How Important is the Canon of Scripture?

Marco Cardisco, Saints Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great (16th c.)
Marco Cardisco, Saints Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great (16th c.)

How important is it that all Christians operate from the exact same Bible? You may be surprised to learn that for most of Church history, the (implicit) Christian answer was “not that important.” Why was this the case? And why isn’t it the case today? To get to the bottom of this, let’s talk about two general approaches to Scripture and doctrinal orthodoxy:

I. The Common Destination

One of the earliest Christian heresies was Marcionism. Its founder, Marcion of Sinope (c. 85- c. 160), claimed that the God of the Old Testament was an evil God, and not the same as the good God of the New Testament. In short, Marcion’s heresy is about trying to de-Judaize the Gospel, and this heresy leads him to try to purge the Scriptures of all of their Jewish elements. As you might imagine, Marcionites threw out the entire Old Testament. They also denied the inspiration of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or John. Instead, they had a Biblical canon consisting only of (heavily-edited versions of) the Gospel of Luke and some of St. Paul’s letters.

The Catholic response is fast and fierce, denouncing Marcionism as the heresy that it is, and affirming that the God of the Old Testament is one and the same good God as the God of the New. You might, at this point, expect them to explain just what the Old and New Testament are, to put forward a Catholic Christian canon to counter the Marcionite one. But they don’t. Instead, they go straight to the heart of the problem (the heresy that the God who created the world is different from the God who redeemed it), without focusing very much on the incomplete canon (which was, after all, merely a symptom of the underlying heresy).

In acting in this way, the early Christians were following the pattern laid down by Christ. He, too, skipped an obvious opportunity to set the canon of Scripture. In Mark 12, the Sadducees approach Him with a question meant to make the idea of bodily resurrection look ridiculous. Mark notes that this is because the Sadducees “say that there is no resurrection” (Mark 12:18), but he doesn’t mention why they say that.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s because the Sadducees’ Bible only included the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Several early witnesses attest to this. For example, St. Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 A.D.) said that the Sadducees “do not, however, devote attention to prophets, but neither do they to any other sages, except to the law of Moses only, in regard of which, however, they frame no interpretations.” Likewise, Origen (184-253) said that “although the Samaritans and Sadducees, who receive the books of Moses alone, would say that there were contained in them predictions regarding Christ, yet certainly not in Jerusalem, which is not even mentioned in the times of Moses, was the prophecy uttered.”

Jesus responds to the Sadducees’ skepticism about the resurrection by accusing them of knowing “neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Mark 12:24). Yet He doesn’t furnish them with a corrected list of inspired Scripture; instead, He shows them proof of the resurrection from their own Bible (Mk. 12:26-27; Exodus 3:6). His focus on isn’t ensuring that they have all of the right books, but that they read the books rightly.

And surely, Jesus and the early Christians have their priorities in the right order. After all, listen to how St. John explains the role of his Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). John’s Gospel – indeed, the entire Bible – was never meant to be an exhaustive account of everything that Jesus said or did. Instead, the Scriptures are a sort of means to an end: they reveal God and His will to us, so that we can come to believe and be saved. Given this, it makes sense that Jesus, the Apostles, and the Church Fathers seem less interested in debating the details of which books are in the Biblical canon. The important thing is that you have an orthodox, saving faith. How you get there is of secondary importance.

II. The Common Departure

With the Protestant Reformation, the picture that I painted above is turned upon its head. If Jesus and the earliest Christians were concerned about making sure that everyone ended up at the same place (orthodoxy), the Reformers’ emphasis is ensuring that everyone departs from the same place. There are three reasons for this shift.

First, because the Reformers rejected the papacy, the infallibility of Church Councils, and the infallibility of Sacred Tradition. For example, Martin Luther argued at the Diet of Worms, that “councils contradict one another so that we, who build on them, ultimately no longer know where pope, council, Church, Christ, or we must stand.” But Church Councils, the papacy, and Sacred Tradition are the tools by which the Church leads believers to the common destination of orthodoxy, and of ensuring that everyone was interpreting the Scriptural (and Traditional) data in a harmonious way.

Second, the Reformers declare the exclusive authority of Scripture. Without the aid of the three tools listed above, how can Christians be expected to unanimously find their way to Christian orthodoxy?  The Reformers suggested that Scripture alone would be sufficient. According to Martin Luther, as long as we have the Bible, we don’t anyone telling us what it means, because “nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world.”  So as long as we all have the Scriptures and are led by the same Holy Spirit, we will all agree upon everything.

Third, the Reformers reject doctrines taught in the Deuterocanon. It is important for Protestants that the canon doesn’t include the full 73 books of the Catholic Bible. Before the Reformation, it wasn’t particularly important whether or not someone recognized Second Maccabees as divinely inspired, as long as they believed in the message contained within the book. With the Reformation, you simultaneously see the rejection of 2 Maccabees as Scripture and the rejection of some of its teachings — so it becomes critically important to establish whether or not 2 Maccabees is orthodox and inspired. John Calvin, in his “Antidote” to the Council of Trent admits that support for some of the controversial Catholic teachings can be found in the Catholic Bible:

Add to this, that they provide themselves with new supports when they give full authority to the Apocryphal books. Out of the second of the Maccabees they will prove Purgatory and the worship of saints; out of Tobit satisfactions, exorcisms, and what not. From Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] they will borrow not a little.

So Catholics rightly find support for Purgatory and veneration (not worship) of the Saints in 2 Maccabees, for exorcisms in Tobit [and Matthew 10:8 and other parts of the New Testament, but who’s counting?], and so on. In other words, for Protestants to be right, they have to show not only that Christianity was supposed to have been sola Scriptura, but also that the Deuterocanon (the so-called “Apocrypha”) isn’t part of inspired Scripture.

III. The Result of the Reformation

The pre-Reformation Church focused almost exclusively upon making sure that everyone arrived at the fullness of the orthodox Catholic faith. How they got there – which books of the Bible they read, and how the understood what they read – was of secondary importance, as long as they arrived at the right place. With the Reformers, the emphasis becomes ensuring that everyone begins from the same starting place: the Bible alone. Eventually, this becomes more specific: everyone should start from the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. Then, led by the Spirit, they’ll interpret everything clearly.

Of course, this doesn’t work in real life, which is why there are so many Protestant denominations (not 33,000, but an enormous number nevertheless). It’s also why there are huge theological disputes within denominations. Between conservative Presbyterians and their liberal Presbyterians counterparts, for example, you’ll find disputes over everything from the morality of abortion to the historicity of the Resurrection… differences much larger than the differences between conservative Presbyterians and conservative Baptists, or between liberal Presbyterians and liberal Anglicans. Unlike comparable theological disputes within Catholicism, these fights are interminable and irresolvable, since there’s no authority capable of stepping in to settle the debate. From the common sola Scriptura starting place, but there’s no way of ensuring everyone arrives at a common destination. Thus, we’ve seen a steady and continual increase in new denominations and schisms, as Protestant Christianity becomes ever-more fractured and divided.

Ultimately, this shift from a common destination to a common point-of-departure matters for three reasons:

First, because the Protestant model is ultimately unbiblical, untraditional, and unworkable. It doesn’t reliably terminate in orthodox Christianity, and it doesn’t reliably lead to the formation or preservation of a single Christian Church. Nothing within the model seems capable of overcoming the dual “bugs” of heresy and schism.

Second, it explains why the canon of Scripture matters so much more now than it did before. If you want to persuade a Protestant that prayers for the souls in Purgatory are a proper part of Christian prayer, it won’t suffice (as it might have for, e.g., a Christian of the fourth century) to show that it’s been part of Christian Liturgy and prayer from the very beginning, or that the Church has routinely reaffirmed the orthodoxy and import of these prayers. Rather you’ll probably need to show that this is a teaching found in Scripture… which requires a prior sense of what does and doesn’t constitute as “Scripture.” Is it enough to show that these prayers are found in 2 Maccabees?

Before the Reformation, the Church’s canon of Scripture was clear (the Biblical list is given, for example, by the Council of Florence in 1442), but it wasn’t until the Council of Trent, in the wake of the Reformation, that the Church took the trouble to define this 73-book list infallibly. Given what we’ve just seen, that’s less surprising than it might be otherwise.

Third and finally, this shows why a fourth-century Catholic could get away with an incomplete canon in a way that a modern Protestant can’t. The fourth-century Catholic had all sorts of tools and failsafes guiding him in his faith: the papacy; the Councils of the Church (at least by midway through the century); the prominent bishops and theologians we now call the Church Fathers; the Liturgy (with all of the spiritually and theologically rich prayers of the Mass, for example); and the general lived experience of the Church. These tools and failsafes have been almost entirely stripped away (sometimes intentionally, sometimes otherwise) by the last half-millennium of Protestantism. As a religious system, it has been unflinching in its reliance upon Sacred Scripture alone as an authority to point believers towards orthodoxy… only to discover that it’s incapable of determining which books even belong in Scripture, and which don’t.

40 Comments

  1. I wonder if you might be willing to do a post on various Bible translations? I converted to the Catholic Church in January of 2015, and am still struggling to find a Bible I like to read. My favorite translation has been the KJV for many years, and giving up the comfort of familiar words and phrasing has been very difficult. There are far fewer options for Catholic Bibles and I’m really having a hard time finding one I like. That is just considering the content, without even taking into consideration the far greater variety of covers, sizes, and printing formats available to a Protestant. (I do think that Protestant publishers go a bit overboard in this department, but on the other hand, Catholics have so very few options. Would a Bible with a feminine-styled cover be so terrible?)

    I bought myself a Douay-Rheims and an RSV, but I’m not really happy with either one. I miss my KJV. Wish I could find it with the Deutero-Canon included.

    1. Elizabeth,

      Deltaflute is right about my personal preferences. I prefer formal to dynamic translation, meaning that I’ll take a slightly-clunky sounding translation that is more-or-less word-for-word over a “translation” that just conveys the general meaning.

      In certain contexts, I like the older English of the KJV or Douay-Rheims, but for regular reading and blog citation, I like the RSV:CE. I would describe the RSV:CE’s language as modern-but-dignified, a sort of via media between the exalted language of the KJV and the more casual language of the NAB. The RSV:CE’s footnotes are also generally good, which isn’t the case of some Bible translations.

      Given your own preference for the KJV’s language, you might consider a devotional “KJV with Apocrypha” (like this one). Just beware that it’s not perfect, and what it calls “Apocrypha” is actually canonical.

      1. That’s what I was looking for! Thank you so much! I found a copy of just the Deutero-Canonical books in KJV on that same page, so I’m going to get those to keep with the KJV I already have. I also prefer the formal translations. I really appreciate your tracking that down for me.

  2. I’d agree that “the general lived experience of the Church” is the chief means believers understand correct doctrine. Most people a Trinitarians for reasons other than logical deductions made from the Scripture.

    However, a sola scriptura view DOES NOT mean everyone should be extrapolating their own doctrines from the Scripture. It only means that the only doctrines we can be certain of are revealed in the Scripture.

    A few other comments:

    1. Joe writes that Calvin rejected the Deuterocanon because it taught Catholic doctrines, and implies his is true of all of Protestantism. I think Joe cannot say this is the reason that every Protestant rejects the Deuterocanon, as the reasons are mainly historical. NOW, you can argue it is BAD HISTORY, and I agree, but we need to portray this perspective.

    2. Further, as Joe and I already argued on 2 Maccabees, it is arguable that 2 Maccabees 12 speaks of prayers to the dead (or Tobit and Sirach of satisfaction, and etcetera). I see no reason to reject 2 Maccabees because of the 12th chapter.

    Now, the thing I find misleading about the article is that it implies that if you had an expanded Canon, these Catholic doctrines would be forgone conclusions. But, this is incorrect. Augustine, who accepted 2 Maccabees, said, “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” (Handbook, Chap 69).

    Now, Augustine did not say this because he himself doubted the doctrine. In fact, he was one of the earliest written proponents of the doctrine. However, Augustine’s testimony makes it clear that BOTH 1. the lived in experience of the Church did not settle this issue in his time and 2. the Scripture did not settle the issue.

    Yet, this article would make it seem otherwise, and that in fact, purgatory must be some sort of essential doctrine. To this I must ask, how can it be so essential when from Augustine’s time and centuries before people lived without a developed notion of the doctrine, or any notion at all? By definition it must NOT be essential, even if it were true.

    3. I think a plain inference one can draw from the article is that the Scriptures are not sufficient in of themselves to teach doctrines and this is why a formulated Canon was not necessary for 15 centuries.

    Joe, I must respectfully disagree in very strong terms. This is both unbiblical and untraditional.

    Athanasius wrote, “for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things” (De Synodis, Chapter 6) and in a dozen chapters in this same book, quoted councils that would reject any doctrine that they did not find explicitly in the Scriptures. For example, “we anathematize every heretical heterodoxy. And if any teaches, beside the sound and right faith of the Scriptures” (Ch. 23) and “For neither is safe to say that the Son is from nothing, (since this is no where spoken of Him in divinely inspired Scripture,) …Nor may we, adopting the hazardous position, ‘There was once when He was not,’ from unscriptural sources” (Ch. 26).

    Augustine wrote that: “But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops…the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them” (Against the Donatists, Book II, Chap 3).

    These men affirmed that only the Scripture is inerrant, and Athanasius specifically refused to accept doctrines that could not be demonstrated from the Scriptures.

    In fact, both Peter and Paul set this example in their final letters.2 Peter 1:12-2:1 goes into detail how Scripture, not a bishopric or a live in tradition, is the safeguard against false prophets. Then we have 2 TIm 3:10-4:5, where Paul teaches the exact same thing. In fact, I will avoid even getting into more details on these texts, simply because I have written enough here and they are worthy of Joe and everyone else here taking a very careful look at.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Craig,

      You say: “However, a sola scriptura view DOES NOT mean everyone should be extrapolating their own doctrines from the Scripture. It only means that the only doctrines we can be certain of are revealed in the Scripture.”

      Question: What is the official Protestant definition of “sola scriptura”? Please provide an accurate reference not pointing to your opinions.

      The reason I ask is because what you’re saying about sola scriptura is not true. Protestantism has already given every cherry-picker of scriptures out there the license to start his own church. It’s the name of the game in your town for the last 500 years. So who is going to tell Protestants that it is wrong to extrapolate? Is it you?

      If so, then tell that to your fellow Protestants. They are guilty of violating your opinion on that silly doctrine. They need your wisdom more than we do.

      But if it is not you, then why are you telling us what sola scriptura should mean?

    2. Craig, you claim: “Joe writes that Calvin rejected the Deuterocanon because it taught Catholic doctrines, and implies his is true of all of Protestantism. I think Joe cannot say this is the reason that every Protestant rejects the Deuterocanon, as the reasons are mainly historical. NOW, you can argue it is BAD HISTORY, and I agree, but we need to portray this perspective.

      I argued no such thing. Rather, I argued that “With the Reformation, you simultaneously see the rejection of 2 Maccabees as Scripture and the rejection of some of its teachings — so it becomes critically important to establish whether or not 2 Maccabees is orthodox and inspired.”

      My point wasn’t that they denied the Deuterocanon because they denied the doctrines that portion of Scripture taught. It was that they denied the Deuterocanon and denied the doctrines that portion of Scripture taught.

      So Protestants had better be getting the canon right, or they’re in serious doctrinal trouble (as they deny doctrines that they should affirm). And that wasn’t the case of Christians before the Reformation, who believed in Purgatory and prayers for the dead regardless of their views on the canonicity of 2 Maccabees.

      1. I think you missed my point. You said that the Protestant conundrum is that they denied an essential doctrine. However, this is not even possible.

        First, your contention is unbiblical. 2 Macc 12 explicitly does not endorse anything other than Maccebeus’ prayer being good because it had in view the resurrection of the dead. So, it affirmed the existence of the resurrection. The fact that the text fails to say that the prayer was even good, or that God answered it, or that it can under any circumstance avail the dead is crucially damaging to your POV.

        Second, your contention is ahistorical. How can Protestants reject a necessary doctrine, when that same doctrine was under dispute in orthodox circles 1,000 years previously, by Augustine’s own admission? This would be proof that the doctrine, one way or the other, is NOT necessary for salvation.

        I’ll give you the last word 🙂

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. Your “under dispute” is under dispute. Citing a handful of doubters is nothing compared to an ocean of people who either accepted, endorsed, or didn’t care much. Your “widespread dispute” is minimal and negligent, and statistically irrelevant.

          “The fact that the text fails to say that the prayer was even good, or that God answered it, or that it can under any circumstance avail the dead is crucially damaging to your POV.”

          I guess you’re just wrong here.

          12:43: after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection.

          So, for you, “fine and noble” isn’t good?

          So, for you, the temple accepting that request for sacrifices meant nothing?

          If it could not avail the dead it would be stupid for them to pray and request sacrifices! If they were with God, it would be useless to pray for them; if they were in Hell (or an equivalent of place where no one gets out), it would be useless to pray for them as well. Now remembering that the Jewish concept of She’ol, even today, is more akin to Purgatory (and the Jews admit this themselves, I’m not making this up, see https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/choosing-judaism/inspiration/belief-in-heaven-is-fundamental-to-judaism/), it all makes sense.

          By the way, your Baptist faith is against it, and some Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists and Episcopalians are for it. It is just easier to deny prayers for the dead and Purgatory if you deny that Maccabees is not an inspired book. Indeed, I’ve heard several Protestants claim that Maccabees couldn’t be inspired, because it contains “heresies”…

          1. “12:43: after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection.

            So, for you, “fine and noble” isn’t good?”

            I think you need a little bit of a more literal translation.

            et facta conlatione duodecim milia dragmas argenti misit Hierosolymam offerri pro peccato sacrificium bene et religiose de resurrectione cogitans

            And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.

            http://vulgate.org/ot/2machabees_12.htm

            Google translate, an unbiased ‘bot, pretty much says the latin says the same thing:

            https://translate.google.com/#auto/en/et%20facta%20conlatione%20duodecim%20milia%20dragmas%20argenti%20misit%20Hierosolymam%20offerri%20pro%20peccato%20sacrificium%20bene%20et%20religiose%20de%20resurrectione%20cogitans

            God bless,
            Craig

          2. You picking up one translation from the Latin that suits your interpretations will do no good. Just check the Greek version, and other translations. When you cannot just deny the canonicity of it, you bring specious exegesis-cum-translation to fit a square peg in a round hole. No, it is you who need “a little bit of a more literal translation.”

            43 And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection:

            http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=22&page=12

            ποιησάμενός τε κατ᾿ ἀνδραλογίαν κατασκευάσματα εἰς ἀργυρίου δραχμὰς δισχιλίας, ἀπέστειλεν εἰς ῾Ιεροσόλυμα προσαγαγεῖν περὶ ἁμαρτίας θυσίαν, πάνυ καλῶς καὶ ἀστείως πράττων ὑπὲρ ἀναστάσεως διαλογιζόμενος

            ===

            He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.

            http://www.katapi.org.uk/katapiNSBunix/Lxx/LxxByKFmTo.php?&KFm=112012038.00&KTo=112012045.00

            ===

            πάνυ – altogether
            http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=pa%2Fnu&la=greek

            ===

            ἀστείως – honorably

            ==

            καλῶς — well, rightly

            ===

            πράττων – acting, doing,

            ===

            ὑπὲρ ἀναστάσεως (resurrection) διαλογιζόμενος (thinking/considering/taking into account).

            ===

            DouayRheims(i) 43 And making a gathering, he twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection,

            KJV(i) 43 And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection:

            Geneva(i) 43 And hauing made a gathering through the company, sent to Ierusalem about two thousande drachmes of siluer, to offer a sinne offering, doing very well, and honestly that he thought of the resurrection.

            ===

            43 Et, facta viritim collatione ad duo milia drachmas argenti, misit Hierosolymam offerri pro peccatis sacrificium, valde bene et honeste de resurrectione cogitans.

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_vt_ii-maccabaeorum_lt.html#12

            (Note the addition of “valde” (very much) for πάνυ which was missing in the translation you gave, and see the still missing translation for πράττων.)

            By the way, the first translation I got was the Jerusalem Bible, which I thought you’d gladly accept. Here’s RSV’s version:

            “In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.”

            So, according to almost all translations from the Greek, well/fine + honestly/nobly refer to the action.

            But of course you didn’t mind going through the other Latin verses:

            “45 et quia considerabat quod hii qui cum pietate dormitionem acceperant optimam haberent repositam gratiam 46: sancta ergo et salubris cogitatio pro defunctis exorare ut a peccato solverentur”.

            “But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (RSV).

            Anyway, the text says that his actions (prayer + sacrifices) were not just good, they were a “holy and pious thought”, he was acting “very well”, “honorably”, “nobly”.

          3. KO, perhaps I was unclear when I quoted the Vulgate. I really appreciate you quoting the Greek, because it proves my point.

            Your initial translation included the translational inflection “prompted.”

            “an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection”

            Hence, your original translation leads the reader to believe that the action of the prayer itself was fine and noble, and his belief in the resurrection merely prompted the prayer.

            However, look at what all your Greek translations say in your most recent reply:

            “doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection:”

            “In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.”

            “thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection,

            “doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection”

            “thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection,”

            Here’s an interlinear Septuagint with the whole verse broken down:

            ποιησάμενός UPON BEING-DO/MAKE-ED (NOM)
            τε AND [POSTPOSITIVE COORDINATE]
            κατ’ DOWN/ACCORDING TO/AS PER (+ACC), AGAINST (+GEN) ἀνδρολογίαν εἰς INTO (+ACC) ἀργυρίου PIECE OF SILVER (GEN) δραχμὰς DRACHMAS/DRACHMAI (ACC) δισχιλίας TWO THOUSAND (ACC) ἀπέστειλεν HE/SHE/IT-SEND-FORTH-ED εἰς INTO (+ACC) Ιεροσόλυμα JERUSALEM (NOM|ACC|VOC), JERUSALEM (NOM|VOC) προσαγαγεῖν TO-BRING περὶ ABOUT (+ACC,+GEN) ἁμαρτίας SIN (GEN), SINS (ACC) θυσίαν SACRIFICE (ACC) πάνυ καλῶς WELL/RIGHTLY καὶ AND ἀστείως πράττων WHILE TRANSACT?-ING (NOM) ὑπὲρ ABOVE (+ACC), ON BEHALF OF (+GEN) ἀναστάσεως RESURRECTION (GEN) διαλογιζόμενος WHILE BEING-DELIBERATE-ED (NOM)

            Just in case you missed the important part, look at the term “GEN.” It refers to the genitive case, which is a noun that modifies another noun. It appears to me “on behalf of” modifies “resurrection”. So, they were not thinking well (πάνυ καλῶς) and religiously (ἀστείως πράττων) on behalf of (ὑπὲρ) the sacrifice. Rather, they were thinking well and religiously on behalf of the resurrection (ἀναστάσεως).

            Better students of language and Greek please speak up, but I think all the translations you quoted show that I’m right.

            ___

            You say–“So, according to almost all translations from the Greek, well/fine + honestly/nobly refer to the action [of the sacrifice].”

            I honestly don’t see how you come t this conclusion. In all of the above Greek translations, it is clear that his adherence to the belief in resurrection was fine and noble–not specifically the prayer. That is why your original translation was so misleading.

          4. It’s not “my” original translation. All other translations from the Greek agree. Whereas ” ἀστείως πράττων WHILE TRANSACT?-ING (NOM)” makes no sense.

            I shall no longer make the case that you bear ill intentions out of ignorance against Joe’s assertion above. It’s no longer the case; it’s deliberate.

            Your Greek “interlinear” makes no sense, while the only translation that stands out to agree with you is a Latin one.

            All because you deny that there were doctrines in Maccabees that Catholics approve of; you believe the only doctrine that is there is the resurrection. And you fuss about Greek minutiae — let the other readers judge for themselves, and register their impressions here.

          5. I cannot see why the meaning would be so twisted as to state the obvious, when the specific subject of the narrative of the event is the prayer and the sacrifices. What he did was “fine and noble”, “because” of his belief in resurrection. If you read the verses that follow, there’s even an explanation for the reason why belief in the resurrection makes it a reasonable attitude.
            “an action fine and noble”, “doing therein very well” etc etc.

            Look how you contradict yourself in the same paragraph:
            ” 2 Macc 12 explicitly does not endorse anything other than Maccebeus’ prayer being good”.
            So, first you say that the prayer was good… but then you say it is not good:
            “The fact that the text fails to say that the prayer was even good”.

            Make up your mind. The text is not just about “belief in resurrection is good”. What was done because of that belief was also good. Period.

            I’m just reading what the text says, provided a handful of “literal” translations from the Greek along with some vocabulary, just for the sake of argument, and you quote an incomprehensible “interlinear” Greek that even mistranslates/forgets a word ἀστείως, translates another πράττων with a word that doesn’t even fit the context, and then you say my first translation (Jerusalem Bible) was tendentious, and when I present a series of similar translations, the majority which agree with the Jerusalem Bible, you go on and say it’s no the translation, it’s not the translation: the problem is my interpretation thereof! (from text which are quite clear)… just to prove your point that prayers for the dead (and purgatory, for that matter) are never good in the Bible, the Mac. doesn’t support prayers for the dead as a good and pious action, and that therefore it doesn’t matter whether Mac. is canonical or not, because it doesn’t support the doctrines Catholics say it supports, anyway. I’ll leave others here to judge whether your position is a sensible one.

            There are many Protestant apologetics saying that “The Apocrypha inculcates doctrines at variance with the Bible, such as prayers for the dead”.

            So, for them, Mac. “inculcates” those doctrines — not for you. You cannot find those “doctrines” there.

    3. “how Scripture, not a bishopric or a live in [sic] tradition, is the safeguard against false prophets.” If it were so, why have so many false prophets arisen from among the sola scriptura Christians, and none that I know of among traditional Christians? And why have so many heresies arisen even among those who read the same Bible?

    4. Craig,

      The doctrine of sola scripture is itself an extrapolation from the scriptures. It is not in the Bible. It was never used as criteria in selecting the books of the Biblle to form its canon. Protestants just invented that doctrine. And now you’re saying it means we should not extrapolate from the scriptures?

  3. Craig – However, a sola scriptura view DOES NOT mean everyone should be extrapolating their own doctrines from the Scripture. It only means that the only doctrines we can be certain of are revealed in the Scripture.

    Me – but what doctrines are certain if you exclude oral Tradition and some kind of authority to help us be certain? And how can you be certain if you are not 100% certain you have a complete bible?

    You also contradicted yourself in the previous paragraph by stating “Most people a Trinitarians for reasons other than logical deductions made from the Scripture”.

    So most Protestants should reject the Trinity because they are not certain its revealed in Scripture. They are folowing doctrines from someone else who extrapolated their own doctrines from scripture.

    1. CK:
      Craig – However, a sola scriptura view DOES NOT mean everyone should be extrapolating their own doctrines from the Scripture. It only means that the only doctrines we can be certain of are revealed in the Scripture.

      One could revert the question and ask: “Which doctrines that are revealed in the Scripture can you be certain of?” or “Which doctrines are revealed in scripture?”
      Certainly not sola scriptura, sola fide, &c; Presbyterianism, “Baptistism”, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Mormonism, Calvinism, Adventism, etc etc.

    2. “what doctrines are certain if you exclude oral Tradition and some kind of authority to help us be certain?”

      Only explicit statements of Scripture. The Scripture explicitly calls the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit God. Therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity is a certainty.

      All other doctrines, without explicit sanction, lack the same degree of certainty.

      1. Here’s some comments by some dude saying the Trinity is a myth and he’s using Scripture to support it. Using Scripture he is certain of his position and you are certain using the same Scriptures. You both disagree with one another…Scripture tells you to take it to the church. Which church would you take this guy to?

        By the way didn’t it take a church council to put the issue of the Trinity to bed?

        Below is his support..

        The Trinity is a Brainwashometer

        The trinity is therefore a ‘Brainwashometer’. If the victim is prepared to believe that one is three and that a father is his own son and that a son is uncreated, then he is prepared to believe anything at all and so he is fully brainwashed. Once he is in this condition, his logic is removed, his objectivity has gone, he is mentally defenceless, so he or his family can be pumped for money, sex, status, worship, whatever the priest wants.

        So by making the trinity doctrine the central doctrine of the Roman Catholic faith, that church was auto selecting brainwashed people. The control freak only wants brainwashed people. He cannot permit free thinkers to enter the congregation, they might see through his little game and liberate his brainwashed victims. It is a pleasure to be able to reveal the truth behind this despicable mind game that the Roman Catholic Church has relied on for 1700 years.

        Just for fun, we list 13 scriptures that prove that Jesus was not God and that the Holy spirit was not Jesus and not God…

        Buster1

        32 For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him, but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come (Matthew 12).

        So the holy spirit and the Son are not co-equal and are different beings.

        Buster2

        15 He said to them: You, though, who do you say I am?
        16 In answer Simon Peter said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
        17 In response Jesus said to him: Happy you are, Simon, son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal [it] to you, but my Father who is in the heavens did (Matthew 16).

        So God revealed it not Jesus, so they are two different spirits.

        Buster3

        23 He said to them: You will indeed drink my cup, but this sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father (Matthew 20).

        So God and Jesus have separate possessions.

        Buster4

        18 Jesus said to him: Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God (Mark 10).

        So God is good and Jesus is not, so they are different people with different characters and different levels of righteousness.

        Buster5

        36 Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24).

        So God knows things that Jesus does not know. So they have no ‘unity of Godhead’.

        Buster6

        1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God. Exercise faith also in me (John 14).

        Two different beings to put your faith in.

        Buster7

        28 You heard that I said to you, I am going away and I am coming [back] to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am (John 14).

        So the two of them are not co-equal then.

        Buster8

        42 saying: Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let not my will, but yours take place (Luke 22).

        So God and Jesus have two different wills. So there is no ‘unity of Godhead’.

        Buster9

        41 Therefore they took the stone away. Now Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
        42 True, I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth (John 11).

        So God sent Jesus forth, and God himself remained entirely in heaven whilst Jesus was on the earth.

        Buster10

        9 You must pray, then, this way: Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified (Matthew 6).

        Jesus himself was entirely on earth and God was entirely in heaven when he said this!

        Buster11 (we were enjoying ourselves so much)!

        46 About the 9th hour Jesus called out with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27).

        One cannot easily forsake oneself can one! The Father was God of the son. The son was not God of the father. This was one of Sir Isaac Newton’s anti trinity arguments.

        As a final argument, if it is true that Jesus and God are the same person, then Jesus talked to himself in public, and prayed to himself in private and so was in fact a schizophrenic. This is plainly a false insult both to God and to his Son.

        Buster12 (and another thing…)

        16 The one alone having immortality [aqanasian], dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no one of men has seen, nor is able to see (1 Timothy 6).

        Literally aqanasian means ‘without death’. So God has not died and will never die. Whereas of course Jesus has died. Therefore Jesus is not God – QED.

        Buster13 (why stop?)

        5 So too the Christ did not glorify himself by becoming a high priest, but [was glorified by him] who spoke with reference to him: You are my son; I, today, I have become your father.
        6 Just as he says also in another place: You are a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.
        7 In the days of his flesh [Christ] offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.
        8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered;
        9 and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him,
        10 because he has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5)

        One cannot be a priest of oneself. Jesus must be a different person to God in order that he can be God’s priest. Just as Melchizedek was a different person to God. God became Jesus’ father again by saving him out of death, by resurrecting him.

        Buster14

        23 But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.
        24 Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power (1 Corinthians15).

        How do you hand over something to yourself?

        Buster 15

        10 I was cast on You from the womb, from My mother’s belly, You are My God (Psalm 22 – GLT)

        David is speaking as Jesus here (hence JP Green uses a capital Y for ‘you’. Jesus does not say: I am my God. He says: You are my God.

        Buster 16

        18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. (John 1 KJVi)
        18 No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him. (John 1 NWT)
        18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, that One declares [Him]. (John 1 GLT)
        18 God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is on the bosom of the Father — he did declare. (John 1 YLT)
        18 God no one has seen ever; the only-begotten son, that being in the bosom of the Father, he has made known. (John 1 ED)
        18 God no one has seen at any time; only-begotten god the (one) being into the bosom of the Father that (one) explained. (John 1 KIT)
        18 qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ monogenh.j qeo.j o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ (John 1 UBS4)
        18 qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ o` monogenh.j ui`o.j o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro,j( evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ (John 1 TIS)
        18 qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ o` monogenh.j ui`o,j( o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,sato (John 1 STE)
        18 Qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,rake pw,pote\ o` monogenh.j ui`o,j( o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro,j evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ (John 1 SCR)
        18 Qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ o` monogenh.j ui`o,j( o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro,j( evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ (John 1 BYZ)
        18 Qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ monogenh.j qeo.j o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ (John 1 NA27)
        18 Qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote monogenh.j qeo.j o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro,jà evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ (John 1 TRE)
        18 qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ monogenh.j qeo.j o` w’n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,sato (John 1 WHO)
        18 qeon oudeij ewraken pwpote monogenhj qeoj eij to kolpon tou patroj ekeinoj exhghsato (John 1 SCSa)
        18 qeon oudeij ewraken pwpote monogenhj qeoj o wn eij ton kolpon tou patroj ekeinoj exhghsato (John 1 VatB)

        The term only begotten (literally – only generated) God sinks the trinity completely unless you buy the concept that a son can be begotten/generated without being created which is an abuse of language.

        The Sinaiticus, the VaticanB and the Syriac Peshitta have only begotten God. The Alexandrinus has only begotten son. The Codex Bezae has John 1:17 to John 3:15 missing and comes in with the only begotten son of John 3:16 – How convenient!

        The Alexandrinus is 5th century, whereas the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus are 4th century codices. The Syriac Peshitta is 5th century but was translated from the Hebrew is the 1st or second century it is believed. http://www.dukhrana.com/peshitta/analyze_verse.php?verse=John+1:18&font=Estrangelo+Edessa&size=150. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshitta

        No one corrupts a text to fit a doctrine that they do not have. So it must be the Alexandrinus that was corrupted to fit the trinity doctrine.

        Buster 17

        The trinity defines God as being three persons in one being. But this is 3 spirits in one soul which is demonic. Also God is a spirit said Jesus, and we must worship him in spirit and truth. Jesus did not say that God is 3 spirits!

        24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth. (John 4 KJVi)
        24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth. (John 4 NWT)

      2. “All other doctrines, without explicit sanction, lack the same degree of certainty.”

        Every metaphysical doctrine lacks any degree of certainty. Even faith in the Bible and faith in God lack any degree of certainty, and I’m not certain of either one of them. I’m not even certain of your existence, since it’s not in the Bible, or in the Upanishads. But I certainly find no doctrine in scripture that say that only doctrines in scripture are 100% approved by Yahweh, that Yahweh has written it himself, given methods to know which texts are sacred, inspired or whatever.

        “The Scripture explicitly calls the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit God.”
        That almost made me laugh. Tell that to CK’s guy below.

  4. The more I read Protestants’ writings about “orthodoxy” or “heresy”, the more I realize that doctrine is the last thing they care about. In most things I read, the underlying belief is simply that true doctrine is as unreacheable as the ultimate scientific truth, that doctrines are just conjectures, falsifiable hypotheses, or (at the same time!) unprovable beliefs. Ergo, contradictory interpretations of practice and faith don’t matter, what matters is the kernel of truth, just as I’ve seen here before in Joe’s blog: belief that Jesus died for your sins ipso facto saves you. It doesn’t matter what you believe he is, what you believe his followers preached; it doesn’t matter what you practice. What is heresy in such an intelectual (or anti-intelectual) environment? “Heresy” takes the form of a harmless opinion, usually between Protestant sects, or takes the form of Catholic/Orthodox/Coptic/etc. doctrine (though they reserve 99% of their energy to Catholic doctrine). That is why in the “Encyclopaedia of Protestantism” by Hans Hillerbrand, GEORGE H.SHRIVER, calls protestantism the “most graphic of heretical movements”.

    When asked what is heresy, someone said: “what is not in the Bible”. When asked how he knows what’s in the Bible, since “John” says X is in the bible, but “Mary” says it’s not, according to Mary, John is a heretic. There is no way out and heresy looses all meaning. It’s just a battle between unfounded opinions and no one will ever know which one is true, and this fact really doesn’t matter for one’s salvation (even if you disagree about what salvation itself means).

    But I’ve noticed the same reaction from more affable folk. The endline is: heresy and schism don’t matter. Period. Doctrine is not faith, therefore doctrine is secondary. When asked “do you believe your church is the true church”, one guy answered: “I never thought about it. I don’t think about truth. I just feel well in that church”. “A name on the church door won’t save you”, that’s what they say about “denominations”. Discussions such as the canon are evaded with bogus claims about Jamnia, about the reformers’ “inspiration”, about the self-manifest lies contained in those books (see Calvin’s view quoted by Joe above).

    So, I guess Joe’s post today is important for a number of reasons. Because of what I said, no argument Joe put forth here will ever convince anyone who thinks that such questions are useless to begin with.

    Once I said here that for Protestants, truth doesn’t matter, and somebody disagreed. But the same guy who said that truth mattered said that we could never be certain of anything, and that nothing could be proved with certainty, and since Christians can never be certain of any doctrines in which they disagree, those doctrines are mere differences that don’t matter. Hence, yes, truth about those doctrines, which make up most of Christian doctrines, doesn’t matter. Even the one truth they could possibly agree with, since they’re protestants after all, is sola scriptura, but even then it cannot be proved from the Bible, nor from the Church Fathers, though that is the dream of many Protestant apologists.

  5. “The authority of Scripture

    52. The conflict concerning indulgences quickly developed into a conflict concerning authority. For Luther, the Roman curia had lost its authority by insisting only formally on its own authority instead of arguing biblically. At the beginning of the struggle, the theological authorities of Scripture, the church fathers, and the canonical tradition represented a unity for Luther. In the course of the conflict, this unity broke apart when Luther concluded that the canons as interpreted by Roman officials conflicted with Scripture. From the Catholic side, the argument was not so much about the supremacy of Scripture, with which Catholics agreed, but rather the proper interpretation of Scripture.

    53. When Luther did not see a biblical basis in Rome’s statements, or thought that they even contradicted the biblical message, he began to think of the pope as the Antichrist. By this, admittedly shocking, accusation, Luther meant that the pope did not allow Christ to say what Christ wanted to say and that the pope had put himself above the Bible rather than submitting to its authority. The pope claimed that his office was instituted iure divino (“by divine right”), while Luther could not find biblical evidence for this claim.” From Conflict to Communion via http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/lutheran-fed-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_2013_dal-conflitto-alla-comunione_en.html#The_authority_of_Scripture_

  6. 209. Today, the role and significance of the Holy Scripture and tradition are therefore understood differently in the Roman Catholic Church than they were by Luther’s theological opponents. Regarding the question of the authentic interpretation of Scripture, Catholics have explained, “When Catholic doctrine holds that the ‘judgment of the church’ has a role in authentic interpretation of Scripture, it does not attribute to the church’s magisterium a monopoly over interpretation, which adherents of the Reformation rightly fear and reject. Before the Reformation, major figures had indicated the ecclesial plurality of interpreters…When Vatican II speaks of the church having an ‘ultimate judgment’ (DV 12) it clearly eschews a monopolistic claim that the magisterium is the sole organ of interpretation, which is confirmed both by the century-old official promotion of Catholic biblical studies and the recognition in DV 12 of the role of exegesis in the maturing of magisterial teaching” (ApC 407).

    210. Thus, Lutherans and Catholics are able jointly to conclude, “Therefore regarding Scripture and tradition, Lutherans and Catholics are in such an extensive agreement that their different emphases do not of themselves require maintaining the present division of the churches. In this area, there is unity in reconciled diversity”(ApC 448).(82)

    Just let that last paragraph sink in for a few minutes.

    1. It was the Lutherans that went out of the Church and broke its unity. That’s why they’re called Lutherans. Therefore, if different emphases do not require maintaining the present division of the churches, then Lutherans shoulld not maintain it.

      “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” (1John 2:19)

      Former Lutheran Pastor: “Why I Am Becoming Catholic …”
      http://aleteia.org/2016/03/18/former-lutheran-pastor-why-i-am-becoming-catholic/

      1. What are you referring to when you say that “Lutherans that went out of the church and broke its unity”? Luther was excommunicated by the Pope. He did not leave, rather, he was kicked out for not recanting.

        I read the blog you linked to in your post. There could be an interesting conversation to be had from this, but it seems clear that many here rather try to attack the faith of others than have a conversation. It is not within Christian charity to trash others (especially people I have never met in person), so I will refrain. I pray my brothers and sisters in Christ would also show such charity.

        1. I don’t believe that being excommunicated means “kicked out”. (Luther would have known this.) I understand that if that medicinal action is taken the person still must attend the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass and continue as a catholic by supporting the parish/community he/she belongs to. Just wondering if Luther left his Augustinian community prior to being excomm.??? Did he formely submit his discontinuance with the order?

          1. TEO, I like how you ask a question for getting further to the truth. My memory of Luther’s life from the various sources was that he stayed within the order from the start of the reformation through the excommunication. It is worth looking up to be sure on this, so thank you for the challenge to dig a little more for the truth.

        2. Rev – how long would it take for a Lutheran Reverend to be “excommunicated” from your Lutheran church once he started denying Luther’s view on salvation, baptism, authority etc…? I’d say less than five years. If said reverend refused to change his views, would you be running around saying he didn’t leave Lutheranism he was kicked out! Seriously….

          There are some (a couple, maybe?) that are not very respectful of others view, but I wouldn’t call it attacking. There are some here (Maybe one?) that take pleasure in pointing out discourse within the Vatican and the Church in general…That’s also not very respectful or kind.

          So I say give dialogue a try and if the wheels start to come off you can walk away.

          1. CK, you present an interesting question by flipping it around to excommunication in the Lutheran church. My denomination, ELCA, is rather open for various views based upon scripture, faith, and plain reason. I do not know of any ELCA pastors removed for teaching away from traditional Lutheran teachings on sin, grace, or another doctrine; I do know of stories of pastors removed for ethics violations. Your question/example does not fit my denomination. The other Lutheran denominations in America today are rather quick to excommunicate, so your example could apply to them. They would probably say that the pastor was “removed” and hence showing a forced push from the church.

            Part of my post was also directed at myself. I was trying to show restraint myself and encourage others to also show Christian charity towards others. There may be a few here who can ruin things for many with comments made out of less charitable motives. One reason I even started to post on this blog was because there seemed to be a lack of respect or true understanding of other denominations in the comments (yes, that can certainly go both ways). I have a great deal of respect for my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Roman Church. There have been great strides towards understanding and unity with our churches in the last 40 years, and I like to point out this understanding and growing unity.

  7. Hi Joe,

    I always enjoy your articles. They are so well-argued and challenging to this Anglican. Having a sure sense of doctrine must be a very comfortable place. 🙂

    For our part in the Church of England we spend most of our theological training learning how to do ‘theological reflection’, which means considering what Scripture, Tradition and Reason (and sometimes also personal experience) might have to say.

    Recognising that everyone prioritises these authorities differently in different circumstances, we may sometimes come to different conclusions about God’s nature and will, but we also learn to respect (and argue against) those who come, legitimately, to different positions.

    Yet we remain (sometimes tenuously it must be said) part of the same body.

    Personally I feel this ‘via media’ is superior to the approach of those reformed Churches which do not allow their members theological freedom but rather impose on them a ‘Confession’ to which they must adhere or be expelled. It seems to me that many reformed Churches are as strict as Roman Catholics in enforcing their own interpretation of Scripture as authoritative, perhaps even more so, and with less justification.

    The advantage for the Catholic Church is that it can justify its authority through its link to Peter, though I find it slightly ironic when the authority of Peter is justified from Scripture.

    Anglicans do of course struggle with having to deal with almost every possible theological interpretation as acceptable within our Church. Our gift has been that we have somehow managed to live with it, and even make a virtue of it!

    May God bless you Joe.

    1. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you in the comments, even if it’s a reminder of how embarrassingly negligent I’ve been in responding to your e-mail. In any case, I am quite glad to hear from you again!

      Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree with you about the existence of Reformed communities which are as doctrinally strict as Roman Catholicism, and with less justification (since they lack the sort of authority needed to be making the sort of declarations that they make).

      Regarding the Church’s relationship to the Petrine passages in Scripture, a few thoughts on the irony. If all of the Scriptural passages were omitted which speak about the authority of the visible Church generally or of St. Peter specifically, there would still be the bare fact of the Catholic Church’s existence. That is, from the earliest point that we see Christianity on the scene, it’s being put forward by a visible community built around (and constituting) an institutional Church.

      It would seem, from this historical fact alone, that if you wanted to know what this Church’s religion was, the best way to find out would be to ask the representatives of that Church. For example, if I said that “Christianity teaches X,” and X is a teaching that no Christian on earth believes, it’s hard to see how my statement could possibly be true. When the Reformation happens, you have something very similar to this: a sudden new X appears that was without historical precedent. And objectively, an observer could say “these aren’t Christian teachings!”

      Of course, this raises the question of whether or not something can become a Christian teaching through gradual acceptance. An objective observer (apart from the eyes of faith) couldn’t answer that, but Christians should be able to. If X was false yesterday, it can’t become true tomorrow without changing the Gospel. And since the Gospel never changes, we have our answer.

      That said, if the Church/Peter passages didn’t exist, it would seem that both sides of the debate would have arguments that are basically circular: I accept the Church because the Church says so, and you don’t because you don’t recognize the authority of the Church when she says so.

      But that’s only if there were no Scriptural evidence. Now, if I say that we should look to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church; and you (hypothetically) say that we should look to Scripture; and Scripture says that we should look to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church… then you’re the odd one out. Your argument would be self-refuting.

      So I’m quite glad that Scripture is contains these passages supporting the papacy and the visible Church, even though I recognize the potential irony in privately interpreting these passages.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. Thoughts on +Welby’s plan to begin untangling the Anglican Communion?

  8. Craig Truglia writes:
    “However, a sola scriptura view DOES NOT mean everyone should be extrapolating their own doctrines from the Scripture. It only means that the only doctrines we can be certain of are revealed in the Scripture.”
    Strictly speaking, he is correct. Sola scriptura does not mean everybody extrapolating their own doctrines. However, the inevitable consequence of adopting sola scriptura is that everyone has to extrapolate their own doctrines. You cannot take anybody else’s word for it. You, and only you, have to read the Bible and decide for yourself what it means. You cannot say: My Church teaches this so I believe it. You cannot say: Martin Luther, John Calvin (or whoever) taught this so I believe it. No, you have to go the Bible and work it out for yourself.
    But before you do that you have to work out what exactly is the Bible. And you have to do that yourself. You cannot just go into a shop and ask for a copy of the Bible. Such a book has been put together by humans (in the sense that the selection of what went into it was decided by humans) and you can’t take their word for it. So anybody who actually, seriously, believes in sola scriptura has to read every book which is in the Bible and decide for himself whether or not he agrees that they are all inspired AND THEN go off and read all the other books which have at one time or another been considered to be inspired and decide which of those books he considers to be inspired. But, in reality, how many Protestants actually do that? Is not the reality that just about every Protestant takes a Bible already made and, by implication, accepts that the people who put it together are infallible?

    1. Mike17 – excellent points. This is why Sola Scriptura did not exist before the 1500’s. Even in theory it was an impossibility. Probably 90% of the population could not read and even less had access to written Scripture in the 1400s and no one probably had the access to early Christian writings like we do today. Not only that, we probably only have a small percentage of all the early Christian writings. Most were lost. So one might be looking for evidence that no longer exists.

      Someone on this site asked (I’m paraphrasing) Doesn’t faith in Jesus require you have faith in His church?

      Instead of trying to rehash every doctrine, what is Scripture or not, etc… Just spend time finding His Church. Looking at History will at eliminate the Protestant churches and leave a couple to choose from. Those are much better odds.

  9. Rev Dark Hans – CK, you present an interesting question by flipping it around to excommunication in the Lutheran church. My denomination, ELCA, is rather open for various views based upon scripture, faith, and plain reason. I do not know of any ELCA pastors removed for teaching away from traditional Lutheran teachings on sin, grace, or another doctrine; I do know of stories of pastors removed for ethics violations.

    Me – my point if pastor Joe refuses to comply with what ever standard or basic teaching the ELCA expects of them (i.e. He starts teaching Arianism or the Pope is infallible, Christ was not sinless, the bible is not inspired, etc… Take your pick) and is removed, I don’t think you’d go around trying to spin Pastor Joe’s situation in a positive light by saying Pastor Joe didn’t leave us he was kicked out.

    It’s the same with Luther. That’s the point I was trying to make.

    1. What people fail to realize is that Luther didn’t want to leave the Church (you may believe that unless you read his letters before his break with Rome), as long as she agreed with him. He felt it was better for him to reign (and reign he did) in Lutheranism, than to serve in Catholicism.

  10. “In fact, he who grounds his faith on Scripture only, that is, on the result of his exegetical studies, has no faith, can have none, and understands not it’s very nature. Must he not be always ready to receive better information ; must he not admit the possibility, that by nature study of Scripture another result may be obtained, then that which has already been arrived at?”
    Symbolism -Johann Adam Mohler

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