66 Love Letters? How to Think of God’s Revelation

Augustus Leopold Egg, The Love Letter (19th c.)
Augustus Leopold Egg, The Love Letter (19th c.)

Lately, I’ve heard certain Protestants use the phrase “66-book love letter” to describe the Bible. For example, the rapper Lecrae uses it in Prayin’ for You (“I pray he’ll open up the sixty-six book love letter you wrote and soak it up”), Dr. Larry Crab has a book on the Bible called 66 Love Letters, etc.

I love the heart of what this phrase is expressing. Too often, we speak of Scripture as if it’s a rule book; much better to understand it as a love letter, inasmuch as it’s an expression of the love of God. Just read a passage like 1 John 3:1-2,

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Understood legalistically, the passage makes sense. There’s no rule expressed here, telling us to do this or not to do that. It’s just a reminder that God loves us so much, and a reminder of the good things He has done and will do for us.

You can’t understand these passages if your approach is to think about Scripture as a law book. On the other hand, you can understand the legal passages of Scripture if you think about the Bible as an expression of God’s love. After all, Deuteronomy 10:12-13 explains that even these rules were an act of love, done for our own good:

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?

So in terms of a hermeneutic, treating the Bible as a collection of love letters rather than a legal code is a generally-great shift, and a long overdue one. But I would caveat that endorsement in three ways.

First, calling it a “66-book love letter” forgets about the other 7 books. The early Christians had more Biblical books than modern Protestants do. Understood in this framework, these are love letters lost in the Reformation.

Second, it forgets God’s living “love letter,” the Church. Listen to how St. Paul addresses the Church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 3:1-3):

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

So the Bible itself says that God’s love letter to humanity isn’t just the Bible… it’s also the Church.

Third, there’s a risk of over-sentimentalizing. We want the fresh romance of a new love, and the beginning of the spiritual life can feel like that sometimes. But we’re called to something more than that, to something very much like marriage (Ephesians 5:25-31). And just as every couple finds out after the wedding, things get more complicated once kids enter the picture. The Christian life is hard not because Jesus is hard to love, but because other people are. The Scriptures (and the Church!) are a revelation of God’s love, but sometimes that’s a tough love. Hebrews 12:5b-7 says:

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

So God’s revelation is absolutely a “love letter” of sort, but it’s more than that: it’s a declaration of His marriage to us, and His intention to carry us home. That’s a call to more than a superficial “me and Jesus” relationship: it’s a call to live the sometimes messy and frustrating life of the Bride of Christ.

 

17 Comments

  1. “…it’s a call to live the sometimes messy and frustrating life of the Bride of Christ”.

    I like this. We, no matter how bumpy our path, must try our human best to give Him the unconditional love He gives us.

  2. Joe, I hope your assignment is going well. Are you ordained a deacon?

    Concerning the article, it makes a good point that we ought not to think of the Bible as a rule book. For one, most of it isn’t rules anyhow. Second, God condescends Himself by speaking to us through His Scriptures and, in the past, prophets. God has no reason to do so other than His mercy and love. So the “love letter” hermeneutic is useful in recognizing this.

    That being said, you made two points in my view are stated too strong.

    For example, you write, “The early Christians had more Biblical books than modern Protestants do.”

    However, this is not true in all cases. St Amphilochus of Iconium, Rufinus (translator of Origen), and Jerome all clearly had 66 book Canon (http://www.bible-researcher.com/amphilocius.html, http://www.bible-researcher.com/rufinus.html) though it is arguable that when they listed Jeremiah, they perhaps included the letter of Jeremiah and Baruch–but this is unsaid. And, there are several other fathers (Origen and Athanasius for example) that would have 66 book Canons if we consider Jeremiah/Baruch one book. Being that Protestants do not have a dogmatic statement that the Masoretic text is the flawless manuscript tradition, it is a matter of debate whether the original Jeremiah would have included Baruch, and if this were to be demonstrated, the book would be accepted by default.

    So, I think the jab you got in there was more than a little misleading, especially when we consider the fact that it ignores the fact that the modern Catholic Church has more love letters than the vast preponderance on ancient Christian authorities, most of which rejected Maccabbees until the 4th century and even then we have statements from men such as Augustine who affirmed the book as Canon yet explicitly rejected it as Scripture (whatever that means).

    Second, you quote 2 Cor 3:1-3 as a prooftext that the Church is a loveletter in an equivalent sense that the Scripture is which, while poetic, really does not work. Paul is talking about letters of recommendation that the “Super Apostles” (i.e. Judaizers) used to carry around. Paul is saying that the Corinthian Church is just as good as proving his credentials as the letters the Super Apostles had. How you can seriously equate this with a book which is God breathed is more than a little tenuous, as they really are two different things. I actually think you agree with me about this so I won’t belabor the point, I am sure your intention was to be more poetic than anything.

    Your third point is great.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Jerome doubted the full canon because he didn’t know why the Jews had fewer at the point. But because the Church used them, he included them in obedience.

      1. That might be a little simplistic, Mary. The Church had Canon (which by the late 4th and early 5th centuries included the Deuterocanon), but not all the books that were Canon were considered Scripture. Take Augustine:

        From this time, when the temple was rebuilt, down to the time of Aristobulus, the Jews had not kings but princes; and the reckoning of their dates is found, not in the Holy Scriptures which are called canonical, but in others, among which are also the books of the Maccabees. These are held as canonical, not by the Jews, but by the Church, on account of the extreme and wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs (City of God, Book 18, Chapter 26).

        Not only did more than a few notable Catholics before Trent reject the Deuterocanon as equally inspired Scripture, a few afterwards (Bernard Lamy, Loisy, Ubaldi, and Jahn) explicitly claimed that it is not as inspired. So, Augustine’s sort of differentiation appears to be a similar idea.

        1. Craig,

          You misread St. Augustine. When he refers to Holy Scriptures in that sentence, he is clearly referring to the Holy Scriptures that Jews of his time hold as canonical, NOT to what the Church holds as Scriptural. Which is why in the very next sentence he calls Maccabees canonical, and distinguishes them from what the Jews hold as canonical.

          There is a passage from St. Augustine in the year 421, where he clearly calls Maccabees part of the Old Testament.

          And a passage from the year 397, where St. Augustine lists all of the Deuterocanon as Scripture.

          If you read all of St. Jerome, you will find that he only writes it is written when quoting Scripture. Whenever he quotes a Father, or any non-biblical source, he never says it is written. At least three times St. Jerome says it is written in quoting a Deuterocanon.

          In the year 362, St. Athanasius quotes Wisdom and Sirach, calling them Scripture.

          I can go on.

          1. Duane, I must respectfully disagree,

            “You misread St. Augustine. When he refers to Holy Scriptures in that sentence, he is clearly referring to the Holy Scriptures that Jews of his time hold as canonical, NOT to what the Church holds as Scriptural.”

            Actually, he does not say that. Go back to what he said. He said that the chronology of certain events is not found in the Holy Scriptures but is found in Maccabbees which the Church finds as “Canon” because of its teachings about the martyrs. The way you have rationalized it is that the Jews are the only ones that do not consider Maccabees Scripture, but this is not what Augustine said. In fact, Augustine believed the Jewish Scriptures are the only legitimate ones, and that the legitimate Scriptures were preserved in the temple:

            Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers from whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession…[I]t is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the diligence of successive priests (City of God, Book 15 Chapter 23).

            In City of God, Book 17, Chap 20, he includes Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach as books “which are not written in the canon of the Jews [and] cannot be quoted against their contradictions with so great validity.”

            Yet, he clearly considered both to be “Canon.” He writes in Predestination of the Saints how the Book of Wisdom “deserves to be read in Christ’s Church” (Chapter 27, 28). Elsewhere, Augustine admits that this is only in the West and not the East.

            Further, 25 years earlier he wrote in On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 8:

            “For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.”

            It would seem that WoS earned its way as Canon due to the merits of its teaching (and its prophecy), even if it were not properly Scripture per se. The same logic appears to apply to Maccabbees, which though not Scripture ought to be read due to its teachings about the Martyrs.
            Which is why in the very next sentence he calls Maccabees canonical, and distinguishes them from what the Jews hold as canonical.

            “There is a passage from St. Augustine in the year 421, where he clearly calls Maccabees part of the Old Testament.”

            Which you do not quote, so either you are conflating what he calls Canon as Scripture, or he changed his mind, which is not impossible either though I would bet not as On Presdestination of the Saints is one of the last things he wrote and he maintains the Canont but not Scripture logic for WoS.

            “And a passage from the year 397, where St. Augustine lists all of the Deuterocanon as Scripture.”

            Again, not quoted. Does he say “Scripture” or “Canon”?

            “If you read all of St. Jerome, you will find that he only writes it is written when quoting Scripture. Whenever he quotes a Father, or any non-biblical source, he never says it is written. At least three times St. Jerome says it is written in quoting a Deuterocanon.”

            This may be because he had a view similar to Augustine’s, though being that they wrote letters to one another debating about this it is likely that he had an even lower view than Augustine’s.

            “In the year 362, St. Athanasius quotes Wisdom and Sirach, calling them Scripture.”

            Yet he notably left them out in the source I quoted. Did he have amnesia? CHange his mind? Have a two-tiered view of the Canon, like several Catholics historically have had?

            The fact that we have plain 66 book Canons in the writings of three church fathers is more than enough reason not to pretend that the number is a Protestant invention with no basis in history.

          2. Craig,

            You can respectfully disagree, but you are wrong. Whenever a Father refers to any book as canonical, they always treat them as Scripture. But just because a father may not list a certain book as canonical, does not mean they do not think that particular book is Scripture. When giving a list of canonical books, the Father is usually giving a list that is read in their particular Church, for a particular year. In Festal Letter 39, St. Athanasius is giving a list of books to be read in his patriarchate for that particular year. Not the entirety of which books he considers Scripture.

            We see that played out even today. Revelation is considered non-canonical by most Orthodox. Many Orthodox have never heard Revelation read at their Divine Liturgy. But every one of them consider Revelation Holy Scripture.

            Craig, you said:

            Augustine believed the Jewish Scriptures are the only legitimate ones, and that the legitimate Scriptures were preserved in the temple:

            Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers from whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession…[I]t is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the diligence of successive priests (City of God, Book 15 Chapter 23).

            For St. Augustine, an apocryphal book must contain errors. Never once will you find St. Augustine saying any of the Deuterocanonicals have errors. In your quote, St. Augustine is not referring to the books the Church labels Deuterocanonical.

            Craig said:

            In City of God, Book 17, Chap 20, he includes Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach as books “which are not written in the canon of the Jews [and] cannot be quoted against their contradictions with so great validity.”

            Yet, he clearly considered both to be “Canon.” He writes in Predestination of the Saints how the Book of Wisdom “deserves to be read in Christ’s Church” (Chapter 27, 28). Elsewhere, Augustine admits that this is only in the West and not the East.

            Again, if a Father considers a book canonical, it automatically falls into the Scriptural category for them. Just because the East may not term a book canonical, does not mean that it is not Scriptural to them, as seen by what I posted above.

            Craig said:

            Further, 25 years earlier he wrote in On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 8:

            “For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.”

            It would seem that WoS earned its way as Canon due to the merits of its teaching (and its prophecy), even if it were not properly Scripture per se. The same logic appears to apply to Maccabbees, which though not Scripture ought to be read due to its teachings about the Martyrs.

            And for St. Augustine, if it’s in the canon, it is Scripture. This is from called to communion’s website:

            We see from Origen’s support for Tobias, as well as from the fathers who supported the inclusion of Baruch, that Augustine and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage were not alone in antiquity in favoring the inclusion of deuterocanonical texts. It is also unlikely that two councils of the early church–Hippo and Carthage, A.D. 393 and 397 respectively–would draw within their list of sacred books what had to that point been universally rejected. If even a majority of the Church’s leaders had rejected those books, their inclusion in the canon by St. Augustine (b. 354) and the North African councils would have created an uproar. But history records no such reaction. For this reason, Harris’s claim that with “one voice,” “all the important witnesses in the early church to about A.D. 400 . . . insist that the strict Jewish canon is the only one to be received with full credence” is false, as Bruce agrees. Bruce sees that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage “did not impose any innovation on the churches; they simply endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and of the greater part of the east.”So widely held was the belief in the deuterocanonical books, that Bruce writes, “[i]n 405 Pope Innocent I embodied a list of canonical books in a letter addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse; it too included the Apocrypha.”

            Here is the whole passage from on Christian Doctrine. Notice the part in bold, WHERE St. Augustine, when listing the books of the canon, WHICH INCLUDE THE DEUTEROCANONICALS, calls all the books that he lists as Scripture.

            13. Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:— Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles— these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:— Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books. That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following:— Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul— one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John.,

            Craig said:

            Again, not quoted. Does he say “Scripture” or “Canon”?

            You quoted it yourself, conveniently leaving out the part where he called it Scripture.

            Craig said:

            “There is a passage from St. Augustine in the year 421, where he clearly calls Maccabees part of the Old Testament.”

            Which you do not quote, so either you are conflating what he calls Canon as Scripture, or he changed his mind, which is not impossible either though I would bet not as On Presdestination of the Saints is one of the last things he wrote and he maintains the Canont but not Scripture logic for WoS.

            In the following quote on Purgatory, he clearly labels Maccabees as Old Testament.

            “We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place” (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421]).

            Craig said:

            The fact that we have plain 66 book Canons in the writings of three church fathers is more than enough reason not to pretend that the number is a Protestant invention with no basis in history.

            Well it is plain that St. Augustine holds all of the Deuterocanon as part of the Old Testament. And just because St. Jerome had doubts early on, you will find a hard time finding him saying he himself has doubts about them after 397.

          3. Duane:

            “You can respectfully disagree, but you are wrong.”

            Classy.

            “Whenever a Father refers to any book as canonical, they always treat them as Scripture.”

            This makes sense, but this has not been demonstrated and appears to be contradicted by Augustine, how Jerome treated Scripture, etc.

            “In Festal Letter 39, St. Athanasius is giving a list of books to be read in his patriarchate for that particular year. Not the entirety of which books he considers Scripture.”

            Now, I am purposely not going to tear up your whole post, because if you get details like this wrong, then I don’t see why I should painstakingly cover every other detail.

            Athanasius in that letter wrote:

            Forasmuch as some have taken in hand to reduce into order for themselves the books termed Apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the Fathers; it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as divine; to the end that anyone who has fallen into error may condemn those who have led them astray; and that he who has continued steadfast in purity may again rejoice, having these things brought to his remembrance.
            There’s nothing there about only some of the books being discussed. Further, the fact that Athanasius goes with the number 22 for the Old Testament, one for each letter of the Hebrew Alphabet, shows that he was intentionally giving a complete list (if for whatever reason the quotation above is not clear enough.)

            Athanasius continues:

            But for the sake of greater exactness I add this also, writing under obligation, as it were. There are other books besides these [the ones just listed], indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read; nor is there any place a mention of secret writings. But such are the invention of heretics, who indeed write them whenever they wish…
            It is also worth noting he did not include Maccabees, which shows he viewed it neither as Canon nor “to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of Godliness.”

            “You quoted it yourself, conveniently leaving out the part where he called it Scripture.”

            I missed the part up top which you bolded, thanks, but the part I quoted still makes my point. It does not contradict my point unlike your made up claim about Athanasius directly contradicted by what he wrote in the Festal Letter.

            “In the following quote on Purgatory, he clearly labels Maccabees as Old Testament.

            “We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight..”

            That does not seem clear to me, as it appears that he is quoting Maccabees as the authority of the Catholic Church, not Scripture. We know this to be so, because in the Handbook of Faith, Hope, and Love Augustine writes as follows:

            It is a matter that may be inquired into, and either ascertained or left doubtful, whether some believers shall pass through a kind of purgatorial fire, and in proportion as they have loved with more or less devotion the goods that perish, be less or more quickly delivered from it. This cannot, however, be the case of any of those of whom it is said, that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God,unless after suitable repentance their sins be forgiven them (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter 69).

            Clearly, the tradition of the Church was not uniform in which Augustine could have been referring to some unknown tradition as “the authority of the Catholic CHurch as clear on this point.” We know this is true, because Augustine said the doctrine is a matter of debate in the above. Rather, he was arguing the 2 Maccabees is clear on this point, and Maccabees is accepted as tradition–not as Holy Scriptures (which in the same book he denies 2 Maccabees is Scripture.)

            Just so that we are clear, this is not a hill I am itching to die on. Augustine is not entirely clear, and generally he views that Church’s acceptance of DC books as compelling enough to teach them as Scripture. So, he has a view which is not the Protestant view, but also not the Roman Catholic view (as he viewed it as okay for churches to differ on Canon.) See On CHristian DOctrine, Book 2, CHap 8 Par 12.
            “…just because St. Jerome had doubts early on, you will find a hard time finding him saying he himself has doubts about them after 397.”

            You should take note that I named Amphilocius and Rufinus as well.

            I will give you the last word. I would just ask that you be careful not to overstate your claims as you did with Athanasius.

            God bless,
            Craig

          4. Craig, you said:This makes sense, but this has not been demonstrated and appears to be contradicted by Augustine, how Jerome treated Scripture, etc.

            You cannot show even one quote from St. Augustine or St. Jerome calling a book canonical, and not treating them as Scripture. I have already shown that St. Augustine calls Maccabees canonical, and shown that he lists it as part of the Old Testament. I have shown the actual quotes. All you can say is: it appears. No, it does not appear as you say it.

            Craig said:Athanasius continues:

            But for the sake of greater exactness I add this also, writing under obligation, as it were. There are other books besides these [the ones just listed], indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read; nor is there any place a mention of secret writings. But such are the invention of heretics, who indeed write them whenever they wish…

            Craig, nothing you have posted impinges on what I stated. Read the whole letter. St. Athanasius practically calling them Scripture, is right in front of your eyes. I will show you step by step.

            1.) St. Athanasius says:

            4. There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows….

            2.) 5. Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles…

            Now notice what he says next:

            3.) 6. These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘You err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me Matthew 22:29; John 5:39.’

            When he says These, he is clearly talking about parts 4 and 5, where he gives the list of Old and New Testament books. And he says in those books alone will we find the doctrine of godliness. Craig, if we stop right here, you would seem to be correct.

            4.) 7. But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.

            Notice two things here:

            A.) He lists books that are appointed by the Fathers to be read for instruction in the word of godliness. How can these books instruct in the word of godliness, when in the above paragraph he says only the previous books listed contain godliness?

            B.) He mentions books that the Fathers appoint to be read, specifically mentioning books by name, but insists that the Fathers do not mention apocryphal writings. From this statement, we must conclude that the Fathers do not view those books as apocryphal.

            The following are writings of St. Athanasius where he quotes the Deuterocanon as Scripture, all taken from this website: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/deut.html#St.%20Athanasius%20%5B295-373%20A.D.%5D

            “But if this too fails to persuade them, let them tell us themselves, whether there is any wisdom in the creatures or not? If not how is it that the Apostle complains, ‘For after that in the Wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God?’ [1 Cor 1:21] or how is it if there is no wisdom, that a ‘multitude of wise men’ [Wisdom 6:24] are found in Scripture? for ‘a wise man feareth and departeth from evil;’ [Prov 14:16] and ‘through wisdom is a house builded;’ [Prov 24] and the Preacher says, ‘A man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine;’ and he blames those who are headstrong thus, ‘Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire in wisdom concerning this.’ [Eccl 8:1,7:10] But if, as the Son of Sirach says, ‘He poured her out upon all His works; she is with all flesh according to His gift, and He hath given her to them that love Him,'[Sirach 1:8,9]” [7] Athanasius the Great: Discourses Against the Arians, 2:79 (A.D. 362), in NPNF2, IV:391

            Here he quotes Wisdom and Sirach along with other Scriptural books. The reference to Wisdom is termed ‘Scripture’. In the same breath that he quotes from Ecclesiastes that the Preacher ‘says’, He says that the Son of Sirach ‘says’. He can refer to them in one breath as ‘non-canonical’ while still quoting them as Scripture. These books were not read in the Liturgy, but were still seen as Scripture and inspired.

            Since, however, after all his severe sufferings, after his retirement into Gaul, after his sojourn in a foreign and far distant country in the place of his own, after his narrow escape from death through their calumnies, but thanks to the clemency of the Emperor,- -distress which would have satisfied even the most cruel enemy,– they are still insensible to shame, are again acting insolently against the Church and Athanasius; and from indignation at his deliverance venture on still more atrocious schemes against him, and are ready with an accusation, fearless of the words in holy Scripture, ‘A false witness shall not be unpunished;’ [Proverbs 19:5] and, ‘The mouth that belieth slayeth the soul;’ (Wisdom 1:11) we therefore are unable longer to hold our peace, being amazed at their wickedness and at the insatiable love of contention displayed in their intrigues. [Athanasius the Great: Defence Against the Arians, 3 (A.D. 362), in NPNF2, IV:101

            Here St. Athanasius speaks of the fearless words of Holy Scripture. First he quotes Proverbs and then he quotes the Book of Wisdom. He thus terms Wisdom as ‘the fearless words of Holy Scripture.’ He uses it against his enemies. Obvious, even his enemies recognized the Book of Wisdom as the ‘fearless words of Holy Scripture’. It is almost amazing to think that some people will use St. Athanasius as an important benchmark of rejecting the Deuteros, but either are ignorant of or conveniently ignore the fact that the Saint himself uses the term ‘fearless words of Holy Scripture’ in reference to the Book of Wisdom.

            Let us not fulfill these days like those that mourn but, by enjoying spiritual food, let us seek to silence our fleshly lusts(Ex. 15:1). For by these means we shall have strength to overcome our adversaries, like blessed Judith (Judith 13:8), when having first exercised herself in fastings and prayers, she overcame the enemies, and killed Olophernes. And blessed Esther, when destruction was about to come on all her race, and the nation of Israel was ready to perish, defeated the fury of the tyrant by no other means than by fasting and prayer to God, and changed the ruin of her people into safety (Esther 4:16) [Athanasius the Great: Letter 4, 2 (A.D. 333), in NPNF2, IV:516.

            St. Athanasius refers to the need to go to spiritual food to overcome fleshly lusts. He calls Judith ‘Blessed’, and shows how her example shows how to overcome fleshly lusts through prayers. He also terms Esther ‘Blessed’. Thus, he keeps the books and persons of Esther and Judith at the same level of inspiration. Again, no distinction.

            The Spirit also, who is in him, commands, saying, ‘Offer unto God the sacrifice of praise, and pay to the Lord thy vows. Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord (Sir. 18:17).’) [Athanasius the Great: Letter 19, 5 (A.D. 333), in NPNF2, IV:546

            The Holy Spirit inspires Scripture, as all Christians agree (2 Tim. 3:16). St. Athanasius sees the Scripture of Sirach where the Spirit ‘commands’, through the book of Sirach. If Sirach was unscriptural, how could it ‘command’? Obviously St. Athanasius sees Sirach as Scripture.

            But this wearied them, for they were not anxious to understand, ‘for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory(1 Cor. 2:8).’ And what their end is, the prophet foretold, crying, ‘Woe unto their soul, for they have devised an evil thought, saying, let us bind the just man, because he is not pleasing to us’(Wis. 2:12). The end of such abandonment as this can be nothing but error, as the Lord, when reproving them, saith, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures(Mt. 22:29).’ [Athanasius the Great: Letter 19:5 (A.D. 347), in NPNF2, IV:546

            St. Athanasius terms the Book of Wisdom as written by a prophet. He terms Wisdom 2 as speaking of Jesus, as he was crucified. This is right in the midst of his quotations of 1 Corinthians and the book of Matthew. He quotes his opponents, just as Jesus alludes to his opponents in Matthew, of not knowing the Scriptures. Just as Jesus reproves the Sadduccees for not ‘knowing’ Scripture, Athanasius reproves them for not knowing Wisdom, which is obviously Scripture.

            According as the wisdom of God testifies beforehand when it says, “The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication.” (Wis. 14:12)Against the Heathen, 9 (A.D. 347), in NPNF2, IV:9.

            Here we see St. Athanasius arguing against idolatry, using the book of Wisdom. He calls it ‘the wisdom of God’. He uses the passage to teach against idolatry. Again, he sees this as authoritative in reproving idolatry.

            With the actual outlook of St. Athanasius on those books in practice, it is obviously a misreading of St. Athanasius in the 39th festal letter to say that his list of the canon is meant to be a list of all the Books that he considers Scripture. Included here we have seen citations from Baruch, Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, and the Deuterocanonical portions of Daniel. He calls the books Scriptures, calls the books as written by prophets, and uses it in proving doctrine. A side note is that as I said earlier he does not list Esther as part of the canon, and is ‘noncanonical’ but he does refer to the book a couple of times in the Schaff edition. (NPNF2, Vol. 4, pp. 516, 531) He does not say ‘It is written’ about Esther and makes no distinguishing from that book from other ‘canonical’ books. That is the same way he mostly refers to the Deuterocanonical books. He doesn’t feel he has to ‘prove’ they are Scripture, he assumes it. He quotes it in support of what he is saying, without the need in many cases to say “It is written” or ‘As scripture says’. That is the same way he mostly refers to the non-Deuterocanonical books (without saying ‘As Scripture says’ or “it is written’, or ‘fearless words of Scripture.’) That is the same as with other Fathers. In this study, I am going to those type of quotes because those are more explicit in identifying those passages as Scripture. Many times St. Athanasius doesn’t say those distinguishing comments at all (i.e. ‘Scripture says’, or ‘It is written’) but takes for granted that the Deuterocanonicals are Scripture (the same way he speaks of the Protocanonicals). He goes to these noncanoncal books but still considers them Scripture. All these books are Scripture, and treated as Scripture, so it is obvious that the term ‘canon’ does not mean ‘the full extent of Scripture.’ Most likely, the term is used only in reference to its use in a liturgical context, as indicated by Mark Bonocore. In fact this theory that the term ‘canon’ by St. Athanasius only refers to those books read in the Liturgy, makes perfect sense with the book of Esther. He excluded Esther from the liturgical canon. In fact, since the book of Esther never even uses the word ‘God’ it would make perfect sense to not use it in the Liturgical worship where worship of God is the focus. However, that does not mean that St. Athanasius saw either Esther or the Deuterocanonicals as uninspired. We’ve seen St. Athanasius use words unhesitatingly ascribing the Deutercanonicals as the ‘fearless words of Holy Scripture.’

            I believe my claims about St. Athanasius are on solid ground.

        2. Duane, sorry, you can go on no matter how long, there will always be some slippery hole for Craig to hide. Believe me, I’m tired. He hasn’t done any statistical survey of how many authorities, whom he doesn’t regard as authorities by the way, and whom he just quotes for anti-Catholic propaganda, how many of them regarded the Lutheran-cum-Jamnia-Jewish-plus-English-19-century-canon as the fallible list of inspired-and-infallible books. Of course he hasn’t done a thorough reading of all their works, either. By now you must know he establishes a 3rd-century threshold for any evidence of any doctrine, but he discards 2nd-century evidence for some doctrines as too “new”, too.

          The question is, if he doesn’t accept the authority of Tradition (Eastern and Western), and Councils (ecumenical or not) there is no way to argue . He picks and chooses from councils and tradition (including the Fathers) what pleases him, discarding the rest. He cites a bunch of 4 “Catholics” who might agree with “his” Canon, as if they were any authority for him.

          As you said:

          You cannot show even one quote from St. Augustine or St. Jerome calling a book canonical, and not treating them as Scripture. I have already shown that St. Augustine calls Maccabees canonical, and shown that he lists it as part of the Old Testament. I have shown the actual quotes. All you can say is: it appears. No, it does not appear as you say it.

          There you reach a dead end, and all he could do is jump over the wall (which he usually does).

        3. No Craig, that’s beautifully simple.

          not all the books that were Canon were considered Scripture

          You still don’t know the difference, because before you wrote:

          who affirmed the book as Canon yet explicitly rejected it as Scripture (whatever that means).

          “Whatever that means” means what? That you don’t know the difference.

          You didn’t say where it was rejected as scripture… or did I miss something?
          It doesn’t seem so:

          Duane: When he refers to Holy Scriptures in that sentence, he is clearly referring to the Holy Scriptures that Jews of his time hold as canonical, NOT to what the Church holds as Scriptural. Which is why in the very next sentence he calls Maccabees canonical, and distinguishes them from what the Jews hold as canonical.

          And after that it seems you still hold to “whatever that means”.

          Just refreshing the difference:

          Duane said:

          When giving a list of canonical books, the Father is usually giving a list that is read in their particular Church, for a particular year. In Festal Letter 39, St. Athanasius is giving a list of books to be read in his patriarchate for that particular year. Not the entirety of which books he considers Scripture.

          We see that played out even today. Revelation is considered non-canonical by most Orthodox. Many Orthodox have never heard Revelation read at their Divine Liturgy. But every one of them consider Revelation Holy Scripture.

          And to close with a golden key:

          These are held as canonical, not by the Jews, but by the Church

          Wow! Augustine saying explicitly that Maccabees are considered canonical by the Church (of which he was a member… was he not? Did he say “the Church considers them canonical, but I do not?”), because of the Church, and not because of the Jews of his time…

          You say: more than a few, but just cite… few. With no authority.

          Yes, things are quite simple. You accept a “canon” by a Jewish rabbi who believed in a false Messiah after Jesus. We believed in what the overwhelming majority of Christians have believed for over a thousand years before your champions (Luther, Calvin and Co.) were born.

          So let me tell you what is simplistic: simplistic is a youtube video like yours (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCLQhv-Ygs8), boasting that some dressing codes are Christian and others aren’t. Now, that is simplistic.

  3. That’s a call to more than a superficial “me and Jesus” relationship:

    The Me and Jesus “relationship” is not that at all; it is a Me as I wish Jesus was relationship.

    The protestant attempt at a me and Jesus relationship (Modern Catholics, sadly, are adopting the terminology and Pope Saint John Paul II was the first to use “personal relationship with Jesus”) intentionally ignores all of the mediating ministers/structures He established; that is, the protestant personal relationship with Jesus, has to ignore/destroy the idea of Pope,Bishop, Priest, Church, Sacraments, that Jesus Himself created as the necessary way to have Communion with Him.

    Of what possible use is a “personal relationship with Jesus” that eviscerates all He established as crucial to a relationship with Him?

  4. God uses numbers in the Bible. I don’t think it is coincidental that 73 comprises the holy numbers 7 and 3 – trinity and the number 7. While the number of books in the new testament is 27 – the two natures of Christ and 7 (note that Christ is the New Testament). In his rebellion to the Church, Luther removed 7 books which gives 66 books and the number 6 in the Bible suggests something unholy because incomplete.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *