Skip to comments.But Seriously — Who Holds the Bible’s Copyright?
Posted on 04/03/2013 3:43:07 PM PDT by NYer
Q: Okay, so what is the Christian account of how revelation occurred?
As Elmer Fudd might say, Vewy, vewy swowly. Divine revelation didnt happen in a blinding flashsuch as God dropping the Summa Theologiae on top of a mountain and waiting for people to invent the Latin language so they could read it. (Though He could have given them magical spectacles that would translate it for them .) It seems that God preferred to slowly unfold His personality and His will for us through the course of tangled, messy human history. We might wonder why, and call up the divine customer service line to ask why in heck human nature arrived in the mail without the instructions. I dont pretend to know what He was thinking here, but I find it aesthetically fitting that our knowledge of God evolved in much the way that animal species did, over a long time and by fits and starts, with sudden leaps whenever God saw fit, until finally the world was ready to receive the final product: in creation, man, in revelation, the Son of Man. God seems to prefer planting seeds to winding up robots.
So we start with traces of a primitive monotheism among some scattered peoples of the worldwhich might have been long-faded memories of what Adam told his children about the whole apple incident, combined with crude deductions that boil down to Nothing comes from nothing. But mankind pretty much wandered around with no more than that for quite some time, and this was when he employed the inductive method to discover the hemorrhoid god.
The first incident in Jewish-Christian scriptures that suggests God revealed Himself to us after that is the rather discouraging narrative of Noah. According to the story, the human race went so wrong so fast that God decided to backspace over most of it, leaving only a single righteous family, trapped on a stinky boat with way too many pets. When they landed, they had no more idea of what to do with themselves than the cast of Gilligans Island, so God gave them instructions: We call this the Covenant of Noah. The Jews believe that these are the only commandments God gave to the Gentiles7 of them, instead of 613and that the rest of us can please God just by keeping them. Thats the reason that Jews dont generally try to make converts. (Who are we to run around making things harder for people? Feh!) The Jewish Talmud enumerates the 7 laws of Noah as follows:
Most of this sounds fairly obvious and commonsensicalthough we might wonder why it was necessary to tell people to stop pulling off pieces of live animals and eating them. They must have gotten into some pretty bad habits while they were still stuck on that ark.
Q: That ark must have been the size of Alabama
I know, I know.
Q. to fit all those elephants, hippos, rhinos, tree sloths, polar bears, gorillas, lions and moose
Okay, smart guy.
Q. not to mention breeding pairs of more than 1,000,000 species of insects. Sure theyre mostly small, but those creepy-crawlies add up.
Spoken like a true-believing member of Campus Crusade for Cthulu, complete with a bad case of acne and involuntary celibacy. Maybe you should focus on Onan instead of Noah.
Look, theres a reason why Catholics dont read the bible in an exclusively literal sense, and havent since the time of Origen (+253). The Church looks at the books of scripture according to the genres in which they were written (history, allegory, wisdom, prophecy, and so on). And this story, clearly, was intended as allegorywhich means that on top of some historical content (and theres flotsam from flood-narratives in the basement of most ancient cultures) the writer piled up details to make a point. Unlike liberal Protestants, we dont use this principle to explain away Jesus miracles and the moral law. Nor are we fundamentalists who take everything in the bible literallyexcept for This is my body, (Luke 22: 19) Thou art Peter, (Matthew 16: 18) and No, your pastor cant get divorced. (Cleopatra 7: 14) The Church responded to biblical criticism with appropriate skepticism at first, and accepted the useful parts (like reading original languages and looking for ancient manuscripts), without throwing out the traditional mode of reading the bible in light of how the Church Fathers traditionally understood it.
Q. Why should the Church be the interpreter of the bible?
In the case of the New Testament, the Church had transcribed the books; shouldnt we own the copyright to our own memoirs? When the list of accepted gospels and epistles was drawn up, there were more surplus candidates milling around than in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, before a primarysome of them inspirational but probably inauthentic, like the Protoevangelium that tells the story of Marys childhood; others creepily gnostic, like the Gospel of Thomas, which has Jesus using His superpowers to wreak revenge on His schoolmates. (That gospel is always popular, since it shows Jesus doing exactly what each of us would really do in His place.) The decision on which books were divinely inspired was based largely on the evidence of the liturgy: which books had been used in churches for services in the most places for the longest. As I like to tell Jehovahs Witnesses who come to my door: that bible youre waving at me was codified by a council of Catholic bishops who prayed to Mary and the saints, baptized infants, and venerated the Eucharist. So you could say that as the original, earthly author and editor, the Church has a better claim of knowing how to read it than the reporters at National Geographicwho every Christmas or Easter discover some new and tantalizing scrap of papyrus containing gnostic sex magic tips or Judas To-do list.
In the case of the Old Testament, the Church draws heavily on how Jews traditionally read their own scripturesbut with one important and obvious difference. We are the descendants of the faction of Jews who accepted Christ as the Messiah and evangelized the gentiles, all the while considering themselves the faithful remnant whod remained true to the faith of Abraham. So we see throughout the Old Testament foreshadowings of Christ, for instance in Abrahams sacrifice, and Isaiahs references to the suffering servant. The Jews who were skeptical of Jesus believed that they were heroically resisting a blasphemous false prophet whod tempted them to idolatry. As the Church spread and gained political clout, and Christians began to shamefully mistreat the people from whom theyd gotten monotheism in the first place, there surely was genuine heroism entailed in standing firm. I often wonder how many Jews would be drawn to Jesus if they could separate Him from the sins committed against their great-grandparents in His name .
The version of the Old Testament that Catholics and Orthodox use is different from what Jews use today. Our version, based on the Septuagint translation into Greek, is somewhat longer, and includes some later documents that Jews accepted right up to the time Saint Paul convertedbooks that illustrate a lot of the mature developments in Judaism which led up to the coming of Christ. The very fact that Christian apostles were using these books may have led the rabbis to eventually reject them. (Since the biblical references to Purgatory can be found in these books, Martin Luther and the Anglicans also excluded them.) Ironically, the Book of Maccabees exists in Catholic bibles but not Jewish ones, and right up until Vatican II we had a Feast of the Maccabeeswhich means that you could call Chanukah a Catholic holiday. But dont tell the judges in New York City, or theyll pull all the menorahs out of the schools.
“we might wonder why it was necessary to tell people to stop pulling off pieces of live animals and eating them. They must have gotten into some pretty bad habits while they were still stuck on that ark.”
Well, it kind of makes a bit of sense. You’ve only got 8 people to feed, on a boat full of animals with no refrigeration. If you kill a whole cow, most of it’s going to go bad before you can eat it. If you just amputate one leg and cauterize it, well, problem solved.
Good responses. However, the interpretative methods Christians used at the time of Origen predate Christian scriptures. They actually borrowed this from Jewish scriptural scholarship.
Philo of Alexandria and others were already fusing Greek methods of critical thought with the Jewish Religious scriptures well before the time of Jesus.
This is why a practice of detailed exegesis was already relevant in the discussions Jesus made in the gospels.
“Since the biblical references to Purgatory can be found in these books, Martin Luther and the Anglicans also excluded them.”
That’s an easy poke in the eye to Protestants, but it really isn’t the main reason the books were excluded. They were separated from Scripture by Protestants for much the same reasons that they were always kept separate from the NT and OT by the Catholics themselves, mainly because they were written after God had caused the spirit of prophecy to depart from Israel, therefore their inspired nature is rightfully suspect.
The Westminster Confession on the subject:
“I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. “
The Bible speaks of itself:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”
2 Timothy 3:16
As it survives today, Codex Sinaiticus comprises just over 400 large leaves of prepared animal skin, each of which measures 15 inches by 13.5 inches (380 millimeters by 345 millimeters). It is the oldest book that contains a complete New Testament and is only missing parts of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.
The 4th-century book, written in Greek, has been digitally reunited in a project involving groups from Britain, Germany, Russia and Egypt, which each possessed parts of the 1,600-year-old manuscript.
They worked together to publish new research into the history of the Codex and transcribed 650,000 words over a four-year period.
The Codex was both a key Christian text and “a landmark in the history of the book, as it is arguably the oldest large-bound book to have survived,” McKendrick said.....
That term is most often associated with LDS and Seventh Day Adventists they both differ in its meaning. What context are you referring to it?
So when did the spirit of prophecy depart Israel? Wasn't John the Baptist a prophet?
Peace be with you
“that they were always kept separate from the NT and OT by the Catholics themselves, mainly because they were written after God had caused the spirit of prophecy to depart from Israel, therefore their inspired nature is rightfully suspect.”
Which is why the definitive Latin version of scripture excluded them. Oh wait. No, it didn’t.
The Vulgate included them. As of 400 AD.
Sinaiticus has an older brother. Codex Vaticanus. :)
No, they weren't. St. Jerome included them in the OT, they are in the ordinary OT order in the Vulgate and in the Douay-Rheims (the contemporary of the KJV).
More importantly, they were in the Septuagint, which was the Hebrew scripture in common use at the time of Christ. When Jesus Himself quotes Scripture, he quotes from the Septuagint.
The KJV cut the "Apocrypha" out because they translated the OT directly from the Hebrew, and by the time the KJV picked up the Hebrew scriptures, the Jews had rejected these books for reasons of their own (mostly having to do with the mention of eternal life and the Messiah). Luther didn't like them either because of the prayers for the dead.
The manuscript is believed to have been housed in Caesarea in the 6th century, together with the Codex Sinaiticus, as they have the same unique divisions of chapters in the Acts. It came to Italy probably from Constantinople after the Council of Florence (14381445).
The manuscript has been housed in the Vatican Library (founded by Pope Nicholas V in 1448) for as long as it has been known, appearing in the library’s earliest catalog of 1475 (with shelf number 1209), and in the 1481 catalog. In a catalog from 1481 it was described as a “Biblia in tribus columnis ex memb.”
***No, they weren’t. St. Jerome included them in the OT,****
Jerome wanted to exclude them but was told by the Pope to keep them in.
It is interesting that some other books were written into early Greek manuscripts that we do not consider “scripture” such as THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS.
Some parts were also excluded such as the last verses of Mark although one bible did leave a blank area so it could be added later. It wasn’t.
“St. Jerome included them in the OT”
“On the other hand, Jerome (in Protogus Galeatus) declared that all books outside the Hebrew canon were apocryphal. In practice, Jerome treated some books outside the Hebrew canon as if they were canonical, and the Western Church did not accept Jerome’s definition of apocrypha, instead retaining the word’s prior meaning (see: Deuterocanon). As a result, various church authorities labeled different books as apocrypha, treating them with varying levels of regard.”
“More importantly, they were in the Septuagint, which was the Hebrew scripture in common use at the time of Christ.”
“Some apocryphal books were included in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures compiled around 280 B.C., with little distinction made between them and the rest of the Old Testament. Origen, Clement and others cited some apocryphal books as “scripture,” “divine scripture,” “inspired,” and the like. On the other hand, teachers connected with Palestine and familiar with the Hebrew canon excluded from the canon all of the Old Testament not found there. This view is reflected in the canon of Melito of Sardis, and in the prefaces and letters of Jerome. A third view was that the books were not as valuable as the canonical scriptures of the Hebrew collection, but were of value for moral uses, as introductory texts for new converts from paganism, and to be read in congregations. They were referred to as “ecclesiastical” works by Rufinus.”
Despite the recent attempts by Catholics to paint the Apocrypha as universally accepted before Luther came along and cut them out because of some not so noble motives, it’s simply not true. The books were always a matter of some controversy in the church, from the early days up until the Reformation. It’s just convenient for you to now whitewash those facts in order to have another charge to level at Protestants.
Okay, exactly where does the Bible tell you 2 Timothy is scripture?
Yes, I was mistaken, sorry about that. See my other response above, however. Included or not, they were still disputed as to whether they carried the full wait of the universally accepted Hebrew scriptures, from the early days of the church. The notion that something was different about these books didn’t start with Luther, and therefore attributing some peculiarly Protestant motive for their exclusion isn’t accurate.
“Okay, exactly where does the Bible tell you 2 Timothy is scripture?”
It is written by the apostle Paul. Apostles were those directly ordained by Jesus to be authoritative teachers of official doctrine.
Of course, we only know that because we see it happening in the gospels, and in Acts. So then, we can dispute their authority, and etc. It is indeed circular reasoning. The Bible claims to be God’s Word; it proves itself; the various books were cited as authoritatively God’s word in other books; its prophecies all came true, except for the ones we still wait upon (Jesus’ second coming), it all agrees with itself; and the Holy Spirit causes us to recognize God’s very voice in it.
Certainly we can see the early church so accepted it. Perhaps this trumps the “Scripture verifies itself” argument in your mind. But even Scripture details failures and want of right doctrine and living in the early church times. So, while the church’s acceptance of the Bible is certainly reassuring, for me I can’t make the church’s acceptance the criteria for believing it. The Bible stands on its own authority.
“That term is most often associated with LDS and Seventh Day Adventists they both differ in its meaning.”
I’m neither of those sects, nor do I put much stock in their peculiar beliefs. I’m basing my assessment on the beliefs of those who probably know best, the Jews themselves. For example:
“God communicated to people through prophecy for nearly the entire biblical period, from Adam until Malachi. According to a prevalent Jewish tradition, prophecy ceased with Malachi, not to be renewed until the messianic age.”
Now, of course I believe John the Baptist was a prophet, but he was a prophet serving a particular purpose: to announce the coming of Christ and prepare Israel to receive Him. So, he is actually the first prophet of the Messianic age, not a prophet of the Old Covenant, even though the Jews failed to fully recognize him.
There was no universal canon in the early church.
The only scriptures at that point in time that were widely used that they would have been familiar with is the Septuagint. And all these books were included in the Septuagint.
“therefore attributing some peculiarly Protestant motive for their exclusion isnt accurate.”
Then why doesn’t Eastern Orthodoxy exclude them? The motivation for their removal was a protestant novelty.