Canon in the Patristic era

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by Toma, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Dear Friends...

    We decided to ask: what is the traditional Christian view on the Canon of the Bible? It seems Protestants don't care which opinions pervaded the Christian world prior to their appearance in the 16th century. The Roman church, meanwhile, marshals the voices of the entire 1500-year history, to present opinions that appear to side with her. It seemed impossible to us that a Church which was never left by God could be in ignorance about what God's word contained, until a random year in the 16th century, in northern Europe, would have revealed a truth never before seen.

    We do not accept - indeed we reject with every force within us - the game of "me and my Bible alone" that so many Protestants have resorted to in recent years. Many errors and heresies are produced that way, not least of which is Protestants attacking other Protestants more than anyone else. The great and holy men of the early Church built Her into an unstoppable force for God's word, while modern Christians observe it visibly crumble before our very eyes. The great teachers didn't have to be infallible in order to be great teachers.

    It began to seem like we must listen to the 1500-year witness that had been marshaled by the Roman church - and yet the Roman canon contains so many errors and inconsistencies, when contrasted with the Gospel as preached by Christ and Paul (and frankly by Moses, the Psalms, and all throughout the Old Testament), that it appeared untenable as well!

    The only recourse was to look into those 1500 years, and find out the position of the early Church. Protestants will be happy to discover the early Church, from Jerome to Cyril, Hilary, and Athanasius, uncontroversially rejected the Apocrypha, and that the Protestant canon was not an innovation but the most catholic opinion of all; meanwhile, the immense 1500-year testimony claimed by the Roman church had been a farce, and nothing more. It is by revering the early Church that Anglicans had been able to uncover this catholicity, when non-Anglicans retreated into a shameful Biblical solipsism. We present, below, the fruits of our research; just the facts and quotes with minimal external commentary:

    http://anglicanum.wordpress.com/the-canon/
     
  2. Scottish Monk

    Scottish Monk Well-Known Member

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    Anglicanum...

    Interesting.
     
  3. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Thanks for taking notice, S.M. :)

    The little fledgling "Resource" pages I've created on this forum are being reworked and additional research material added. Our hope is to have the "Sola Scriptura" and "Sola Fide" categories full-up by 2013. There are endless blessings in the works of the holy fathers. It's astonishing: with every page we turn, we find more ancient truth that mirrors and informs Anglicanism.

    Also, thank you for staying on A.F. - you're not done just yet. ;)
     
  4. Patrick Sticks

    Patrick Sticks Member

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    Ah yes, just what I always wanted, a list of decontextualized quotes without historical prefacing or contrasting references.

    Apologetics as propaganda: Just what the internet needs more of.

    Three questions:

    1. If the 16th century Reformation is an arbitrary time for Christianity to suddenly emerge (and there I agree with you) why is it this website is trying to apply 16th century terminology and ideas to earlier writers? Did anyone even stop to think whether these ideologies were even appropriate for the context of the early church?

    To give an example, a lot of people like to claim 'Jesus was a socialist' and may left wing writers from the 19th century to today have claimed his teachings as his own. Of course Jesus preached a message of preference for the poor, criticized wealthy people and so on, but the idea he supported a system of government by the industrial workers is a little harder to back up.

    A similar principle applies here: You can fish out a quote here or there where a Father says Scriptures are essential, but in 2,000 years nobody has ever really argued against that position...What makes you so sure that they started from the principles of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide as defined in the Reformation and built their ideas from there?

    Or in other words, are you not trying to make historical sources fit to your preconceived schemata rather than trying to understand them as they are, which would be a piece of consciously ideological historiography and hardly an example of good scholarship?

    2. Is it not a bit of an inconsistency to say that God is with his church for 1,500 years for the reformation (there I would agree with you) but then declare the 1,500 years claimed by the RC church is a 'farce' whilst your quotes mysteriously seem to stop around the 8th century? Are you not yourself picking an entirely arbitrary cut-off date?

    3. And what about the Eastern churches in this narrow vision of Christian history?

    I don't understand what the persistence of the anti-catholic mindset is in some quarters. It's like Northern Ireland here sometimes. When it comes to a lot of things, and particularly early church scholarship we actually hold a great deal in common and share an enormous amount of fertile ground with the Roman Church. Not that you'd know it from your introduction Consular.
     
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  5. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Patrick, I hope you did read the whole page before telling us that every quote is out-of-context.

    What do you mean by "historical prefacing"? There are more apologetics-as-propaganda websites run by Roman Catholics than we care to count. Do you often accuse them of the same? If not, we are immune from your accusation, just as they are.

    Now, are you saying it's possible for a list of the Biblical canon to be decontextualized? A list is a list. If Athanasius says that "these are the books delivered by the Church", and no others, why is that not enough? The citations are there, and you are free to look up the context. These quotes are contiguous.

    Apart from the 6th century list attributed to the Council of Rome under Damasus, there are no lists of canon which line up with the Roman-Greek canon as it now stands. On the other hand, 80-90% of canon lists we know of are directly in line with our Anglican 39-book Old Testament. Why is this not a cause for rejoicing on your part?

    Whether we force patristic words into our own preconceived schemata of "Sola scriptura" is for another forum. We are talking about the Canon now. Please let's not get distracted.

    It's not logical to assume that we are imposing our own preconceived schemata on the Fathers. Remember that I am formally a R.C., and came to these works assuming the canonicity of the five apocryphal books. It was by reading and confirming these lists that my own vision of the Church was shattered and radically changed. When we said that "God seemed to be with His church for 1500 years", and then suddenly revealed something missing, etc., we were conveying a sense that Roman Catholic rhetoric had given us, not an objective fact. I apologize for not making that clear.

    As for stopping in the 8th century, there are lists of canon by early scholastics who do not include Apocrypha either - we simply did not consider them to be "Fathers", enough to list them. Perhaps we will now! Also, for the purposes of the Canon discussion, East and West may be placed side by side, as they confess the same books.
     
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  6. Patrick Sticks

    Patrick Sticks Member

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    Whilst I take your point that your last paragraph at least was looking at the Canon, I don't see why we can't broaden the whole discussion to your website generally. After all 'Anglicanism alone is faithful the Fathers' doesn't sound specific and your first 3 paragraphs aren't really discussing it either. Or at best, extremely loosely. Why would you want to close down the conversation anyway?

    And of course I would accuse Roman Catholics of the same, I have a problem with all purely partisan use of the Fathers. So was that a tacit confession that my accusation has substance when all you say is 'well they're doing it too'?

    The whole problem with your page is that you offer no account of actually why the Roman and Eastern churches ended up using the apocryphal texts clearly in spite of these quotations. You also seem to be treating the Fathers in a way that many protestants treat their bibles as if a quote here and a quote there makes a definitive and binding statement. There is more cause for doing that with the Scriptures though than the Fathers who clearly see themselves as part of a continuum of Church tradition. A tradition which of course is wider than any specific father...

    Also by saying post 8th century that they're not enough of the 'father's' to be worth listing doesn't escape the fact that it's completely arbritary! In fact it heightens the confusion because what on earth definitevely defines a 'Father'?

    I also contest it is not at all illogical to question a method that tries to retrospectively apply 16th century viewpoints onto earlier texts. The Reformers aren't part of the Patristic world any more than the Roman Church at the time was. Your being a former Roman Catholic is entirely irrelevant; you are quite capable of being mistaken, as indeed, we all are.
     
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  7. Scottish Monk

    Scottish Monk Well-Known Member

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    Anglicanum,,,

    When you get the chance, you may want to read David G. Selwyn's essay, "Cranmer's Library: Its Potential for Reformation Study" (Ayris & Selwyn, 1993, p. 39-72).
     
  8. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    This is about the Canon first, and objective history, research, and study. We have much to learn, and perhaps pro-Apocrypha parties would like to put forth Augustine or Ambrose for their 'side'. :)
     
  9. Pirate

    Pirate Member

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    Rather than viewing things in terms of "parties" and "sides," I would submit that Anglicans who use the Deuterocanonicals are adhering to lex orandi, lex credendi. The approach that you are using here seems to assume that the Church's current practice is wrong, and that we must therefore examine some period of time in which the practice was different. As Anglicans, what we believe is what we confess & practice in the liturgies. Anglicanism is not restricted to either the Early Church Fathers or the so-called Anglican Divines (who are neither the origin nor the summation of Anglicanism).

    In other words, our Bishops have authorized the reading of those books in the Daily Office and in Sunday worship. They are referenced and quoted in hymns and in our BCPs. Anglicans use them frequently. Are they of equal weight with the other OT books? Perhaps; perhaps not. Reasonable people can hold differing positions about that. But to say that they have no place in the Anglican canon because they are not found in some of the ECFs is mistaken, IMO. They do have a place. Why? Because we use them. We use them because the Church has examined them and determined their worth. Part of being Anglican is submission to those whom God has called to positions of leadership. The leaders have made use of the Deuterocanonicals and have recommended them for our use as well. I don't see much point in arguing that a certain council or ECF used them, because you can just come back with an example of one that did not. That doesn't get us anywhere. But Anglicanism, especially in the 21st century, is different than the Patristic world. We should be informed by them, but we are not necessarily limited by them. We have bishops and theologians too, after all.

    You guys have done good work with these quotes. I don't want to take anything away from that. All I'm saying is this: not everything in Anglicanism can be reduced to 2 parties fighting. Often one will find that there are solid reasons for our established practices. And not everything that one disagrees with is necessarily wrong, or in need of a Patristic corrective.
     
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  10. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Thanks for that, Pirate.

    We are not speaking out against the Church's use of the Deuterocanonicals! :) The early Fathers and the Divines of the Anglican Church intended that the apocryphal works be read in services. The point of the study was to present one discovery: a majority of the ancient Catholic Church held that the Deuterocanon was ecclesiastical scripture, read in divine service, but was not used to compel any person to believe a certain doctrine.

    Lex orandi, lex credendi does not apply, because people must believe in something before they worship it, and not the other way around. The law of prayer affects the law of belief, psychologically, but ideally and consciously we should strive that the law of our belief, delivered by Christ, should be the law of our prayer.

    You ask if the apocrypha are equal to the universally-received Holy Scriptures - that's the big question! We think the facts are clear: some the greatest, holiest saints of the early era actively refused these works for establishing doctrine. Coming at this with a blank slate, we saw a seven-century-long cloud of witnesses saying this was something the Church had decided. The question is: can the majority of the Church have been wrong in denying the Deuterocanon as infallible Scripture?

    The books have a place in the canon: the ecclesiastical canon (not the scriptural canon). The reason I am personally wary about equating the two, is precisely because of what has happened over the years: people began to forget that there was a distinction. We have unearthed these ancient and goodly words to remind ourselves.
     
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  11. CatholicAnglican

    CatholicAnglican Active Member

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    Here is what I believe, what the Ecclesia Anglicana has always taught and solidly believed.

    VI. OF THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES OF SALVATION.
    HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

    Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books

    * Genesis,
    * Exodus,
    * Leviticus,
    * Numbers,
    * Deuteronomy,
    * Joshua,
    * Judges,
    * Ruth,
    * The First Book of Samuel,
    * The Second Book of Samuel,
    * The First Book of Kings,
    * The Second Book of Kings,
    * The First Book of Chronicles,
    * The Second Book of Chronicles,
    * The First Book of Esdras [Ezra],
    * The Second Book of Esdras [Nehemiah],
    * The Book of Esther,
    * The Book of Job,
    * The Psalms,
    * The Proverbs,
    * Ecclesiastes or Preacher,
    * Cantica, or Songs of Solomon,
    * Four Prophets the greater,
    * Twelve Prophets the less.

    And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

    * The Third Book of Esdras [I Esdras],
    * The Fourth Book of Esdras [II Esdras],
    * The Book of Tobias,
    * The Book of Judith,
    * The rest of the Book of Esther,
    * The Book of Wisdom,
    * Jesus the Son of Sirach [or Ecclesiasticus],
    * Baruch the Prophet,
    * The Song of the Three Children,
    * The Story of Susanna,
    * Of Bel and the Dragon,
    * The Prayer of Manasses,
    * The First Book of Maccabees,
    * The Second Book of Maccabees.

    All of the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.
     
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  12. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    UPDATE: Two Church Fathers have received substantial overhauls and updates.

    Jerome:

    1. Existing quote revamped and expanded with a large amount of context preceding and succeeding the quote.

    2. Brand new quote added: "just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas."

    Hilary:

    1. Existing quote revamped and expanded with a large amount of context preceding and succeeding the quote.

    2. Brand new quote added: "The Law had been appointed in twenty two books of the Old Testament, so that they are matched with the number of letters according to the traditions of the ancients, namely: the five books of Moses, Joshua son of Nun sixth, Judges and Ruth seventh, First and Second Kings [1 & 2 Samuel] are eight, Third and Fourth [1 & 2 Kings] are nine, the Two Chronicles are tenth, writings of Esdras are eleventh, the book of Psalms is twelfth, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiates and Song of Songs as thirteenth fourteenth and fifteenth, the Twelve Prophets are sixteenth, as well as Isaiah, and Jeremiah together with Lamentations and the Epistle, along with Daniel, Ezekiel, Job, and Esther. Thus the number of twenty two books is fulfilled."
     
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