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August 08, 2006



What sorts of things do these books contain that would cause tension? :)

Ryan C


And yes, I was wondering the same thing to, Shane.

I would really like to see one of these reunions in my lifetime too. Let's keep praying!

Rob F.

Thanks for clearing that up for me Jimmy. Your point about this being "not something to be automatically wished for" is a good one. Perhaps the tone of my question was not as neutral as I tried to make it; I do have a strong attraction to these books. Not that I regard them as canonical, but I do miss the inclusion of the "Apocrypha" section in Catholic Bibles (and Protestant ones too!). While they may not be infallibly inspired like the canonical books, they are a part of our Catholic tradition, and should be treasured for that reason alone. Add to that the romantic notion that they may still yet be "doubtful", and this tradition takes on some excitement and an aura of mystery that blows the so-called "Gospel of Judas" out of the water.

God bless you!

Rob F

Shane, I don't know the answer to your question, but annotation from the Douay Bible that I quoted above went on to mention Enoch, which it disapproved of. Here's a more complete quote.

From Volume I of the Old Testament, Proemial Annotations, The Sum and Partition of the Holy Bible with a brief note of the Canonical and Apocryphal books.

True it is that some of these books (as we shall particularly discuss in their places) were sometimes doubted of by some Catholics, and called Apocrypha, in that sense as the word properly signifieth hidden, or not apparent. So St. Jerome (in his prologue before the Latin Bible) calleth divers books Apocryphal, being not so evident, whether they were Divine Scripture, because they were not in the Jews' Canon, nor at first in the Church's Canon, but were never rejected as false or erroneous. In which sense the Prayers of Manasses, the third book of Esdras, and the third of Machabees are yet called Apocryphal. As for the fourth of Esdras, and the fourth of Machabees there is more doubt. But divers others, as the book ascribed to Enoch, the Gospels of St. Andrew, St. Thomas, St. Bartholomew, and the like rejected by St. Gelasius (Decreto de libris Ecclesiaticis dist. 15 Can. Sancta Romana) St. Innocentius the first (Epist. 3) St. Jerome, Epist. ad Laetam 3, Augustin. I.15 cap. 3 de civit. Dei, Origin homi 2 in Cantica, are in a worse sense called Apocryphal, and are rejected as containing manifest errors, as famed by Heretics. Neither can a Christian Catholic be otherwise assured, but by declaration of the Catholic Church, which without interruption succeedeth the Apostles, to whom our Savior promissed, and sent the Holy Ghost, to teach the truth.

Some Day



It would make sense to have some kind of formal recognition of books that have long been recognized by the Eastern Churches, such as Psalm 151, 3 and 4 Maccabees, etc.

Enoch is a very interesting book. Obviously, it wasn't written by the Enoch that it claims to be written by, but I have to think that at least part of it is inspired in that a lot of the prophecies in the book point directly to Christ, and everyone is at least in agreement that the book predates Christ's birth.


It is good to see pointed out that the apocrypha were not universally accepted in the early and patristic church, and were still regarded merely as 'worthy books' until Trent.

There is a very large distance between "are to be received" and "is the inerrant word of God."

The books that were not initially universally listed in every list of canon in the sub-apostolic Church prior to Trent, simply weren't universally available. Books had to be hand-copied. They had to be carried on roads subject to bandits. They may well have been considered contraband until Constantine made Christianity a religio licita.

That is why there was uncertainty. Bruce, Metzger, etc., the general texts for canonics, would give this in more detail.

Historical study of what texts were available when and where, and accepted by whom do not give credence to the arguments that some well-intentioned Catholics make that, like King James-only sectarians, God re-inspired Jerome's Vulgate (except, apparently, for his rejection of the apocrypha as inerrant Scripture), and that somehow the Protestants -removed- the apocrypha (let alone allegations of removing NT texts) from the canonical, inerrant Scriptures.

As in the example of Enoch, there can be true statements, even Divine ones, in texts that are not as a whole, the inerrant word of God. If the entire text, taken in context, with attention to genre, is not the inerrant word of God, it isn't Scripture. It might well be very worthy. They might be as valuable as the works of the recognized Doctors. But they are not necessarily the ultimate source of authority on what is true.


Ack, for the first appearance of Trent, read 'Nikaea'


Ok, I'm going away from posting for the moment. :-) I mean the -second- listing of 'trent' should be Nikaea.

Michael Deem

Great post, Jimmy. Joseph T. Lienhard, one of the premiere American Patristics scholars, touches on the issue of a "closed" or "open" canon in his The Bible, the Church and Authority. He ultimately concludes that the canon must be considered open.

Please allow me to audaciously disagree that a hypothetical (re)union with certain Orthodox groups could create a scenario in which the Latin Rite (and those Eastern rites already in union) would maintain the canon of Trent while those newly (re)joined would maintain a slightly different Old Testament canon.

The analogy you use of the precise moment of the Real Presence does not seem to be adequate. This issue on the consecration of the bread and wine is a theological question that persists in the Catholic Church today. That is why no official statement on this matter has ever been issued by the magisterium. Consider the plurality of differing opinions among the Scholastics alone. Thus, there is no need to brand this question as an East/West dispute only.

The question as to who actually administers the Sacrament of Matrimony is not an essential question to faith. Like the issue with the Real Presence, there have been differing opinions on that question in the Latin Church alone.

But the canon is an issue that is far more essential, and the notion that the Church would permit a persistant theological uncertainty seems rather unlikely. Consider the various Fathers of the Church who insisted on the importance of establishing a UNIVERSAL canon. The lists of Athanasius, Pope Damasus I, Augustine, Jerome, Eusebius and John Damascene--not to mention those of the various local councils--were penned with an urgency that is hardly to be found among those discussions of the Real Presence or Matrimony. To imagine that there would not be unanimity on the question of the Word of God yet true ecclesial union seems quite contrary to the very spirit of unity in which the scriptures are meant to compliment: the Liturgy, and more specifically, the Eucharist.

In our contemporary ecclesial scene and in light of the Council of Trent, the canonicity of certain books does not seem likely to ever be left to ambiguity again.

Evangelical Catholicism


Jimmy --

Who put the tribbles in the quadrotriticanonicals?

Ryan C

Marueen's humorous query puts a question to my mind: what about canons on other worlds? (assuming sentient life was there as well as a Christ-event)

Mary Kay

Maureen, Applause! Applause!


Aquinas somewhere (in one of his few extant sermons, I think) deals with the deuterocanonicals in a way that might be relevant to the question. He holds that all the books are given to the Church by the Holy Spirit, but there is a sharp difference between the way in which the Holy Spirit gave them: the basic canon was received from the Spirit by the Church, in that she found over time that she needed those books for authentic worship. The deuterocanonical books, however, are due to the Church's teaching authority, which she has through the Spirit: she found that certain books, like Judith or Tobit, had been found uniquely valuable for teaching certain important things throughout the universal Church. So there are books that are canonical because the Spirit established them as canonical for the Church; and there are books that are canonical because the Church established them by her Spirit-given authority upon finding them universally valuable for Christian teaching (the deuterocanonical works). While there's nothing official about this way of looking at it (as far as I know), it gives one possible perspective on the question.

I don't know who put the tribbles in the quadritriticanonicals, but in Scotland they think the problem was solved by the Catholic Kirk.

Eric G.

Why the heck was my post deleted, wherein I simply noted that the earliest Eucharistic liturgies, including the modern East Syrian liturgy, does not contain the Words of Institution; and so it is impossible that the Words are necessary for a valid consecration, as we Latins typically hold?


Rob F.

Michael Deem said, "But the canon is an issue that is far more essential, and the notion that the Church would permit a persistant theological uncertainty seems rather unlikely."

Certainly the authors of the Douay Bible commentary agree with you, but still I'm not so sure that that is true, Michael. The Church allowed persistant theological uncertainty for 15 centuries before deciding this issue. My guess as to why she finally did so is that the brand new dogma that Luther invented called "Sola Scriptura" (by which he really meant "Sola Scriptura canonica" as he would be the first to tell you) made the whole issue a hot topic. The topic wasn't very hot before because for any given book of Scriptures, the text was either (a) divinely inspired and thus utterly infallible, or (b) handed down by the tradition of the Church and thus authoritative only in matters of faith and morals. Since Scriptures are mostly only used for deciding matters of faith and morals anyway, the distinction between (a) and (b) is mostly academic. I don't know much about the Orthodox, but it seems they don't find the issue to be very pressing, and I bet it's for the same reason. The mania for the canon, like the related mania concerning critical editions of the Bible, seem to both be fallout from the 16th century idea of Sola Scriptura, an idea that seems to have left something of a mark on Catholics as well as Protestants.

All Christian bibles before the 17th century, Catholic as well as Protestant, contained some books that were considered by everyone to be non-canonical. It wasn't until the 18th century that Catholic bibles were printed without the Apocrypha. In the 19th century bibles without Apocrypha became common among Protestants, but they haven't entirely disappeared yet. It's a pity that Catholics today who want to read these treasures of the Church's tradition have to pick up a Protestant bible to do so.


Rob F.,

Thanks for the reply.

The canon was indeed a hot topic much earlier than the 16th century, especially during the 4th century. So heated was the talk during this century that major figures from Rome, Carthage and Alexandria issued lists of canons that were intended to end the discussion. Athanasius attempted to answer the question in the mid-4th century. Pope Damasus I wrote his Tome in 382 AD, which was adopted by the Latin African churches in 393 AD (Hippo) and in 397 AD (Carthage). Even the great Church historian Eusebius included a large passage in his Ecclesiastical History on the universally accepted and the locally disputed books of scripture (324 AD), which gave expression to the opinions of Syriac and Asia Minor churches.

Trent was the first conciliar listing of the books of the canon, but not the first ecclesial issuance of an authoritative decree on the matter. After Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana, which included the list of Hippo and Carthage, the uncertainty over the canon was more or less settled in the Latin Church. Trent, in the end, gives explicit expression to what had already long been held by the Latin Church for nearly 1200 years.


However, according to the theology common in some Eastern Catholic churches, the Real Presence appears earlier, when the Holy Spirit is invoked upon the elements to transform them, a point known as the Epiklesis.

Actually, the epiclesis generally occurs later, not earlier, than the words of consecration in the Eastern Rites. See, e.g., http://www.byzantines.net/liturgy/liturgy.htm : the epiclesis occurs just after the institution narrative.

J. R. Stoodley

Regarding the book of Enoch, St. Jude (and thus the Holy Spirit) certainly seems to propose that the passage he quoted from was indeed prophesied by Enoch, who was indeed in the seventh generation from Adam.

Nothing is said about the rest of the book, and if there are doctrinal problems with it and no substantial history of acceptance of it in the Catholic Church, but rather pretty clear rejection from early centuries on, I suspect that only portions of it are inspired. Perhaps there was an earlier inspired text related to Enoch that was plagerized from, or that became so corrupted that in was no longer at all reliable. The part quoted by St. Jude might be the only part of the book that is real Enochean prophecy, or there might be other valid parts. That does not at all mean that the entire book is inspired, so I do not think there is any "tension" created by St. Jude's statement and the fact that the book is not in the Catholic canon.

In fact, the author of Hebrews quotes (and makes it an inspired revelation) a non-Scriptural Jewish legend about manna and the staff of Aaron being kept in the Ark not just the tablets of the 10 Commandments. This does not make that whole set of traditions and legends true, just that one part. St. Paul quotes a panthiestic Greek poet when he says "in him we live and breath and have our being", giving us one of the most beloved passages of scripture but not endorseing all of that poet's writings.

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