the canons and other documents promulgated in accordance with the Council’s decisions) are not considered part of the Extraordinary Magisterium, but part of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. In practical terms, whatever these documents affirm is considered infallible and must be acknowledged as such.

The entire corpus of quotations in Denzinger meets the above criteria for infallibility. That is why this is an appropriate source for determining what is and isn’t Catholic doctrine. Hopefully, Mr. Webster will now appreciate how important Denzinger is to an understanding of real Catholic teaching.


Having addressed these two methodological issues, I would now like to proceed to comment on specific claims by Mr. Webster:

1) The Councils of Carthage and Hippo did not establish the Canon for the Church as a whole…

The Council of Hippo (393 AD) was one of a series of important local councils in North Africa held in the late 4th and early 5th Centuries. This series of councils was held to bring about reform and renewal in the North African Church and to deal with the Donatist and Pelagian heresies. Each council issued canons on matters of doctrine and discipline while reaffirming explicitly the canons of the other councils in the series that had preceded them.

This is the actual canon from the Council of Hippo according to Archbishop Hefele’s History of the Councils of the Church (vol. II, page 400). This canon was reaffirmed at every subsequent Carthaginian council in the series:




Canon 36.
ITEM, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows:

THE OLD TESTAMENT
Genesis.
Exodus.
Leviticus.
Numbers.
Deuteronomy.
Joshua the Son of Nun.
The Judges.
Ruth.
The Four books of Kings.
The Two books of Parlipomena. [Chronicles]
Job.
The Psalms of David.
The Five books of Solomon.
The Twelve Books of the Prophets.
Isaiah.
Jeremiah.
Ezekiel.
Daniel.
Tobias.
Judith.
Esther.
The Two Books of Esdras.
The Two books of Maccabees.

THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Four Gospels.
The Acts of the Apostles.
The Thirteen Epistles of St. Paul
The One Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews.
The Two Epistles of St. Peter, the Apostle.
The Three Epistles of St. John the Apostle.
The Epistles of St. James the Apostle.
The Epistle of St. Jude the Apostle.
The Revelation of St. John.

Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the Transmarine Church shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of Martyrs, their acts shall also be read.

(N.B., The term “Transmarine Church” means literally “the Church over the sea” and is clearly a reference to Rome, which was directly on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea. The four books of Kings include the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings from the Hebrew Bible. The books of Baruch and Lamentations were considered part of Jeremiah. The five books of Solomon were the wisdom books: Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, and Sirach.)

Explicit confirmation was given to this list by Pope St. Innocent I in 405 AD and 414 AD. The ultimate conclusion of the series was the Council of Carthage held in 418 AD. This was a major synod involving 200 bishops in which the North African Church presented its brief against the Errors of Pelagius and his disciple Coelestius who had appealed their case to Rome.

In his History of the Christian Church, Protestant Philip Schaff makes the following comment about the canons promulgated by this council:




Volume III
Chapter IX
Section 149

…These things produced a change in the opinions of [Pope] Zosimus, and about the middle of the year 418, he issued an encyclical letter to all the bishops of both East and West, pronouncing the anathema upon Pelagius and Coelestius (who had meanwhile left Rome), and declaring his concurrence with the decisions of the council of Carthage in the doctrines of the corruption of human nature, of baptism, and of grace. Whoever refused to subscribe the encyclical, was to be deposed, banished from his church, and deprived of his property.

The canons of the council of Carthage (418 AD) were thus declared by Popes Zosimus to represent authentic magisterial teaching to the whole Church. For this reason they were numbered among the 50 synods considered authoritative in the Western Church and the 85 Synods considered so in the East.

Mr. Webster insists that the decision of the Council of Hippo was unimportant and ignored by the Church as a whole. This position is rejected by virtually every major scholar -- Protestant or Catholic -- who has reviewed the evidence.

For example, Philip Schaff says:




History of the Christian Church
Vol. II
138. The Holy Scriptures and the Canon
The first express definition of the New Testament canon, in the form in which it has since been universally retained, comes from two African synods, held in 393 at Hippo, and 397 at Carthage, in the presence of Augustin, who exerted a commanding influence on all the theological questions of his age. By that time, at least, the whole church must have already become nearly unanimous as to the number of the canonical books; so that there seemed to be no need even of the sanction of a general council…

Soon after the middle of the fourth century, when the church became firmly settled in the Empire, all doubts as to the Apocrypha of the Old Testament and the Antilegomena of the New ceased, and the acceptance of the Canon in its Catholic shape, which includes both, became an article of faith.

Vol. III
118. Sources of Theology. Scripture and Tradition.
In the Western church the canon of both Testaments was closed at the end of the fourth century through the authority of Jerome (who wavered, however, between critical doubts and the principle of tradition), and more especially of Augustine, who firmly followed the Alexandrian canon of the Septuagint, and the preponderant tradition in reference to the disputed Catholic Epistles and the Revelation; though he himself, in some places, inclines to consider the Old Testament Apocrypha as deutero-canonical books, bearing a subordinate authority.

The council of Hippo in 393, and the third (according to another reckoning the sixth) council of Carthage in 397, under the influence of Augustine, who attended both, fixed the catholic canon of the Holy Scriptures, including the Apocrypha of the Old Testament…

This canon remained undisturbed till the sixteenth century, and was sanctioned
by the council of Trent at its fourth session.


Another Protestant scholar F. F. Bruce in his book The Canon of Scripture (page 97) says:

In 393, a church council held in Augustine’s see of Hippo laid down the limits of the canonical books along the lines approved by Augustine himself. The proceedings of this council have been lost but they were summarized in the proceedings of the Third Council of Carthage (397) a provincial council. These appear to have been the first Church Councils to make a formal pronouncement on the canon. When they did so they did not impose any innovation on the churches; they simply endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and the greater part of the east.



Still another Protestant, Harry Y. Gamble, says the following in his book The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning (page 55-56) –

The final resolution of the many variations [in the New Testament canon] we have noted began to take place in the late fourth century, primarily through the actions of ecclesiastical councils… In the west, two North African synods of the late fourth century promulgated lists of authoritative books. The Council of Hippo (393) and the Council of Carthage (397) both named the 27 books of our New Testament….

A broad uniformity of usage which closely approximates our [New Testament] canon cannot therefore be dated before the close of the fourth century… The canons of Hippo were recognized in later Church history for their orthodoxy and importance.


The Western Church had formally accepted all of the canons from Carthage as normative as we had noted earlier. With regard to the Eastern Church, Canon II of the Quinisext (Trullan) Council included explicit affirmation for all of the canons from Council of Carthage in 418 AD including the one on the Canon of Scripture from Hippo.

The Ecumenical Council of Nicea II (787) formally reaffirmed the following:

Anathema 4: If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the Church, let him be anathema…
Canon I : …We joyfully embrace the sacred canons and we maintain complete unshaken their regulation, both those expounded by those trumpets of the Spirit, the apostles worthy of all praise, and those from the six holy universal synods and from the synods assembled locally for the promulgation of such decrees, and from our holy fathers…


It is the universal opinion of all scholars whose work I consulted (i.e., Hefele, Schaff, Percival, & Tanner) that this affirmation was intended to extend to all of the canons of the Council of Carthage including the one from Hippo on the Canon of Scripture.

In summary, the Council of Hippo was a significant turning point in Church history. Prior to it, there was extensive debate as to the limits of both the Old and New Testament Canons. Afterwards, the limit of the NT Canon was fixed definitively for the Church and this list has become the universal norm. Its OT Canon became the norm in the Church as well but some reservations continued among certain Fathers concerning the exact status of the Deuterocanonical books within the Canon. While it did not have the status of an Ecumenical Council in itself, the decision of the Council of Hippo with regard to the Canon of Scripture was recognized by the Popes and subsequent Patriarchs and Bishops to be the norm of the Catholic Church. It has remained so to this day.

In my previous comments, I indicated that ‘the Council of Lyon’ had also affirmed this. I was in error. Neither of the Councils of Lyon deal with this matter. What I actually had in mind was an explicit quotation of the book of Sirach as scripture used by the Council of Basle/Florence. Such a usage implicitly reaffirms the authority of the Deuterocanon. I apologize for the oversight.

When I went back to the recent work of Fr. Norman Tanner SJ, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I found that in fact there had been 14 separate instances where an Ecumenical Council held between 787 AD and 1440 AD had quoted authoritatively from the Deuterocanonicals. In 3 cases the book in question (i.e., Sirach) was explicitly referred to as Scripture. In two instances (i.e., one each for Sirach and Wisdom) the equivalent phrase “it is written” was used.

The details are:
Deuterocanonical Quotations from the Ecumenical Councils:

Nicea II:
Canon 16 (787) - Sirach 1:32 (scripture)

Constantinople IV:
Canon 10 (869) - Sirach 11:7 (scripture)

Lateran IV:
Section 70 (1215) - Sirach 2:14, 3:28 (it is written)

Vienne:
Section 14 (1311) - Sirach 24:23
Section 24 (1311) - Wisdom 5:6
Section 38 (1312) - Sirach 24:41-42, 1:5; Susannah/Daniel 13:42

Basle/Florence:
Session 21(1435) - Sirach 18:23 (scripture)
Session 3 (1438) - Wisdom 10:19 (it is written)
Session 6 (1439) - Tobit 12:20
Session 7 (1439) - Susannah/Daniel 13:9
Session 9 (1440) - Wisdom 5:21


This means that for a period of over seven hundred years prior to the “reformation,” the Magisterium of the Catholic Church had been quoting from the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture in its highest level of authoritative teaching. All five of the above councils gave their implicit witness to the inspired and canonical status of these books and used them on an equal footing with the rest of Scripture. This would not have been possible if – as Mr. Webster has tried to claim - it had been “the practice of the Church as a whole from the time of Jerome up to the eve of the Reformation ” not to give the Deuterocanonical books “status on a par equal with the inspired Scripture.”

We then also have the history of the Deuterocanonical material is its use by the Fathers and the Scholastics. Here is what Protestant Bruce Metzger says in his book An Introduction to the Apocrypha, page 178ff:

Whether it was owing to the influence of Origen, or from some other reason, from the fourth Century onward, the Greek Fathers made fewer and fewer references to the Apocrypha as inspired…In the Latin Church, on the other hand, a much higher estimate was accorded to the books of the Apocrypha. Following the example of Tertullian and Cyprian, Augustine frequently quoted from them as if they were not different from the canonical books of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Furthermore, more than one Synodical Council justified and emphasized their use. Jerome, standing in this respect almost alone in the West, spoke out decidedly for the Hebrew Canon, declaring unreservedly that books, which were outside that canon, should be ranked as Apocryphal… But St. Jerome - critic as he was of the Deuterocanon - continued to use these books and to quote them as Scripture long after registering his objections.


As J. N. D. Kelly has written in his book Jerome: His Life Writings and
Controversies
(page 160-1):

Since Origen’s time it had been recognized that there was a distinction to be made between the Jewish canon and the list acknowledged by Christians, but most writers preferred to place the popular and widely used Deuterocanonical books in a special category (e.g., calling them ‘ecclesiastical’) rather than to discard them. Jerome now takes a much firmer line. After enumerating the “twenty-two” (or perhaps twenty-four) books recognized by the Jews, he decrees that any books outside this list must be reckoned ‘apocryphal’: “They are not in the canon.” Elsewhere, while admitting that the Church reads books like Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] which are strictly uncanonical, he insists on their being used solely for ‘edifying the people, not for orroboration of ecclesiastical doctrines.” This was the attitude which, with temporary concessions for tactical or other reasons, he was to maintain for the rest of his life - in theory at any rate, for in practice he was to continue to cite them as if they were Scripture.”

{In a footnote, Kelly refers to the book San Girolomo by A. Penna (pages 387-9) which documents a large number of such quotations made by St. Jerome up to the very end of his life. Many of the quotations were preceded with comments such as “it is written,” “Scripture says,” etc. The same thing is documented in Jay Braverman’s monograph Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel.}

This pattern of using the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture holds true for virtually all of the Church Fathers, including the ones who - like St. Jerome - voiced some objection to their place in the Bible. All you need to do to see this is to check the Scripture index in the back of the volumes of The Ante-Nicene Fathers and The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers in the Edinburgh patristic collection edited by Schaff and Wace. This fact is also clear in the works of the Great Church Fathers such as St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Bonaventure, St. Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bernard and the majority of the Scholastics.

With regard to the Eastern Church Bruce Metzger wrote in his book on the Apocrypha page 192ff:

The position of the Eastern Orthodox Church regarding the canon of the Old Testament is not at all clear. On the one hand, since the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was used throughout the Byzantine Period, it is natural that the Greek theologians, such as Andrew of Crete, Germanus, Theodore the Studite, and Theophylact of Bulgaria, should refer indiscriminately to Apocryphal and canonical books alike. Furthermore certain Apocrypha are quoted as authoritative at the Seventh Ecumenical Council held at Nicea in 787 and at the council convened by Basil at Constantinople in 869. On the other hand, writers who raise the issue regarding the limits of the canon, such as John of Damacus and Nicephorus, express views which coincide with those of the great Athanasius, who adhered to the Hebrew canon… At the time of the Reformation…. [by] way of reaction, other leaders of Eastern Orthodoxy found it expedient, in confessions of faith and in decrees of synods, explicitly to place the Apocryphal books on level with the canonical books… What was perhaps the most important synod in the history of the Eastern Church was convened at Jerusalem in 1672. Chiefly directed towards the continuing influence of Cyril [Lucar of Constantinople] and ‘the party of the Calvinists,’ the Synod expressly designated the books of Wisdom, Judith, Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, Susanna, the Maccabees and Ecclesiasticus as canonical.


We can see that the extremely critical view of St. Jerome was never in the majority in the Church - either in the East or in the West - though there were always some scholars who accepted his position. Those who gave unqualified support to the Deuterocanon were more numerous. As time went on, while a significant number of scholars began to raise issue with the Deuterocanon, virtually every author in the pre-“reformation” period quoted from these books as Scripture. It is clear though that anyone who objected to the canonicity of the Deuterocanon after the triumph of the North African Councils was out of touch with Christian history, the mainline of Christian scholarship, and with the teaching of the Magisterium.

In summary, the use of the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture can be traced to the earliest times of the Apostolic Church. It continued in the Church up to the time of the “reformation” and beyond that to the present day. When we review the facts of history and the way that the majority of scholars in this area have interpreted them, clearly Mr. Webster is not telling the truth.


2) The New Catholic Encyclopedia actually affirms the fact that the Canon was not officially and authoritatively established for the Western Church until the Council of Trent…


The New Catholic Encyclopedia is a wonderful compendium, but it has its limitations and it certainly is not a magisterial document. I am under no obligation to agree with its conclusions. Based upon the above analysis of the North African Councils, I submit that the Canon of Scripture was fixed both de facto and de jure when the Popes formally accepted the canons of Hippo and Carthage. I stand on the clear history of the Church and its constant use of the Deuterocanonicals. This was an immemorial tradition confirmed by local synods, promulgated by the Popes to the Universal Church, and in constant use by Catholic Pastors, scholars, and teachers.

I have already mentioned the problem with the improper use of the term “infallible” by some Catholic authors. As I noted earlier, some authors use this to refer only to acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium, whereas defined Catholic doctrine extends infallibility to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium as well. I apologize to Mr. Webster for the confusion caused by the poor use of terminology by Catholic authors, but what I am insisting upon is the correct interpretation. The fact that the canons from the Council of Hippo are included in Denzinger along with other similar material bears that out.

The questions concerning the extent of both the NT and OT canons resurfaced in the 15th Century with the rise of the Humanist movement. The Humanists mistrusted the received wisdom of tradition and wanted to get “back to the sources” of art, music, science, philosophy, rhetoric, and religion. They were obsessed with critically establishing the true content of ancient texts and of purging them from corruptions, bowdlerized editing, and forgeries. The criticism of the Deuterocanonicals by St. Jerome was quite appealing to them ideologically since he insisted that the authentic OT was the original Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint (LXX) Greek OT generally came on rough times in this environment. A preference was shown for the Hebrew text. The best Hebrew texts of this time were based on the Masoretic Text (MT) which was thought to be authentic. (We now know that it originated in the 8th Century AD.) The MT had added nikudot (i.e., vowel marks) to the Hebrew consonantal text as a way of ‘clarifying’ the meaning of the text. There were some significant differences between the LXX and the MT, which the Humanists usually chalked up to corruptions that had crept in with the translation from Hebrew into Greek.

Based on studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now believe that there was a Western Palestinian variant of the Hebrew text of the Bible which was used during the time of Christ and which is closer to the meaning of the LXX than the MT in many places where they differ. (See Frank Moore Cross’s book Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text.) On this point at least, it appears that the assumptions of the Humanists were wrong.

The Humanists also assumed that the biblical canon of the ancient Church must also have been the same as that of the Jews at least initially. It is now widely accepted that there was no clearly closed ‘canon’ among the Jews until the 3rd Century AD. While the Pharisees had a canon formed in the mid-2nd Century BC, it was not held as normative by all Jews. According to the Talmud, the Sadducees only accepted the authority of the Pentateuch. The Qumran sectaries had their own view of the canon, which apparently included Jubilees, the Temple Scroll, 4QMMT, and possibly some others. Even in the mainstream of Pharisaic thought, there were disputes about the canon as late as 90 AD. The canonicity of Ezekiel, Song of Songs, Chronicles, and Ecclesiastes were questioned at the end of the 1st Century AD and there were strong moves to include Sirach and Wisdom. There was a text of Sirach found in the Cairo Genizah that dates from the 2nd-3rd Century AD which used several of the textual conventions reserved only to Scriptural books . There was no clear consensus among the rabbinical schools until well into the Christian era.

There have been recent attempts by Protestant fundamentalists such as Roger Beckwith to claim that the Jewish canon was closed definitively in the 2nd Century BC. Unfortunately, there are several problems with this scenario. First of all, Beckwith relies heavily on the existence of a mythical Great Sanhedrin (or some other official body), which would have had the authority to close the Canon. There is no evidence that this Sanhedrin ever existed. Beckwith claims that the prophetic voice was stilled in Israel after the Babylonian Exile so that any books written subsequently could not be inspired. He also assumes that Jews of all differing parties would have accepted this closure of the Canon. This puts him at odds with what the Talmud explicitly says about the Sadducees, and with the evidence from Qumran, the Cairo Genizah, and Jewish tradition. Finally, he cannot answer for certain who closed the canon, where it was closed, when, why, or by what authority. He proposes answers to these questions, but his answers are merely speculative. It all ends up looking overly simplistic and is not terribly convincing.

Besides if Beckwith is correct and the prophetic voice was silenced in Israel, then Jesus and St. John the Baptizer could not have been considered real Prophets by their contemporaries. That would have undermined their missions to say the least. There is also evidence form Josephus that there was genuine prophecy going on in Israel up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (See Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine by Rebecca Gray).

And if the Canon of Scripture had been closed before the coming of Christ, then there could have been no NT. The very existence of the NT proves that the Canon of Scripture in the objective sense was not yet completed before the time of Jesus.

In the 1960’s, Protestant A. C. Sundberg did his doctoral dissertation at Harvard on the origin of the Canon of the OT in the Early Church. His conclusion was that the long OT Canon - including the Deuterocanonicals - was a product of the Christian Church in the 2nd Century. He debunked the idea of a longer ‘Alexandrian’ biblical canon among Greek speaking Jews. His work is very important because it shows that the long OT canon is distinctively Christian and was not dependent upon Jewish opinion.

Mr. Webster also asserts that the listing of the Canon of Scripture in the Bull of Union with the Copts written by Pope Eugenius IV was not an infallible document. Again he bases this on his quotation of ‘experts.’ If we actually look at the Bull it says the following:

[The Holy Roman Church] professes that one and the same God is the author of the Old and the New Testaments - that is the Law, and the Prophets, and the Gospels - since the saints of both testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates their books whose titles are as follows: [the long Canon of the OT and the 27 books of the NT]… After all of these explanations the aforesaid abbot Andrew, in the name of the aforesaid patriarch and of himself and of all the Jacobites, receives and accepts with all devotion and reverence this most salutary synodal decree with all of its chapters, declarations, definitions, traditions, precepts, and statutes and all the doctrine contained therein, and also whatever the holy apostolic see and the Roman Church holds and teaches.

This is a strong statement concerning a profession of faith in the Roman Church’s teaching. It was intended to be definitive and to represent the requirements of union between the Jacobites and the Roman Church. As such it qualifies as an act of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium and so is considered formally infallible.

The following is taken from the article on the Canon of the Old Testament from the New Advent Online Catholic Encyclopedia:

In 1442, during the life, and with the approval, of this Council, Eugenius IV issued several Bulls, or decrees, with a view to restore the Oriental schismatic bodies to communion with Rome, and according to the common teaching of theologians these documents are infallible states of doctrine.


http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm

So I rest my case on this point. The inspiration and canonicity of the long Old Testament Canon was accepted by the Magisterium for over 1100 years before the “reformation” and whenever the Magisterium was confronted with this question down through the centuries, it always gave the same answer.


3) … even such an authority as Pope Gregory the Great rejected the Apocrypha as canonical:

As I stated in my original comments, St. Gregory made no magisterial pronouncements on the Canon of Scripture. The comment quoted by Mr. Webster was from his Commentary on Job also known as his Magna Moralia, which was a private work of interpretation and not a Magisterial document. Mr. Webster refuses to accept this conclusion because it does not suit his desired conclusions. Let me make my case clear.

By Mr. Webster’s own admission, the Moralia was started in 578 AD while St. Gregory was in Constaninople and he completed the last section (Book XXXV) in 595 AD. According to Protestant Rev. James Barmby DD (in NPNF 2nd Series volume XII, St. Gregory, page xxxi) it was “in a great measure written during his residence in Constantinople.” St. Gregory was Pope from 590 to 604 AD. Hence this work was started twelve years before he was Pope and was mostly composed before he assumed that office. In no way could this be considered an official magisterial document. It is a work of private speculation and has no authority beyond the
scholarship used in its composition.

Mr. Webster alleges that St. Gregory, “would never have purposefully expressed a view contrary to that which he knew had been authoritatively established by the Church.” I commend Mr. Webster on his faith in St. Gregory’s orthodoxy, especially since St. Gregory was an ardent champion of the jurisdictional primacy of the Roman See! But I don’t think Mr. Webster can really speak to St. Gregory’s state of knowledge when he wrote book XIX of the Moralia while in Constantinople. What he knew or did not know at that time concerning the teaching of the Church on the Canon is a matter of speculation. Regardless this was a private work of theology written long before he was Pope and so it has no bearing on the official status of the Deuterocanon within the Church.

Let us review that quote of Pope St. Gregory the Great more carefully:

With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forth testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an Elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed.” (1 Macc 6:46)

[Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, (Oxford: Parker, 1845),
Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Volume II, Parts III and IV,
Book XIX.34, p. 424]



So St. Gregory did not subscribe to St. Jerome’s extreme view of the Canon. He accepted the moderate view that the Deutrocanonicals were ‘ecclesiastical.’ But notice that he is apologizing for using 1Maccabees. He is not saying that it is of no value but rather that he felt the necessity of using this book despite doubts about its canonicity. This is very significant. The inspired character of 1Maccabees showed through despite the doubting of mere men. St. Gregory sensed it and was drawn to use it. Thus he is witnessing against the extreme view of Mr. Webster, which would dismiss the Deuterocanonicals as uninspired and useless to the Church. Mr. Webster tries to make St. Gregory’s comments into a Church wide standard that rejected the Deuterocanonicals. As we have seen, the level of reception for the Deuterocanonicals varied among churchmen during this period but the mainline of Christian tradition supported their canonicity.

In fact St. Gregory himself supports their canonical status in his own works. In his Book of Pastoral Rule which was written after the Moralia but while he was Pope, he quotes 12 times from Sirach, 2 times from Wisdom, 1 time from Tobit. Frequently with these quotations he uses the formula “it is written,” which he reserved for references to canonical Scripture. So like St. Jerome, St Gregory was inconsistent in some of his private opinions about the Deuterocanonicals compared to the way he used them in his published work. The inspired character of these books kept shining through despite his doubts.


4) There are major Fathers in the Church prior to the North African Councils who rejected the judgments of these councils.

There was no clear Tradition from the Apostles about the Canon of Scripture. It was the spontaneous use of the books by Christians over the first 300 years of Church history that firmly established the sacred books in the life of the Church. There was a great deal of dissention in the Early Church about both the NT and OT Canons. In fact, every pre-Hippo Father who championed the Hebrew Canon in the Church also had a NT Canon which was different from ours, including St. Athanasius.

Why did some early Fathers reject the longer OT Canon? Every expert whom I have consulted says the same thing: the objections arose among those Fathers who learned Hebrew and who had direct apologetic contact with Jews. This began in the late 2nd and early 3rd Centuries with such notable figures as St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. It is clear that before prior to that contact these same Fathers all accepted the longer OT Canon and quoted from it as Scripture. These Fathers wanted to argue with Jews using only the OT Scripture that the Rabbis accepted. This was the genesis of the whole problem. Because they wanted to beat the Jews in debates they questioned the authority of the Holy Spirit within the Church to discern the canonical limits of the inspired Word of God.


5) The books called 1 & 2 Esdras at Hippo and Carthage are not the same as the books of the same name recognized at Trent.

This is a complicated issue. For the sake of convenience I will use the following conventions in referring to these books:

LXX1Esdras = Apoc1Esdras = Vg3Edsras
LXX2Esdras = Ezra + Nehemiah
Hebrew-Ezra = Vg1Esdras
Hebrew-Nehemiah = Vg2Esdras

I first want to compliment Mr. Webster on coming up with a truly new issue in the study of Church History, which is worthy of serious scholarly study. The exact meaning that the fathers at the Council of Hippo gave to the ‘two books of Esdras’ is not clear. It is rare in apologetics that you discover a new issue that is worthy of extended investigation. I fear that I do not possess the necessary tools and expertise to settle this issue. But I am afraid that it does not have the apologetic importance that Mr. Webster thinks it does. First of all, the Council of Hippo had no magisterial authority of its own, but derived it from the support given to it by the confirmation of the ‘Transmarine Church’ (i.e., Rome). Consequently, what the fathers of Hippo meant when they spoke of the “two books of Esdras” is really immaterial. It is what the Popes intended when they promulgated the Council’s teaching that counts.

In Septuagint manuscripts, LXX1Esdras was an apocryphal book composed mostly of parts of Hebrew-Ezra with some other materials added. LXX2Esdras was a combination of the complete texts of Hebrew-Esdras and Hebrew-Nehemiah. When the Latin Vulgate was composed by St. Jerome, Hebrew-Esdras became 1Esdras (Vg1Esdras), Hebrew-Nehemiah became 2Esdras (Vg2Esdras),and LXX1Esdras became 3Esdras (Vg3Esdras) or what later came to be known as Apocryphal 1Esdras (Apoc1Esdras).

Since 383 AD, St. Jerome had come to accept the concept of ‘Hebrew Verity.’ That is, in disputes over the canon and textual content of the bible he deferred to the Hebrew text as being most correct. This was well known at that time and was one of the guiding principles for his translation of the Bible into Latin that had been requested by Pope St. Damasus. Really the dispute over the authentic text of the ‘two books of Esdras’ had started with Origin’s Hexapla texts 140 years earlier. This was nothing new. St. Jerome was actually in the process of translating Ezra and Nehemiah from 393-394 AD according to Kelly and the New Catholic Encyclopedia. This means that his work on these books was contemporary with the Council of Hippo and his decision as to the nature of the authentic text of the Esdras material had been made earlier. It is likely that the council fathers at Hippo knew of this work and they may have agreed with St. Jerome’s opinion on this matter. Unfortunately, we do not have the Acta from the council and so we probably cannot reconstruct the deliberations on this.

Whatever the case, St. Jerome completed the translations for the Vulgate by 405-406 AD. When the Popes reaffirmed the Canon of Scripture from Hippo/Carthage in 401, 414, and 418 AD there is no doubt of their intentions. They saw the ‘two books of Esdras’ as identical to the books of Esdras in St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation, which were based upon the Hebrew text of Ezra and Nehemiah. It was this understanding of the text of the ‘two books of Esdras’ which was promulgated ever after in the Church and which was adopted by the Councils of Florence and Trent.

The quotation of LXX1Esdras by St. Augustine in The City of God to which Mr. Webster refers is an interesting historical note but is of no consequence. It is the intention of the Popes who promulgated the Canon from Hippo which counts and their position is quite clear.


6) Hippo and Carthage state that Solomon wrote 5 books of the Old Testament when in actuality he wrote 3.

Mr. Webster apparently did not do his homework. He alleges that “It was not the common practice of the Church to refer to these [5 wisdom] books as Solomon’s.” Kelly states on page 236 of Jerome that St. Jerome wrote a letter in which he debunked the supposed authorship of the books of Sirach and Wisdom “that were widely believed to be also by Solomon.” St. Augustine says in his treatise On Christian Doctrine Book 2, Chapter 8:

“For two books, one called Wisdom and the other called Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach.”


Pope St. Gregory the Great in his Book of Pastoral Rule refers to the author of Sirach as “Solomon” in a quotation in Chapter XV (NPNF, 2nd Series, vol. XII, page 39).

Nothing more needs to be said. Mr. Webster again is not telling the truth.


7) The universal practice of the Church as a whole up to the time of the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome who rejected the Old Testament Apocrypha on the grounds that these books were never part of the Jewish Canon.

We have already covered this matter in detail. The universal practice of the church from the time of St. Jerome up to the “reformation” was to argue about the canonicity of these books but to simultaneously quote from them as Scripture. While there were people who did not accept these books as canonical, the mainstream of Catholic thought (typified by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Ecumenical Councils) always did. In retrospect, this was the traditional position inherited from the early Church and confirmed by the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church.

A quick word about the Glossa Ordinaria. This was a popular compilation of scriptural comments from the 12th Century that was used extensively during the Middle Ages. It was never an ‘official’ commentary and had no magisterial status. It collected a variety of opinions on the biblical texts from many sources.

I discovered something on the Internet the other day. Southern Methodist University had a display of rare biblical texts a few years ago from the collection of Charles Ryrie who composed the Dispensationalist study bible that bears his name. One of the listings was as follows:

This manuscript contains the "Sapiential" Books of the Bible, pertaining to the wisdom of God: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus. Produced in France early in the thirteenth century, it consists of 180 vellum leaves illuminated with red and blue initials, paragraph markings and chapter numbers. The gothic scripts of the biblical text, glossa ordinaria, interlinear gloss, and marginal commentary are written in various sizes by at least four different hands.


So there were Glossa Ordinaria pertaining to the Deuterocanonical books as well as to the Protocanonicals.


8) The Opinions of several late Patristic and medieval authors rejected the
Apocrypha. (e.g., Rufinus, Cajetan, etc)


This points out one of the great errors of the Protestant revolt. Protestantism was founded on the revolt of certain men with university training who denied the authority of the Historic Catholic Church and her Hierarchy to teach and preserve sound doctrine. Their whole movement was founded on rhetoric and well-structured academic debates rather than on faith in the Holy Spirit’s power to superintend the Church. Ever since then in the Protestant world, academic standards and the consensus in the universities have replaced Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium as the norms for interpreting Scripture. As such, Protestant theologies are built upon a ‘Pelagian’ attitude towards doctrine. As long as there was some scholar with a body of work that was stylistically compelling, or particularly well argued, there would usually be some Protestant who would turn that man’s speculations into an article of faith. Meanwhile they condemned the simple Catholic people who placed their implicit faith in the Church’s teaching claiming that they had not worked hard enough in understanding their faith.

Right is right if no one is right. Wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong. A mere show of hands among “acknowledged experts”, a rhetorical flourish in written form, or even an opinion from someone with an academic degree can do nothing to make a falsehood become true. Some people are spectacularly wrong. Others are banal yet correct. It doesn’t matter how many people Mr. Webster can dredge up who objected to the Deuterocanonical books. They were wrong.

The vast majority of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians down through the centuries have accepted these books as canonical. But even if the Popes in each age stood alone and held out for their canonicity, that would be enough. Doctrine is not determined by a show of hands by theologians, but “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2Peter 1:21).


9) Roman Catholic apologists often assert that the canons of Carthage were authoritatively received by the 6th Ecumencial Council [Quinisext]. What they never add is that this council also received the canons of Athanasius and
Amphilocius which also have to do with the canon. (The 102 canons of Quinisext (Council of Trullo) have always been considered part of the 5th and 6th ecumenical council by the Seventh Ecumenical Council and by the Roman Church.)

This is a particularly egregious misrepresentation by Mr. Webster because he is obviously familiar with the sources that I am about to quote. I think these quotations will speak for themselves:

History of the Christian Church
by Philip Schaff
Volume IV
Chapter XI
Section 114.
Concilium Quinisextum. a.d.
692.
....The fifth and sixth ecumenical councils passed doctrinal decrees, but no disciplinary canons. This defect was supplied by a new council at
Constantinople in 692, called the Concilium Quinisextum, also the Second Trullan Council, from the banqueting hall with a domed roof in the imperial palace where
it was held. It was convened by the Emperor Justinian II. surnamed Rinotmetos, one of the most heartless tyrants that ever disgraced a Christian throne. He ruled from 685-695, was deposed by a revolution and sent to exile with a mutilated nose, but regained the throne in 705 and was assassinated in 711. The supplementary council was purely oriental in its composition and spirit. It adopted 102 canons, most of them old, but not yet legally or ecumenically sanctioned. They cover the whole range of clerical and ecclesiastical life and discipline, and are valid to this day in the Eastern church. They include eighty-five apostolic canons so called (thirty-five more than were acknowledged by the Roman church), the canons of the first four ecumenical councils, and of several minor councils, as Ancyra, Neo-Caesarea, Gangra, Antioch, Laodicea, etc.; also the canons of Dionysius the Great of Alexandria, Peter of Alexandria, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzum, Amphilochius of Iconium, Timothy of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, Gennadius of Constantinople, and an anti-Roman canon of Cyprian of Carthage. The decretals of the Roman bishops are ignored. The canons were signed first, by the emperor; the second place was left blank for the pope, but was never filled; then follow the names of Paul of Constantinople, Peter of Alexandria, Anastasius of Jerusalem, George of Antioch (strangely after that of the patriarch of Jerusalem), and others, in all 211 bishops and episcopal representatives, all Greeks and Orientals, of whom 43 had been present at the sixth ecumenical council. The emperor sent the acts of the Trullan Council to Sergius of Rome, and requested him to sign them. The pope refused because they contained some chapters contrary to ecclesiastical usage in Rome. The emperor dispatched the chief officer of his body guard with orders to bring the pope to Constantinople. But the armies of the exarch of Ravenna and of the Pentapolis rushed to the protection of the pope, who quieted the soldiers; the imperial officer had to hide himself in the pope’s bed, and then left Rome in disgrace. Soon afterwards Justinian II. was dethroned and sent into exile. When he regained the crown with the aid of a barbarian army (705), he sent two metropolitans to Pope John VII. with the request to call a council of the Roman church, which should sanction as many of the canons as were acceptable. The pope, a timid man, simply returned the copy. Subsequent negotiations led to no decisive result.

The seventh ecumenical Council (787) readopted the 102 canons, and erroneously ascribed them to the sixth ecumenical Council. The Roman church never committed herself to these canons except as far as they agreed with ancient Latin usage. {Emphasis added} Some of them were inspired by an anti-Roman tendency. The first canon repeats the anathema on Pope Honorius. The thirty-sixth canon, in accordance with the second and fourth ecumenical Councils, puts the patriarch of Constantinople on an equality of rights with the bishop of Rome, and concedes to the latter only a primacy of honor, not a supremacy of jurisdiction. Clerical marriage of the lower orders is sanctioned in canons 3 and 13, and it is clearly hinted that the Roman church, by her law of clerical celibacy, dishonors wedlock, which was instituted by God and sanctioned by the presence of Christ at Cana. But second marriage is forbidden to the clergy, also marriage with a widow (canon 3), and marriage after ordination (canon 6). Bishops are required to discontinue their marriage relation (canon 12). Justinian had previously forbidden the marriage of bishops by a civil law. Fasting on the Sabbath in Lent is forbidden (canon 55) in express opposition to the custom in Rome. The second canon fixes the number of valid apostolical canons at eighty-five against fifty of the Latin church. The decree of the Council of Jerusalem against eating blood and things strangled (Acts 15) is declared to be of perpetual force, while in the West it was considered merely as a temporary provision for the apostolic age, and for congregations composed of Jewish and Gentile converts. The symbolical representation of Christ under the figure of the lamb in allusion to the words of John the Baptist is forbidden as belonging to the Old Testament, and the representation in human form is commanded (canon 82).

These differences laid the foundation for the great schism between the East. and the West. The supplementary council of 692 anticipated the action of Photius, and clothed it with a quasi-ecumenical authority.



Protestant Henry R. Percival said this about Quinisext:

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Second Series)
VOLUME XIV: THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL COUNCILS
Page 355ff
The Canons
of the Council in Trullo; Often Called the Quinisext Council.
a.d. 692.
Elenchus.
Introductory Note.
From the fact that the canons of the Council in Trullo are included in this volume of the Decrees and Canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils it must not for an instant be supposed that it is intended thereby to affirm that these canons have any ecumenical authority, or that the council by which they were adopted can lay any claim to being ecumenical either in view of its constitution or of the subsequent treatment by the Church of its enactments... {Emphasis added}

Pope Sergius refused to sign the decrees when they were sent to him, rejected them as “lacking authority” (invalidi) and described them as containing “novel errors.” With the efforts to extort his signature we have no concern further than to state that they signally failed. Later on, in the time of Pope Constantine, a middle course seems to have been adopted, a course subsequently in the ninth century thus expressed by Pope John VIII., “he accepted all those canons which did not contradict the true faith, good morals, and the decrees of Rome,” a truly notable statement! Nearly a century later Pope Hadrian I. distinctly recognizes all the Trullan decrees in his letter to Tenasius of Constantinople and attributes them to the Sixth Synod. “All the holy six synods I receive with all their canons, which rightly and divinely were promulgated by them, among which is contained that in which reference is made to a Lamb being pointed to by the Precursor as being found in certain of the venerable images.” Here the reference is unmistakably to the Trullan Canon LXXXII.

Archbishop Hefele’s summing up of the whole matter is as follows: (Hefele, Hist. of the Councils, Vol. V., p. 242.)
{***The following paragraph in brackets is added by Dr. Sippo from page 242 in Hefele to show the complete statement of Bishop Hefele about the papal response to Quinisext. It immediately precedes the part quoted by Percival:}

["Probably Tarsius of Constantinople had also written to the pope what he persuaded the Second of Nicea to, that the same fathers who held the sixth Synod had added the appendix four or five years later... This historical and chronological assertion, Hadrian, as well as the members of the Seventh Ecumenical Council seem to have believed. That, however, the pope would not have approved of all the Trullan Canons we read in his words quoted above: He approved those 'quae jure ac divnitas promulgatae sunt' {'which were rightly and divinely promulgated'}. Hadrian I seems here to have done as subsequently Martin V and Eugenius IV did in the confirmation of Constance and Basle. They selected such expressions as did not expressly embrace the confirmation of all the canons, but -- properly explained -- excluded a certain number of the decrees in question from the papal ratification.] ***
"That the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicea ascribed the Trullan canons to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and spoke of them entirely in the Greek spirit, cannot astonish us, as it was attended almost solely by Greeks. They specially pronounced the recognition of the canons in question in their own first canon; but their own canons have never received the ratification of the Holy See."


I would add only a few further comments. If as Mr. Webster alleges Quinisext was accepted in the West as ecumenical, then why were none of its canons ever enforced in the Latin Church? The 102 Quinisext canons are not included in Denzinger or in the collections of the Documents of the Ecumenical Councils done by Fr. Schroeder or Fr. Tanner. Virtually no mention is made of Quinisext in any Catholic Church history books such as the sets by Fr. Philip Hughes or Fr. Hubert Jedin.

This does not mean that the Latin Church’s view of Quinisext was entirely negative. Quite the contrary, we have accepted it as an expression of Eastern Christian practice and discipline. It is the basis for the Eastern Rite canon law code among Eastern Churches in Union with Rome and for similar codes among the Orthodox as well. The Catholic Church has just never considered it ecumenical.

As to the “contradictions” between the canon of Hippo on the Canon of Scripture and those of St. Amphilocus & St. Athanasius, there was actually a total of 5 different listing of the Canon of Scripture among the 102 Canons at Quinisext. None of them are identical with each other. To counter the argument that they were contradictory to each other, Percival opined that the affirmation of these canons was “not specific but general” (page 611). In other words, Quinisext was giving a general witness to the usage of the Scriptures in the Early Church with these different canons. As in any law code, there are bound to be portions of that code which are obsolete, superceded, or over-turned by judicial authority. Since the long Canon has always predominated in the Eastern Church we can only surmise that Quinisext would have given pride of place to the Canon of Scripture from Hippo/Carthage.

Once again, we must conclude that Mr. Webster has not told us the truth here either.

Epilogue:
I hope it is obvious that the position that Mr. Webster espouses has some serious problems. He has not done his homework and is patently wrong about many things. On the other hand, he has pointed out some very interesting questions that have helped me to further understand the history of the Christian Church. While I appreciate his spunk in trying to find numerous hard questions for us Catholic apologists to answer, the time has come for him to admit that his thesis concerning the Canon of Scripture and Church History is untenable. While there was some debate in the Early Church over the extent of the Biblical Canon, there never was a time when the Church officially rejected the Deuterocanonical books. The mainstream of Catholic thinkers supported the long Canon. The few defectors from Catholic Tradition were simply out of touch with Magisterial teaching. Happily the Holy Spirit always maintained superintendence over the Church and, whenever the question arose about the canon of Scripture, the Church responded faithfully that the long Canon was part of the Sacred Tradition that she had received from the Early Church. I hope that Mr. Webster will see the light and turn his attention to some other more credible project. I also hope that this has been enlightening for him and that he will take the time to re-evaluate his position before God. The time to commit himself to Christ is now, not later. Time is running short and there is no salvation outside of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus. I invite Mr. Webster to come to his senses and to leave his bondage to the Protestant lie and join us on the Barque of Peter. May God bring him to everlasting life!

Art Sippo MD, MPH
Omnes semper - ad Jesum, per Mariam, cum Petro.