Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Canonical Dilemma III

Luther was no slouch…after all, he was a catholic. He was trained as a monk, knew his biblical languages…in fact, he translated all of scripture including the seven extra books Trent affirmed. Luther knew the history of the formation of venerable books better than I ever will. Luther loved God. Luther loved the Roman Catholic Church, thus the term “reformer.” Luther had no intentions of starting a new branch of Christianity called Protestantism. In seminary I grew to love the quirky Luther. My major, Biblical Languages would have been right up the alley of the guy who coined the term Sola Scriptura…certainly that guy had strong historical and intellectual reasons for breaking from tradition.

In Canonical Dilemma II I focuses primarily on the councils of the RCC and not much on the individuals that led up to them, simply with the assumption that the individuals (church fathers) formed the historical premise for combating heresy at each occasion.

But there are discrepancies, and Luther knew this. The generation or two following the earthly life of Jesus accepted the Old Testament as scripture, but certainly not the New Testament. How could they? It had not yet been compiled. Books found within the New Testament certainly were used and taught…but so were books not included in the New Testament canon accepted by the RCC (Hermas, Barnabas, Didache, and 1 and 2 Clement, to name a few). So if figures early in the history of the Christian church, the church fathers, who, mind you were a part of the catholic (lit. greek, according to the whole) and not the RCC, and even some apologists who followed this group of men who directly connect the church with apostles could have made some mistakes about the New Testament (which were eventually corrected by the RCC) couldn’t they have made mistakes as well regarding the Old Testament?

In 1534 Luther finished his copy of scripture. His copy was similar to ours today, except the apocryphal books were placed after the Old Testament as an appendix with a note stating that these books were held as not equal to scripture, but valuable to read. Trent, the council that OFFICIALLY canonized what the RCC would hitherto call scripture, did not occur until 1545-1563.

Before Luther RCC scholars had called into question the legitimacy of the same books Luther had. Desiderius Eerasmus had his own doubts, and was even vocal about them. The difference being Erasmus did not take issue with the church, nor have a following of unruly seminary students rallying behind him like Luther had. There are circles of thought out there that suggest that Luther, had it not been for Zwingli and Calvin, would have promoted his canon with the apocrypha.

Why Luther ultimately decided the seven apocryphal books were substandard to the rest of scripture.

1) They added nothing new to
developing themes throughout scripture.
2) Luther interpreted scripture through Christological lenses…if any book of the
Bible did not have overwhelming historical acceptance AND distorted the Christ
event and the intertwined grace, it was on thin
3) They promoted ideas/practices that
disagree with scripture as a whole.
I can sympathize with points one and two,
but three, if taken seriously, would decimate many books accepted by Luther and
Trent. (i.e. the proto Gnostic tendencies of John).

I could go on forever, but this is a blog post, not a dissertation. Where am I left personally when it comes to this canonical conundrum? Only time, study, and dependence on the Holy Spirit will tell.


Amanda Rickman said...

"Only time, study, and dependence on the Holy Spirit will tell."

Didn't you mean to add in additional degrees? I'd definitely sit in on some of your classes Dr. Watson.

well written (again).

Anonymous said...

hey nate, you do not know me...but in your last post you had said something about searching out the main branches of christianity catholicism and protestantism and i am wanting to suggest to you looking into the eastern orthodox tradition as well...i am a former evangelical myself and have found many answers to the questions your are posing here in the Orthodox church...i think you will find Truth, beauty and peace when you seek out the Church in the east...may i suggest a few websites

i hope, even for curiousity sake, you will find new things to broaden your horizon...
peace to you my friend

Nate Watson said...

Thanks Anonymous,
I will check out the links. My wife and I enjoyed the visit to the Greek Orthodox church recently (travel bug). I would be interested in hearing your journey fromevangelical Christianity to the Eastern church. Thanks again, I am thrilled by your comment and interest in my blog!