Canon of the Holy Scriptures. —The word canon as applied to the Scriptures has long had a special and consecrated meaning. In its fullest comprehension it signifies the authoritative list or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined for the well-being of the Church, using the latter word in the wide sense of the theocratic society which began with God’s revelation of Himself to the people of Israel, and which finds its ripe development and completion in the Catholic organism. The whole Biblical Canon therefore consists of the canons of the Old and New Testaments. The Greek kanon means primarily a reed, or measuring-rod; by a natural figure it was employed by ancient writers both profane and religious to denote a rule or standard. We find the substantive first applied to the Sacred Scriptures in the fourth century, by St. Athanasius; for its derivatives, the Council of Laodicea of the same period speaks of the kanonika biblia and Athanasius of the biblia kanonizomena. The latter phrase proves that the passive sense of canon, viz., that of a regulated and defined collection, was already in use, and this has remained the prevailing connotation of the word in ecclesiastical literature.
The terms protocanonical and deuterocanonical, of frequent usage among Catholic theologians and exegetes, require a word of caution. They are not felicitous, and it would be wrong to infer from them that the Church successively possessed two distinct Biblical Canons. Only in a partial and restricted way may we speak of a first and second Canon. Protocanonical (protos, “first”) is a conventional word denoting those sacred writings which have been always received by Christendom without dispute. The protocanonical books of the Old Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews and the O. T. as received by Protestants. The deuterocanonical (deuteros, “second”) are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters, but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the Catholic Church, though those of the O. T. are classed by Protestants as the “Apocrypha”. These consist of seven books: Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to Esther and Daniel. Some portions of the New Testament whose canonicity was formerly contested are sometimes styled the deuterocanonicals of the N. T. These are the. Epistle to the Hebrews, those of St. James and Jude, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of John, that of St. Jude, and the Apocalypse; also a few portions of books. The origin and history of the doubts concerning these writings will be considered in their place. Protocanonical and deuterocanonical are modern terms, not having been used before the sixteenth century. As they are of cumbersome length, the latter (being frequently used in this article) will be often found in the abbreviated form deutero.
The scope of an article on the sacred Canon may now be seen to be properly limited to an examination of (1) what may be ascertained regarding the process of the collection of the sacred writings into bodies or groups which from their very inception were the objects of a greater or less degree of veneration; (2) the circumstances and manner in which these collections were definitely canonized, or adjudged to have a uniquely Divine and authoritative quality; (3) the vicissitudes which certain compositions underwent in the opinions of individuals and localities before their Scriptural character was universally established. It is thus seen that canonicity is a correlative of inspiration, being the extrinsic dignity belonging to writings which have been officially declared as of sacred origin and authority. It is antecedently very probable that according as a book was written early or late it entered into a sacred collection and attained a canonical standing. Hence the views of traditionalist and critic (not implying that the tradionalist may not also be critical) on the Canon parallel, and are largely influenced by, their respective hypotheses on the origin of its component members.
I. THE CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AMONG THE JEWS
It has already been intimated that there is a smaller, or incomplete, and a larger, or complete, Old Testament. Both of these were handed down by the Jews; the former by the Palestinian, the latter by the Alexandrian, or Hellenist, Jews; in consequence, this large topic must be subdivided:
(1) The Canon among the Palestinian Jews (Protocanonical Books)
The Jewish Bible of today is composed of three divisions, whose titles combined form the current Hebrew name for the complete Scriptures of Judaism: Hat-Torah, Nebiim, wa-Krthubim, i. e. The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. This triplication is ancient; it is supposed as long-established in the Mishnah, the Jewish code of unwritten sacred laws, reduced to writing c. A.D. 200. A grouping closely akin to it occurs in the N. T. in Christ’s own words, Luke, xxiv, 44: “All things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me.” Going back to the prologue of Ecclesiasticus, prefixed to it about 132 B.C., we find mentioned “the Law, and the Prophets, and others that have followed them”. The Torah, or Law, consists of the five Mosaic books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. The Prophets were subdivided by the Jews into the Former Prophets U. e. the prophetico-historical books: Josue, Judges, Samuel (I and II Kings), and Kings (III and IV Kings)] and the Latter Prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and the twelve minor Prophets, counted by the He-brews as one book). The Writings, more generally known by a title borrowed from the Greek Fathers, Hagiographa (holy writings), embrace all the remaining books of the Hebrew Bible. Named in the order in which they stand in the current Hebrew text, these are: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Esdras, Nehemias, or II Esdras, Paralipomenon.
(a) Traditional view of the Canon of the Palestinian Jews, or Proto-Canon.—In opposition to scholars of more recent views, conservatives do not admit that the Prophets and the Hagiographa represent two successive stages in the formation of the Palestinian Canon. According to this older school, the principle which dictated the separation between the Prophets and the Hagiographa was not of a chronological kind, but one found in the very nature of the respective sacred compositions. That literature was grouped under the Kethubim, or Hagiographa, which neither was the direct product of the prophetical order, namely, that comprised in the Latter Prophets, nor contained the history of Israel as interpreted by the same prophetic teachers—narratives classed as the Former Prophets. The Book of Daniel was relegated to the Hagiographa as a work of the prophetic gift indeed, but not of the permanent prophetic office. These same conservative students of the Canon—now scarcely represented outside the Church—maintain, for the reception of the documents composing these groups into the sacred literature of the Israelites, dates which are in general much earlier than those admitted by critics. They place the practical, if not formal, completion of the Palestinian Canon in the era of Esdras (Ezra) and Nehemias, about the middle of the fifth century B.C., while, true to their adhesion to a Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, they insist that the canonization of the five books followed soon after their composition.
Since the traditionalists infer the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch from other sources, they can rely for proof of an early collection of these books chiefly on Deuteronomy, xxxi, 9-13, 24-26, where there is question of a book of the law, delivered by Moses to the priests with the command to keep it in the ark and read it to the people on the feast of Tabernacles. But the effort to identify this book with the entire Pentateuch is not convincing to the opponents of Mosaic authorship.
The Remaining Books.—The Completion of the Palestinian-Jewish Canon.—Without being positive on the subject, the advocates of the older views regard it as highly probable that several additions were made to the sacred repertory between the canonization of the Mosaic Torah above described and the Exile (598 B.C.). They cite especially Isaias, xxxiv, 16; II Paralipomenon, xxix, 30; Proverbs, xxv, 1; Daniel, ix, 2. For the period following the Babylonian Exile the conservative argument takes a more confident tone. This was an era of construction, a turning-point in the history of Israel. The completion of the Jewish Canon, by the addition of the Prophets and Hagiographa as bodies to the Law, is attributed by conservatives to Esdras, the priest-scribe and religious leader of the period, abetted by Nehemias, the civil governor; or at least to a school of scribes founded by the former. (Cf. II Esdras, viii—x; II Machabees, ii, 13, in the Greek original.) Far more arresting in favor of an Esdrine formulation of the Hebrew Bible is the much-discussed passage from Josephus, “Contra Apionem”, I, viii, in which the Jewish historian, writing about A.D. 100, registers his conviction and that of his coreligionists—a conviction presumably based on tradition—that the Scriptures of the Palestinian Hebrews formed a closed and sacred collection from the days of the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longimanus (465-25 B.C.), a contemporary of Esdras. Josephus is the earliest writer who numbers the books of the Jewish Bible. In its present arrangement this contains 40; Josephus arrived at 22 artificially, in order to match the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, by means of collocations and combinations borrowed in part from the Septuagint. The conservative exegetes find a confirmatory argument in a statement of the apocryphal Fourth Book of Esdras (xiv, 18-47), under whose legendary envelope they see an historical truth, and a further one in a reference in the Baba Bathra tract of the Babylonian Talmud to hagiographic activity on the part of “the men of the Great Synagogue”, and Esdras and Nehemias.
But the Catholic Scripturists who admit an Esdrine Canon are far from allowing that Esdras and his colleagues intended to so close up the sacred library as to bar any possible future accessions. The Spirit of God might and did breathe into later writings, and the presence of the deuterocanonical books in the Church’s Canon at once forestalls and answers those Protestant theologians of a preceding generation who claimed that Esdras was a Divine agent for an inviolable fixing and sealing of the O. T. To this extent at least, Catholic writers on the subject dissent from the drift of the Josephus testimony. And while there is what may be called a consensus of Catholic exegetes of the conservative type on an Esdrine or quasi-Esdrine formulation of the canon so far as the existing material permitted it, this agreement is not absolute; Kaulen and Danko, favoring a later completion, are the notable exceptions among the above-mentioned scholars.
(b) Critical views of the formation of the Palestinian Canon.—Its three constituent bodies, the Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa, represent a growth and correspond to three periods more or less extended. The reason for the isolation of the Hagiographa from the Prophets was therefore mainly chronological. The only division marked off clearly by intrinsic features is the legal element of the O. T., viz., the Pentateuch.
The Torah, or Law.—Until the reign of King Josias, and the epoch-making discovery of “the book of the law” in the Temple (621 B.C.), say the critical exegetes, there was in Israel no written code of laws, or other work, universally acknowledged as of supreme and Divine authority. This “book of the law” was practically identical with Deuteronomy, and its recognition or canonization consisted in the solemn pact entered into by Josias and the people of Juda, described in IV Kings, xxiii. That a written sacred Torah was previously unknown among the Israelites, is demonstrated by the negative evidence of the earlier prophets, by the absence of any such factor from the religious reform undertaken by Ezechias (Hezekiah), while it was the mainspring of that carried out by Josias, and lastly by the plain surprise and consternation of the latter ruler at the finding of such a work. This argument, in fact, is the pivot of the current system of Pentateuchal criticism, and will be developed more at length in the article on the Pentateuch, as also the thesis attacking the Mosaic authorship and promulgation of the latter as a whole. The actual publication of the entire Mosaic code, according to the dominant hypothesis, did not occur until the days of Esdras, and is narrated in chapters viii—x of the second book bearing that name. In this connection must be mentioned the argument from the Samaritan Pentateuch to establish that the Esdrine Canon took in nothing beyond the Hexateuch, i.e. the Pentateuch plus Josue. (See Pentateuch; Samaritans.)
The Nebiim, or Prophets.—There is no direct light upon the time or manner in which the second stratum of the Hebrew Canon was finished. The creation of the above-mentioned Samaritan Canon (c. 432 B.C.) may furnish a terminus a quo; perhaps a better one is the date of the expiration of prophecy about the close of the fifth century before Christ. For the other terminus the lowest possible date is that of the prologue to Ecclesiasticus (c. 132 B.C.), which speaks of “the Law, and the Prophets, and the others that have followed them”. But compare Ecclesiasticus itself, chapters xlvi—xlix, for an earlier one.
The Kethubim, or Hagiographa Completion of the Jewish Canon.—Critical opinion as to date ranges from c. 165 B.C. to the middle of the second century of our era (Wildeboer). The Catholic scholars Jahn, Movers, Nickes, Danko, Haneberg, Aicher, without sharing all the views of the advanced exegetes, regard the Hebrew Hagiographa as not definitely settled till after Christ. It is an incontestable fact that the sacredness of certain parts of the Palestinian Bible (Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles) was disputed by some rabbis as late as the second century of the Christian Era (Mishna, Yadaim, III, 5; Babylonian Talmud, Megilla, fol. 7). However differing as to dates, the critics are assured that the distinction between the Hagiographa and the Prophetic Canon was one essentially chronological. It was because the Prophets already formed a sealed collection that Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel, though naturally belonging to it, could not gain entrance, but had to take their place with the last-formed division, the Kethubim.
The Protocanonical Books and the New Testament.—The absence of any citations from Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles may be reasonably explained by their unsuitability for N. T. purposes, and is further discounted by the non-citation of the two books of Esdras. Abdias, Nahum, and Sophonias, while not directly honored, are included in the quotations from the other minor Prophets by virtue of the traditional unity of that collection. On the one hand, such frequent terms as “the Scripture”, the “Scriptures”, “the holy Scriptures”, applied in the N. T. to the older sacred writings, would lead us to believe that the latter already formed a definite fixed collection; but, on the other, the reference in St. Luke to “the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms”, while demonstrating the fixity of the Torah and the Prophets as sacred groups, does not warrant us in ascribing the same fixity to the third division, the Palestinian-Jewish Hagiographa. If, as seems certain, the exact content of the broader catalogue of the O. T. Scriptures (that comprising the deutero books) cannot be established from the N. T., a fortiori there is no reason to expect that it should reflect the precise extension of the narrower and Judaistic Canon. We are sure, of course, that all the Hagiographa were eventually, before the death of the last Apostle, divinely committed to the Church as Holy Scriptures, but we know this as a truth of faith, and by theological deduction, not from documentary evidence in the N. T. The latter fact has a bearing against the Protestant claim that Jesus approved and transmitted en bloc an already defined Bible of the Palestinian Synagogue.
Authors and Standards of Canonicity among the Jews: Though the O. T. reveals no formal notion of inspiration, the later Jews at least must have possessed the idea (cf. II Timothy, iii, 16; II Peter, i, 21). There is an instance of a Talmudic doctor distinguishing between a composition “given by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit” and one supposed to be the product of merely human wisdom. But as to our distinct concept of canonicity, it is a modern idea, and even the Talmud gives no evidence of it. To characterize a book which held an acknowledged place in the divine library, the rabbis spoke of it as “defiling the hands”, a curious technical expression due probably to the desire to prevent any profane touching of the sacred roll. But though the formal idea of canonicity was wanting among the Jews the fact existed. Regarding the sources of canonicity among the Hebrew ancients, we are left to surmise an analogy. There are both psychological and historical reasons against the supposition that the O. T. Canon grew spontaneously by a kind of instinctive public recognition of inspired books. True, it is quite reasonable to assume that the prophetic office in Israel carried its own credentials, which in a large measure extended to its written compositions. But there were many pseudo-prophets in the nation, and so some authority was necessary to draw the line between the true and the false prophetical writings. And an ultimate tribunal was also needed to set its seal upon the miscellaneous and in some cases mystifying literature embraced in the Hagiographa. Jewish tradition, as illustrated by the already cited Josephus, Baba Bathra, and pseudo-Esdras data, points to authority as the final arbiter of what was Scriptural and what not. The so-called Council of Jamnia (c. A.D. 90) has reasonably been taken as having terminated the disputes between rival rabbinic schools concerning the canonicity of Canticles. So while the intuitive sense and increasingly reverent consciousness of the faithful element of Israel could, and presumably did, give a general impulse and direction to authority, we must conclude that it was the word of official authority which actually fixed the limits of the Hebrew Canon, and here, broadly speaking, the advanced and conservative exegetes meet on common ground. However the case may have been for the Prophets, the preponderance of evidence favors a late period as that in which the Hagiographa were closed, a period when the general body of Scribes dominated Judaism, sitting “in the chair of Moses”, and alone having the authority and prestige for such action. The term general body of Scribes has been used advisedly; contemporary scholars gravely suspect, when they do not entirely reject, the “Great Synagogue” of rabbinic tradition, and the matter lay outside the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin. As a touchstone by which uncanonical and canonical works were discriminated, an important influence was that of the Pentateuchal Law. This was always the Canon par excellence of the Israelites. To the Jews of the Middle Ages the Torah was the inner sanctuary, or Holy of Holies, while the Prophets were the Holy Place, and the Kethubim only the outer court of the Biblical temple, and this medieval conception finds ample basis in the preeminence allowed to the Law by the rabbis of the Talmudic age. Indeed, from Esdras downwards the Law, as the oldest portion of the Canon, and the formal expression of God’s commands, received the highest reverence. The Cabbalists of the second century after Christ, and later schools, regarded the other section of the O. T. as merely the expansion and interpretation of the Pentateuch. We may be sure, then, that the chief test of canonicity, at least for the Hagiographa, was conformity with the Canon par excellence, the Pentateuch. It is evident, in addition, that no book was admitted which had not been composed in Hebrew, and did not possess the antiquity and prestige of a classic age, or name at least. These criteria are negative and exclusive rather than directive. The impulse of religious feeling or liturgical usage must have been the prevailing positive factors in the decision. But the negative tests were in part arbitrary, and an intuitive sense cannot give the assurance of Divine certification. Only later was the infallible Voice to come, and then it was to declare that the Canon of the Synagogue, though unadulterated indeed, was incomplete.
(2) The Canon among the Alexandrian Jews (Deutero-canonical Books)
The most striking difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles is the presence in the former of a number of writings which are wanting in the latter and also in the Hebrew Bible, which became the O. T. of Protestantism. These number seven books: Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I and II Machabees, and three documents added to protocanonical books, viz., the supplement to Esther, from x, 4, to the end, the Canticle of the Three Youths (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel, iii, and the stories of Susanna and the Elders and Bel and the Dragon, forming the closing chapters of the Catholic version of that book. Of these works, Tobias and Judith were written originally in Aramaic, perhaps in Hebrew; Baruch and I Machabees in Hebrew, while Wisdom and II Machabees were certainly composed in Greek. The probabilities favor Hebrew as the original language of the addition to Esther, and Greek for the enlargements of Daniel.
The ancient Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint was the vehicle which conveyed these additional Scriptures into the Catholic Church. The Septuagint version was the Bible of the Greek-speaking, or Hellenist, Jews, whose intellectual and literary center was Alexandria (see Septuagint Version). The oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that these faithfully represent the O. T. as it was current among the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ. These venerable MSS. of the Septuagint vary somewhat in their content outside the Palestinian Canon, showing that in Alexandrian-Jewish circles the number of admissible extra books was not sharply determined either by tradition or by authority. However, aside from the absence of Machabees from the Codex Vaticanus (the very oldest copy of the Greek O. T.), all the entire MSS. contain all the deutero writings; where the manuscript Septuagints differ from one another, with the exception noted, it is in a certain excess above the deuterocanonical books. It is a significant fact that in all these Alexandrian Bibles the traditional Hebrew order is broken up by the interspersion of the additional literature among the other books, outside the Law, thus asserting for the extra writings a substantial equality of rank and privilege.
It is pertinent to ask the motives which impelled the Hellenist Jews to thus, virtually at least, canonize this considerable section of literature, some of it very recent, and depart so radically from the Palestinian tradition. Some would have it that not the Alexandrian, but the Palestinian, Jews departed from the Biblical tradition. The Catholic writers Nickes, Movers, Danko, and more recently Kaulen and Mullen, have advocated the view that originally the Palestinian Canon must have included all the deuterocanonicals, and so stood down to the time of the Apostles (Kaulen, c. 100 B.C.), when, moved by the fact that the Septuagint had become the O. T. of the Church, it was put under ban by the Jerusalem Scribes, who were actuated moreover (thus especially Kaulen) by hostility to the Hellenistic largeness of spirit and Greek composition of our deuterocanonical books.. These exegetes place much reliance on St. Justin Martyr’s statement that the Jews had mutilated Holy Writ, a statement that rests on no positive evidence. They adduce’ the fact that certain deutero books were quoted with veneration, and even in a few cases as Scripture, by Palestinian or Babylonian doctors; but the private utterances of a few rabbis cannot outweigh the consistent Hebrew tradition of the canon, attested by Josephus—although he himself was inclined to Hellenism—and even by the Alexandrian-Jewish author of IV Esdras. We are therefore forced to admit that the leaders of Alexandrian Judaism showed a notable independence of Jerusalem tradition and authority in permitting the sacred boundaries of the Canon, which certainly had been fixed for the Prophets, to be broken by the insertion of an enlarged Daniel and the Epistle of Baruch. On the assumption that the limits of the Palestinian Hagiographa remained undefined until a relatively late date, there was less bold innovation in the addition of the other books, but the wiping out of the lines of the triple division reveals that the Hellenists were ready to extend the Hebrew Canon, if not establish a new official one of their own.
On their human side these innovations are to be accounted for by the free spirit of the Hellenist Jews. Under the influence of Greek thought they had conceived a broader view of Divine inspiration than that of their Palestinian brethren, and refused to restrict the literary manifestations of the Holy Ghost to a certain terminus of time and the Hebrew form of language. The Book of Wisdom, emphatically Hellenist in character, presents to us Divine wisdom as flowing on from generation to generation and making holy souls and prophets (vii, 27, in the Greek). Philo, a typical Alexandrian-Jewish thinker, has even an exaggerated notion of the diffusion of inspiration (Quis rerum divinarum hmres, 52; ed. Lips., iii, 57; De migratione Abrahae, 11,299; ed. Lips. ii, 334). But even Philo, while indicating acquaintance with the deutero literature, nowhere cites it in his voluminous writings. True; he does not employ several books of the Hebrew Canon; but there is a natural presumption that if he had regarded the additional works as being quite on the same plane as the others, he would not have failed to quote so stimulating and congenial a production as the Book of Wisdom. Moreover, as has been pointed out Loy several authorities, the independent spirit of the Hellenists could not have gone so far as to setup a different official Canon from that of Jerusalem, without having left historical traces of such a rupture. So, from the available data we may justly infer that, while the deuterocanonicals were admitted as sacred by the Alexandrian Jews, they possessed a lower degree of sanctity and authority than the longer accepted books, i.e. the Palestinian Hagiographa and the Prophets, themselves inferior to the Law.
II. THE CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The most explicit definition of the Catholic Canon is that given by the Council of Trent, Session IV, 1546. For the O. T. its catalogue reads as follows: “The five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras (which latter is called Nehemias), Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter (in number one hundred and fifty Psalms), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets (Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias), two books of Machabees, the first and second”. The order of books copies that of the Council of Florence, 1442, and in its general plan is that of the Septuagint. The divergence of titles from those found in the Protestant versions is due to the fact that the official Latin Vulgate retained the forms of the Septuagint.
(1) The O. T. Canon (including the deuteros) in the N. T.
The Tridentine decree from which the above list is extracted was the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to the Church Universal. Being dogmatic in its purport, it implies that the Apostles bequeathed the same Canon to the Church, as a part of the depositum fidei. But this was not done by way of any formal decision; we should search the pages of the N. T. in vain for any trace of such action. The larger Canon of the O. T. passed through the Apostles’ hands to the Church tacitly, by way of their usage and whole attitude toward its components; an attitude which, for most of the sacred writings of the Old Testament, reveals itself in the New, and for the rest, must have exhibited itself in oral utterances, or at least in tacit approval of the special reverence of the faithful. Reasoning backward from the status in which we find the deutero books in the earliest ages of post-Apostolic Christianity, we rightly affirm that such a status points to Apostolic sanction, which in turn must have rested on revelation either by Christ or the Holy Spirit. For the deuterocanonicals at least, we needs must have recourse to this legitimate prescriptive argument, owing to the complexity and inadequacy of the N. T. data.
All the books of the Hebrew Old Testament are cited in the New except those which have been aptly called the Antilegomena of the O. T., viz., Esther Ecclesiastes, and Canticles; moreover Esdras and Nehemias are not employed. The admitted absence of any explicit citation of the deutero writings does not therefore prove that they were regarded as inferior to the above-mentioned works in the eyes of N. T. personages and authors. The deutero literature was in general unsuited to their purposes, and some consideration should be given to the fact that even at its Alexandrian home it was not quoted by Jewish writers, as we saw in the case of Philo. The negative argument drawn from the non-citation of the deuterocanonicals in the N. T. is especially minimized by the indirect use made of them by the same Testament. This takes the form of allusions and reminiscences, and shows unquestionably that the Apostles and Evangelists were acquainted with the Alexandrian increment, regarded its books as at least respectable sources, and wrote more or less under its influence. A comparison of Hebrews, xi and II Machabees, vi and vii reveals unmistakable references in the former to the heroism of the martyrs glorified in the latter. There are close affinities of thought, and in some cases also of language, between I Peter, i, 6, 7, and Wisdom, iii, 5, 6; Hebrews, i, 3, and Wisdom, vii, 26, 27; I Corinthians, x, 9, 10, and Judith, viii, 24-25; I Corinthians, vi, 13, and Ecclesiasticus, xxxvi, 20.
Yet the force of the direct and indirect employment of O. T. writings by the New is slightly impaired by the disconcerting truth that at least one of the N. T. authors, St. Jude, quotes explicitly from the “Book of Henoch”, long universally recognized as apocryphal, see verse 14, while in verse 9 he borrows from another apocryphal narrative, the “Assumption of Moses”. Concerning the use of apocrypha in the N. T. cf. Wildeboer, “Origin of the Canon of the O. T., Par. 5.” The N. T. quotations from the Old are in general characterized by a freedom and elasticity regarding manner and source which further tend to diminish their weight as proofs of canonicity. But so far as concerns the great majority of the Palestinian Hagiographa—a fortiori, the Pentateuch and Prophets—whatever want of conclusiveness there may be in the N. T., evidence of their canonical standing is abundantly supplemented from Jewish sources alone, in the series of witnesses beginning with the Mishnah and running back through Josephus and Philo to the translation of the above books for the Hellenist Greeks. But for the deuterocanonical literature, only the last testimony speaks as a Jewish confirmation. However, there are signs that the Greek version was not deemed by its readers as a closed Bible of definite sacredness in all its parts, but that its somewhat variable contents shaded off in the eyes of the Hellenists from the eminently sacred Law down to works of questionable divinity, such as III Machabees.
This factor should be considered in weighing a certain argument. A large number of Catholic authorities see a canonization of the deuteros in a supposed wholesale adoption and approval, by the Apostles, of the Greek, and therefore larger, O. T. The argument is not without a certain force; the N. T. undoubtedly shows a preference for’ the Septuagint; out of about 350 texts from the O. T., 300 favor the language of the Greek version rather than that of the Hebrew. But there are considerations which bid us hesitate to admit an Apostolic adoption of the Septuagint en bloc. As remarked above, there are cogent reasons for believing that it was not a fixed quantity at the time. The existing oldest representative MSS. are not entirely identical in the books they contain. Moreover, it should be remembered that at the beginning of our era, and for some time later, complete sets of any such voluminous collection as the Septuagint in manuscript would be extremely rare; the version must have been current in separate books or groups of books, a condition favorable to a certain variability of compass. So neither a fluctuating Septuagint nor an inexplicit N. T. conveys to us the exact extension of the pre-Christian Bible transmitted by the Apostles to the Primitive Church. It is more tenable to conclude to a selective process under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and a process completed so late in Apostolic times that the N. T. fails to reflect its mature result regarding either the number or note of sanctity of the extra-Palestinian books admitted. To historically learn the Apostolic Canon of the O. T. we must interrogate less sacred but later documents, expressing more explicitly the belief of the first ages of Christianity.
(2) The Canon of the O. T. in the Church of the first three centuries
The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the “Shepherd” of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from, or allusions to, all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabees and the additions to Daniel. No unfavorable argument can be drawn from the loose, implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner. For details of these testimonies see Loisy, “Canon de l’Ancien Testament”, pp. 71-72.
Coming down to the next age, that of the apologists, we find Baruch cited by Athenagoras as a prophet. St. Justin Martyr is the first to note that the Church has a set of O. T. Scriptures different from the Jews, and also the earliest to intimate the principle proclaimed by later writers, namely, the self-sufficiency of the Church in establishing the Canon; its independence of the Synagogue in this respect. The full realization of this truth came slowly, at least in the Orient, where there are indications that in certain quarters the spell of Palestinian-Jewish tradition was not fully cast off for some time. St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the O. T. While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews; Jewry by that time had everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito’s Canon consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther. It should be noticed, however, that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito’s restricted canon is explicable on another ground (see Comely, Introductio, I, 75 sqq.). St. Irenaeus, always a witness of the first rank, on account of his broad acquaintance with ecclesiastical tradition, vouches that Baruch was deemed on the same footing as Jeremias, and that the narratives of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon were ascribed to Daniel. The Alexandrian tradition is represented by the weighty authority of Origen. Influenced, doubtless, by the Alexandrian-Jewish usage of acknowledging in practice the extra writings as sacred while theoretically holding to the narrower Canon of Palestine, his catalogue of the O. T. Scriptures contains only the protocanonical books, though it follows the order of the Septuagint. Nevertheless Origen employs all the deuterocanonicals as Divine Scriptures, and in his letter to Julius Africanus defends the sacredness of Tobias, Judith, and the fragments of Daniel; at the same time implicitly asserting the autonomy of the Church in fixing the Canon (see references in Comely): In his Hexapiar edition of the O. T. all the deuteros find a place. The sixth-century Biblical MS. known as the “Codex Claromontanus” contains a catalogue to which both Harnack and Zahn assign an Alexandrian origin, about contemporary with Origen. At any rate it dates from the period under examination and comprises all the deuterocanonical books, with IV Machabees besides. St. Hippolytus (d. 236) may fairly be considered as representing the primitive Roman tradition. He comments on the Susanna chapter, often quotes Wisdom as the work of Solomon, and employs as Sacred Scripture Baruch and the Machabees. For the West African Church the larger canon has two strong witnesses in Tertullian and St. Cyprian. All the deuteros except Tobias, Judith, and the addition to Esther, are Biblically used in the works of these Fathers. (With regard to the employment of apocryphal writings in this age see under Apocrypha.)
(3) The Canon of the O. T. during the fourth, and first half of the fifth, century
In this period the position of the deuterocanonical literature is no longer as secure as in the primitive age. The doubts which arose should be attributed largely to a reaction against the apocryphal or pseudo-Biblical writings with which the East especially had been flooded by heretical and other writers. Negatively, the situation became possible through the absence of any Apostolic or ecclesiastical definition of the Canon. The definite and inalterable determination of the sacred sources, like that of all Catholic doctrines, was in the Divine economy left to gradually work itself out under the, stimulus of questionings and opposition. Alexandria, with its elastic Scriptures, had from the beginning been a congenial field for apocryphal literature, and St. Athanasius, the vigilant pastor of that flock, to protect it against the pernicious influence, drew up a catalogue of books with the values to be attached to each. First, the strict canon and authoritative source of truth is the Jewish O. T., Esther excepted. Besides, there are certain books which the Fathers had appointed to be read to catechumens for edification and instruction; these are the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Esther, Judith, Tobias, the Didache, or Doctrine of the Apostles, the Shepherd of Herman. All others are apocrypha and the inventions of heretics (Festal Epistle for 367). Following the precedent of Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor recognized no other formal canon of the O. T. than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity, as is evident from his general usage. At Jerusalem there was a renascence, perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly unfavorable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all books to be read privately which are not read in the churches. In Antioch and Syria the attitude was more favorable. St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and, like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received by all and the apocrypha. The 59th (or 60th) canon of the provincial Council of Laodicea (the authenticity of which however is contested) gives a catalogue of the Scriptures entirely in accord with the ideas of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Oriental versions and Greek MSS. of the period are more liberal; the extant ones have all the deuterocanonicals and, in some cases certain apocrypha.
The influence of Origen’s and Athanasius’s restricted canon naturally spread to the West. St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus followed their footsteps, excluding the deuteros from canonical rank in theory, but admitting them in practice. The latter styles them “ecclesiastical” books, but in authority unequal to the other Scriptures. St. Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavorable to the disputed books. In appreciating his attitude we must remember that Jerome lived long in Palestine, in an environment where everything outside the Jewish Canon was suspect, and that, moreover, he had an excessive veneration for the Hebrew text, the Hebraica veritas as he called it. In his famous “Prologus Galeatus”, or Preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings, he declares that everything not Hebrew should be classed with the apocrypha, and explicitly says that Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, and Judith are not on the Canon. These books, he adds, are read in the churches for the edification of the people, and not for the confirmation of revealed doctrine. An analysis of Jerome’s expressions on the deuterocanonicals, in various letters and prefaces, yields the following results: first, he strongly doubted their inspiration; secondly, the fact that he occasionally quotes them, and translated some of them as a concession to ecclesiastical tradition, is an involuntary testimony on his part to the high standing these writings enjoyed in the Church at large, and to the strength of the practical tradition which prescribed their reading in public worship. Obviously, the inferior rank to which the deuteros were relegated by authorities like Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome, was due to too rigid a conception of canonicity, one demanding that a book, to be entitled to this supreme dignity, must be received by all, must have the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and must moreover be adapted not only to edification, but also to the “confirmation of the doctrine of the Church”, to borrow Jerome’s phrase.
But while eminent scholars and theorists were thus depreciating the additional writings, the official attitude of the Latin Church, always favorable to them, kept the majestic tenor of its way. Two documents of capital importance in the history of the canon constitute the first formal utterance of papal authority on the subject. The first is the so-called “Decretal of Gelasius”, de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris, the essential part of which is now generally attributed to a synod convoked by Pope Damasus in the year 382. The other is the Canon of Innocent I, sent in 405 to a Gallican bishop in answer to an inquiry. Both contain all the deuterocanonicals, without any distinction, and are identical with the catalogue of Trent. The African Church, always a stanch supporter of the contested books, found itself in entire accord with Rome on this question. Its ancient version, the Vetus Latina (less correctly the Itala), had admitted all the O. T. Scriptures. St. Augustine seems to theoretically recognize ‘degrees of inspiration; in practice he employs protos and deuteros without any discrimination whatsoever. Moreover in his “De Doctrina Christiana” he enumerates the components of the complete O. T. The Synod of Hippo (393) and the three of Carthage (393, 397, and 419), in which, doubtless, Augustine was the leading spirit, found it necessary to deal explicitly with the question of the Canon, and drew up identical lists from which no sacred books are excluded. These councils base their canon on tradition and liturgical usage. For the Spanish Church valuable testimony is found in the work of the heretic Priscillian, “Liber de Fide et Apocryphis”; it supposes a sharp line existing between canonical and uncanonical works, and that the Canon takes in all the deuteron:
(4) The Canon of the O. T. from the middle of the fifth to the close of the seventh century
This period exhibits a curious exchange of opinions between the West and the East, while ecclesiastical usage remained unchanged, at least in the Latin Church. During this intermediate age the use of St. Jerome’s new version of the O. T. (the Vulgate) became widespread in the Occident. With its text went Jerome’s prefaces disparaging the deuterocanonicals, and under the influence of his authority the West began to distrust these and to show the first symptoms of a current hostile to their canonicity. On the other hand, the Oriental Church imported a Western authority which had canonized the disputed books, viz., the decree of Carthage, and from this time there is an increasing tendency among the Greeks to place the deuteros on the same level with the others—a tendency, however, due more to forgetfulness of the old distinctions than to deference to the Council of Carthage.
(5) The Canon of the O. T. during the Middle Ages
(a) In the Greek Church
The result of this tendency among the Greeks was that about the beginning of the twelfth century they possessed a canon identical with that of the Latins, except that it took in the apocryphal III Machabees. That all the deuteros were liturgically recognized in the Greek Church at the era of the schism in the ninth century, is indicated by the “Syntagma Canonum” of Photius.
(b) In the Latin Church
All through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them, another one distinctly unfavorable to their authority and sacredness, while wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among these we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity. The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome’s depreciating Prologue. The compilatory “Glossa Ordinaria” was widely read and highly esteemed as a treasury of sacred Iearning during the Middle Ages; it embodied the prefaces in which the Doctor of Bethlehem had written in terms derogatory to the deuteros, and thus perpetuated and diffused his unfriendly opinion. And yet these doubts must be regarded as more or less academic. The countless MS. copies of the Vulgate produced by these ages, with a slight, probably accidental, exception, uniformly embrace the complete O. T. Ecclesiastical usage and Roman tradition held firmly to the canonical equality of all parts of the O. T. There is no lack of evidence that during this long period the deuteros were read in the churches of Western Christendom. As to Roman authority, the catalogue of Innocent I appears in the collection of ecclesiastical canons sent by Pope Adrian I to Charlemagne, and adopted in 802 as the law of the Church in the Frankish Empire; Nicholas I, writing in 865 to the bishops of France, appeals to the same decree of Innocent as the ground on which all the sacred books are to be received.
(6) The Canon of the O. T. and the general councils
(a) In the Council of Florence
In 1442, during the life, and with the approval, of this Council, Eugenius IV issued several Bulls, or decrees, with a view to restore the Oriental schismatic bodies to communion with Rome, and according to the common teaching of theologians these documents are infallible statements of doctrine. The “Decretum pro Jacobitis” contains a complete list of the books received by the Church as inspired, but omits, perhaps advisedly, the terms canon and canonical. The Council of Florence therefore taught the inspiration of all the Scriptures, but did not formally pass on their eanonicity.
(b) In the Council of Trent; Definition of the Canon, 1546
It was the exigencies of controversy that first led Luther to draw a sharp line between the books of the Hebrew Canon and the Alexandrian writings. In his disputation with Eck at Leipzig, in 1519, when his opponent urged the well-known text from II Machabees in proof of the doctrine of purgatory, Luther replied that the passage had no binding authority since the book was outside the Canon. In the first edition of Luther’s Bible, 1534, the deuteros were relegated, as apocrypha, to a separate place between the two Testaments. To meet this radical departure of the Protestants, and as well define clearly the inspired sources from which the Catholic Faith draws its defense, the Council of Trent among its first acts solemnly declared as “sacred and canonical” all the books of the Old and New Testaments “with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the churches, and as found in the ancient vulgate edition”. During the deliberations of the Council there never was any real question as to the reception of all the traditional Scriptures. Neither—and this is remarkable—in the proceedings is there manifest any serious doubt of the canonicity of the disputed writings. In the mind of the Tridentine Fathers they had been virtually canonized, by the decree of Florence, and the same Fathers felt especially bound by the action of the preceding ecumenical synod. The Council of Trent did not enter into an examination of the fluctuations in the history of the Canon. Neither did it trouble itself about questions of authorship or character of contents. True to the practical genius of the Latin Church, it based its decision on immemorial tradition as manifested in the decrees of previous councils and popes, and liturgical reading, relying on traditional teaching and usage to determine a question of tradition. The Tridentine catalogue has been given above.—(c) In the Vatican Council, 1870.—The great constructive Synod of Trent had put the sacredness and canonicity of the whole traditional Bible forever beyond the permissibility of doubt on the part of Catholics. By implication it had defined that Bible’s plenary inspiration also. The Vatican Council took occasion of a recent error on inspiration to remove any lingering shadow of uncertainty on this head; it formally ratified the action of Trent and explicitly defined the Divine inspiration of all the books with their parts.
III. THE CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
(1) Among Oriental Schismatics
The Greek Orthodox Church preserved its ancient Canon in practice as well as theory until recent times, when, under the dominant influence of its Russian offshoot, it is shifting its attitude towards the deuterocanonical Scriptures. The rejection of these books by the Russian theologians and authorities is a lapse which began early in the eighteenth century (cf. “Revue biblique”, April, 1901). The Monophysites, Nestorians, Jacobites, Armenians, and Copts, while concerning themselves little with the Canon, admit the complete catalogue and several apocrypha besides.
(2) Among Protestants
The Protestant Churches have continued to exclude the deutero writings from their canons, classifying them as “Apocrypha”. Presbyterians and Calvinists in general, especially since the Westminster Synod of 1648, have been the most uncompromising enemies of any recognition, and owing to their influence the British and Foreign Bible Society decided in 1826 to refuse to distribute Bibles containing the Apocrypha. Since that time the publication of the deuterocanonicals as an appendix to Protestant Bibles has almost entirely ceased in English-speaking countries. The books still supply lessons for the liturgy of the Church of England, but the number has been lessened by the hostile agitation. There is an Apocrypha appendix to the British Revised Version, in a separate volume. The deuteros are still appended to the German Bibles printed under the auspices of the orthodox Lutherans.
IV. THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Catholic N. T., as defined by the Council of Trent, does not differ, as regards the books contained, from that of all Christian bodies at present. Like the O. T., the New has its deuterocanonical books and portions of books, their canonicity having formerly been a subject of some controversy in the Church. These are for the entire books: the Epistle to the Hebrews that of James, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of John, Jude, and Apocalypse; giving seven in all as the number of the N. T. contested books. The formerly disputed passages are three: the closing section of St. Mark’s Gospel, xvi, 9-20 about the apparitions of Christ after the Resurrection; the verses in Luke about the bloody sweat of Jesus, xxii, 43, 44; the Pericope Adulterae, or narrative of the woman taken in adultery, St. John, vii, 53 to viii, 11. Since the Council of Trent it is not permitted for a Catholic to question the inspiration of these passages.
(1) The formation of the New Testament Canon; c. A.D. 100-220
The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the N. T. existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council.
(a) The witness of the N. T. to itself: The first collections.—Those writings which possessed the unmistakable stamp and guarantee of Apostolic origin must from the very first have been specially prized and venerated, and their copies eagerly sought by local Churches and individual Christians of means, in preference to the narratives and Logia, or Sayings of Christ, coming from less authorized sources. Already in the N. T. itself there is some evidence of a certain diffusion of canonical books: II Peter, iii, 15, 16, supposes its readers to be acquainted with some of St. Paul’s Epistles; St. John’s Gospel implicitly presupposes the existence of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). There are no indications in the N. T. of a systematic plan for the distribution of the Apostolic compositions, any more than there is of a definite new Canon bequeathed by the Apostles to the Church, or of a strong self-witness to Divine inspiration. Nearly all the N. T. writings were evoked by particular occasions, or addressed to particular destinations. But we may well presume that each of the leading Churches—Antioch, Thessalonica, Alexandria, Corinth, Rome—sought by exchanging with other Christian communities to add to its special treasure, and have publicly read in its religious assemblies all Apostolic writings which came under its knowledge. It was doubtless in this way that the collections grew, and reached completeness within certain limits, but a considerable number of years must have elapsed (and that counting from the composition of the latest book) before all the widely separated Churches of early Christendom possessed the new sacred literature in full. And this want of an organized distribution, secondarily to the absence of an early fixation of the Canon, left room for variations and doubts which lasted far into the centuries. But evidence will presently be given that from days touching on those of the last Apostles there were two well defined bodies of sacred writings of the N. T., which constituted the firm, irreducible, universal minimum, and the nucleus of its complete Canon: these were the Four Gospels, as the Church now has them, and thirteen Epistles of St. Paul—the Evangelium and the Apostolicum.
(b) The principle of canonicity.—Before entering into the historical proof for this primitive emergence of a compact, nucleative Canon, it is pertinent to briefly examine this problem: During the formative period what principle operated in the selection of the N. T. writings and their recognition as Divine?—Theologians are divided on this point. The view that Apostolicity was the test of the inspiration during the building up of the N. T. Canon, is favored by the many instances where the early Fathers base the authority of a book on its Apostolic origin, and by the truth that the definitive placing of the contested books on the N. T. catalogue coincided with their general acceptance as of Apostolic authorship. Moreover, the advocates of this hypothesis point out that the Apostles’ office corresponded with that of the Prophets of the Old Law, inferring that as inspiration was attached to the munus propheticum so the Apostles were aided by Divine inspiration whenever in the exercise of their calling they either spoke or wrote. Positive arguments are deduced from the N. T. to establish that a permanent prophetical charisma (see Charismata) was enjoyed by the Apostles through. a special indwelling of the Holy Ghost, beginning with Pentecost: Matth., x, 19, 20; Acts, xv, 28; I Cor., ii, 13; II Cor., xiii, 3; I Thess., ii, 13, are cited. The opponents of this theory allege against it that the Gospels of Mark and of Luke and Acts were not the work of Apostles (however, tradition connects the Second Gospel with St. Peter’s preaching and St. Luke’s with St. Paul’s); that books current under an Apostle’s name in the Early Church, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Apocalypse of St. Peter, were nevertheless excluded from canonical rank, while on the other hand Origen and St. Dionysius of Alexandria in the case of Apocalypse, and St. Jerome in the case of II and III John, although questioning the Apostolic authorship of these works, unhesitatingly received them as Sacred Scriptures. An objection of a speculative kind is derived from the very nature of inspiration ad scribendum, which seems to demand a specific impulse from the Holy Ghost in each case, and preclude the theory that it could be possessed as a permanent gift, or charisma. The weight of Catholic theological opinion is deservedly against mere Apostolicity as a sufficient criterion of inspiration. This adverse view has been taken by Franzelin (De Divina, Traditione et Scripture, 1882), Schmid (De Inspirations Bibliorum Vi et Ratione, 1885), Crets (De Divine, Bibliorum Inspiration, 1886), Leitner (Die prophetische Inspiration, 1895—a monograph), Pesch (De Inspiratione Sacrie Scriptures, 1906). These authors (some of whom treat the matter more speculatively than historically) admit that Apostolicity is a positive and partial touchstone of inspiration, but emphatically deny that it was exclusive, in the sense that all non-Apostolic works were by that very fact barred from the sacred Canon of the N. T. They hold to doctrinal tradition as the true criterion.
Catholic champions of Apostolicity as a criterion are: Ubaldi (Introductio in Sacram Scripturam, II, 1876); Schanz (in Theologische Quartalschrift, 1885, pp. 666 sqq., and A Christian Apology, II, tr. 1891); Szekely (Hermeneutica Biblica, 1902). Recently Professor Batiffol, while rejecting the claims of these latter advocates, has enunciated a theory regarding the principle that presided over the formation of the N. T. Canon which challenges attention and perhaps marks a new stage in the controversy. According to Monsignor Batiffol, the Gospel (i.e. the words and acommandments of Jesus Christ) bore with it its own sacredness and authority from the very beginning. This Gospel was announced to the world at large by the Apostles and Apostolic disciples of Christ, and this message, whether spoken or written, whether taking the form of an evangelic narrative or epistle, was holy and supreme by the fact of containing the Word of Our Lord. Accordingly, for the primitive Church, evangelical character was the test of Scriptural sacredness. But to guarantee this character it was necessary that a book should be known as composed by the official witnesses and organs of the Evangel; hence the need to certify the Apostolic authorship, or at least sanction, of a work purporting to contain the Gospel of Christ. In Batiffol’s view the Judaic notion of inspiration did not at first enter into the selection of the Christian Scriptures. In fact, for the earliest Christians the Gospel of Christ, in the wide sense above noted, was not to be classified with, because transcending, the O. T. It was not until about the middle of the second century that under the rubric ofScripture the New Testament writings were assimilated to the Old; the authority of the N. T. as the Word preceded and produced its authority as a new Scripture. (Revue Biblique, 1903, 226 sqq.) Monsignor Batiffol’s hypothesis has this in common with the views of other recent students of the N. T. Canon, that the idea of a new body of sacred writings became clearer in the Early Church as the faithful advanced in a knowledge of the Faith. But it should be remembered that the inspired character of the N. T. is a Catholic dogma, and must therefore in some way have been revealed to, and taught by, Apostles.—Assuming that Apostolic authorship is a positive criterion of inspiration, two inspired Epistles of St. Paul have been lost. This pears from I Cor., v, 9 sqq.; II Cor., ii, 4, 5.
(c) The formation of the Tetramorph, or Fourfold Gospel.—Irenseus, in his work “Against Heresies” (A., D. 182-88), testifies to the existence of a Tetra-morph, or Quadriform Gospel, given by the Word and unified by one Spirit; to repudiate this Gospel or any part of it, as did the Alogi and Marcionites, was to sin against revelation and the Spirit of God. The saintly Doctor of Lyons explicitly states the names of the four Elements of this Gospel, and repeatedly cites all the Evangelists in a manner parallel to his citations from the O. T. From the testimony of St. Irenaeus alone there can be no reasonable doubt that the Canon of the Gospel was inalterably fixed in the Catholic Church by the last quarter of the second century. Proofs might be multiplied that our canonical Gospels were then universally recognized in the Church, to the exclusion of any pretended Evangels. The magisterial statement of Irenseus may be corroborated by the very ancient catalogue known as the Muratorian Canon, and St. Hippolytus, representing Roman tradition; by Tertullian in Africa, by Clement in Alexandria; the works of the Gnostic Valentinus, and the Syrian Tatian’s Diatessaron, a blending together of the Evangelists’ writings, presuppose the authority enjoyed by the fourfold Gospel towards the middle of the second century. To this period or a little earlier belongs the pseudo-Clementine epistle in which we find, for the fist time after II Peter, iii, 16, the word Scripture applied to a N. T. book. But it is needless in the present article to array the full force of these and other witnesses, since even rationalistic scholars like Harnack admit the canonicity of the quadriform Gospel between the years 140-175.
But against Harnack we are able to trace the Tetra-morph as a sacred collection back to a more remote period. The apocryphal Gospel of St. Peter, dating from about 150, is based on our canonical Evangelists. So with the very ancient Gospel of the Hebrews and Egyptians (see Apocrypha). St. Justin Martyr (130-63) in his Apology refers to certain “memoirs of the Apostles, which are called gospels”, and which “are read in Christian assemblies together with the writings of the Prophets”. The identity of these “memoirs” with our Gospels is established by the certain traces of three, if not all, of them scattered through St. Justin’s works; it was not yet the age of explicit quotations. Marcion, the heretic refuted by Justin in a lost polemic, as we know from Tertullian, instituted a criticism of Gospels bearing the names of Apostles and disciples of the Apostles, and a little earlier (c. 120) Basilides, the Alexandrian leader of a Gnostic sect, wrote a commentary on “the Gospel” which is known by the allusions to it in the Fathers to have comprised the writings of the Four Evangelists.
In our backward search we have come to the sub-Apostolic age, and its important witnesses are divided into Asian, Alexandrian, and Roman: (a) St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and St. Polycarp, of Smyrna, had been disciples of Apostles; they wrote their epistles in the first decade of the second century (100-110). They employ Matthew, Luke, and John. In St. Ignatius we find the first instance of the consecrated term “it is written” applied to a Gospel (Ad Philad., viii, 2). Both these Fathers show not only a personal acquaintance with “the Gospel” and the thirteen Pauline Epistles, but they suppose that their readers are so familiar with them that it would be superfluous to name them. Papias, Bishop of Phrygian Hierapolis, according to Irenaeus a disciple of St. John, wrote about A.D. 125. Describing the origin of St. Mark’s Gospel, he speaks of Hebrew (Aramaic) Logia, or Sayings of Christ, composed by St. Matthew, which there is reason to believe formed the basis of the canonical Gospel of that name, though the greater part of Catholic writers identify them with the Gospel. As we have only a few fragments of Papias, preserved by Eusebius, it cannot be alleged that he is silent about other parts of the N. T. (b) The so-called Epistle of Barnabas, of uncertain origin, but of highest antiquity (see Epistle of Barnabas), cites a passage from the First Gospel under the formula “it is written”. The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, an uncanonical work dating from c. 110, implies that “the Gospel” was already a well-known and definite collection. (c) St. Clement, Bishop of Rome, and disciple of St. Paul, addressed his Letter to the Corinthian Church c. A.D. 97, and, although it cites no Evangelist explicitly, this epistle contains combinations of texts taken from the three synoptic Gospels, especially from St. Matthew. That Clement does not allude to the Fourth Gospel is quite natural, as it was not composed till about that time.
Thus the patristic testimonies have brought us step by step to a Divine inviolable fourfold Gospel existing in the closing years of the Apostolic Era. Just how the Tetramorph was welded into unity and given to the Church, is a matter of conjecture. But, as Zahn observes, there is good reason to believe that the tradition handed down by Papias, of the approval of St. Mark’s Gospel by St. John the Evangelist, reveals that either the latter himself or a college of his disciples added the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, and made the group into the compact and unalterable “Gospel”, the one in four, whose existence and authority left their clear impress upon all subsequent ecclesiastical literature, and find their conscious formulation in the language of St. Irenseus.
(d) The Pauline Epistles.—Parallel to the chain of evidence we have traced for the canonical standing of the Gospels extends one for the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, forming the other half of the irreducible kernel of the complete N. T. Canon. All the authorities cited for the Gospel Canon show acquaintance with, and recognize, the sacred quality of these letters. St. Irenseus, as acknowledged by the Harnackian critics, employs all the Pauline writings, except the short Philemon, as sacred and canonical. The Muratorian Canon, contemporary with Irenseus, gives the complete list of the thirteen, which, it should be remembered, does not include Hebrews. The heretical Basilides and his disciples quote from this Pauline group in general. The copious extracts from Marcion’s works scattered through Iremeus and Tertullian show that he was acquainted with the thirteen as in ecclesiastical use, and selected his Apostolikon of six from them. The testimony of Polycarp and Ignatius is again capital in this case. Eight of St. Paul’s writings are cited by Polycarp; St. Ignatius of Antioch ranked the Apostles above the Prophets, and must therefore have allowed the written compositions of the former at least an equal rank with those of the latter (“Ad Philadelphios”, v). St. Clement of Rome refers to Corinthians as at the head “of the Evangel”; the Muratorian Canon gives the same honor to I Corinthians, so that we may rightfully draw the inference, with Dr. Zahn, that as early as Clement’s day St. Paul’s Epistles had been collected and formed into a group with a fixed order. Zahn has pointed out confirmatory signs of this in the manner in which Sts. Ignatius and Polycarp employ these Epistles. The tendency of the evidence is to establish the hypothesis that the important Church of Corinth, was the first to form a complete collection of St. Paul’s writings.
The remaining Books.—In this formative period the Epistle to the Hebrews did not obtain a firm footing in the Canon of the Universal Church. At Rome it was not yet recognized as canonical, as shown by the Muratorian catalogue of Roman origin; Irenaeus probably cites it, but makes no reference to a Pauline origin. Yet it was known at Rome as early as St. Clement, as the latter’s epistle attests. The Alexandrian Church admitted it as the work of St. Paul, and canonical. The Montanists favored it, and the aptness with which vi, 4-8, lent itself to Montanist and Novatianist rigour was doubtless one reason why it was suspect in the West. Also during this period the excess over the minimal Canon composed of the Gospels and thirteen epistles varied. The seven “Catholic” Epistles (James, Jude, I and II Peter, and the three of John) had not yet been brought into a special group, and, with the possible exception of the three of St. John, remained isolated units, depending for their canonical strength on variable circumstances. But towards the end of the second century the canonical minimum was enlarged and, besides the Gospels and Pauline Epistles, unalterably embraced Acts, I Peter, I John (to which II and III John were probably attached), and Apocalypse. Thus Hebrews, James, Jude, and II Peter remained hovering outside the precincts of universal canonicity, and the controversy about them and the subsequently disputed Apocalypse form the larger part of the remaining history of the Canon of the N. T. However, at the beginning of the third century the N. T. was formed in the sense that the content of its main divisions, what may be called its essence, was sharply defined and universally received, while all the secondary books were recognized in some Churches. A singular exception to the universality of the above-described substance of the N. T. was the Canon of the primitive East Syrian Church, which did not contain any of the Catholic Epistles or Apocalypse.
The idea of a New Testament: The question of the principle that dominated the practical canonization of the N. T. Scriptures has already been discussed under (b). The faithful must have had from the beginning some realization that in the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists they had acquired a new body of Divine Scriptures, a New written Testament destined to stand side by side with the Old.
That the Gospel and Epistles were the written Word of God, was fully realized as soon as the fixed collections were formed; but to seize the relation of this new treasure to the old was possible only when the faithful acquired a better knowledge of the faith. In this connection Zahn observes with much truth that the rise of Montanism, with its false prophets, who claimed for their written productions—the self-styled Testament of the Paraclete—the authority of revelation, aroused the Christian Church to a fuller sense that the age of revelation had expired with the last of the Apostles, and that the circle of sacred Scripture is not extensible beyond the legacy of the Apostolic Era. Montanism began in 156; a generation later, in the works of Irenaeus, we discover the firmly-rooted idea of two Testaments, with the same Spirit operating in both. For Tertullian (c. 200) the body of the new Scriptures is an instrumentum on at least an equal footing and in the same specific class as the instrumentum formed by the Law and the Prophets. Clement of Alexandria was the first to apply the word “Testament” to the sacred library of the New Dispensation. A kindred external influence is to be added to Montanism: the need of setting up a barrier, between the genuine inspired literature and the flood of pseudo-Apostolic apocrypha, gave an additional impulse to the idea of a N. T. Canon, and later contributed not a little to the demarcation of its fixed limits.
(2) The period of discussion; c. A.D. 220-367
In this stage of the historical development of the Canon of the N. T. we encounter for the first time a consciousness, reflected in certain ecclesiastical writers, of the differences between the sacred collections in divers sections of Christendom. This variation is witnessed to, and the discussion stimulated by, two of the most learned men of Christian antiquity, Origen, and Eusebius of Caesarea, the ecclesiastical historian. A glance at the Canon as exhibited in the authorities of the African, or Carthaginian, Church, will complete our brief survey of this period of diversity and discussion:
Origen and his school.—Origen’s travels gave him exceptional opportunities to know the traditions of widely separated portions of the Church and made him very conversant with the discrepant attitudes toward certain parts of the N. T. He divided books with Biblical claims into three classes: (a) those universally received; (b) those whose Apostolicity was questioned; (c) apocryphal works. In the first class, the Homologoumena, stood the Gospels, the thirteen Pauline Epistles, Acts, Apocalypse, I Peter, and I John. The contested writings were Hebrews, II Peter, II and III John, James, Jude, Barnabas, the Shepherd of Herman, the Didache, and probably the Gospel of the Hebrews. Personally, Origen accepted all of these as Divinely inspired, though viewing contrary opinions with toleration. Origen’s authority seems to have given to Hebrews and the disputed Catholic Epistles a firm place in the Alexandrian Canon, their tenure there having been previously insecure, judging from the exegetical work of Clement, and the list in the Codex Claromontanus, which is assigned by competent scholars to an early Alexandrian origin.
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, was one of Origen’s most eminent disciples, a man of wide erudition. In imitation of his master he divided religious literature into three classes: (a) Homologoumena, or compositions universally received as sacred, the Four Gospels, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, Hebrews, Acts, I Peter, I John, and Apocalypse. There is some inconsistency in his classification; for instance, though ranking Hebrews with the books of universal reception, he elsewhere admits it is disputed. (b) The second category is composed of the Antilegomena, or contested writings; these in turn are of the superior and inferior sort. The better ones are the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, II Peter, II and III John; these, like Origen, Eusebius wished to be admitted to the Canon, but was forced to record their uncertain status; the Antilegomena of the inferior sort were Barnabas, the Didache, Gospel of the Hebrews, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd, the Apocalypse of Peter. (c) All the rest are spurious (notha).
Eusebius diverged from his Alexandrian master in personally rejecting Apocalypse as un-Biblical, though compelled to acknowledge its almost universal acceptance. Whence came this unfavorable view of the closing volume of the Christian Testament?—Zahn attributes it to the influence of Lucian of Samosata, one of the founders of the Antioch school of exegesis, and with whose disciples Eusebius had been associated. Lucian himself had acquired his education at Edessa, the metropolis of Eastern Syria, which had, as already remarked, a singularly curtailed Canon. Lucian is known to have edited the Scriptures at Antioch,’ and is supposed to have introduced there the shorter N. T. which later St. John Chrysostom and his followers employed—one in which Apocalypse, II Peter, II and III John, and Jude had no place. It is known that Theodore of Mopsuestia rejected all the Catholic Epistles. In St. John Chrysostom’s ample expositions of the Scriptures there is not a single clear trace of the Apocalypse, while he seems to implicitly exclude the four smaller Epistles—II Peter, II and III John, and Jude—from the number of the canonical books. Lucian, then, according to Zahn, would have compromised between the Syriac Canon and the Canon of Origen by admitting the three longer Catholic Epistles and keeping out Apocalypse. But after allowing fully for the prestige of the founder of the Antioch school, it is difficult to grant that his personal authority could have sufficed to strike such an important work as Apocalypse from the Canon of a notable Church, where it had previously been received. It is more probable that a reaction against the abuse of the Johannine Apocalypse by the Montanists and Chiliasts—Asia Minor being the nursery of both these errors—led to the elimination of a book whose authority had perhaps been previously suspected. Indeed it is quite reasonable to suppose that its early exclusion from the East Syrian Church was an outer wave of the extreme reactionist movement of the Aloges—also of Asia Minor—who branded Apocalypse and all the Johannine writings as the work of the heretic Cerinthus. Whatever may have been all the influences ruling the personal Canon of Eusebius, he chose Lucian’s text for the fifty copies of the Bible which he furnished to the Church of Constantinople at the order of his imperial patron Constantine; and he incorporated all the Catholic Epistles, but excluded Apocalypse. The latter remained for more than a century banished from the sacred collections as cur-rent in Antioch and Constantinople. However, this book kept a minority of Asiatic suffrages, and, as both Lucian and Eusebius had been tainted with Arianism, the approbation of Apocalypse, opposed by them, finally came to be looked upon as a sign of orthodoxy. Eusebius was the first to call attention to important variations in the text of the Gospels, viz., the presence in some copies and the absence in others of the final paragraph of Mark, the passage of the Adulterous Woman, and the Bloody Sweat.
(c) The African Church.—St. Cyprian, whose Scriptural Canon certainly reflects the content of the first Latin Bible, received all the books of the N. T. except Hebrews, II Peter, James, and Jude; however, there was already a strong inclination in his environment to admit II Peter as authentic. Jude had been recognized by Tertullian, but, strangely, it had lost its position in the African Church, probably owing to its citation of the apocryphal Henoch. Cyprian’s testimony to the non-canonicity of Hebrews and James is confirmed by Commodian, another African writer of the period. A very important witness is the document known as Mommsen’s Canon, a MS. of the tenth century, but whose original has been ascertained to date from West Africa about the year 360. It is a formal catalogue of the sacred books, unmutilated in the N. T. portion, and proves that at its time the books universally acknowledged in the influential Church of Carthage were almost identical with those received by Cyprian a century before. Hebrews, James, and Jude are entirely wanting. The three Epistles of St. John and II Peter appear, but after each stands the note una sola, added by an almost contemporary hand, and evidently in protest against the reception of these Antilegomena, which; presumably, had found a place in the official list recently, but whose right to be there was seriously questioned.
(3) The period of fixation: c. A.D. 367-405
(a) St. Athanasius
While the influence of Athanasius on the Canon of the O. T. was negative and exclusive (see supra), in that of the N. T. it was trenchantly constructive. In his “Epistola Festalis” (A.D. 367) the illustrious Bishop of Alexandria ranks all of Origen’s N. T. Antilegomena, which are identical with the deuteros, boldly inside the Canon, without noticing any of the scruples about them. Thence-forward they were formally and firmly fixed in the Alexandrian Canon. And it is significant of the general trend of ecclesiastical authority that not only were works which formerly enjoyed high standing at broadminded Alexandria—the Apocalypse of Peter and the Acts of Paul—involved by Athanasius with the apocrypha, but even some that Origen had regarded as inspired—Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache—were ruthlessly shut out under the same damnatory title.
(b) The Roman Church: The Synod under Damasus: St. Jerome
The Muratorian Canon or Fragment, composed in the Roman Church in the last quarter of the second century, is silent about He-brews, James, II Peter; I Peter, indeed, is not mentioned, but must have been omitted by an oversight, since it was universally received at the time. There is evidence that this restricted Canon obtained not only in the African Church, with slight modifications, as we have seen, but also at Rome and in the West generally until the close of the fourth century. The same ancient authority witnesses to the very favorable and perhaps canonical standing enjoyed at Rome by the Apocalypse of Peter and the Shepherd of Hermas. In the middle decades of the fourth century the increased intercourse and exchange of views between the Orient and the Occident led to a better mutual acquaintance regarding Biblical canons and the correction of the catalogue of the Latin Church. It is a singular fact that while the East, mainly through St. Jerome’s pen, exerted a disturbing and negative influence on Western opinion regarding the O. T., the same influence, through probably the same chief intermediary, made for the completeness and integrity of the N. T. Canon. The West began to realize that the ancient Apostolic Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch, indeed the whole Orient, for more than two centuries had acknowledged Hebrews and James as inspired writings of Apostles, while the venerable Alexandrian Church, supported by the prestige of Athanasius, and the powerful Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the scholarship of Eusebius behind its judgment, had canonized all the disputed Epistles. St. Jerome, a rising light in the Church, though but a simple priest, was summoned by Pope Damasus from the East, where he was pursuing sacred lore, to assist at an eclectic, but not ecumenical, synod at Rome in the year 382. Neither the general council at Constantinople of the preceding year nor that of Nice (365) had considered the question of the Canon. This Roman synod must have devoted itself specially to the matter. The result of its deliberations, presided over, no doubt, by the energetic Damasus himself, has been preserved in the document called “Decretum Gelasii de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris”, a compilation partly of the sixth century (Turner, in “Journal of Theological Studies”, I, 1900), but containing much material dating from the two preceding ones. The Damasan catalogue presents the complete and perfect Canon which has been that of the Church Universal ever since. The N. T. portion bears the marks of Jerome’s views (cf. Zahn, “Grundriss der Geschichte d. neutest. Kanons”, in loco). St. Jerome, always prepossessed in favor of Oriental positions in matters Biblical, exerted then a happy influence in regard to the N. T.; if he attempted to place any Eastern restriction upon the Canon of the O. T. his effort failed of any effect. The title of the decree—”Nunc vero de scripturis divinis agendum est quid universalis Catholica recipiat ecclesia, et quid vitare debeat”—proves that the council drew up a list of apocryphal as well as authentic Scriptures. The Shepherd and the false Apocalypse of Peter now received their final blow. “Rome had spoken, and the nations of the West had heard” (Zahn). The works of the Latin Fathers of the period—Jerome, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Sardinia, Philaster of Brescia—manifest the changed attitude toward Hebrews, James, Jude, II Peter, and III John.
(c) Fixation in the African and Gallican Churches
It was some little time before the African Church perfectly adjusted its N. T. to the Damasan Canon. Optatus of Mileve (370-85) does not’ use Hebrews. St. Augustine, while himself receiving the integral Canon, acknowledged that many contested this Epistle. But in the Synod of Hippo (393) the great Doctor’s view prevailed, and the correct Canon was adopted. However, it is evident that it found many opponents in Africa, since three councils there at brief intervals—Hippo, Carthage, in 393; Third of Carthage in 397; Carthage in 419—found it necessary to formulate catalogues. The introduction of Hebrews was an especial crux, and a reflection of this is found in the first Carthage list, where the much vexed Epistle, though styled of St. Paul, is still numbered separately from the time-consecrated group of thirteen. The catalogues of Hippo and Carthage are identical with the Catholic Canon of the present. In Gaul some doubts lingered for a time, as we find Pope Innocent I, in 405, sending a list of the Sacred Books to one of its bishops, Exsuperius of Toulouse.
So at the close of the first decade of the fifth century the entire Western Church was in possession of the full Canon of the N. T. In the East, where, with the exception of the Edessene Syrian Church, approximate completeness had long obtained without the aid of formal enactments, opinions were still somewhat divided on the Apocalypse. But for the Catholic Church as a whole the content of the N. T. was definitely fixed, and the discussion closed.
The final process of this Canon’s development had been twofold: positive, in the permanent consecration of several writings which had long hovered on the line between canonical and apocryphal; and negative, by the definite elimination of certain privileged apocrypha that had enjoyed here and there a canonical or quasi-canonical standing. In the reception of the disputed books a growing conviction of Apostolic authorship had much to do, but the ultimate criterion had been their recognition as inspired by a great and ancient division of the Catholic Church. Thus, like Origen, St. Jerome adduces the testimony of the ancients and ecclesiastical usage in pleading the cause of the Epistle to the Hebrews (De Viris Illustribus, lix) . There is no sign that the Western Church ever positively repudiated any of the N. T. deuteros; not admitted from the beginning, these had slowly advanced towards a complete acceptance there. On the other hand, the apparently formal exclusion of Apocalypse from the sacred catalogue of certain Greek Churches was a transient phase, and supposes its primitive reception. Greek Christianity everywhere, from about the beginning of the sixth century, practically had a complete and pure N. T. Canon. (See Epistle to the Hebrews; Epistles of Saint Peter. Epistle of Saint James. Epistle of Saint Jude. Epistles of Saint John; Apocalypse.)
(4) Subsequent history of the N. T. Canon
(a) To the Protestant Reformation
The N. T. in its canonical aspect has little history between the first years of the fifth and the early part of the sixteenth century. As was natural m ages when ecclesiastical authority had not reached its modern centralization, there were sporadic divergences from the common teaching and tradition. There was no diffused contestation of any book, but here and there attempts by individuals to add something to the received collection. In several ancient Latin MSS. the spurious Epistle to the Laodiceans is found among the canonical letters, and, in a few instances, the apocryphal III Corinthians. The last trace of any Western contradiction within the Church to the Canon of the N. T. reveals a curious transplantation of Oriental doubts concerning the Apocalypse. An act of the Synod of Toledo, held in 633, states that many contest the authority of that book, and orders it to be read in the churches under pain of excommunication. This opposition in all probability came from the Visigoths, who had recently been converted from Arianism. The Gothic Bible had been made under Oriental auspices at a time when there was still much hostility to Apocalypse in the East.
(b) The New Testament and the Council of Trent (1546)
This ecumenical synod had to defend the integrity of the New Testament as well as the Old against the attacks of the pseudo-Reformers. Luther, basing his action on dogmatic reasons and the judgment of antiquity, had discarded Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse as altogether uncanonical. Zwingli could not see in Apocalypse a Biblical book. Ecolampadius placed James, Jude, II Peter, II and III John in an inferior rank. Even a few Catholic scholars of the Renaissance type, notably Erasmus and Cajetan, had thrown some doubts on the canonicity of the above-mentioned Antilegomena. As to whole books, the Protestant doubts were the only ones the Fathers of Trent took cognizance of; there was not the slightest hesitation regarding the authority of any entire document. But the deuterocanonical parts gave the council some concern, viz., the last twelve verses of Mark, the passage about the Bloody Sweat in Luke, and the Pericope Adulterae in John. Cardinal Cajetan had approvingly quoted an unfavorable comment of St. Jerome regarding Mark, xvi, 9-20; Erasmus had rejected the section on the Adulterous Woman as unauthentic. Still, even concerning these no doubt of authenticity was expressed at Trent; the only question was as to the manner of their reception. In the end these portions were received, like the deuterocanonical books, without the slightest distinction. And the clause “cum omnibus Buis partibus” regards especially these portions.—For an account of the action of Trent on the Canon, the reader is referred back to the respective section of this article: II. The Canon of the Old Testament in the Catholic Church.
The Tridentine decree defining the Canon affirms the authenticity of the books to which proper names are attached, without however including this in the definition. The order of books follows that of the Bull of Eugenius IV (Council of Florence), except that Acts was moved from a place before Apocalypse to its present position, and Hebrews put at the end of St. Paul’s Epistles. The Tridentine order has been retained in the official Vulgate and vernacular Catholic Bibles. The same is to be said of the titles, which as a rule are traditional ones, taken from the Canons of Florence and Carthage.—For the bearing of the Vatican Council on the N. T. see II. The Canon of the Old Testament in the Catholic Church.
(5) The New Testament Canon outside the Church
(a) The Orthodox
Russian and other branches of the schismatic Greek Church have a N. T. identical with the Catholic. In Syria the Nestorians possess a Canon almost identical with the final one of the ancient East Syrians; they exclude the four smaller Catholic Epistles and Apocalypse. The Monophysites receive all the books. The Armenians have one apocryphal letter to the Corinthians and two from the same. The Coptic-Arabic Church includes with the canonical Scriptures the Apostolic Constitutions and the Clementine Epistles. The Ethiopic N. T. also contains the so-called “Apostolic Constitutions”.
As for Protestantism, the Anglicans and Calvinists always kept the entire N. T. But for over a century the followers of Luther excluded Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse, and even went further than their master by rejecting the three remaining deuterocanonicals, II Peter, II and III John. The trend of the seventeenth century Lutheran theologians was to class all these writings as of doubtful, or at least inferior, authority. But gradually the German Protestants familiarized themselves with the idea that the difference between the contested books of the N. T. and the rest was one of degree of certainty as to origin rather than of intrinsic character. The full recognition of these books by the Calvinists and Anglicans made it much more difficult for the Lutherans to exclude the N. T. deuteros than those of the Old. One of their writers of the seventeenth century allowed only a theoretic difference between the two classes, and in 1700 Bossuet could say that all Catholics and Protestants agreed on the N. T. Canon. The only trace of opposition now remaining in German Protestant Bibles is in the order, Hebrews, coming with James, Jude, and Apocalypse at the end; the first not being included with the Pauline writings, while James and Jude are not ranked with the Catholic Epistles.
(6) The criterion of inspiration (less correctly known as the criterion of canonicity)
Even those Catholic theologians who defend Apostolicity as a test for the inspiration of the N. T. (see above) admit that it is not exclusive of another criterion, viz., Catholic tradition as manifested in the universal reception of compositions as Divinely inspired, or the ordinary teaching of the Church, or the infallible pronouncements of ecumenical councils. This external guarantee is the sufficient, universal, and ordinary proof of inspiration. The unique quality of the Sacred Books is a revealed dogma. Moreover, by its very nature inspiration eludes human observation and is not self-evident, being essentially superphysical and supernatural. Its sole absolute criterion, therefore, is the Holy inspiring Spirit, witnessing decisively to Itself, not in the subjective experience of individual souls, as Calvin maintained, neither in the doctrinal and spiritual tenor of Holy Writ itself, according to Luther, but through the constituted organ and custodian of Its revelations, the Church. All other evidences fall short of the certainty and finality necessary to compel the absolute assent of faith. (See Franzelin, “De Divina, Traditione et Scripture”; Wiseman, “Lectures on Christian Doctrine”, Lecture ii; also Inspiration of the Bible.)
GEORGE J. REID