Bibles and Authorities

Recently on a particular academic mailing list, someone entirely in earnest put forth the question, “Which is the Christian Old Testament—the Septuagint or the Masoretic Text?” This person rightly recognized the use of various versions by the Apostles and our Lord in the New Testament, a point to which we will return. However, his rather simple question brings to mind a flood of further questions and answers. Thus a relatively simple question involves much more than a simple answer of one word.

Firstly, this is not a question that can be answered as it is phrased. Why is that? It is because different Christians have different Biblical canons and hold different versions of the Old Testament (and, mutatis mutandis, the New Testament). Thus there is no single “the Christian Old Testament.” A more proper question would be “Which is the Old Testament of the [insert descriptor] Christian?” where the descriptor is “Roman Catholic”, or “Greek Orthodox”, or “Lutheran”, and so on. A more informed question will point in a meaningful way to the issues involved, and the correct answer for the particular situation in view. For a Roman Catholic, the official Old Testament (established by canon law) is the Clementine Latin Vulgate. Although translations from the Hebrew Masoretic Text have been made (as in The Jerusalem Bible and The New American Bible), these were to take into account the differences in the Vulgate, preferring them to readings in the Hebrew where different. For the Greek Orthodox, the Septuagint is the Old Testament (mostly the Old Greek editions of books, though in some cases with other versions having replaced the Old Greek, e.g., the Theodotionic Daniel). But the form of liturgical readings preserved in the Prophetologion, trumps the preferred continuous text (based on that of Codex Alexandrinus). That is, where the liturgical texts differ (in Old or New Testament readings), they are preferred, and editions of the continuous text Septuagint are altered to reflect the litugical versions. All the Orthodox (Eastern and Oriental) hold to the liturgical texts as canonical. For the Syrian Orthodox, their own continuous-text Old Testament is the Peshitta, with additions from later versions, and these are adjusted to the liturgical texts where necessary. And so on. There is, however, the interesting case in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions that the versions held as primarily authoritative for each national church (Coptic, Greek, Syrian, Georgian, etc) are not held to be exclusively authoritative. That is, the other versions used in the communion are recognized as valid, inspired, and true.

And yet we are also faced with the anomaly of the Protestant preference for the Hebrew Masoretic Text as the basis for their Old Testament. Although the Lutheran and Anglican canons include various books of the Apocrypha within their own canons (originally deriving from the Vulgate versions, most of which in turn derive from the Septuagint), the books existent in the Hebrew Masoretic Text are considered of primary authority. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta and other versions are considered additional witnesses to an earlier version of the Hebrew text that is since lost or corrupted, and they are (in)consistently mined for their variant readings to address that situation.

The development of the discussion led into the territory of which one of these versions is “true” for the Christian. At this date, the answer can only be “all and none.” There are two reasons for this. Firstly, all of the versions of the Old Testament are recognized by some ecclesiastical authority as true and inspired and canonical for their respective flocks, and yet all recognize that errors have crept into the texts so that none is exactly perfect, and thus not exclusively true. Secondly, due to the variety of errors in transmission and the variety of textual traditions in question, it is certainly the case that no version (not even the Masoretic, as careful as they were) preserves a text entirely uncorrupted, much less a single manuscript. Yet in aggregate, some find it to be the case that where one tradition is in error, another may be correct, and perhaps all of these issues can be worked out, so that all the versions may be considered, in toto, to represent the original accurately. So in that sense, it is only by seeing all versions as exemplars of an original text, some more distant from it than others, that “all” may be considered true. This understanding lies at the heart of textual criticism Bible, whether of a version of the Old Testament (Hebrew Masoretic Text, Septuagint, Peshitta, etc) or the New Testament.

Even so, a question such as “Which of these versions is true for a Christian?” is not the kind of question that can be answered on an academic mailing list, nor should it be asked of one. This is precisely because of the multi-confessional situation described above. In addition, however, the Academy has no standing to answer that question. That is, it is outside the competence of the Academy to decide in such matters. The answer to that particular question lies in the realm of ecclesiastical authority and religious tradition. There can be no academic answer to it. The Church and the Academy are separate worlds, with distinct boundaries. And while each may learn from the other, they are neither one beholden to one another’s conclusions.

We return now to a very interesting fact: the use of various versions of the Old Testament in quotation by the Apostles and our Lord in the New Testament. Setting aside a detailed description of the quotations and issues involved (though referring the reader to the excellent Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Beale and Carson), I will posit that the answer to all the questions asked above is thereby given. That is, the Christian is to consider all the various available versions inspired and authoritative, just as the Apostles and our Lord did, quoting from one or another at a given time. Lo and behold, that is the situation amongst the Orthodox churches exclusively of Christian communions. While others maintain exclusive focus on one or another text as inspired, the Orthodox recognize the validity of several inspired translations of a now partly lost inspired Hebrew original, recognizing that the Masoretic Text itself is, as it surely is, itself a later descendant of those lost originals.

So, while an individual should turn to his own liturgical tradition for an answer in these matters, it is possible to find a reflection of the practices of the Apostles and our Lord Himself in the practices of the Orthodox Church today. I recommend that approach highly, just as I recommend Orthodox Christianity, where my own heart dwells, to all.

25 Replies to “Bibles and Authorities”

  1. Hello Kevin,

    You know, I thought that we RCs (as per Dei Verbum and preceding pronouncements) believed in the inspiration of the Bible in whatever original language they were written, and that canonical restrictions regarding the Vulgate had their chief application to the Latin liturgical use of Scripture, and the vernacular languages into which that liturgy is translated (this latter coming from Liturgiam autenticam of 2000).

    No? Perhaps I misunderstand the point you are making, or perhaps that area of Scripture study belongs to what you are calling Academic study?

  2. Michael, I was focusing more on the liturgical aspect, and should have been more explicit. The Latin liturgy is the official liturgy from which all translations are made, and within that liturgy, only the Clementive Vulgate (and no other) is the official text. Translations certainly belong to the academic realm. Neither Dei Verbum nor Liturgiam Authenticam deal specifically with the issue of the inspiration of versions, but respectively with issues of Bible instruction and translation. It may be mentioned elsewhere, though I’m not certain. It’s not in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

    Mark, the DSS are not an issue here. They’re useful in academic textual criticism but don’t represent a single version, such as I was discussing above. Their integration into a full text of the Hebrew Bible is yet to be accomplished, in any case.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the clarification about the liturgy. I now understand much better what you have said. But please allow to make a few points.

    The Clementine Vulgate is indeed an authorized text for the (untranslated) liturgy, but it is not the only one. Since 1979 the New Vulgate has been the normative authorized Latin bible, and its translation of the protocanonical books of the Old Testament are indeed taken from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. In some verses the translators have been quite free in departing from Jerome’s precedent.

    The psalms used in the Mass are not taken from either the Clementine nor the New vulgate, but from the older Psalterium Romanum. The same is true for the invitatory used in the sung Liturgy of the Hours, although the rest of the psalms sung in the Divine Office are from the Vulgate, either the New (ordinary form) or the Clementine (Summorum Pontificum option). Under Pius XII, a new translation from a reconstructed Hebrew psalter was introduced as an option for the Divine Office. As far as I know that option still stands; in earlier decades (I hear) it was quite popular.

    Some other important Biblical texts used in the liturgy depart from the Vulgate (either version) rather strikingly. The version of the angelic Christmas hymn, “Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” is not from the Vulgate. Neither, famously, is the Pater Noster. Both of these are taken from pre-Vulgate translations. The Latin liturgy has been around longer than the Vulgate has.

    I know very little Hebrew, so I cannot judge the quality of the NAB nor the JB, but the translators’ prefaces to these works show very little deference to the Vulgate, no more so than to other versions. In this they seem to follow the Protestants. The normative text for the protocanonical Old Testament used in the translated Lectionary was established by Pius XII in “Divino Afflante Spiritu” to be the original Hebrew. Catholic translators have run with this football well out of the bounds of the Lectionary. Many of the translations used in the common and propers of the vernacular Mass depart from the Psalterium Romanum in preference to the Hebrew “original”, although this is currently being remediated.

  4. A reader has reminded me that it is the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, promulgated by Pope Pius XII 30 September 1043, which sets out the current Roman Catholic position on issues of Biblical translation and exegesis.

    We must also all keep in mind, with the astute Pope Pius, that it is the writers of the Bible which were inspired, not the writings themselves. This may seem an overly subtle distinction, but it is always necessary to be reminded of it. God the Holy Spirit dwells within us, not within the dead pages of a book.

  5. Many thanks for that Rob. I was aware of the differences in texts between the Clementine, critical Vulgate and New Vulgate, but not that the later had been moved into such a position.

    It’s very interesting to note what various persons have done with the texts of all these encyclicals. Apparently they are used in the same way that books are used in movies which are “based upon” or “inspired by” them, seldom with the intent that a commonsensical reading reveals in them.

    We were writing at the same time!

  6. Dear Kevin:

    Like I said before, you are the voice of clarity. All the things bouncing around my head you were able to verbalize clearly and accurately. Thanks for the blog entry on this issue.

    God Bless, Peter

  7. Kevin,

    I doubt you have understood Pius XII correctly, but in any case, it is Paul who speaks of “all Scripture” (i.e., to judge by the Pauline corpus, something closer to Athanasius later use of the term “Old Testament” – different again from your liturgical definition of canon) as theopneustos. The Church later understood “all scripture” to embrace a New Testament as well.

    In short, your formulation posits an “either/or” when in fact we must think in terms of a “both/and.”

  8. Furthermore, it’s possible to imagine a future consensus around the categories and emphases of Athanasius (Festal Letter, 39), Rufinus (Comm. in Symb. Ap. 37-38), and Jerome (Prologue to the Books of Solomon [Vulg.]).

    If such a consensus were achieved, we would have again, as was the case in the second through fourth centuries, particular churches using in a liturgical setting, catechesis, and theology a set of books the core of which is identical or close to identical to the canon of Athanasius, with many churches nonetheless also using books beyond the core for catechism, and excerpts therefrom in a liturgical setting.

    If such a consensus were achieved, in theology and exegesis, preference might also be given to the hebraica veritas following Jerome’s example, not that of the New Testament.

    Oh wait, such a consensus, practically speaking, already exists. Just look at any Catholic, Protestant, or interconfessional study Bible on the market. Jerome, clearly, won the day.

    That said, I would be fully in agreement with a move in the direction of accrediting the Septuagint as a product of divine providence at the verbal level (not merely in terms of generic inspiration of the translators). Really, I so believe, and so did the Fathers. And so did many Jews, as we know from the Talmud, with respect to the Old Greek Pentateuch.

    But that brings us back to my earlier point.

    1. John, I understood Pope Pius quite well. The Decree on the Canonical Scriptures of the Council of Trent is constantly in view throughout and clearly alluded to several times. This is the context in which the encyclical was written, and in which it must to be read. Paul’s statement on “all Scripture” is rather ambiguous, as he doesn’t give a list, does he? So how do you know which canon he had in mind?

      You completely miss my point, which is precisely that there is a “both/and” option within Orthodox practice that is generally lacking elsewhere in considerations of exclusivity for some particular version or text. You yourself introduce the Protestant party line of Hebrew preference, which is nonsensical from a traditional Christian viewpoint. The minority position for a short canon resembling the Jewish canon, held by St Athanasius and others, never became a lasting reality, and remained solely an historical curiosity until modern times. The Church consensus was for a longer canon, though there is some variety within that preference.

      The fact is that there is no desire for a pipe-dream “consensus,” particularly one that will involve a removal of books from a group’s Scriptures. There are different canons, and different texts of various books between those canons. Each group has Scriptures that are liturgically used and canonical within those uses, and those will not change. They are primary for each tradition. Scholarship is a separate issue. The two realms of Church and Academy remain for most Christians quite separate.

      Pay attention to what Jerome actually wrote, instead of what is said by others about what he wrote. He himself abjured his earlier enthusiasm for hebraica veritas. You may read his thoughts on the subject, translated by myself, here. Notice the change in his thoughts, typically ignored by those eager to tout his much earlier preference for a short canon, as found in the later prologues to Tobias and Judith. Jerome indeed clearly won the day, though not in the way you think, as we have followed his later and more mature opinions in preferring a larger canon which was not established by Jewish authorities but by Christian bishops.

  9. I understood your point, Kevin. But I am contesting it. I will contest it further.

    (1) I still don’t think Pius denied inspiration to the word written. Nor did the documents of Trent. But if you have a quote to that effect, I am happy to backtrack.

    (2) Paul’s “Old Testament” in inferable with a fair degree of plausibility from the mass of citations and allusions to be found in his letters. There is not a single citation or clear allusion to a deutero-canonical passage. If you think otherwise, please provide examples.

    (2) You suggest that Jerome’s Prologues support a change of heart on Jerome’s part. Can you point out where? Here’s a famous passage from the Prologues, in your own translation:

    “This prologue to the Scriptures may be appropriate as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so we may be able to know whatever is outside of these is to be set apart among the apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon, and the book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith and Tobias, and The Shepherd are not in the canon.”

    Please explain in what sense Jerome changed his mind. Did he repent of his mature decision not to offer commentary or translation of books held by him not to be in the canon? Did he go back on his mature decision to translate from the hebraica veritas?

    I refer you, for convenience, to H. D. F. Sparks’ pages on “Jerome and The Bible Canon,” pages 532-535 in Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 1. It’s not me you have a bone to pick with. It’s Sparks and Jerome scholars in general.

    (3) It is absolutely the case that the Churches of the East had, in the 1st through 4th centuries, and have to this day, when different linguistic traditions are taken into account, Old Testaments of varying girth. Even if it is the case that Athanasius’s Protestant OT ante litteram was a minority position in his day, more conservative than the consensus within the Roman realm that was about to develop and which you reference, I don’t see what minority and majority has to do with it.

    Call it a minority position: the question is, was it valid then, and why isn’t it valid – among others – today? This you have yet to explain.

    1. 1.) How about the first words of the encyclical? Books cannot be inspired, but writers can be. This is a simple fact. To say “this book is inspired” is simply shorthand for “this book is the product of an inspired author”.

      2a.) The extent of Paul’s Old Testament is simply not known. The only inference to be made from his quotations is that those particular books were known to him, nothing more. Without an explicit list, you cannot conclusively say that Paul’s canon was either short or long. Such ambiguous evidence is inconclusive, distracting, and not helpful.

      2b.) What part of “the later prologues to Tobias and Judith” did you not understand? The prologue to Kings was his earliest. Tobias’ and Judith’s were twenty years later, very near the end of his life. His mind had changed in that time. Statements to the contrary are worthless, from whatever source. Jerome himself proves them wrong.

      3.) The short canon had no staying power, and only ever very few supporters. Their positions simply did not become part of Tradition. The Church as a whole opted for a more inclusive canon, and in various ways made those more extensive canons official. The issue was long ago decided, and only required revisiting in the modern period in dealing with the Protestant controversy.

  10. 1) The encyclical does not say that books cannot be inspired. That is your diction, and it flies in the face of that of Paul already noted. You have constructed an “either/or” that has no basis in Scripture.

    As for Catholic teaching, you are way off base. “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired they are truly the Word of God” (DV 24). Your “short-hand” theory does not have a leg to stand on.

    2a) Paul’s functional canon can and must be determined by citations and allusions. Everything we know about Pharisaic Judaism’s canon, which Paul inherited, dovetails with that pattern of citations and allusions. It is a historically plausible thesis that Paul’s canon-consciousness aligned with that of rabbinic Judaism in his day. Your suggestion that the evidence is inconclusive is lawyer-like, not scholarly. As you note, it is distracting to your point. More than that, it throws it into doubt.

    (2b) Your reading of the prologues of Tobias and Judith is, I submit (in this I am in agreement with Jerome scholarship as a whole, which you dismiss out of hand), superficial. It is not difficult to see that he translates the works – without care as you yourself note – against his better judgment. Jerome obeyed the bishops without changing his mind.

    3) A short canon was well established and had many supporters in the first few centuries. It is historically inaccurate to suggest otherwise. Since the Reformation, it has gone from strength to strength, and is now the canon, de facto or de jure, of the majority of Christians today who own a Bible in whatever language. Tradition, even with a capital “T,” will not change that, least of all by appealing to its own authority.

    It would be helpful, if the mystical unity of the body of Christ means anything, for Christians in one branch of the family to respect the traditions of other branches of the family. But it has to be a two-way street. I’m not sensing that from you, Kevin.

    1. John, you’re not even trying to understand because these issues touch on too many myths sacred to you.

      1.) How would the Holy Spirit inhabit the dead pages of a book? The idea is absurd.

      2a.) Paul’s canon is simply unknown. All you can say is that we have evidence of particular books that he used. That is objective evidence.

      2b.) I don’t care what you or what your idea of “Jerome scholarship” thinks. Jerome disagrees with you, and people that I know who are very familiar with Jerome agree with me.

      3.) No, it is historically inaccurate to claim widespread support for a smaller canon. But, of course, you would have to be keeping current on canon scholarship to know this, which you are obviously not. Are you aware of how many Catholics and Orthodox exist in the world? They together far outnumber the totality of Protestants, and their canons are historically founded and larger. Unfortunately this is inconvenient for you. Cherry-picking the evidence is much more convenient to you, following in the footsteps of the Deformers. Tradition is simply the accumulated set of practices and decisions formed through the centuries in the life of the Church, something that apparently a particular Protestant won’t or can’t understand, being entirely foreign to it. The rejection of Tradition is simply the rejection of the Christian life.

      The Body of Christ is the Church. And we know where the Church is. And it is not Protestant. Is that clear enough for you? That doesn’t mean that we don’t believe that God works with people outside the Church, but the fullness of faith exists only within her. Any “mystical unity” theory is predicated on reconciling the chaotic fragmentation of Protestantism driven by self-will with the understanding of there being one and only one Body of Christ. But just as our Lord was both a spiritual and physical being, Divine and human, so is the Church a single organization in both the physical and spiritual realm. This is Orthodox ecclesiology, or didn’t you know? Don’t expect me to be something I’m not!

  11. John you do know that St, Jerome was criticized by St. Augustine for his translation right? You are aware that St. Athanasius was in the minority when it came to a shorter canon? Both Orthodox and Catholic council have continually affirmed the longer LXX canon. Also, alot of other Church Fathers, like St. Basil, affirmed the inspiration of the so-called apocryphal books.

    In fact, the Councils of Jassy and Jerusalem explicitly ruled such books canonical in the Orthodox Church, and were a direct response to Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril’s “Reforms”, that were heavily influenced by Calvanism, for a Shorter Canon. Cyril was later deposed from his Holy See for his heretical views in total.

    The Council of Tren and even the current Catholic Catechism affirm a longer canon of OT sripture. This has always been the majority, accepted and affirmed position of both the Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Kevin is absolutely correct in his assessment of a longer OT canon being the practice of the Historical Church.

  12. <>

    Hello John,

    I must be missing something here. The last time I looked, there were approximately 1.1 billion Catholics in the world. And approximately 290 million Eastern Orthodox in the world. Both of whom use a long canon. There are approximately 650 million Protestants in the world using the short canon.

    So, over two thirds of all Christians prefer to use a longer canon.

    The numbers don’t match your statement.

    Regards,
    John

  13. 2nd John> I don’t see how it constitutes an argument for the ‘short canon’, but I think John Hobbins was trying to imply that most Catholics and Orthodox don’t own Bibles. While I don’t see how one could prove or disprove such a claim, I would think that the far more important question is who is actually faithful to the teachings of the Scriptures. It is their canon that I accept.

  14. Kevin,

    This is a conversation that is clearly long overdue. We are in stark disagreement on a variety of issues. They are very important issues. A few quick points:

    (A)I remain convinced you are out on a limb with your dichotomy according to which the scriptures are not inspired, just the authors. Since you persist, I promise to take it up on my blog in the near future, and saw off the limb out from under you with quotes from the Fathers.

    (B) I am surprised by your taste for a highly polemical register full of belittlement for those you disagree with. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Does Orthodox ecclesiology
    demand that one speak so disparagingly of non-Orthodox branches of Christianity? That is a rhetorical question.

    (C) On specific issues relating to the history of the canon, I will take these issues up in more detail in the future. The positions I represented are not unusual at all.

    You go back and forth on this. Sometimes you revel in the fact of disagreeing with almost everyone who has looked at a particular subject matter in depth. On other occasions you want us to believe that the field is coming around to your point of view. I have no doubts about your sincerity, so it’s time to take the discussion to the next level in which claims will have to be sourced and detailed arguments put forward. I look forward to it.

    (D) The numbers game about how many people are this and that is, in one sense, irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I am reminded, however, of how interesting many of us find the subject matter. I will take up these matters in greater detail as well.

    My ground rules, however, are different from those of a polemicist. A polemicist limits himself to washing the dirty laundry of his opponents in public. He cries bloody murder when those he seeks to sully in public respond in kind.

    My ground rules are those of a constructive critic. That is, I’m interested in critiquing error and misunderstandings in whatever quarter they appear in, in the hoping of helping myself and others be better Protestants, better Catholics, better Orthodox, etc.

    People occasionally swap out the confession they were raised in for another. In my experience, regardless of what they are lapsing from and what they are converting to, they have excellent reasons for doing so, given their life experiences and their hard-won understandings.

    It is a lot to expect of converts that they put their own zeal in perspective. I would only hope, Kevin, that you will understand that the fact that I expect you to do so is meant as a compliment.

  15. Hello again Kevin. This has been a great post. It certainly has generated a lot of criticism. Do you mind if I pile it on? (I hope you find it constructive!)

    I don’t think that you can cite Divino Afflante Spiritu to support the position that it is the writers and not the text that is inspired. Don’t put your trust in English (mis)translations of Roman documents! “Divino afflante Spiritu” means “by the inspiration of the divine Spirit”, and not “inspired by the divine Spirit”. Divino afflante Spiritu, illos Sacri Scriptores exararunt libros, quos Deus, pro sua erga hominum genus paterna caritate, dilargiri voluit ad docendum, ad arguendum, ad corripiendum, ad erudiendum in iustitia, ut perfectus sit homo Dei, ad omne opus bonum instructus. So it is the “exaration” (I love that word! Way better than “composed” in the mistranslation.), the very act of inscribing the scrolls which is inspired, not (necessarily) the inscribers, nor (necessarily) the inscribed.

    Nevertheless, on a personal note, it always sends a thrill up my spine to see a bible. Those “dead pages”, that dry ink on the bleached pulped carcass of a tree, communicate the very Word of God. That the exalted logos can be shared through such lowly media has always stricken me as very “incarnational”, if you will. God’s condescension is even more striking in the case of a book than in that of the sacred body and blood, insofar as the book is even lowlier than a human being, and its text is even more liable to abuse and desecration.

    On the matter of Jerome’s opinion of the canon, I think the truth is even more obscure than either you or John Hobbins seem to think. I suspect that his opinion, insofar as he had any at all, was according to his famous dictum, “when in Rome, I do as the Romans do…” But the matter is obscure for two reasons.

    (1) In his prologue Galeatus, he is not arguing for a canon, he is merely describing one to a friend. He surely new that opinions varied on the matter, but he makes no attempt to argue a position. Presumably the canon he described was one that was in use in his church (Jerusalem) or in his friend’s church (Jerusalem again?). When he was contradicted (perhaps) by Cromatius and Heliodorus, and later by Augustine, he did not argue with them at all, but neither did he exactly say, “you are right, I was wrong”. (When in Rome…)

    (2) When he says that Judith is numbered among the Sacred Scriptures, he does not exactly say it is canonical. (How could he? Was he a bishop?) This is an important point. Canonical is not a synonym for Scriptural. Luther, after all, considered Judith to be scriptural, that’s why he put Judith into his translation of the Bible, but he certainly did not consider it canonical. The identification of scriptural with canonical is a modern notion for Catholics as well as Protestants. The earliest example of a bible expurgated of extra-canonical text that I know of is in the 17th century, when one desecrating printer deliberated removed the Apocrypha section from his King James edition. This practice became popular in the 19th century. Today, even Catholics do it; when was the last time you saw a Catholic bible with the Prayer of Manasses in it? They used to be commonplace. But that is now. In Jerome’s day, I see no evidence that scriptural meant canonical, so I don’t see his prologue to Judith as being a slam-dunk, one way or the other.

    To say that Jerome changed his mind, you’d have to say that he really thought the canon in Galeatus ought to be definitive, and I don’t see any evidence of that. And you would also have to say that his reference to sacred scripture in his later prologue indicated his (or anyone else’s) opinion of a canon, and I find that iffy too. One thing I will say though, is when you take Galeatus out of its original context, and plop it down into a preface to the Vulgate, and copy it without context all over western Europe, it can create an impression of someone declaring his position on an issue. But if that’s what Jerome was doing, he managed to keep a low profile about it to his contemporaries.

  16. Rob, I’ll develop this further in my next post, but you’re in one sense absolutely right, that St Jerome’s position is more complex than I’ve presented. But he was also very well known among his contemporaries, judging by his repeated denunciations, for doing precisely what Mr Hobbins claims, which position various Deformers (or Reformers, as some would call them) and their followers have maintained to date. This is a complete and utter misapprehension of St Jerome’s very clear statements, the proper import of which all scholars of St Jerome are aware (contra Hobbins). It does seem, however, that while Jerome was not modifying an advocated Biblical canon, his perception of the value of the non-Hebrew books had changed over the course of his life, and this is registered in his prologues and other letters.

    Also, I didn’t intend for some incidental statements in this post to steal the limelight and to derail the conversation and the point of the post, which is, namely, that there is no single Christian canon, but the historical ones of the early Church were broader than narrower. This is a completely (within rational discussion on the topic, at least) uncontroversial point these days.

    However, my incidental point in my distinction that ink, paper, and binding materials are not and cannot be inspired is one that is based in Orthodox theology and anthropology, and which is shared by Catholicism. While the Saintly authors themselves were inspired, and wrote from within that inspiration, the writing materials and physical books were not. They are the product of inspiration, of course, but it is the Saints who were inspired. It is completely non-sensical for either πνευμα or spiritus to be considered to be within a book, however good that book may be, even a book produced by inspiration. And I mean quite literally inspiration in all its etymological and theological import: the Holy Spirit being within. He does not inhabit books. He inhabits people. Only a comically simplistic literalism will insist that Paul’s πασα γραφη θεοπνευστος requires that the Holy Spirit dwells within a book. Yes, the books are “inspired” as they are written by inspired authors. But they would not have come into existence without inspired authors. I cannot believe that I even need to elaborate on this, really, as the point is so obvious.

    Now, there is a very interesting position that the Scriptures, particularly the Gospel book, holds in the Orthodox Church, as an icon of Christ. And as we know, God’s grace can work through icons to the benefit of the faithful. But to say that God actually inhabits either is still a stretch.

    But, regardless of this, “inspiration” almost never comes up as a criterion for a book being considered Scripture (or canonical: the terms are synonymous; I’ll describe this later). Paul’s statement stands almost alone until modern times, when the distinction is made between inspired and uninspired books in the canons of others, typically made by Protestants against the Catholic canon. What is ironic is that they choose to fault these writings as uninspired due to historical inaccuracies, a category that Paul did not include as one of the benefits of Scripture in his pithy statement on its inspiration: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3.16-17 RSV). Some would append “and absolute historical accuracy” to Paul’s statement, it would seem. In any case, inspiration, for whatever reason, did not come up often in connection with the Scriptures and Authenticity and therefore authority were the criteria most often considered.

    There are some, however (apparently like Mr Hobbins) who would insist upon only their version of the books, and only their list of books, to be inspired and authentically Christian. That’s merely an exclusionist stance, as there are numerous churches which bear the label Christian and hold differing canons.

    John Hobbins, that’s enough. You’ve done this before, and I’m through with it. You completely misconstrue something, and back it up with tertiary evidence that is old, irrelevant, or poorly managed. That is not constructive criticism. You begin the polemics yourself and then accuse others of doing so. You long ago lost my interest when you proved that you’re perfectly willing to pronounce on matters on which you haven’t done the reading, yet pretended to. I’m not interested in such a tone, or such a perspective. Bye now.

  17. No matter which false English Bible you use, Protestant or Modern Catholic every Old Testament has systematically mistranslated the name CHRIST the 21 times it is found in the Greek texts and St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate ; rendering CHRIST into the neutered term “Anointed.”

    I Sam. 2:10; I Sam. 2:35; 1 Sam. 12:3; I Sam. 12:5; I Sam. 16:6; II Sam. 22:51; II Sam. 23:1; II Chr. 6:42; Psalm 2:2; Psalm 18:50 ; Psalm 20:6; Psalm 84:9; Psalm 89:38; Psalm 89:51; Psalm 132:10; Psalm 132:17; Isaiah 45:1; Lam. 4:20; Daniel 9:25; Daniel 9:26; Hab. 3:13

    The only faithful English text of Holy Scripture that keeps the name Christ 21 times is the original and true Douay-Rhemes of 1582/1609-10. (Not the false Challoner revision.) Coincidently, this pure and genuine English Catholic Bible has gone four centuries without a reprint.

    Can any of you “biblical scholars” discern the historical and religious implications of centuries of Christ-less English Old Testaments?

  18. Well Albion Oran, we read it in Greek (which is even better than Latin for this), and our English has it, but these are lectionary texts. And yes, the historical, religious, and most importantly spiritual effects (not just implications) of centuries of not just Christless English Old Testaments, but Christless societies and lives are dire.

    And the original Douai-Rheims really should be reprinted. The only decent modern printing I’ve seen (the Winrod facsimile is not good) is that in the English Recusant Literature collection, in three volumes. Those are nearly impossible to come by, though. Perhaps I’ll check them out, scan them and make my own set.

    You will enjoy these, however:
    Introduction to the Douai-Rheims New Testament, 1582
    Introduction to the Douai-Rheims Old Testament, 1609

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