With these words, the Roman Catholic Canon of Scripture finally was set, more than 1,200 years after the Roman bishops, with the backing of Constantine, arrogated to themselves authority over all the Christian church. This was the first council in the history of the Western Church to officially define the Canon of Scripture.
In support of the inclusion of 12 books of the Apocrypha in the canon, Trent pointed to two regional councils which met under Augustine's leadership in Hippo (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.). The bishops of Trent claimed these councils formally defined the canon as including the Apocrypha.
There are a couple of things wrong with this claim: 1) these were regional councils not authorized to speak for the church as a whole; and 2) the endorsement they gave the Apocrypha was quite different from what the RCC claims – a matter I shall deal with later.
The claims of Trent ignore the very significant fact that there was an established canon of Scripture long before anyone met in church council at Hippo or Carthage. There is a strong body of evidence that the Old Testament canon found in the Christian Bible (non-Catholic) is the same as that used in Palestine at the time of Christ's ministry. That canon did not include the Apocrypha. Christ referred to Scriptures in Luke 24:44:
Neither Jesus nor any of the New Testament writers ever once quoted from the Apocrypha. There are 263 quotations and 370 references to the Old Testament in the New Testament and not one of them refers to the Apocrypha
The RCC herself acknowledges that the Jews did not accept the Apocrypha, for it was not a part of the Hebrew canon. A respected Catholic source informs:
What about the Jewish canon? How was it developed? Jews believed that God reveals His will to and through inspired people. Essentially, they accepted three means for receiving divine revelation:
Priests learned the will of God through the Urim and Thummin, which were sacred objects carried inside the breastplate of the high priest. These were used as oracular media to divine the will of God.
God Himself disclosed to Moses the means of sanctification and atonement. These became the means of sustaining the divine-human relationship.
The prophets, or wise men, were God's spokesmen. The words they spoke were God's words. The sayings and writings of the prophets were preserved (Isaiah 8:16, Jeremiah 36), and widely circulated in ancient times. Sometime between the 4th and 2nd Centuries B.C., the prophetic canon seems to have been firmed into two groupings. Among the Former Prophets were included the books of Joshua, Judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings. The Latter Prophets were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve.
The Hagiographa, or Writings, was a mixed collection that included the Psalms and other documents in common use. The Jews had a difficult time with the Hagiographa, because the fluidity of the 'canon' complicated their efforts to standardize the authoritative Scriptures.
The Samaritan canon consisted of the Torah, without either prophetic or hagiographic scriptures. The Samaritan Torah differed from the Jewish version in several places.
When the Roman army leveled the Temple, in 70 A.D., Jewish religious practice was upended. Their system of sacrificial ritual ended with the destruction of the Temple. From then on, Judaism would have to rest on the Scriptures. And this presented yet another issue. If the Scriptures were to be the rule of faith for Jews, then it was absolutely essential that the authoritative writings be identified. In 90 A.D. Jewish leaders met in Jamnia to identify and fix the Jewish canon. It was commonly believed that Ezra's time marked the end of divine inspiration, so there was no reason to not close the canon. There was a lot of questionable religious material in circulation during that time. The Jewish religious leaders were concerned that less informed Jews might use some of this questionable material or, worse yet, begin to use the Christian writings in matters of faith. They also were concerned to keep the authoritative texts free of scribal error, and it would first be necessary to establish an official canon in order that it be preserved.
Josephus, the 1st Century Jewish historian so often cited by Romish apologists, was quite explicit that the Hebrew canon included 22 books, none of which were apocryphal (Wm. Whiston, Trans., "Josephus," (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1960), "Against Apion" 1.8, p. 609)
There are those who would argue that the Septuagent did include the Apocrypha and suggest there were actually two Hebrew canons: a Palestinian one without the Apocrypha and an Alexandrian one which did include them. This is inappropriate, however, for there is no Alexandrian canon. The Jews of Alexandria never officially canonized the LXX. Catholics like to use the term when referring to the Jewish canon, or Tanakh, in combination with the Apocrypha.
And what support is there for the claim the original Septuagent, which was translated some six centuries before the copies now on hand, did not include the Apocrypha? Well, for one thing, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (where the Septuagent was translated), did not include the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament canon. In a letter, Athanasius listed the 22 Old Testament books and the 27 canonical books of the New Testament. He added:
Cyril of Jerusalem (b. ca. 315 A.D.) was so respected by his bishop, 'Saint' Maximus that he was given charge of the instruction of catechumens. Cyril catalogued the canonical Old Testament books. His list did not include the Apocrypha. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," Vol VII, Cyril of Jerusalem, "Catechetical Lectures" IV.33-36 (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1952), pp. 26-28)
The earliest list of the Old Testament canon that we have from a Christian writer was provided by Melito of Sardis, who died about 180 A.D. Melito, whose writings are preserved by Eusebius, went to Palestine to see for himself exactly how many books were in the Hebrew canon. He lists 22 books, which concurs with the number given by Josephus. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," Second Series, vol. I, Eusebius, "Church History" IV.26.13-14 (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1952), p. 206)
Origen also lists 22 books, none of which are apocryphal, in the Hebrew canon. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," Second Series, vol. I, Eusebius, "Church History" VI.25.1-2 (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1952), p. 272)
Others of the Early Church Fathers who agreed with Josephus and Origen as to the composition of the 22-book Hebrew canon, omitting the Apocrypha were: Epiphanius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzen and Hilary of Poitiers.
But Rome tells us the Apocrypha are canonical, this was 'infallibly' declared by the Council of Trent. What did some of those Early Church Fathers the RCC so loves to refer to have to say about these books?
Athanasius clearly declared the canonical Scriptures alone were to be used for determining doctrine, while the apocrypha were sanctioned for reading only, but were not considered part of the canon. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," Second Series, vol. IV, St. Athanasius, "Letter 39.7" (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1953), p. 552)
Jerome certainly agreed with Athanasius, for he did not include the Apocrypha in his Latin translations of the Old Testament because, he said, they were not part of the Hebrew canon. He admitted the Apocrypha were useful, but not authoritative for declaring or confirming doctrine. In a commentary on two apocryphal books, The Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, Jerome wrote:
One of the modern definitions of apocrypha is: "Writings or statements of questionable authorship or authenticity." An apocryphal story is one that probably never happened. Consequently, a lot of folks seem to believe books known as the Apocrypha are mythical works. This is another example of the need to examine ancient writings in the context in which they were written and read. Originally, apocrypha meant "hidden away"; Jews considered the books of the Apocrypha to be hidden because they were not included in the Bible. When the rabbis established the Jewish canon, they excluded all works written after the age of Ezra (5th Century B.C.). One common thread uniting all the books of the Apocrypha is that they were written after Ezra's time.
These days, not many Jews read the Apocrypha. When the rabbis of the Talmud placed the Apocrypha outside the biblical canon, they essentially declared them of little religious significance and relegated them to the status of curiosities.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned that the bishops met at Trent supported their inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Catholic canon by recalling that the regional councils in Hippo and Carthage had included these books in their canons. I stated that the endorsements of these councils was not what the RCC claims. Cardinal Cajetan, in commenting on the final chapter of Esther, wrote:
What is Cajetan telling us? Quite simply, he is agreeing with Jerome that the word 'canon' was understood to have two distinct meanings. The inspired writings, authoritative for establishing doctrine were ascribed proto-canonical status. The apocrypha and ecclesiastical books, though not authoritative for setting doctrine, had value for edification and were assigned a deutero-canonical status. This is how the RCC historically understood Augustine and the Council of Carthage.
I find it interesting that Jerome and Origen, the only two Early Church Fathers considered to have been true Bible scholars and both of whom lived for a time in Palestine and were familiar with the Jewish canon, rejected the Apocrypha. Yet, in 1546, the Catholic Council of Trent went against both Catholic tradition and church practice by declaring the Apocrypha to be part of the Canon.
Why is the Roman church so set on making and keeping the Apocrypha part of the Canon of Scripture?
Could it be because so many of Rome's innovative doctrines can only be supported by appealing to the uninspired books of the Apocrypha?
The Roman church points to a passage in 2 Maccabees to validate the doctrine of Purgatory and justify heretical prayers to and for the dead:
The RCC's Semi-Pelagian doctrine of salvation by works is supported by two passages from the Apocrypha:
A verse in the Apocrypha can be stretched to support the RCC's heretical doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary:
A while back, I posted an account of a "magical" method for selling a house fast as provided by Mother Angelica. Well, the Apocrypha provide other spells and incantaions, among them:
Let's see now. The Palastinian Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as inspired. Nor did the Samaritans. The Jews in Alexandria never officially accepted the LXX as canonical. The leading fathers of the Greek Church did not accept the Apocrypha as inspired writings. Principle lights among the Early Church Fathers rejected the idea of the inspiration of the Apocrypha.
Nevertheless, the Council of Trent declared the Apocrypha to be canonical, and this was later reaffirmed by Vatican I. The bishops of the Roman Catholic church accorded to the amorphous collection of apocryphal books what the books themselves do not claim: divine inspiration. The Maccabean author says something quite different, as a matter of fact:
And what do the inspired books say?
Who are YOU going to believe: A self-serving Magisterium that denied more than 1200 years of the teachings, practices and beliefs of it's predecessors? Or God Himself?
To me, that is a no-brainer.
Ye Must Be Born Again