Apocrypha discussion

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by Jeffg, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. Jeffg

    Jeffg Active Member

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    I recently was listening on the radio to EWTN (Catholic) radio. In discussing the Sacred Scripture, one of the things said was the "the Bible does not have an index" i.e. the Bible does not tell us per say which books belong in it. This was used as an argument in favor of those books which Protestants would consider Apocryphal. This , along with the fact that the Jewish holiday of Hannachau is based on the books of Macaabees, which are not canonical in the Jewish Canon, yet a major holiday is based on events told of in it, got me thinking about how the Canon was formed. I have to admit that I have a problem with Protestants who state that a certain book should be removed. For example, Martin Luther was said to have wanted James and Revelation removed from the Bible. Thats just one person making the statemnent. Shouldn't the Canon of the Bible be decided in an Ecumenical Council ? I realize that these days we'd have to get Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptist, Preybyterians, Pentacostals, and all the non-denom mega church's together, which would probably be impossible. So , just putting this out there in hopes of getting a healthy conversation going, and maybe a little education
     
  2. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    I've been rethinking the inspiration of the apocrypha. The Pope who condemned the Transitus literature (Gelasius I believe) is often used to discredit the tradition of the Assumption, but people overlook the fact that in his declaration he also considers the apocrypha to be part of the canon. Many gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas contain more quotes from the canonical gospels than they do innovative or questionable theology. The most glaring mistake can be seen towards the end of the document where Jesus talks about women needing to become a male to get in to heaven because his disciples claim women don't deserve life. But nearly every quote cited in it is identical to ones accepted as scripture. It is a guilt-by-association fallacy. Also, in the Dead Sea scrolls and even the Jewish commentators cited to affirm the accepted Protestant canon, Esther is omitted. We have more copies of the apocryphal books among the Dead Sea scrolls than Esther, if I recall correctly. There are also those that say Esther is more like Judith and meant to be taken as a historical fiction and religious moral story, since Jesus told parables and religious moral fiction can be part of inspired scripture too. To make this case, critics mention questionable historical claims made in Esther and the absence of any explicit mention of God.

    I think someone mentioned that the Wisdom of Solomon is one of the only pre-NT books to speak of the elect in the same way we see Paul describe them in the NT. I was reading it myself and found that peculiar.

    The idea that the Hebrew originals have been preserved without any major changes was called into question when we consider that one of the messianic passages quoted in Hebrews ("And all the angels of God should worship him") lines up more with a passage only preserved for the longest time in the Septuagint, but recently uncovered in a pre-Septuagint fragment in its original hebrew form. They say the post-Temple Jews wanted to downplay the Christian belief in Jesus' messiah-ship. Jews however argue that Christians are the real conspirators, but I don't think the evidence is actually in their favor.

    It may be easier to believe that only small portions may be preserved in translations from the original that are absent from what we consider to be the original language documents. But, it may also be possible that even whole chapters could be preserved through tradition in translations but aren't in the originals (that we have now). There isn't really anything wrong, from what I can tell with The Prayer of Manasseh or The Song of the Three Children. The later is criticized for being simplistic and repetitive, but one particular canonical Psalm which eludes me has a similar character to it. Also, claiming that the shift in tone of some books (i.e.; the violent and grotesque descriptions of Maccebees) discredits the possibility of its inspiration is challenged by the fact that many books in the bible all bring something new to the table and may have a very distinguished character to them not found in others, which is why they are often studied for a particular devotion. Job, which deals with the problem of evil and the question of God's sovereignity in the midst of it is one such example.
     
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  3. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I am struggling to follow some of the argument. There are a list of books in in Article 6, that fr some time were called 'The Apocrypha' and perhaps more regularly referred to as the Deuterocanonicals in contemporary scholarship to distinguish them from NT Apocryphal texts such as the Shepherd of Hermas, The Gospel of Thomas, The Infancy Gospels ...

    For the most part the Deuterocanonicals come from the post exilic period, and some/many of them may well have been written in Greek. The Scriptures used by the writers of the NT appear in the main to be LXX, and given they were Greek Speakers who wrote in Greek, that is hardly surprising. There is some discussion as to the interpretation of Article 6, as to whether the force is to exclude them from the Canon per se, or rather to include them with the proviso that they are not to be used to establish doctrine (that which must be believed unto salvation).

    I am loath to express my view in that I know there are those on this forum who hold a variant view, and I respect that, however I do take the meaning that they are part of the Canon, but not with the force of the primary canon, and whilst they may be used to support and enhance our understanding for the Scriptures, they may not to used to establish Doctrine, and so the term deuterocanonicals makes perfect sense, and is to my mind a sensible reading of Article 6.
     
  4. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    I understand your argument. The term apocrypha is broad, and the term deuterocanon is used instead when referring to those particular books considered apocryphal by some that are in fact accepted by both the RC and EO.
     
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  5. rstrats

    rstrats Member

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    re: "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

    The trick of course is in determining what is scripture and what isn't.
     
  6. Fr. Brench

    Fr. Brench Active Member Anglican

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    I've become a bit of a fan for the apocrypha, and picked up the term "Ecclesiastical Books" for them from (I think) Vernon Staley. The history of their canonicity is complicated, when you look at the church fathers (particularly Jerome versus Augustine, if I recall), so the way we handle them today should be similarly careful. To throw them out completely like the rest of Protestantism, or to include (some of) them wholesale like the Romans, is just too simplistic. I think our Article 6, multiple interpretations and all, is the only reasonable solution to the old debate. The church doth read them, we've always read them! But we read them more carefully, with an eye to the undisputed books of the OT canon. Honestly that's how we often treat James and Revelation too: reading them in light of the "clearer" NT writings.
     
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  7. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Martin Luther had strong Marcionistic tendencies. I pay little attention to his mental droppings on textual criticism. He did systematic theology in the worst way: he reached a conclusion without examining all of the evidence. Any literature that challenged his pre-conception was then disregarded and often disparaged.

    One of the 0ther relatively recent developments in scholarship that has led to a low regard for the deutero-canon is the advent of Biblical inerrancy. If every word of the Bible has to be literally true in the plainest sense, the Apocrypha has to go because it is clearly not inerrant. If one can discard this fundamentalist notion of God having essentially dictated the text to an anamnuensis, one can approach the text in a new light and perhaps actually understand something of what is being conveyed. The wisdom literature is one of the best examples of how flawed the dictation theory of Biblical inspiration is: why would God dictate anyone to record all of the inner struggles of the Psalmist(s) or the lifestyle arc of the 'preacher' of Ecclesiastes?

    Unitarians ask all the time where the Trinity is in the OT. I don't bother diving into a discussion of the plurality of Elohim because their eyes immediately glaze over and they don't listen (if they were ever open to listening). Instead, I go to the wisdom literature. The Apocryphal wisdom literature is particularly helpful in this regard, once one realizes that wisdom is often cast as the personification of the second person of the trinity.
     
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  8. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    It does not have to be literally true in every sense to still be true in other senses. I had no idea that biblical inerrancy was even a modern innovation! You could make that argument based on the discrepencies in manuscript variations and the need for translations from the originals to clarify obscure words in their sources, but that is a bit excessive.
     
  9. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Active Member

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    Why is the Book of James controversial?
     
  10. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    Because reformed Protestants believe Romans teaches all our works are done for us by the holy spirit on faith alone. Basically, if you simply believe in Christ's salvation you will do works under the holy spirit that count towards what God expects from you, with some such as Calvinists believing in a 'once saved, always saved' doctrine.

    James teaches the "I'll show you my faith by my works". To Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox, salvation is actively maintained by conscious efforts to avoid sin with the possibility of giving in to doubt, heresy, sin, etc. and falling away. They do believe the works we do for God matter more when we have actual faith in him but they don't believe in eternal security. Reformed Protestants say that James is actually saying that an authentic faith produces the kind of good works/fruits God expects from us in the bible. Saying Demons believe in God and tremble as an example of faith that won't save is like how people say Mormons believe Jesus did miracles and had some relationship with God but deny the trinity. They can acknowledge some basic truths but not the most important ones. It's not the same thing.

    In the end, Protestants say James just wants to teach us how to recognize that we have the right faith and are in God's favor. RCs and EOs say the same thing, just without the idea of eternal security. Even some Protestants do not believe in eternal security, though. Martin Luther may not have accepted it, rather, he simply believed that we didn't have to be perfect just as long as we had faith, but a good Christian would actively avoid sin, as not taking it seriously and submitting to it would harden the soul and turn them away from God. If you keep doing it and think it's OK, you stop acknowledging it as a sin so can no longer have a seed of repentance in you. Many would say it's an inconsistent view, but that view is somewhere in between the Roman and Protestant one. Although a reformer, Luther was ironically the most similar to the Romans in much of his theology despite his rejection of apostolic succession. He even held to many doctrines like the perpetual virginity of Mary and some other pseudo-Catholic beliefs like consubstantiation.
     
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  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It isn't controversial among Anglicans. Among people who are confused or try to invent new doctrines, it could be controversial, but there is no limit to such people across history, both roman, and eastern orthodox, and protestant.

    I might add that the Book of James is not controversial among the Lutherans either. The Book of James is scripture. As is the Book of Romans. As is everything else enumerated in Article 6.
     
  12. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    Correct. The different churches have their own solutions regarding how they reconcile James with Romans according to their theology, but they still accept them as inspired in the end. One of them must be right.
     
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  13. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The 27 Books of the New Testament have been so universally accepted since ancient time that there was no need to list those books in Article 6.

    Whilst Luther was prepared to air some concerns about some of the books including James and The Apocalypse, and I think also Hebrews, he ultimately accepted all the books of the New Testament. For those who argue 'faith alone' as if mental attitude and inclination is sufficient fail to recognise that part of a faithful response includes deeds of service and charity. James is a fitting balance to Romans and vice versa. Faith is a journey, not a destination.
     
  14. Jeffg

    Jeffg Active Member

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    Although a reformer, Luther was ironically the most similar to the Romans in much of his theology despite his rejection of apostolic succession. He even held to many doctrines like the perpetual virginity of Mary and some other pseudo-Catholic beliefs like consubstantiation.[/QUOTE]

    Having been brought up Lutheran, the way I understand the differance between the Catholic and Lutheran view on the Eucherist is one believes in transubstantiation and the other in consubstantiation. To be honest , I forgot the differance, but they are pretty close. I am of the opinion that Luthers view on the Eucherist, for a Protestant. were the closest to the Catholic view. Luther and Zwigli definalty had a differant view point, but you could say that was PREDESTINED (LOL). Another interesting thing is if you look at the Luthers Small Catechism, there is a part on Confession. I've always been of the opinion, after having read it that you could argue from a Lutheran point of view that Confession is Sacramental due to this
     
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  15. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    I've got a translation of the fourth edition (he revised his master-work from time to time) of Melancthon's Loci Communes, basically a systematic theology. He wrote that if one wishes to count the lesser sacraments -that is those not explicitly instituted by Christ- there are at least eight and perhaps more. I don't recall what he enumerated as the eighth off-hand. But then, he lost the Lutheran power battle so it's something of a moot point. Instead, utterly hack theologians like Chemnitz took over the movement.
     
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  16. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    I got myself a nice hardbound copy of Concordia, a compilation of all the Lutheran Confessions with some commentary and notes. It's a very concise volume. We may disagree with Luther and Lutherans, but it's always important that we honestly try to understand their point of view. Same reason I have the Book of Common Prayer and the Catechism of the (Roman) Catholic Church Second Edition. I keep all my nice hardbound copies of doctrinal books together with my bibles of my shelf. Now all I need is a decent Orthodox catechism to go with them.
     
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  17. Jeffg

    Jeffg Active Member

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    It's tough sometimes to keep up on the Confessions... The Book of Concord/Augsburg Confession... Book of Commom Prayer.. the Catechism of the Catholic church.. The Baltimore Catechism... the Wesminseter Confession.. The Heidelberg Confession... The Belgic Confession.. the list goes on.. and on.. and on....
     
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  18. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    You can find them all for free online, of course, but I mostly keep the ones from the major branches in physical copy.
     
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  19. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The Apocryphal Books included in the Authorized Version (KJV) and historically used in Anglicanism are universally accepted.

    I take the view that all OT books used in the “Broad Canon” of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, including 1 Enoch, as well as Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit and so on, are edifying, some extremely so (Tobit, Sirach and Wisdom are three of my favorite books).

    There are some “Ecclesiastical books” of great importance never really considered a part of Scripture, which I still think every Christian should read, like 1 Clement and the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of St. John, fed to lions in the Coliseum. St. Athanasius in his 39th Paschal Encyclical was the first to enumerate all 27 books we universally accept as NT canon, and he also authorized the use of a few of the post-NT writings like the Shepherd of Hermas for catechtical, but not liturgical purposes.*

    On the other hand, the Gnostic apocrypha, which is enumerated in the Decretum Gelasianum of the late fifth century Roman bishop Gelasius I (one of the last to not call himself Pope, at that time a title still used only for the Patriarch of Alexandria), is toxic, sometimes extremely so.

    Even the Gospel of Thomas, which at first glance looks like an innocuous collection of sayings common to the Synoptics, interpolates into these sayings a few horrible things incongruous with our Lord, for example, the assertion that to be saved a female must make herself male. It also identifies itself as Gnostic in its opening verse, which declares it to be part of the teachings imparted by our Lord to St. Thomas but not the other Apostles, who were apparently too dense (this blasphemous assertion opens most of the Gnostic literature, but the chosen Apostle varies widely; sometimes it is St. Mary Magdalene, sometimes St. Philip, sometimes St. John, sometimes St. Thomas, in one case, even Judas, which is pure blasphemy).

    The enthusiasm for Gnostic writings in some Episcopalian parishes is a dangerous trend which I have commented on previously.
     
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  20. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    One of our friends here on the forum mentioned that The Gospel of Peter has a talking cross.
     
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