(Continued from page 337)
Athanasius gave a list of genuine Biblical books after some were led astray by 'the villainy of certain men ...'
Rome's un-Biblical ideas - prayers beads, burning incense and candles before icons, flagellation - from the East!
You write: Like the Old Testament, the New has its deuterocanonical books and portions of books - their canonicity having formerly been a subject of some controversy in the Church. These are the entire controverted books: the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of James, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of John, Jude, and Apocalypse; giving seven in all as the number of the New Testament contested books. The formerly disputed passages are three: the closing section of St. Mark's Gospel, xvi, 9-20 about the apparitions of Christ after the Resurrection; the verses in Luke about the bloody sweat of Jesus (22:43-44); the Pericope Adulteræ, or narrative of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11).
TCE: This view was expressed by The Catholic Encyclopedia (it is good of you to convert the Roman numerals into a modern numbering system - but you forgot to do the same for xvi, 9-20!) and shows how Papists who attacked sincere seekers of Biblical truth, such as Luther and Zwingli, have ignored the evidence that reveals that the confused 'Church Fathers' did not just dispute or reject books that were later accepted as canonical, but they clearly rejected bona fide Scriptures that all born again Christians readily recognise as inspired. It took a while for men such as Luther to wake up to the genuine canon and they struggled to shake off Rome's errors, but still managed a better result than that achieved by those who cling to the papal system.
You write: The Gospels of Mark and of Luke and Acts were not the work of Apostles; books under an Apostle's name in the Early Church, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Apocalypse of St. Peter, were nevertheless excluded from canonical rank, while on the other hand Origen and St. Dionysius of Alexandria in the case of Apocalypse, and St. Jerome in the case of II and III John, although questioning the Apostolic authorship of these works, unhesitatingly received them as Sacred Scriptures.
TCE: You partially quote from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm where The Catholic Encyclopedia heading 'The principle of canonicity' continues with this fuller account:
'Before entering into the historical proof for this primitive emergence of a compact, nucleative Canon, it is pertinent to briefly examine this problem: During the formative period what principle operated in the selection of the New Testament writings and their recognition as Divine?--Theologians are divided on this point. This view that Apostolicity was the test of the inspiration during the building up of the New Testament canon, is favoured by the many instances where the early Fathers base the authority of a book on its Apostolic origin, and by the truth that the definitive placing of the contested books on the New Testament catalogue coincided with their general acceptance as of Apostolic authorship. Moreover, the advocates of this hypothesis point out that the Apostles' office corresponded with that of the Prophets of the Old Law, inferring that as inspiration was attached to the munus propheticum so the Apostles were aided by Divine inspiration whenever in the exercise of their calling they either spoke or wrote. Positive arguments are deduced from the New Testament to establish that a permanent prophetical charisma (see CHARISMATA) was enjoyed by the Apostles through a special indwelling of the Holy Ghost, beginning with Pentecost: Matthew 10:19-20; Acts 15:28; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 13:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:13, are cited. The opponents of this theory allege against it that the Gospels of Mark and of Luke and Acts were not the work of Apostles (however, tradition connects the Second Gospel with St. Peter's preaching and St. Luke's with St. Paul's); that books current under an Apostle's name in the Early Church, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Apocalypse of St. Peter, were nevertheless excluded from canonical rank, while on the other hand Origen and St. Dionysius of Alexandria in the case of Apocalypse, and St. Jerome in the case of II and III John, although questioning the Apostolic authorship of these works, unhesitatingly received them as Sacred Scriptures. An objection of a speculative kind is derived from the very nature of inspiration ad scribendum, which seems to demand a specific impulse from the Holy Ghost in each case, and preclude the theory that it could be possessed as a permanent gift, or charisma. The weight of Catholic theological opinion is deservedly against mere Apostolicity as a sufficient criterion of inspiration. The adverse view has been taken by Franzelin (De Divinâ Traditione et Scripturâ, 1882), Schmid (De Inspirationis Bibliorum Vi et Ratione, 1885), Crets (De Divinâ Bibliorum Inspiratione, 1886), Leitner (Die prophetische Inspiration, 1895--a monograph), Pesch (De Inspiratione Sacræ, 1906). These authors (some of whom treat the matter more speculatively than historically) admit that Apostolicity is a positive and partial touchstone of inspiration, but emphatically deny that it was exclusive, in the sense that all non-Apostolic works were by that very fact barred from the sacred Canon of the New Testament. They hold to doctrinal tradition as the true criterion.
TCE: Although many heretics of the kind that permeate Papal Rome will deny the inspiration of the gospels, you will hardly find even the most virulently heretical, anti-Christ cults denying that the gospels bearing the names of Mark and Luke (who also wrote Acts) were penned by the contemporary disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. As one example, how can any who claim to be Christians accept Irenaeus as an authority of any kind when it suits them - and then ignore his writings (Against Heresies, III, i, l) which record his view that:
'We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed 'perfect knowledge,' as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
Irenaeus declares that the apostles 'had perfect knowledge' and were 'proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God.' No mention of them needing the popes or priests of Rome to possess or retain this 'peace of heaven'!
But Irenaeus also clearly declares that he believed that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were the inspired writers of their Gospels! The unity of 'Luke's gospel' is not only assured, but there is also general agreement that its sequel, the Book of Acts, is by the same author - on the basis of the same addressee (Luke 1:3 ; Acts 1:1), the specific reference to the former in the latter (Acts 1:1), and the obvious similarities of style, method, and materials - such that many refer to the two books as one compound volume of Luke-Acts. While the author never mentions his own name, unless one credits an Armenian reading of Acts 20:13, based on a 'Western' text, which says 'I Luke' (F. Bruce, 'The Acts of the Apostles', p5), you are contradicting yourself again if you also ignore the fact that there was no difference of opinion in the Early Church as to his identity. No possibility was ever mentioned of questioning that the author was Luke the beloved physician, travelling companion and co-missionary with Paul. Irenaeus quotes from nearly every chapter of the gospel, often referring to Luke as the author. Clement of Alexandria, who had received the tradition handed down from father to son from the apostles ( Stromata I. i. p. 322, ed. Potter), quotes the gospel frequently and definitely assigns it to Luke. Tertullian works through most of the gospel in his treatise against Marcion, often calling it Luke's. The Muratorian Fragment not only refers to Luke but also calls him 'medicus'. The 'ancients' universally accepted it and upon those who reject Luke as the author there rests the burden of explaining the universal voice of the 'Fathers' in his favour while contradictorily arguing that the Apocryphal works that they would like to 'lever' into the canon never held such favour!
The period dominated mainly by important but flawed personalities, from Irenaeus to Origen, supplies considerable evidence and reveals more clearly the process whereby the disputed books came to be acknowledged more widely. The significance of their testimony rests on the churches they represent and it may reasonably be supposed that they adopted the general point of view of their own churches. Irenaeus became bishop of Lyons in Gaul during the persecution which raged in the time of the emperor Marcus Aurelius and wrote Contra Heresium (Against all Heresies) in about AD 199. Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who had been a student of the Apostle John and was martyred under the reign of Marcus Aurelius (in AD 155). It is usually supposed that Irenaeus was the author of the letter of the churches of Lyons and Vienne sent to Pope Eleutherus, following which he was made bishop. This letter reflects the language of several Pauline epistles (Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy), two other epistles (1 Peter and 1 John) and two gospels (Luke and John). It should be noted that at the time when this letter was written the aged, ninety year old, Pothinus was still living in the same community and he was one direct link to the apostolic age. Irenaeus would doubtlessly have been influenced by Polycarp's attitude toward the accepted books and also, at least partially, combined the viewpoints of the East and the West. There was no doubt in Irenaeus' mind that only four gospels were to be recognized, although he based this on some strange notions which reveal the kind of influences he had absorbed, such as the fourfold character of the winds, the four quarters of the earth, and the covenants of God with men! The fourfold gospel was a direct refutation of the single gospel tradition of some of the Gnostic sects and Irenaeus also claimed that the fourfold gospel is held together by the one Spirit which, at least, revealed his knowledge of a doctrine of inspiration and the leading 'into all truth' (John 16:7ff.) Jesus promised. Irenaeus commented on the respective origins of each gospel: Matthew was written for the Jews; Mark wrote down the themes of Peter's preaching; Luke put down Paul's gospel; and John, the Lord's disciple, published his gospel in Ephesus and, although some query his 'uncritical approach', his testimony to the importance of apostolicity behind the gospels is clear enough. In addition to these, Irenaeus' canon included Acts, the thirteen epistles of Paul (although he does not cite from Philemon), 1 Peter, 1 and 2 John, the Apocalypse, and a non-Canonical book cited with the formula 'Scripture says,' i.e., the Shepherd of Hermas.
Tertullian, a presbyter at Carthage at the end of the 2nd century, restricted himself to the four gospels as records of the life and teaching of Jesus. He maintained the apostolicity of all four by showing that Mark spoke for Peter and that Luke spoke for Paul, for he considered it permissible that pupils should speak in their master's name. Thus he also set a clear example of the importance of apostolicity as a basis for canonicity and made it clear that he considered antiquity to be a factor in the authority of the writings, maintaining that truth must precede forgery. He acknowledged all the epistles of the Apostle Paul (except that he does not cite from Philemon) and knew the Epistle to the Hebrews, although he did not regard it as Paul's but as Barnabas', and made practically no use of it. Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, and the Apocalypse were also often used and accepted by him and the Epistle of Jude was also accepted as authoritative and apostolic.
Because the Septuagint, authored in Alexandria, put the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek and included the Apocrypha (just as the New Testament would be largely Greek), Philo mixed Gnostic Greek hermeneutics with pure Jewish methods and began the schism in early Christian hermeneutics that was to detrimentally influence those who came later, as seen in the works of Clement of Alexandria and Origen. By contrast, the Antiochan school was closer to the midrashic method of hermeneutics utilized by Paul and evident in the New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls and the church suffered from the Gnostic and Hellenizing influence so that the Greek idea that the spirit is 'good' and the flesh is 'bad' became accepted (and increasingly damaged the interpretations of those who clung to these influences, both in Rome and her off-shoots in 'Protestantism'). The flesh is certainly inherently fallen but, as God created it, it is certainly not 'bad' for we read that all He had made was 'very good' (Genesis. 1:31). Clement of Alexandria was noted for his learning and for the extent of his canon, for he was not averse to using non-canonical gospels, and on one occasion cited a saying from the 'Gospel According to the Hebrews', but clearly distinguished this from those 'that have been handed down' (i.e., the four gospels). Nevertheless, Clement's New Testament was more extensive than most of his contemporaries and he knew and used practically all the books in the New Testament, but with some dispute about his use of James, 2 Peter, and 3 John, for none of these is cited in the admittedly fragmentary remains of his works. But Eusebius stated that he commented on all the Catholic epistles, even those that were disputed (HE VI: 14:1). His canon of Pauline epistles included the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which he was no doubt influenced by his teacher Pantaenus and he also commented on the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and revealed considerable respect for the non-Canonical books, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Preaching of Peter.
The eclectic tendency and broad influences seen in Clement are seen also in his successor as head of the catechetical school, Origen, who also knew and used all the canonical books of the New Testament, although mentioning doubts about some of them. He had no hesitation about the four gospels or the Pauline epistles addressed to churches which he founded, the Pastorals, or Philemon. Nor did he question 1 Peter as apostolic, and acknowledged the possible genuineness of 2 Peter, accepted 1 John as genuine and possibly 2 and 3 John (although he noted that all did not allow that these were genuine and thereby conceded that he could not have been claiming apostolic succession or authority!). He also acknowledged 'The Apocalypse' to be by John, the same author who wrote the epistles, i.e., the apostle. His denial of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews is well known, although he acknowledged that the thoughts are Paul's, conceding that the ancients regarded it as Paul's while some considered it to have been written by Clement of Rome or Luke. Origen clearly maintained anonymity for this epistle without affecting his view of canonicity, no doubt because of its Pauline flavour and, of the other 'Catholic epistles', he often quoted James and Jude, mostly as Scripture (James was generally referred to as the 'apostle') and, again, mentioned the doubts of some regarding both these books. Three other books, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermas were also regarded as Scripture by him, although some doubts are mentioned, and 1 Clement and the Acts of Paul were used but not accepted as canonical. Origen also asserted that the Gospel According to the Hebrews was disputed by the Church as a whole (which, again, leaves room for at least a minority to take an alternative view). Origen clearly set the whole New Testament collection alongside the Old Testament collection as forming the divine Scriptures of the New Covenant, both sections having been given by the same Spirit, but the evidence clearly reveals that he could hardly be approved as a final authority.
Origen has been called 'The Father of Biblical Criticism and Exposition' because he is said to have written 6,000 books, tracts, sermons, and letters and wrote 'The Hexapla', which was a polyglot containing six editions of the Old Testament in various columns (the fifth column was apparently the Greek translation of the Old Testament edited by Origen but all copies of the work were lost, or destroyed by Papal Rome after many of his works were finally declared to be heretical, sometime after the 6th century). While Origen sought to defend the Scriptures against heretics he disapproved of himself, he turned from the faith 'once delivered to the saints' (Jude 3) and introduced many heretical teachings to his followers. So replete with metaphorical and fanciful interpretations of the sacred text were his works that this comment of his work is typical:
'Though he very successfully combatted the fundamental errors of his opponents; their reasonings, particularly when seconded by the speculations of Plato, seem to have had so far an influence upon his sentiments as to induce him to embrace some very extraordinary notions relative to the constitution of Christ's body, and that of the human frame, after the resurrection. Some of these notions he adopted from Tatian, by whose peculiar opinions he confesses himself to have been once influenced, and from him he obviously imbibed that extraordinary attachment to a state of celibacy, which he professed in numberless places. (Nolan, ibid., p467- 68).
Origen's surviving works reveal the clear influence of his dangerous, heretical beliefs, and the fact that he rejected the testimony of the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:16-23, lived as an ascetic and even castrated himself in his zeal for 'celibacy', and yet founded a school in Caesarea, Palestine, where he taught his mongrel mixture of pagan philosophy and Christianity, make the dangers of such a 'Church Father' palpably demonstrable.
Origen taught the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration and evidently had no clear conception of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith (Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, p65) so the gospel he taught was false and he was therefore under God's curse (Galatians 1:6-8). Origen also believed in the false doctrine of purgatory and claimed that all men would eventually be reclaimed through the purgation of sin after death, thus denying the sufficiency of Christ's atonement while he also taught that even the demons and Satan would eventually be restored (Berkhof, p75)! Origen taught the pre-existence of man, believed the Holy Spirit was the first creature made by the Father through the Son, and disbelieved the full inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, holding that the inspired men apprehended and stated many things obscurely (Dabney, I, p383). Origen's opinions on the Trinity veered between Sabellianism and Arianism and he expressly denied the consubstantial unity of the Persons and the proper incarnation of the Godhead (Dabney, I, p384).
Origen's Greek 'hermeneutical' method began with Philo and others in Alexandria and was copied by many after him in a philosophical process known as allegorizing, by which the literal meaning of Scripture is rejected for a deeper meaning discovered by the interpreter. Such a method makes the mind of the teacher authoritative over the plain meaning of Scripture but, if the plain sense of Scripture is not the true meaning, it is impossible to determine exactly what it does mean and every man is therefore left to his own devices (see later example of Augustine's typical methodology). That Papal Rome has grown out of this background of the 'Church Fathers' fanciful methods of interpretation, yet now attempts to accuse 'Protestants' of each being 'their own interpreters' reveals the depth of ignorance that exists among Papal Roman Catholics. As a result of the un-Biblical methods he employed, Origen's voluminous commentaries contained a wealth of fanciful interpretations, abounding in references to apocryphal works and heretical revisions of Scripture (Nolan, ibid., p367). He introduced mysticism, allegory, and Neo-Platonism into the Christian church and was a main source of nearly all the abstract, fanciful errors which plagued the church for centuries afterwards (Dabney, I, p383).
Nolan made the following observation:
' ... he contributed to weaken the authority of the received text of the New [Testament]. In the course of his Commentaries, he cited the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, on the former part of the Canon, he appealed to the authority of Valentinus and Heracleon on the latter. While he thus raised the credit of those revisals, which had been made by the hereticks, he detracted from the authority of that text which had been received by the orthodox. Some difficulties which he found himself unable to solve in the Evangelists, he undertook to remove, by expressing his doubts of the integrity of the text. In some instances he ventured to impeach the reading of the New Testament on the testimony of the Old, and to convict the copies of one Gospel on the evidence of another: thus giving loose to his fancy, and indulging in many wild conjectures, He considerably impaired the credit of the vulgar or common edition, as well in the New as in the Old Testament. (emphasis in blue added) (Nolan, ibid., pp432-34).
Recognition of Origen's errors is important because subsequent textual editors, Eusebius and Jerome, were heavily influenced by Origen's work for, as Nolan determined, his heretical opinions had spread widely in Egypt: 'Under the circumstances, the churches of Egypt were gradually prepared for the reception of a revised text, accommodated to the principles of Origen's criticism' (Nolan, ibid., p440). Origen moved away from the pure text of Scripture that had come from the apostolic hands, and successive editors of the heretical Alexandrian school continued in this direction. When the spiritual condition of Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome is considered it is little wonder that they lacked the discernment necessary to recognize and transmit the pure Word of God and the heretical doctrines they culminated demonstrate that they were heavily influenced by 'the god of this world' (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 4:1-4).
A third noted Alexandrian was Dionysius, a pupil of Origen, who, although strictly later than Origen, succeeded him in the catechetical school, and shared much the same approach. The Epistle to the Hebrews, however, he regarded as Pauline, knew the Epistle of James and stated that 2 and 3 John were circulating as the work of John, apparently having also personally accepted their authenticity. He commented on the Apocalypse of John, rejecting a common authorship with the Gospel and 1 John on the grounds of the character of the writing, the form of language, and general construction. Clearly, he felt that he could exercise freedom over canonical matters to the extent of denying the apostolic authorship of a book which had been generally accepted as coming from the pen of the Apostle John, although he did not dispute the canonicity of the book, but thereby revealed that he could hardly be a believer in 'Apostolic Succession'.
Whether it was 'Fathers' in Alexandria or the Muratorian Canon originating in Rome, it is clear that the witnessing standard, compared with genuine Scripture, is severely wanting. The fragmentary list that is the Muratorian Canon is extant in Latin, but some make the unprovable claim that it may have had a Greek source. Though possibly dated toward the end of the 2nd century and valuable evidence for the state of the canon in the Roman world of that time, experts rate its text as corrupt and incomplete and the style of Latin poor. It claims to have been written in the time of Pope Pius of Rome, which confirms its connection with the Roman church and begins with the third gospel, which is said to have been written by Luke. It evidently originally referred to Matthew and Mark, since it refers to Luke's gospel as the third, but the earlier portion is now lacking. It also contains an interesting statement regarding the writing of the fourth gospel claiming that, when the companions of John the apostle asked him to write about Jesus, he asked them to fast with him for three days to find out God's will. That night it was revealed to Andrew that John should write a gospel in his own name, but that all were to check it. John is then said to have been an eyewitness and 1 John 1:1 ('That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life') is cited in support of this claim. It is to be noted that the writer of this canon does not distinguish between the gospels written by the apostles and the others, and does not question the authority of the latter or mention any doubt concerning them. The fourfold gospel is clearly established and no other gospel is permitted to challenge its supremacy. Moreover, the essential unity of the four gospels is acknowledged: 'Though various ideas are taught in each of the gospels, it makes no difference to the faith of believers, since in all of them all things are declared by one sovereign Spirit.' This latter statement agrees with the view of Irenaeus and suggests a general recognition of this doctrine of the Spirit as far as the gospels were concerned and is at least akin to the Scriptural tests given elsewhere (e.g. Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-23). 'The Book of Acts' is acknowledged as Luke's and is said to contain 'Acts of all the Apostles which fell under his notice.' In illustration of this, the omission of reference to Peter's death and of Paul's visit to Spain are mentioned. The description may be intended to distinguish the canonical Acts from apocryphal Acts, which purported to give the experiences of individual apostles, or it may be intended to combat Marcion's appeal to a single apostle.
Paul's epistles addressed to churches are numbered as seven and are parallelled to the letters to the churches of Asia mentioned in the Apocalypse. There are comments on the purpose of some of these epistles, after which they are listed in the following order: Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Thessalonians, and Romans (but this number is achieved by combining the two epistles sent to the churches of Corinth and Thessalonica). The non-church epistles, Philemon and the Pastorals, are mentioned separately and are said to be 'sanctified by ordinances of ecclesiastical discipline and honour of the Catholic church.' Church usage clearly plays an important part in their authority and the comments on the genuine letters are followed by a reference to two forged Pauline letters, which is considered valuable for the information it gives of the circulation of such epistles. One such epistle was to the Laodiceans and another to the Alexandrians and they were said to have been forged under the name of Paul, and support the heresy of Marcion. The writer states that, in addition to these, there are several others which cannot be received in the Catholic church because they teach error. Nothing is now known of either of the letters bearing on Marcion's heresy, but it is possible that the former may be an allusion to Marcion's title for the canonical Ephesians. The writer of the Muratorian Canon comments that 'gall cannot be mixed with honey' - advice that was obviously ignored in later days.
Of the other New Testament books, Jude and two epistles of John are received but it is arguable whether the two Johannine epistles are 2 and 3 John, as 1 John is cited earlier in the fragment, or whether 1 and 2 John may be meant. The Book of Wisdom is mentioned next as having been written in Solomon's honour by his friends, but nothing is said about its canonicity, while The Apocalypses of John and of Peter are received, but it is stated that 'some do not allow the latter to be read in church' revealing a clear example of difference of opinion regarding canonicity and therefore obviously proving that it is possible that there were believers who did fully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7ff.!) and differentiated between works that were clearly canonical and those that were Apocryphal and heretical (that these did not include any authority 'Father' figures should not surprise anyone who has examined the growth of Papal Rome out of the confusion that increased via Augustine - see later)! The fragment ends with a reference to the Shepherd of Hermas which, though recommended for private reading, was not authorized for public use.
The main importance of the Muratorian Canon is the absence from it of four books which were later acknowledged to be canonical, but the damaged state of the text does not allow any conclusions regarding the author's attitude to any of these books (Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter). There is also a lack of cohesion in parts of this manuscript which supports the theory that there is a chasm in the text, but the most telling feature of this work is that it is not presenting a private opinion but a church opinion. There would also appear to be a clear distinction between apostolic and non-apostolic writings, although the principle of apostolicity is not specifically stated.
In 155, the pagan priest Montanus 'converted' to Christianity and began falsely prophesying that Jesus and the New Jerusalem would come soon to Pepuza, a city in Asia Minor. The precursor of these events was to be a unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Montanus instructed his followers that they were an elite group of Christians who should withdraw from the world. He called for special days of fasting and warned of coming persecution, which would fit the church for Christ's return. During this time two of his prophetesses, Prisca and Maximilla, gave what were considered new revelations from God supplanting Scripture. Sadly, the most famous convert to Montanism was Tertullian (160-225 AD) but, more embarrassingly for Papists, the church of Rome initially looked favourably on Montanism but then turned against it so that the movement was forced underground, and soon dissipated following Tertullian's death. It laid such stress upon the prophetic gifts of the Spirit that it should have made the emphasis on 'testing the spirits' (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-23) and 'prophets' (Deuteronomy. 13:1-18; 18:20-22; Matthew 7:15-23) increasingly necessary and a definition of the limits within which the apostolic message might be expected to be contained. A movement like Montanism should have helped to hasten a process which was integral to the growth and development of apostolic Christianity but was more akin to the crazy ranting of the Popes who followed for century after century.
Cyprian, of the mid-3rd century supplies us with a fair indication of what the Latins generally regarded as authoritative books and, while he certainly accepted the gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John, and the Apocalypse, he does not refer to the other books which he presumably did not place on the same footing as those named.
Eusebius of Cesarea (270-340 AD) collected the writings of Origen and promoted his erroneous teachings:
' ... Whatever proof exists that Origen and his school deteriorated the correctness of the text, it is to the same extent clear that Eusebius accepted and perpetuated that injury' (Dabney, Discussions, I, p387).
Constantine the Great, who joined the church and state together in the Roman Empire and thereby laid the foundation for the establishment of Papal Rome, hired Eusebius to produce some Greek New Testaments. Frederick Nolan and other authorities have charged Eusebius with making many changes in the text of Scripture (Nolan, ibid., p35).
While Eusebius was no less biased in favour of Origen than Hesychius, he possessed greater facilities for consulting his commentaries having the ability to consult a complete set of Origen's works in the library of Caesarea. He possessed also, in the edition of Hesychius, a text in which many of the peculiar readings of Origen, his master and preceptor in criticism, had been adopted. As Nolan noted: '... from the text of Hesychius, it is probable Eusebius derived most of the peculiar readings of Origen, which he adopted in his edition: having here found them incorporated in the sacred text, while the testimony of Origen became sufficient authority for him to retain them as genuine' (Nolan, ibid., p459-61).
Many of the noted omissions in the modern versions can be traced to this period, including Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-11. After intensive investigation, Frederick Nolan concluded that Eusebius: ' ... suppressed those passages in his edition'. (Nolan, ibid., p240). In fact, many textual authorities have identified the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the manuscripts so revered by modern textual critics, as two of the copies of the Greek New Testament made by Eusebius. These manuscripts also contained the spurious apocryphal writings, Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Origen considered these two uninspired books canonical Scripture (Goodspeed, 'The Formation of the New Testament', p103).
The suspect modern Bible versions contain the same type of omissions as the old Catholic versions based on the Latin Vulgate, but the evidence of Eusebius reveals how he sought to give as comprehensive a picture as possible, speaking of seven Catholic epistles as if these formed a separate group, although not all the books were accepted by all the churches. James was regarded as spurious by some and Jude, being not only mentioned by the ancients was publicly read with the others in churches. While 1 Peter was regarded as indisputable, 2 Peter was not treated as canonical (endiathekon), although it was diligently read with the accepted Scriptures. Other writings attributed to Peter were definitely rejected and 2 and 3 John were disputed, while Eusebius also could not make up his mind about the Apocalypse, which others also regarded as doubtful. All the other books are accepted: four gospels, fourteen epistles of Paul (including Hebrews), and 1 Peter and 1 John, all of which were acknowledged (homologoumena). Eusebius also had another classification of 'disputed books' (antilegomena), which he divided into two parts known as 'disputed' and 'spurious.' It would have been clearer had Eusebius not included these two groups under the same heading, for the former group consisted of books generally accepted but disputed by some, while the latter group was not accepted by any church as Scripture! Hardly the sort of leadership any genuine Christian should be seeking! Under the disputed books, Eusebius placed James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John and, under the spurious books, classified such works as the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Gospel to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse of Peter, all books which had limited support but which were never generally accepted. It appears that Eusebius would also place in this group the Apocalypse of John, although some accepted it. A third group which Eusebius named consisted of heretical works such as the Gospels of Peter, Thomas and Matthias and the Acts of Andrew and John. It is noteworthy that, while Eusebius assigned most of the apocryphal books which were clearly imitations (at least in title) of the canonical books to the heretical group, he did not do this with the Acts of Paul and the Apocalypse of Peter!
Eusebius seemed to clearly differentiate his own private opinion from the general ecclesiastical point of view and, in his time, the New Testament of most of the churches consisted of all the books in the present New Testament, with the possible exception of the Apocalypse. By separating the Antilegomena from the Homologoumena, Eusebius appeared to be admitting degrees of canonicity, although he did not make a specific point of stating this in his works.
Athanasius followed the custom that bishops (from AD 326) addressed Easter letters to their congregations, and his surviving letter, written in AD 367 at the end of his long episcopacy, is of special importance in the history of the New Testament canon for he gave a list of the Old Testament and New Testament books which are 'handed down and believed to be divine.' He also gave the reason why such a list was necessary - because some were being led astray by 'the villainy of certain men, and thereafter begin to consort with others, the so-called secret (books), being deceived by their possession of the same names as the genuine books.' Athanasius' New Testament list contained the twenty-seven books of the present canon arranged in order, four gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, and the Apocalypse of John. Hebrews was included among the epistles of Paul and he described the books as the 'springs of salvation ... in these alone is the good news of the teaching of true religion proclaimed.' He conceded that 'certain other books' may be read by those 'coming forward to receive oral instruction in the word of true religion', e.g., the Wisdom of Solomon and other Old Testament apocryphal books with the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas. He was particularly condemnatory of secret books which deceive and cause dissensions and warned that even what is good in such books should be ignored since it comes from the cunning of men. Athanasius is probably more famous as the main opponent of the heretical Arians and for 'The Athanasian Creed' that clarified the Deity of Jesus who, 'being of one substance (Latin, consubstantiabilis) with the Father', could never be 'a god' alongside the 'Father God. He suffered persecution for his belief in one God and three 'Persons' which also indicates how much confusion existed still in the church of his experience. Athanasius was hounded through five exiles and finally summoned before emperor Theodosius, who demanded he cease his opposition to Arius with the words: 'Do you not realize that all the world is against you?' Athanasius, who must have feared for his life, quickly answered, 'Then I am against all the world.' The testimony of the letter of Athanasius is valuable because it represents the views of an historically important figure from the influential church at Alexandria and makes it clear that there was a consolidated canon in at least part of the Eastern church (although we cannot suppose with any certainty that he was imposing an alien opinion upon his churches and his letter could well represent a wide and established usage).
The Syriac church had a more restricted canon generally than the other churches in the East and, early on, Tatian's Diatessaron had some influence, but the separated gospels of the Old Syriac displaced it. In the second part of the 4th century some indication of the attitude toward the canon in the Syriac speaking church is given by a document called the Doctrine of Addai, which refers to 'The Law and the Prophets and...the Gospel...and the Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Twelve Apostles...these books read...in the Church of God, and with these read no others.' The absence of all the Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse is to be noted, as also the mention of 'gospel' in the singular, presumably the Diatessaron. Another canonical list dated about AD 400 gives an identical list, except that the four gospels are now named. Neither of the Syriac fathers, Aphraates and Ephraem, makes reference to the Catholic epistles but it is also noticeable that Hebrews was included as Pauline.
When the Peshitta (Second Syriac Version, edited by Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, AD 411-435) was produced to provide a revision of the Old Syriac (the first translation of the Bible into Syrian which dated back to the end of the 2nd century - only two manuscripts still exist), it became the standard version of the Syriac church. The separated gospels alone were now authorized, and three Catholic epistles (1 Peter, 1 John, James) were included. The missing books were therefore four Catholic epistles (2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude) and the Apocalypse. It was during the next century that these were added, for the next revision of the Peshitta, known as the Philoxenian revision (AD 508), contained all the books and this seems to represent the settled state of the Syriac canon, for a century later the Harklean revision contained the same books. Although the Peshitta version of the Syrian New Testament had been revised to include the disputed books, the unrevised Peshitta, with its twenty-two books, was still being copied during the Middle Ages, while the Ethiopic canon was considerably enlarged by the addition of eight other books which come under the head of Clement and Synodus.
In the West at the time of Cyprian there was no recorded use made of the following books: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude. It was not until the 4th century that these were known to be received but, from the time of Hilary of Poitiers, several Latin Fathers treated Hebrews as canonical and the unknown writer referred to as Ambrosiaster (this writer is supposed to be author of a Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles and to have flourished about AD 354) accepted its canonicity, but cited it anonymously. Lucifer of Cagliari, Priscillian, and other Latins regarded it as Paul's, but Jerome mentioned that the Roman church did not receive it as Paul's, while Augustine at first cited it as Paul's but later used it anonymously - not a reason for any Christian to feel confident about trusting in the opinion of a 'Church Father', 'Apostolic Succession', or 'Papal infallibility'! It would appear that canonicity could be maintained independently of Paul's accepted authorship but, subsequent to Augustine, it was received everywhere!
Of the Catholic Epistles, Hilary quotes only three (1 Peter, 1 John, and James), Priscillian, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, and Augustine included all seven, while Jerome observed that 2 and 3 John were not ascribed to John the apostle, but to John the presbyter of Ephesus. 2 John, although not used by Hilary, had been earlier (AD 256) cited as the work of the apostle by Aurelius. The history of Jude is interesting for, after being mentioned in the Muratorian Canon as received and being referred to as apostolic and authoritative by Tertullian, it seems to have fallen into neglect for a period until the time of Ambrosiaster and Priscillian - but after Augustine's time its position as Scripture was assured.
Augustine - probably the champion of more heretical ideas than any other 'Church Father'?!
Why was there greater reticence to accept the canon in the West compared with the East? Some try to argue that the Eastern church was generally more discerning than the Western church, or that the Eastern church was closer to 'the traditions' than their Western brethren. Tendencies which are seen in the history of the canon during this period are claimed to also exist in the history of theology, with the church of Alexandria playing the dominant role. That, in itself, should warn all Bible students of the reasons for being wary of such influences, for Western churches have certainly been influenced negatively by Eastern religion and Gnosticism: first by false teachers such as Origen, Basilides, and Valentinus in Alexandria in the Post-Nicean 'Patristic era', when the Gnostic hermeneutics of Alexandria rivalled the hermeneutics of Antioch, and again when the un-Biblical 'Crusades' brought the influences of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam into Europe with false ideas, such as counting prayers on beads, burning incense and candles before icons, and flagellation copied from Shia Muslims commemorating the death of Ali at the Battle of Karbala! Most damning of all is the obvious contradiction in suggesting that the Holy Spirit might lead the Eastern churches 'into all truth' (John 16:7ff.) before the Western churches!
Why would it take until the middle of the 4th century for pronouncements on the subject of the canon to be made at church councils? Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit was ignored by so many that it took nearly three centuries of church usage to virtually fix the canon? Can it be argued that, in spite of the variety of churches each subject to different influences and each exercising independent judgment regarding the separate books, the area of common agreement was actually remarkable? Some might believe that, despite the long and confused period when the matter of the inclusion of the minor Catholic epistles and the Apocalypse was being batted to and fro, the cautious way in which these books were received is actually a fitting testimony to the vigilance of the churches.
A list affixed to the canons of the Council of Laodicea (AD 363) contains all the books except the Apocalypse, although it has been suggested that the list may have been added later, for it is this omission that distinguishes it from the list in Athanasius' Easter letter. But, thirty years later, the Council of Hippo in Africa agreed to a list identical with that of Athanasius and, at Carthage four years after that (AD 397), another canonical list was agreed upon which comprised all twenty-seven New Testament books. Augustine was present at the latter council where the listing was made - but the council was still reluctant to class Hebrews as written by Paul. Although the New Testament canon was then supposedly finally fixed and, while some claim that it was not until the time of Luther and the Reformation that anyone questioned the choice of books in the canon, even during the Middle Ages when Papal Rome held full sway there were indications that some questioned this choice.
Jerome may appear well-intentioned - but he was deeply infected with false teaching!
The name that explains how the confusions failed to abate, despite this supposed canonical agreement, is the contemporary of Jerome - Augustine (AD 354-430). Careful examination reveals that Augustine really rejected the genuine, historical faith of the New Testament to a large degree and his confused interpretations exerted such vast influence that he laid the foundation for the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. It is no surprise that the Papal Roman Catholic Church acknowledges Augustine as one of its 'major Church Doctors' and has canonized him as a saint. Augustine was a persecutor of men and proved to be the father of generations of persecutors who followed him. He supplied the dogma that became the practice of the church, and even professed to find warrant for it in Scripture, namely in words that cannot be mis-interpreted:
' ...It is, indeed, better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment, or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be neglected. Many must often be brought back to their Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal suffering, before they attain the highest grade of religious development. ... The Lord himself orders that guests be first invited, then compelled, to his great supper.' [emphasis added]
This is a distorted and heretical mis-interpretation of Luke:14:23 ('And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled') and Augustine used it to declare:
Why therefore should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return?… The Lord Himself said, 'Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in….' Wherefore is the power which the Church has received…through the religious character and faith of kings…the instrument by which those who are found in the highways and hedges - that is, in heresies and schisms - are compelled to come in, and let them not find fault with being compelled. (E. H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, Port Colborne, ON: Gospel Folio Press, reprint 1999, p49)
A more colossal mis-interpretation of Scripture is hard to imagine - and a more vile consequence has rarely been excelled outside Papal inspired Nazism!
Augustine argued that, if the State did not have the power to punish religious error, it should not punish a crime like murder either. Augustus Neander (1789-1850), in his General History of the Christian Religion and Church (translated by Joseph Torrey from German from the second and improved edition, 9 vol. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1847) wrote of Augustine's teaching:
' ... it contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition'.
The Papal Roman Catholic Church doctrine of persecution grew from this seed and Leo the Great, the first of the popes in the strict sense of that term, drew the logical inference from the introduction to the false doctrine provided for him by the 'Fathers' of the church, when he declared that death is the appropriate penalty for heresy (Henry Vedder, Our New Testament, pp97-98).
The bitter persecutions poured out upon the Bible-believing Donatists of the 4th century were largely at the instigation of Augustine. The Donatists contended for pure New Testament churches comprised only of those who evidenced repentance and faith and practiced a congregational form of church government. They baptized those who came to them from churches they considered to be heretical, arguing that baptisms at the hands of men and churches that did not follow the New Testament faith are invalid and thus they were labelled 'rebaptizers' by the popes precursors in a pre-run of the persecution that began to increase through the centuries. Augustine opposed these people and ran a lax church discipline that allowed for unregenerate pagans and immoral ecclesiastical leaders in his congregations (a situation that has remained unchanged since those days!). He demanded that the Donatists submit themselves to a centralized church system and, when they refused to submit to these heresies, the ecclesiastical authorities ordered the secular powers to persecute them. Many Donatist church leaders were put to death and great numbers of them were forced into exile, as expert David Benedict revealed in his massive study on the history of the Donatists which had fortunately been preserved in ancient Latin texts which somehow escaped the usual Papal solution to all embarrassments - destruction of the records as well as the deaths of the witnesses! (David Benedict, History of the Donatists, p186-187).
While the Donatists saw the church as a 'small body of saved surrounded by the unregenerate mass', which is, of course, the biblical view, Augustine saw the church of his day as a mixture of believers and unbelievers, in which purity and evil should be allowed to exist side by side for the sake of unity. He used the power of the state to compel church attendance and, John Calvin, who hero-worshipped this errant 'Church Father', mimicked his errors 1,200 years later. Calvin followed his mentor Augustine and enforced church attendance and participation in the sacraments by threats - and more - against the citizens of Geneva. Augustine had 'identified the Donatists as heretics…who could be subjected to imperial legislation [and force] in exactly the same way as other criminals and misbelievers, including poisoners and pagans.' (W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984, p671). Though he preferred persuasion if possible, Augustine supported military force against those who were re-baptized as believers after conversion to Christ and for other alleged heresies. All of these errors have been perpetuated by Papal Rome since Augustine initiated these false teachings.
Sadly, Calvin put into effect in Geneva the very principles of punishment, coercion, and death that Augustine advocated and that the Roman Catholic Church followed consistently for centuries. Henry H. Milman writes: 'Augustinianism was worked up into a still more rigid and uncompromising system by the severe intellect of Calvin.' (Henry H. Milman, History of Christianity, New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1886, 3:176). Calvin also justified himself by following Augustine's false teachings, including his heretical interpretation of Luke 14:23, and is therefore recognised by careful Bible students as a 'teacher' whose works should be treated with the greatest caution.
Augustine clearly influenced Calvin's thinking, theology, and actions and Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion make repeated favourable references to Augustine, frequently citing his writings as authoritative and often used the expression, 'Confirmed by the authority of Augustine' while crediting him with having formulated key concepts, which he then expounded in these 'Institutes'.
Donatists may not have been entirely accurate on every point of doctrine or practice, but they were certainly far more Biblical than the 'Church Fathers' - or Papal Rome has ever been! Augustine had been heavily contaminated with heresies as well as the ludicrous allegorical methods of 'interpretation' championed by Origen and he redefined the church and the kingdom of God as an ecclesiastical-political alliance in this present world. He was also the father of amillennialism and foolishly taught that the Catholic Church, in its empirical form, was the kingdom of Christ and that the millennial kingdom had commenced with the appearing of Christ and was therefore an accomplished fact. Augustine taught a false view of 'salvation by grace alone', but confused the issue by claiming that the sacraments were actual means of grace, therefore pioneering the perversion of the gospel of the grace of Christ and intermingling works with grace. In Augustine's confused mixture of grace with sacramentalism he foolishly claims that the true grace of Jesus Christ is channelled through a church rather than being offered directly to the sinner through the Lord Jesus Christ (as in the clear example of 'the thief on the cross' - Luke 23:43). Clearly, there is no mediator between Christ and man and Papal Rome built on this error in ever more severe manner by introducing Mary as 'Co-Mediatrix'.
Augustine also began the false teaching that Mary was sinless (he admitted that Mary had a sinful nature inherited from Adam but claimed that she did not commit any actual sin), blasphemously claiming for her that which belongs exclusively to the immaculate Lord Jesus Christ . Augustine taught a form of purgatory and was one of the fathers of the heresy of infant baptism (claiming that un-baptized babies are lost) and also began the heresy of 'regeneration through baptism'. Regarding infant baptism, Augustine pompously declared: 'He that does not believe it, and thinks it cannot be done, is indeed an infidel'. (G. H. Orchard, Concise History of the Baptists, p96). Augustine provided leadership for the Council of Mela, in 416 AD, which made the foolish promulgation: 'that whosoever denieth that infants newly born of their mothers are to be baptized, let him be accursed' (David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination, I, p59).
Augustine began the delusion that Papists labour under to this day and which is revealed in a multitude of ways in this examination of the supposed development of the canon by him and the other 'Fathers' and, especially, when he exalted the authority of the 'church' over that of the Bible by writing: 'I would not believe the gospel, if I were not compelled by the authority of the universal church...'. Noted Baptist historian Thomas Armitage accurately observed that Augustine: ' ... became the champion of ecclesiasticism, sacerdotalism and sacramentarianism, all distorted into monstrous proportions.' (Armitage, A History of the Baptists, I, p217). It is clear that Jerome's Latin Vulgate was also formed in an era in which Augustine, as one of the chief 'fathers of the Roman Catholic Church' rather than any form of Scriptural 'father' (an oxymoronic misnomer), was exercising his un-Scriptural influence to the point where he almost certainly affected this translation.
Cassiodorus (~468-561) attempted to resolve the conflict that existed in his day between competing editions of the Latin Bible. Jerome's version had still not gained ascendancy and, instead of correcting Jerome's Vulgate with the older Latin manuscripts, Cassiodorus sought to correct old Latin manuscripts with Jerome's work and it was during this period that many modifications were made to Latin manuscripts that have been discovered in modern times and that have been used by textual critics to determine the text of the early centuries. Frederick Nolan summarized his patient research into this era with the following words:
Calling in the aid of the Greek original, and taking St. Jerome's version as its best interpreter, [Cassiodorus] undertook the correction of the Old Italick by the Vulgate and Greek. And the method in which he performed his task effectually removed the dissimilarity between them, which had so obstinately continued to his times. The monks who were employed in this work were commanded to erase the words of the former translation, and to substitute those of the latter; taking due pains to make the new writing resemble the old. The manuscripts thus corrected, in which, on the basis of the old translation, the corrections of the new were ingrafted, he had incorporated with the Greek original in the same volume. ... To this cause is to be attributed the affinity discoverable between the Greek and Latin text, in which the patrons of the German method of classification seem to have discovered the marks of a high original, ascending to the apostolical days; but which really claim no higher authors than the illiterate monks of a barbarous age. And here it is likewise conceived no improbable origin is traced for that peculiar class of manuscripts termed Codices Graeco-Latini, which are now found of such utility in correcting or in corrupting the sacred text. ... Such, or I am grossly deceived, is the true pedigree of the Cambridge, the Laudian, the Clermont, and St. Germain manuscripts, &c. which occupy a principal rank in the new classifications (Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate or Received Text of the New Testament, in which the Greek manuscripts are newly classed, the integrity of the Authorised Text vindicated, and the various readings traced to their origin, printed 1815, p17-18 - emphasis added).
Nolan concluded that the Received Text underlying the old Protestant Bibles (such as the English Authorized Version) is the text of the apostles, and that the key omissions (verses such as: Mark 16:9-20; Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:16) found in the modern versions were introduced by heretics of the second and third centuries. Nolan found evidence that the early Latin version called the Italick was produced by Bible-believing Christians who were separate from Rome and its growing apostasy, and this Biblical witness continued to be maintained in translations made by the Waldenses. Nolan hoped that some remains of the primitive Italick version might be found in the early translations made by the Waldenses, who were the lineal descendants of the Italick Church and who maintained their independence from Papal Rome so that they enjoyed the use of Scriptures which therefore remained un-polluted, and he was led to write:
In the search to which these considerations have led the author, his fondest expectations have been fully realized (Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate ..., pp. xvii, viii - emphasis added).
Trying to argue against 'The Council of Jamnia' is to go against Jerome!
During the Middle Ages the Western church remained thoroughly dominated by the views of Augustine and Jerome and, although doubts and questions were sometimes raised by fairly obscure figures such as Cosmas, Nicephorus, Photius and Arethas, the canon appeared to show little deviation, although a few Latin Manuscripts of this period included the Shepherd of Hermas.
Modern textual critic Bruce Metzger revealingly testified that the Greek manuscripts used by Jerome 'apparently belonged to the Alexandrian type of text' (Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, p76) meaning they were in the same family as those underlying the modern versions. F.G. Kenyon, another influential 20th century textual scholar, affirmed this by observing that the Vaticanus manuscript so preferred by Westcott and Hort and the English Revised Version of 1881 was the same type of text as that used by Origen and Jerome (Kenyon, The Text of the Greek Bible, p88). Another 20th century textual critic, H. Wheeler Robinson, said that Jerome's translation was 'corrected with the aid of ancient Greek codices of the Aleph B [Vaticanus] type' (Robinson, Ancient Versions of the English Bible, p113). So the testimony of all of these textual scholars is that the Jerome Latin Vulgate represented the same type of text as the modern critical Greek text.
Another scholar suggests that Jerome may have only translated the Gospels while the rest of the New Testament in the Vulgate was probably taken from Old Latin sources unrevised by him (David Daniell, The Bible in English, p26). Jerome's work was not widely accepted for centuries - while the Old Latin continued to be used in some places as late as the 12th century - and it was not called vulgata editio (the Vulgate) until the 13th century. While Jerome may appear well-intentioned when we read his accounts of the circumstances of his translations under Damasus' instructions, he was deeply infected with false teaching. Jerome also had hopes of succeeding Damasus as pope but was passed over (ibid. Daniell, p25). He also lived a hermetic life in disobedience to the Bible's command to go forth and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) and his spirit and character also left more than a little to be desired, as a historian who had high respect for him wrote:
' ... such irritability and bitterness of temper, such vehemence of uncontrolled passion, such an intolerant and persecuting spirit, and such inconstancy of conduct. (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, III, p206).
Jerome followed the false teaching of asceticism, believing the state of celibacy to be spiritually superior to that of marriage, and demanding that church leaders be unmarried. Author James Heron observed that ' ... no single individual did so much to make monasticism popular in the higher ranks of society' (The Evolution of Latin Christianity, 1919, p58). Jerome believed in the veneration of ' ... holy relics ... and the bones of dead Christians' (Heron, p276-77) and also ' ... took a leading and influential part in ... opening the floodgates ... for the invocation of saints ... teaching ... distinctly and emphatically that the saints in heaven hear the prayers of men on earth, intercede on their behalf and send them help from above (ibid., p287-88). Jerome also taught that Mary was the counterpart of Eve, as Christ was the counterpart of Adam, and that through her obedience Mary became instrumental in helping to redeem the human race (ibid., p294) and 'a perpetual virgin' (ibid., p294- 95). He also believed in the blessing of water (ibid., p306). Jerome had a particularly vindictive attitude toward those that followed the simple apostolic faith and refused to accept the false doctrines and practices he advocated and he railed against these men, whom he falsely labelled 'heretics', attacking them with vicious language (ibid., p58). Vigilantius, Jovinian, and Helvidius were some of the men whom Jerome railed against because they rejected the false traditions that were being added by him and other early leaders of the Roman Church, including infant baptism, enforced celibacy, worship of martyrs and relics, and the sinlessness and perpetual virginity of Mary.
We know of these disputes because a short tract against Helvidius written by Jerome (Opp. ii. p203-230) when they were both in Rome - and while pope Damasus was alive - exists as the only extant contemporary witness to these interactions. Ambrose and Augustine, writing on the 'Virginity' issue, joined Jerome in condemning the views of such as Helvidius.
Jerome's historical position and influence was greater than any of the Fathers although, because he wrote nothing but a few letters and a very poor Commentary till about his thirty-fifth year, his subsequent works were widely circulated and his early correspondence with Augustine (in 394 AD) was remarkable, not least because of the history behind a letter sent by Augustine which contained severe criticisms of Jerome. Jerome is noted for many things including being too uncritical (remarkable, considering his expressed views on the Apocrypha), that he translated but made no correction to faults in the Chronicle of Eusebius while his own additions to it revealed his credulity. As a theologian he is considered to be weak with no real interest in the subject and his first letter, written from the Desert to Pope Damasus, pointed out clearly the difficulty raised by the difference of phraseology of East and West: the Eastern speaking of one Essence and three Substances, the Western, of one Substance and three Persons! He seemed to make no attempt to grasp the reality lying behind these expressions and asked not to have the Eastern terms forced on his acceptance, while he professed in the most absolute terms his submission to the decision of the Bishop of Rome. You used the term 'sycophant'? Jerome was clearly a 'crawler' when it came to Scriptural truth! How can we explain his conduct regarding Origen whom he lavished praise on at one time and then violently condemned at another? He was sufficiently challenged in his own 'knowledge' compared to that of Origen's 'genius' and 'industry' in 'Biblical criticism' and 'exegesis' and yet, in discussing the 'Vision of Isaiah' (Isaiah 6), which many in his day and since believe touches the doctrine of the Trinity, he had put aside Origen's view that the Seraphim were the Son and the Spirit as wrongly expressing their relation to the Father, yet repeated Origen's exposition unquestioningly when it came to the 'restoration of Satan' (Ruf. Apol. ii. 13, Vol. iii. 467). When the subject of Origen's orthodoxy was raised later he somehow seemed to be unaware of any inconsistency on his part and hypocritically fell in with the general condemnation of Origen's doctrine.
Regarding Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine (340 AD), renowned as a Church historian, friend and eulogist of Constantine I and a leading member of the Council of Nicæa (325 AD), Jerome swung from describing him (in the Preface to the translation of his Book on the Site and Names of Hebrew Places), as 'vir admirabilis' then, in his controversy with Rufinus, as nothing but a heretic! Then he became embroiled in controversy with Augustine over 'the quarrel' between the apostles Peter and Paul (Galatians 2) which, incredibly, he interpreted as fictitious and pre-arranged with a view to bring out Paul's solution of the question about the Gentile converts! He was obviously wrong in this matter and eventually seemed to realise it but his reaction revealed that he was silenced by superior logic rather than being genuinely convinced. Jerome wrote of the Greek writers, Origen, Didymus, and Apollinaris, Eusebius of Emesa, and Theodorus of Heraclea, and that 'he had plucked flowers out of their gardens' so that his Commentary on Galatians was more theirs than his - as if this excused his errors. At a later period he wrote to Augustine (Ep 134): 'If the heretics see that we hold divergent opinions they will say calumniously that this is a result of hatred, whereas it is my firm resolution to love you, to look up to you, to defer to you with admiration, and to defend your opinions as my own.'
Jerome's lack of a profound theological basis was shown in his Dialogue against the Pelagians when he revealed that he did not share the 'original sin' doctrinal stance and clear view of human corruption which Augustine maintained and even, at times, seemed to be arguing against his own side, as in this phrase:
'Till the end we are subject to sin; not [as the opponent falsely imputed to him] through the fault of our nature and constitution, but through frailty and the mutability of the human will, which varies from moment to moment'.
Such a sentence could have been used to express the doctrine of Pelagius himself! 'Sycophant'? He appears to be a man who was not swayed by the force and fact of truth but more by the authority of powerful Bishops he wished to impress or avoid upsetting, or a desire to maintain what he may have imagined to be an 'orthodox' opinion.
Other controversies, with Helvidius, Jovinian, John, Bishop of Jerusalem, Vigilantius, and Rufinus, reveal again how he was (Ephesians 4:14) ' ... tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error', for his apparent method was to accept whatever opinion was current among the Christians of his day and then to try and support it by a plethora of quotations from Scripture. His arguments are sometimes considered well chosen and acutely maintained, as in the book against Helvidius (339), and at other times as utterly frivolous - as in his work against Vigilantius (422). It was in the latter controversies that intense personal feeling, contempt and hatred are clearly revealed by Jerome.
We can gain a grasp of his vacillations from his comments on Scripture where he veers from (337):
'Whether you think that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, or that Ezra re-edited it, in either case I make no objection';
or (349) that it was the Book of Deuteronomy which was found in the Temple in the reign of Josiah;
or contrasts 'the flickering flame of the Apostles' with 'the brightness of the lamp of Christ' (468).
But there are three points especially on which Jerome reached an independent conviction, and apparently maintained it courageously:
(1) He made a clear distinction between the Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha (194, 491, 492, 493), although he recorded the fact that the Nicene Council had placed the Book of Judith in the Canon (494);
(2) He maintains the essential identity of Bishops and Presbyters (288) and the development of the Episcopal out of the Presbyteral office (288, 289), in the face of the rapid tendency to the extreme exaltation of the Episcopate (92);
(3) In the great work of his life, the composition of the Vulgate, he showed a clear conviction, and a solid tenacity, unshaken either by popular clamour (490) or authority like that Augustine (189).
Regarding asceticism and monasticism, which Jerome eagerly promoted to the point where he seemed to read it into almost every verse of Scripture, he was influenced by the same 'seducing spirits and doctrines of demons' (1 Timothy 4:1-5) that affected much of his work. His general attitude was to disdain the common joys of life, such as eating, drinking, clothing - but most of all marriage (despite the clear Scriptural warning given in this passage from 1 Timothy:
' ... through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now'.
How can any sane Christian even listen to Papal Roman Catholics for a second when they have contradicted Scripture from the very foundations of their evil edifice - as revealed by examining the men they have put up on a pedestal? Jerome's view of monasticism in its inherent principles is seen in his treatises against Helvidius, Jovinian, and Vigilantius and we know he was influenced by the Brahmans and the Gymnosophists of India (97, 193, 397), and Buddha (380 - who he mentions as an example of asceticism).
We have already commented on the view of modern scholars of Jerome's 'Vulgate' and much of his work is considered worthless now - except that it reveals the state of knowledge of the fourth century A.D., and that of the author of the Vulgate, e.g. in his other work, where the places described were outside his knowledge, credulity crept in and, for example, he wrote that portions of the Ark are still to be found in Ararat!
Jerome's Book of Hebrew Questions on Genesis is a set of notes on passages where the reference to the Hebrew text gives a variant reading from that of the LXX, which was received as authoritative up to Jerome's day and reveals, for example, that in Genesis 46:26 the LXX says that nine descendants of Joseph were born in Egypt - while the Hebrew text records only two. Jerome accounted for the discrepancy by supposing that the LXX 'added in' the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh, who were subsequently born in Egypt, but in the LXX they are found enumerated just before. Jerome stated that he intended to compose notes for each book of the Old Testament but, apparently, he did not find the time or ability to go beyond Genesis.
Examination of Jerome's work, e.g. as revealed in his controversy with Rufinus (Apol. i. 16, Vol. iii. 491), in the passages at issue he accepted the most incongruous interpretations without criticism and Rufinus, not surprisingly, suggested that Jerome was sometimes expressing his own opinion under that of 'another' (who we know to be Augustine)! Jerome seemed capable of good judgement where ordinary interpretation was concerned, but he revealed that he was also polluted by the same fanciful allegorical methods of 'interpretation' championed by Origen and carried on by Augustine. Thus we find that, in the Commentary on Ecclesiastes, the city delivered by the poor wise man is made to mean the individual delivered from Satan by the better man within him, or the Church delivered from the hosts of darkness by Christ! When it came to the subject of asceticism Jerome revealed an unhesitating impulse to draw the passage to an endorsement of his own peculiar views, no matter how absurd the connection (Against Jovin. i. 30, p368).
The 'Christian monasticism' of Jerome came out of a multitude of pagan influences and rites in the age of Constantine and is a clear apostasy from apostolic Christianity, as Paul had plainly foretold in the Pastoral Epistles. Many try to incorporate this phenomenon of history into their view of Scripture because to do otherwise would involve admitting that the entire ancient church (of their knowledge!) and the 'greatest' and 'best' representatives from both east and west, such as Athanasius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine, were involved in the predicted apostasy from the faith. They cannot admit that these men who unremittingly admired and commended the monastic life were anti-Christian errorists, and that the few and almost exclusively negative opponents of that asceticism, such as Jovinian, Helvidius, and Vigilantius, might possibly be the sole representatives of a distinctly purer form of Christianity in the Nicene and post-Nicene age!
The sadly polluted state of mind that Luther and other former Roman Catholic priests struggled to overcome by embracing the Word of God is revealed by many of the earlier 'Church Fathers', as exhibited by Jerome who equated 'woman' with 'body,' and thus with sexuality and evil and wrote with total disgust of the life of the average woman. In a letter (written about 403 AD) concerning the upbringing of Paula's granddaughter (Paula was one of his supporters, both financially and philosophically), Jerome wrote that she should not be taken to the baths, because she might see the totally revolting sight of a pregnant woman. Further, he wrote, she should not be given baths, because any woman should find the sight of her own body disgusting. He considered marriage, sexual relations, giving birth, mothering children, and attending to one's hair, clothes or face as repulsive - indeed, reading Jerome's comments, one might think he despised women! Yet he gathered a select circle of women around him, widows such as Eustochium, Marcella, Albinia, Furia, Salvina, Fabiola, Melania, and the most illustrious of all, Paula, and her family - and virgins, such as Eustochium, Apella, Marcellina, Asella, Felicitas, and Demetrias. He expounded the Holy Scriptures to these well read Roman ladies, answered their questions of conscience, incited them to celibate life, lavish beneficence and enthusiastic asceticism, and flattered their spiritual vanity with extravagant praises. While some place Jerome on the highest of pedestals as the oracle, biographer, admirer, and eulogist of these women, who were doubtlessly desperate to be as holy as they could be, he was in reality a fulfilment of Paul's words to Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:6-7: For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Jerome's letters regarding Paula, and the other women of their ascetic circle, contain phrases of genuine affection, friendship and respect - but these women had adopted a celibate lifestyle, becoming 'virgins' and devoting themselves to Christ, and Jerome therefore supported their choices and gave them every encouragement to the point of lauding their spirituality as far superior to his own. In his tribute to Paula after her death (Letter 108), he constantly describes her spiritual practices as more rigorous than his own, and cites many occasions when her faith and spiritual wisdom exceeded his! Paula died at Bethlehem at age 56 and six bishops carried her to a grave near the place where Jesus was said to have been born while a huge number of people from out of the whole population of Palestine came out for the funeral - even the desert monks and virgins - and they chanted the Psalms in Greek, Latin and Syriac for three days, for the sake of this woman who was, according to Jerome: ' ... one of the marvels of the Holy Land.'
Jerome began work on his Vulgate during his second residence in Rome (382-385 AD), at the suggestion of pope Damasus and, at first, intended only a revision of the Itala, the old Latin version of the Bible which came down from the second century and contained text which had fallen into inextricable confusion through the negligence of transcribers and the capricious nature of some 'translators'. He translated first the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament and then the Psalter (which he worked over twice, in Rome and in Bethlehem). He then worked in irregular succession on the historical, prophetic, and poetical books and then partially, at the request of friends, on the Apocrypha which he placed decidedly below the canonical books. While some criticised him severely, calling him a falsifier of the Scripture, others were very encouraging. Jerome's New Testament and Psalter were circulated and used in the church long before the completion of the whole work, even by Augustine who urged him strongly to translate the Old Testament (but to translate it from the Septuagint!).
When Augustine requested (Epist xcvi.34) that he use the Septuagint ('Nobis mittas, obsecro, interpretationem tuam de LXX quam te edidisse nesciebam'), Jerome discovered the unsatisfactory condition of the Septuagint text and, with presumably more knowledgeable friends (compared to Augustine) pleading the need of a translation direct from the Hebrew, he began this huge task about 390 with Samuel and Kings, which he published with the Prologus Galeatus ('helmeted prologue'), then the Psalms (circa 392), Job and the Prophets (393), 1 and 2 Esdras (circa 394) (3 and 4 being omitted), and Chronicles (396). A severe illness restricted further work until 398, when he was able to translate Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles. He then commenced work on the Octateuch: 'Octateucho quem nunc in manibus habeo' (Epist lxxi.5), translating the Pentateuch first in 401, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Esther soon after (xl.4: 'post sanctae Paulae dormitionem'). Tobit and Judith were translated for him from Chaldee into Hebrew from which he then translated them into Latin (~405), and shortly before or after these he added the apocryphal additions to Daniel and Esther. He passed over Baruch and Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus were also not revised by him and it is considered doubtful by many that he revised Maccabees. After 15 obviously strenuous years (390-405), during which much of his translation work was undertaken at the request of friends and not because of any papal request, Jerome made it clear that he was not working for public recognition for he even asked one friend not to show his translation to others.
It is to Jerome's credit that he recognised the clear testimony in the Letter to the Romans that the Old Testament canon was given to the Jews - so trying to argue against The Council of Jamnia is to go against this 'Church Father'. Gradually his works gained acceptance without authoritative enforcement, being used in the West together with the Itala, until Gregory the Great gave it his formal approval (about 600 AD) and it then almost totally superceded the Itala sometime around the ninth century. However, the opposition to Jerome's work in his day was clear and, when he was accused of slighting the Septuagint after Augustine had made clear that it should be considered at least equally inspired to the Hebrew original, Jerome's fiery temper and biting tongue remain apparent in his dialogues with critics.
Jerome finished his translation at Bethlehem (in 405 AD) after twenty years of toil and his work has been given mainly overwhelming, uncritical, approval for centuries. However, few give consideration to his letter to Pammachius on the best method of translation where he advocated great freedom in interpretation with extensive 'paraphrasing' and even the insertion of sentences congruous to the sense of the author (i.e. the kind of error that occurs in every work undertaken without true regard for the non-viability of Scripture)! He clearly took the fact that the quotations in the New Testament from the Old often presented discrepancies in words and sense to justify similar discrepancies in his own translating work. He is credited with translating well when dealing with non-canonical books but used very different rules of translation when handling the Scriptures: 'In other books my effort is not to express word by word, but meaning by meaning; but in the Holy Scriptures even the order of the words has a secret meaning' (et ordo verborum mysterium est). He also wrote: 'A version made for the use of the Church, even though it may possess a literary charm, ought to disguise and avoid it as far as possible.' Some critics argue that Jerome's belief in a secret meaning in the words and their order, apart from the ordinary sense of the text, resulted in an inferior translation of the Vulgate. His principles are considered by some to be well-meaning, even excellent, namely:
(1) never to swerve needlessly from the original; (2) to avoid solecisms (ungrammatical usage of words); (3) even when allowing solecisms to strive to give the true sense. But critics note that this results in a translation that is weakened by supposing there is a hidden sense in the arrangement of the words. The result is also to divest passages of an elegance that existed in the inspired original and therefore also robs the reader of spiritual food. Despite the plan made at the outset the too frequent introduction of solecisms and forsaking real attempts to make sense of every passage left the Vulgate of Jerome with an air of artificiality in many parts of the Scriptures, introducing confusion rather than light.
Contemporary Biblical philology and exegesis has identified innumerable faults, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and arbitrary methods of 'interpretation' in the Vulgate. The merits of the translation are therefore very varied and perhaps, to a degree, dependent on the amount of time which he bestowed on individual books. The Books of Solomon, for instance, he translated very rapidly (492) while working on the Book of Tobit for a single day (494). For some parts he trusted his own knowledge while, for others, he obtained aid at great cost of money and trouble (Preface to Job and to Tobit, 491, 494). His best exegetical labours are considered by many to be on the Prophets (particularly Isaiah, written 408-410 AD, Ezekiel, 410-415 AD, and Jeremiah - to Chapter 32 - but interrupted by his death), and those on the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus (written 388 AD), together with his critical 'Questions on Genesis'.
The completed work as a whole was highly prized even in Jerome's lifetime, so that he is able to record that a large part of the Old Testament was translated into Greek from his version by his friend Sophronius, and was read in the Eastern Churches (492 AD). After his death it won its way to become the Vulgate or 'common version' of Western Christendom and was the Bible of the Middle Ages. And in the year 1546 (eleven centuries after its author's death) it was pronounced by the Council of Trent to be the only true version, and alone authorised to be printed.
But, consistent with many of his 'apologetic letters', they are not uniformly completed, many parts being very indifferent, either appearing to be unconscionably careless or relying too much on his own paraphrasing and interpolations while dictating to an amanuensis. Jerome has been praised for some clear, unaffected, logical expositions, but criticised for vacillating on difficult passages where he relied on Jewish traditions and the polluted opinions of the earlier 'Fathers', especially Origen, Eusebius, Apollinaris, and Didymus. While apparently not recognising the flaws he had inherited and attempting his best grammatico-historical methodology in many books of the Scriptures, he may have set out to try not to put his own fanciful interpretations into the word of God and, while his other works reveal that he sometimes found fault with Origen and his allegorical methods, he excelled many of the 'Fathers'.
However, how is it that the work of the heretical Pelagius (whose short exposition of the Epistles of Paul is incorporated in the works of Jerome) and the unknown Ambrosiaster (whose commentary has found its way among the works of Ambrose), has been recognised by critics as sharing thoughts with Jerome? He is recognised as being inconsistent and committing the very fault he reprimanded Eusebius for in the superscription of his 'Commentary on Isaiah' where he promised a historical exposition but then fell into the allegorical methodology of Origen. Thus he failed to fully break from the 'traditional exegesis' (allegorical eisegesis!) that preceded and he often gave the historical sense of a passage but then indulged his Origenic impulses resulting in fantastic allegorizing which he fooled himself into believing was encouraging nothing more than a trend to 'spread the sails of the spiritual understanding'! Thus he 'identified' in most cases a double sense of the Scriptures, the literal and the spiritual, or the historical and the allegorical, but sometimes, with Origen and the Alexandrians, he perceived a triple sense: the historical, the tropological (moral), and the pneumatical (mystical).
This seed of confused and flawed 'interpretation' had long-term consequences, for it was carried on by later 'heroes' of Papal Rome, including Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD) who also claimed that the Bible was allegorical. How come these 'Fathers' could not see the obvious way that Jews, including Jesus and the Apostles, read the Bible as literal unless the context demands otherwise (e.g. the symbolism of Ezekiel-type prophecies). The clear dichotomy in Scriptural interpretation between the Antiochean and Alexandrian Schools of thought in the early church would later also divide Judaism, with chassidic Jews taking a mystical allegorical interpretation of Torah on the basis of Caballah, and non-chassidic orthodox Jews who accept Caballah, in principle, but downplay it in practice. Because of these flawed 'Church Fathers' these false Greek methods gradually replaced Biblical 'midrashic' Jewish interpretation. The increasingly confused 'Scholasticism' of Rome led to one pope claiming that the 70 years when the pope was forced to live in Avignon under military threat was the Babylonian captivity [this was one out of a number of popes who resided in Avignon's papal palace during a schism that lasted more than 100 years - including Benedict XIII (1394-1423) and Alexander V (1409-10), the latter being poisoned by Baldassare Cossa, who took the pontificate in his place as John XXIII (1410-15); during this particularly farcical time each claimed to be the true pope as they excommunicated each other!]. Then, perhaps even more farcically, all three were deposed by the Council of Constance, until then the largest council in the West, with 300 bishops present, 300 doctors, and the deputies of 15 universities. Although he is now shown as an 'anti-pope,' it was Pope John XXIII who formally opened the Council on All Saints' Day, 1414 AD. In the eyes of Papal Roman Catholics was it the infallible 'anti-pope' ('née' pope!) or the 'Council' (of the kind that supposedly guarded the accuracy and make-up of the canon!) that was in error?
(Continued on page 339)