Sunday, April 19, 2020

One of the Historical Facts that Protestant Scholars cannot deny

The development of the Biblical canon in the early Church is an important question, since it is about how the Church came to realize that certain books from ancient Israel and early Christianity are the norm of our faith, while others – though useful and worth reading – are not. There was various attempts to write the history of how the canon developed, and they differed  little in the details. Most scholars today would agree that there are no lists of what books belong to the canon that are clearly datable and officially accepted until the fourth century A.D. That doesn’t mean people didn’t have a working idea of what was and was not the Christian Bible until then.

The photo was taken from First Things

Some of the great Fathers of the Church (St. Irenaeus, for example, writing around 185, or Origen, the great Biblical scholar, in the 230s and 240s) certainly had a “working canon” in mind: they knew what books were generally accepted by the Christian Churches as the Word of God, what books were read and preached on in the liturgy. But there was disagreement over some of the books for a while; Eastern Christians tended to be suspicious of the Book of Revelation in the second and third centuries, and Western Christians don’t seem to have used the Letter to the Hebrews until a little later.

What happened in the fourth century, at some local councils in both the East and the West (like the African council at Carthage in 397, but also before that), is that regional Churches actually made official lists of what books belonged to the Holy Scripture. A Greek local council at Laodicaea, around 360. had also done this, and individual theologians like St. Athanasius, as well as the fourth-century Pope Damasus, drew up official lists, too. (There is also a very interesting list, in Latin, of what books belong to the Bible, that was found by an 18th-century scholar named Muratori in the binding of an old manuscript in Turin; some people argue this could even be as early as the late second century, others think it belongs in the fourth.) The most famous Western official list is the so-called Decree of Pope Gelasius (492-496), which seems to have put together a few earlier documents, but may well be later than Gelasius himself.

Many Protestants have realized the truth and have converted to the Catholic Church and one of them is Dr. Peter Williamson, now a Catholic Bible scholar.
"I remember my shock when I first realized that the earliest Christians didn’t have the New Testament. I was a high school senior taking part in a youth group discussion in the Presbyterian church my father pastored. We were talking about the authority of Scripture expressed in 2 Tim 3:16 (NAB), “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching,” etc. All of a sudden it hit me. When Paul wrote this to Timothy he was referring to the Old Testament, since the New Testament as we know it didn’t exist (at least 2 Timothy wasn’t a part of it!).  How and when did the 27 books we know as the New Testament come together? I didn’t get around to researching this question until two years later when I was a student at the University of Michigan. At my request a Catholic friend explained to me the Catholic doctrine of Tradition. I was alarmed. Until then I had never questioned the Protestant belief that Scripture alone shows us which doctrines are true. But what my friend told me about apostolic Tradition (see 2 Thes 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor 11:2) and the activity of the Spirit to guide and preserve the Christ’s church in the truth (Jn 16:8; 17:11; Mt 28:20) was plausible, perhaps even biblical. I was worried that the New Testament itself might be found to be a fruit of Tradition. So on my way home I stopped at the library and consulted an encyclopedia. My fears were confirmed. Not only was the New Testament as we know it not available to the first generation of Christians, but the first mention of this particular list of books did not occur until St. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, presented this list to his flock in 367 A.D.!]" (“Which Books Belong in the Bible” (published in Catholic Answer magazine), Dr. Peter S. Williamson)

St. Athanasius was one of the great Fathers of the Church, recognized as a witness to the faith of Christians by Orthodox and Catholics alike. If God did not guide the Church to choose authentic gospels, perhaps many of us use the false gospels that can lead us astray, since during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, there were Gnostics who contradicted Christianity and one that they wrote which was misleading is the Gospel of Philip. 

We know that anti-Catholics cannot accept this but it is a historical fact.Two of the books written by non-Catholic Bible scholars show that there was a Church before the New Testament Canon.

First, on pages 319-320 of the book The Canon Debate written by Protestant Bible scholars, this is what is written:
“The first councils certainly to speak on the subject of the canon were in North Africa: Hippo (393) and Carthage (397 and 419). They were under the influence of Augustine, who regarded the canon as closed: "For the canon of the sacred writings, which is properly closed" ( Civ. 22.8)” (The Canon Debate, Lee Martin McDonald and James A. Sanders, Hendrickson Pub; First Edition, First Printing edition (November 1, 2002), pp. 319-320).

Second, on page 451 of the book in The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context written by Protestant scholars, this is what we can read: 
"By. ca. AD 325, the New Testament canon was essentially in place. In 367 Athanasius wrote the earliest complete New Testament list in his 39th Festal Letter 2, 7-10. ...In 397 the Council of Carthage confirmed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament canon" (The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context, Burge, Cohick, and Green, Zondervan Academic (December 21, 2010), p. 451)

They included these facts in their books because they wanted to show it is historically accurate and I admire their honesty. The people who wrote those articles are scholars who are credible in the field of scriptures.

We also wish to share the truth which cannot be disputed by anti-Catholics that if there was no Church, there would have been no chapters in the Bible today.

How did the Bible today have chapters? God used one man who lived from 1150 until 1228 in the person of Cardinal Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Cardinal Langton is acknowledged as responsible for dividing the Bible into the standard modern arrangement of chapters used today.

Even a Protestant scholar, Dr. David M. Carr included this in his book, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT: Sacred Texts and Imperial Context of the Hebrew Bible on page 19:
"The chapter divisions we now have were developed in 1205 by Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris and eventually an archbishop of the Church of England" (An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible, David M. Carr, Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (March 8, 2010), p. 19)


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