Understanding The Bible Part One The Canons Of The Bible


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The first in a six-part series examining how to understand the Bible using the historical-critical method. The subject of Part One is the Canons of the Old and New Testament, how they were decided, and the difference between the Catholic and Protestant canons.

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Understanding The Bible Part One The Canons Of The Bible

  1. 1. Understanding the Bible<br />A Six Week Bible Study Program Using the Historical-Critical Method<br />Edward J. Hahnenberg, BA, MA, MA, Ed.S<br />
  2. 2. The Historical-Critical Method<br />The Historical- critical method investigates the origins of a biblical text: it compares them to other texts written at the same time, before, or recently after the text in question.<br />Initially it was rejected in favor of the “literal” interpretation of the Bible by Judaism, Catholicism, the Orthodox tradition, and Protestantism.<br />Today it is the preferred method by scholars of both Jewish and Christian faiths, with the exception of fundamentalist denominations. <br />
  3. 3. The Pontifical Biblical Commission Statement<br />The Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a document in 1993, entitled “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” which states:<br />The historical-critical method is the indispensable method for the scientific study of the meaning of ancient texts. Holy Scripture, inasmuch as it is the &quot;word of God in human language,&quot; has been composed by human authors in all its various parts and in all the sources that lie behind them. Because of this, its proper understanding not only admits the use of this method but actually requires it.<br />
  4. 4. History of the Historical-critical method - 1<br />The question of whether the Torah contained accurate history was raised by observations that Moses could not have written the Torah by himself, since he apparently records his own death in Deuteronomy (34). Readers of the Torah noted other contradictions. It would record events one way, then state that things happened in another order. It would say there were two of something, then, later, fourteen of the same thing. It described Moses going to a Tabernacle before he built it. At first, these problems were explained away by suggestions that, although Moses wrote the Torah, a few lines were added here and there. <br />
  5. 5. History of the Historical-critical method - 2<br />A number of scholars during the Middle Ages brought up questions about various lines and passages in the biblical text that seemed odd or out of place: <br />Isaac ibnYashush: An 11th century Jewish court physician in Muslim Spain. He observed that Genesis 36 appeared to be a list of Edomite kings who would have lived long after Moses was dead. He asked why this list was in Genesis. <br /> Abraham ibn Ezra: A 12th century Spanish Rabbi noted several passages that he thought Moses could not have been responsible for. <br />Bonfils: A 14th century scholar located in Damascus. He affirmed ibn Ezra’s conclusions.<br />Tostatus: A 15th century bishop of Avila. He stated that the passage about Moses’ death and others could not have been penned by Moses. <br />
  6. 6. History of the Historical-critical method - 3<br />As is turned out, the Christian church was not sympathetic to these views. It happened that in the sixteenth century, Catholic Andreas van Maes and two Jesuits, Benedict Pereira and Jacques Bonfrere, suggested that later writers expanded on the writings of Moses. Van Maes’ book was placed on Rome’s Index of Prohibited Books. British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, during the following century, noted similar problems with Mosaic authorship. French Calvinist Isaac de la Peyrere boldly stated that Moses was not the author of the Torah. His book was banned. Catholic priest Richard Simon, a former Protestant, wrote that the Torah was, at its core, Mosaic, but there were additions and elaborations by scribes. He pointed out the use of doublets (a story being told twice), inconsistencies in content, and differences in style of writing. His book also wound up on the Index.<br />
  7. 7. History of the Historical-critical method - 4<br />Notable investigators in the eighteenth century, such as the German minister H.B. Witter, French doctor of medicine, Jean Astruc, German educator J. G. Eichhorn, and graduate student W.M.L. DeWette, contributed to the theory that the Torah (or Pentateuch) had been written by four writers, or groups of authors, whose work was sometimes found on the same page. According to this hypothesis, four documents had been woven together: that of the Yahwist (J), that of the Elohist (E), that of the Deuteronomy (D), and that of the priestly author (P).<br />The Protestant Hermann Gunkel, who died in 1932, maintained that the Torah was a compilation of several writers, but also pointed out that in the Psalms there were different genres of writing, whether legends or hymns. Preceding him was Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918), who held that the Torah had its origins in a redaction of four originally independent texts dating from several centuries after the time of Moses.<br />
  8. 8. History of the Historical-critical method - 5<br />These scholars and their theories invited heated discussion. At first they were criticized and maligned. However, their ideas persisted, leading to the acceptance in Jewish, Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic scholarly circles of the hypothesis that the Torah was not the work of one man, Moses, or by any one person.<br />As scholars began to study the entire Bible, armed with a better understanding of biblical languages, every book of Scripture was examined both as to authorship and content. One of my teachers of Greek was scripture scholar John P. Weisengoff who demonstrated knowledge of twenty-seven languages. Sulpician priest and biblical scholar Raymond Brown edited The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, which remains a standard reference work utilizing the historical-critical method. Another work utilizing the historical-critical method is The Anchor Bible Series, edited by David Noel Freedman. It is a project of international and interfaith contributors, with books by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish scholars from many countries.<br />
  9. 9. The Land of the Bible<br />Israel – The Land of the Bible.<br />How could a land so small be such an important part of Western civilization?<br />
  10. 10. Israel Factoids<br />Area: 10,840 square miles including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. 56,809 square miles of Michigan are land areas.<br />Long and narrow in shape, Israel is 290 miles long at its longest point and 85 mileswide at the widest point. <br />Michigan is 490 miles long and 240 miles wide at its mostdistant points.<br />The Gaza Strip occupies 141 square miles. It is about 28 miles long and from 3 to 19miles wide. <br />The area of Grand Traverse County is 465 square miles.<br />The area of the entire West Bank is about 2,200 square miles, or the equivalent of 4.7 Grand Traverse-like counties.<br />Israel has a population of over 6.5 million. Michigan&apos;s population is just over 10 million.<br />Current density is 600 per square mile in Israel. Michigan&apos;s population density is 176 per square mile.<br />
  11. 11. The Bible as “God’s Word”<br />Virtually all Christian denominations accept the Bible as God’s Word.<br />Where did this belief come from?<br />No “press conference” from God dictating His revelation.<br />Writings from pagan religions considered “sacred”. Example: Hinduism’s BhagavadGita.<br />How can one be sure that the Bible is really from God?<br />
  12. 12. Factors to consider<br />Generally, the Bible’s message has a higher moral tone. Eg. The Ten Commandments, OT Wisdom literature, The Beatitudes, Christ’s teachings.<br />The prophetic material in OT.<br />Miracles of Jesus Christ, an historical person.<br />The Resurrection of Christ.<br />The world-wide influence of Christianity.<br />Promise of Christ to Peter that “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16: 18-19)<br />
  13. 13. Scriptural quotes<br />2 Timothy 3: 16-17: All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.<br />2 Peter 1: 20-21: Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.<br />
  14. 14. Conciliar Teaching – Vatican II<br />Dei Verbum, Vatican II, par. 10 & 11: It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God&apos;s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.<br />Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. <br />
  15. 15. Session 1 – The Canons of the Bible<br /> What is a “canon”?<br />A “canon” is a list. As to the Bible, it refers to the list of books in it.<br />There are 66 books in the Protestant canon and 72 in the Catholic canon. 39 OT books are considered canonical by Protestants; 45 OT books by Catholics.<br />Both Protestants and Catholics agree on 27 books in the New Testament.<br />Catholics hold that Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees (considered one book); also certain additions to Esther and Daniel are canonical. Protestants do not.<br />
  16. 16. The New Testament Canon<br />The New Testament – That portion of the Bible which was written from around 51 AD to 100 AD or so.<br />It includes the four Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles, Pauline epistles, pastoral epistles, and the Book of Revelation.<br />General agreement in the Church on the 27 books of the NT was an evolutionary process.<br />The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. <br />
  17. 17. First New Testament canon<br />The first effort to assemble a New Testament canon was undertaken by Marcion (150 AD) of Sinope, Pontus (in Asia Minor).<br />Marcion&apos;s canon was the first Bible. Marcion did not include the Old Testament in his canon. He rejected all the books of the Old Testament. He believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of whom Jesus spoke.<br />Marcion&apos;s canon consisted of the Gospel of Luke and 10 epistles by the apostle Paul. <br />
  18. 18. Questions<br />Why would Marcion omit all the Old Testament writings?<br />Do you think Luke or Paul envisioned that their writings would be called “the Word of God”?<br />What kind of God was the God of the Old Testament as compared with the God of the New Testament…Jesus Christ?<br />
  19. 19. Terminology – Old Testament<br />Catholic terms<br />Protocanonical<br />Deuterocanonical<br />Apocryphal<br />Protestant terms<br />Canonical<br />Aprocryphal<br />Pseudopigraphal<br />
  20. 20. The Tripartate Old Testament<br />The Law or (Torah)<br />The Prophets (Nebiim)<br />The Writings (Ketubim)<br />
  21. 21. 1. The Law<br />The Law = The Torah = First five books = Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.<br />Authorship – attributed to Moses, but now accepted there are problems with that view.<br />
  22. 22. 2. The Prophets<br />The Prophets: two groups: the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets include the books Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In the Christian Old Testament these are considered historical narratives rather than prophetic works. The Latter Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, plus a group of shorter books called the Twelve. In the Christian Old Testament, the Twelve are called the Minor Prophets--specifically Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.<br />
  23. 23. 3. The Writings<br />A miscellaneous assortment of books that includes history, songs and hymns, poetry, stories, and wisdom literature.<br />Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah (considered as two books in the Christian Old Testament), and Chronicles (also considered as two books).<br />In modern Hebrew Bibles the five books Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther are grouped together in that order for use on an annual sequence of festivals. Originally called &quot;festival scrolls,&quot; they have little in common except for their roles in worship services.<br />
  24. 24. Was Moses the Author of the Torah?<br />Did David Write the Psalms?<br />Did Solomon Write the Book of Proverbs, etc.?<br />
  25. 25. The Concept of Authorship<br />If someone writes a book today, he/she may have collaborators or “ghost” writers.<br />In the Old Testament, attaching the name of a famous person to a writing was considered a normal practice.<br />Moses records his own death…first noticed by the early Church writers.<br />There is no longer an official Roman Catholic position about the identity of the writer of any biblical book. (JBC 66:87)<br />
  26. 26. Final canon of the Old Testament for Jews<br />It was believed at one time that the OT canon was completed by Ezra (400 BC).<br />Most scholars today believe that the Jewish canon was not settled until the Christian era, by the Christian Church.<br />A popular position is that the Torah was canonized circa 400 BC, the Prophets circa 200 BC, and the Writings circa AD 100.<br />Today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set.<br />
  27. 27. Canon of the New Testament<br />Today, there is universal agreement among Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant faiths that there are 27 books in the NT.<br />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 &quot;it is written&quot; applied to a Gospel (Ad Philad., viii, 2). Both these Fathers show not only a personal acquaintance with &quot;the Gospel&quot; and the thirteen Pauline Epistles, but they suppose that their readers are so familiar with them that it would be superfluous to name them.<br />
  28. 28. Development of NT Canon<br />Papias, Bishop of Phrygian Hierapolis, according to Iranaeus a disciple of St. John, wrote about A.D. 125. Describing the origin of St. Mark&apos;s Gospel, he speaks of Hebrew (Aramaic) Logia, or Sayings of Christ, composed by the apostle Matthew, which there is reason to believe formed the basis of the canonical Gospel of that name.<br />The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, an uncanonical work dating from c. 110, implies that &quot;the Gospel&quot; was already a well-known and definite collection. <br />
  29. 29. The Four Gospels<br />A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus, c. 180, who refers to it directly.<br />
  30. 30. The 27 book NT canon<br />By the early 200s, Origin may have been using the same 27 books as in the Catholic NT canon, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Revelation.<br />In the 4th century , in his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the 27-book NT canon,and he used the word &quot;canonized&quot; (kanonizomena) in regards to them.<br />
  31. 31. From Greek to Latin<br />In the fourth century A.D., the language spoken in the Roman Empire began to change. Before that time, Greek was the dominant language. People of every ethnic background in the empire spoke Greek in addition to their native tongue. The Romans encouraged this since they saw themselves as the heirs of Greek culture and civilization.<br />Gradually Latin, the language spoken by the Romans, began to replace Greek as the common language in the western part of the empire. This had a significant impact on the Church since its Bible was in Greek. The New Testament, of course, was written in Greek. Christians used the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, as its version of the Old Testament. (The word septuagint is derived from the Latin word for 70 and is based on a legend that the Greek translation was the work of 70 translators who translated the Hebrew texts into Greek between 300 and 200 BC.) Because fewer and fewer Christians in the West could read or understand Greek, the Church faced a serious pastoral problem. How could the Bible remain accessible to believers?<br />
  32. 32. The Need for a Latin Text<br />Responding to this pastoral need, Christian scholars produced several versions of the Bible in Latin. Unfortunately, none of these has survived to the present. <br />While these translations made the Bible accessible, they were flawed on two counts. First, they were not the product of careful study of ancient manuscripts. The necessity of copying ancient texts by hand introduced many errors into Greek texts of the Bible. Also, the first Latin Bibles translated the Greek text of the Old Testament—not the Hebrew text. Second, the Latin in these early translations was not the best. It was far too colloquial.<br />
  33. 33. The Need for a tRanslator<br />Pope Damasus wanted a good, serviceable and authorized Latin text of the Gospels for the liturgy. In 382, he commissioned a young priest named Jerome to revise the Latin versions of the Gospels that were in circulation.<br />Like any good translator, Jerome had a flair for languages. He was “trilingual.” He could speak, write and understand Latin, Greek and Hebrew—something that few others could do. Jerome also studied Aramaic and Arabic<br />
  34. 34. Pope Damasus & St. Jerome<br />Pope Damasus&apos; Council of Rome in 382 issued a biblical canon with 27 NT books.<br />Damasus’ secretary was St. Jerome.<br />Damasus&apos; commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible by St. Jerome, circa 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West. <br />From the 4th century AD, there existed unanimity in the West concerning the New Testament canon (as it is today),and that by the 5th century, the Eastern Church, with a few exceptions, had come to accept the Book of Revelation.<br />
  35. 35. St. Jerome<br />In 384 we have the correction of the Old Latin version of the Gospels; in 385, St. Paul’s epistles; in 384, a first revision of the Latin Psalms according to the accepted text of the Septuagint; in 384, the revision of the Latin version of the Book of Job, after the accepted version of the Septuagint.<br />It is doubtful whether he revised the entire version of the OT according to the Greek of the Septuagint.<br />
  36. 36. Jerome – Could He have been a Pope?<br />Pope Damasus died in 384. Jerome was a leading candidate to succeed his patron, but the deacon Siricius was elected at the urging of St. Ambrose. The new pope did not admire Jerome as much as Damasus had. In addition, Jerome was accused of causing the death of wealthy Roman woman because he emphasized fasting, so he left Rome forever shortly after the new pope took office.<br />Jerome went first to Antioch, then to Alexandria before settling in Bethlehem in the fall of 386. Ordained a priest, he is not known to ever have celebrated Mass, and was excommunicated by the Arian bishop of Jerusalem.<br />
  37. 37. Jerome the translator<br />If Jerome had been elected pope, his pastoral responsibilities would have taken all his time and energy. After Jerome arrived at Bethlehem, he began a most productive career as a translator and commentator. He became convinced that producing a good Latin translation required more than simply revising existing translations.<br />
  38. 38. Jerome tackles the OT<br />In the case of the Old Testament, Jerome decided that his translation had to consider the Hebrew version of the books. He could not rely on the Septuagint alone. This was not an easy or popular decision. Christians accorded a high status to the Septuagint. Many thought that this Greek version of the Old Testament was itself inspired, making any reference to the Hebrew version unnecessary. Jerome disagreed.<br />
  39. 39. Jerome Vs. Augustine<br />At a time when there were conscious efforts to distance the Church from its Jewish background, Jerome not only went to the Hebrew Bible but also sought help with difficult texts from Jews.<br />Not all Jerome’s fellow Christians appreciated his efforts, especially St. Augustine.<br />According to Augustine, Jerome was driving a wedge between Christians of the East and West since the Greek-speaking Christians of the East were still using the Septuagint.<br />
  40. 40. The “jonah” riot<br />Augustine told him the tale of a bishop from Tripoli who authorized Jerome’s new translation for use in his church. When the people heard the Old Testament lesson from Jonah, it was so unfamiliar that they protested the bishop’s innovation by rioting in the streets. Augustine saw this as proof that Jerome’s “Hebrew” version was a serious mistake.<br />
  41. 41. Problems of a translator<br />While Jerome was an accomplished and careful translator, he was not a dogmatic one. He translated idiom for idiom, and not always word for word. For example, he produced at least three translations of the Psalms in his attempt to capture and illuminate these prayers of the Church.<br />He sought to understand the biblical text in its original cultural and historical setting. Many students of the Bible find Jerome’s commentaries still helpful.<br />
  42. 42. Jerome could be offensive<br />Sometimes Jerome used his role as a biblical commentator to give his opinion on ecclesiastical controversies of his day, some of which were occasioned by his work. His comments sometimes use personal invective against his opponents that, by today’s standards, seems harsh and sarcastic.<br />He once described the heretic Pelagius as the most stupid of persons whose wits were dulled by too much Scottish porridge.<br />As merciless and abusive as Jerome was toward his opponents, he was gentle and kind toward his friends and the needy.<br />
  43. 43. The Vulgate<br />The result of efforts to provide a new Latin translation of the Bible is popularly known as the Vulgate, a word derived from the Latin and meaning “common” or “commonly known.”<br />It is a mistake to identify Jerome’s work with the Vulgate as it exists today. In Jerome’s time, most manuscripts of the Bible in Latin contained only a few books—not the entire Bible.<br />
  44. 44. Jerome’s personal canon<br />Jerome preferred to base his translation of the Old Testament on the Hebrew Bible.<br />The rabbis of Palestine did not regard as inspired the books in the Septuagint that were not also found in the Hebrew Bible. Eventually, all Jews accepted this view and abandoned books like Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Tobit, Judith, Baruch, and First and Second Maccabees.<br />Jerome’s view corresponded to that of the rabbis.<br />
  45. 45. Augustine Trumps Jerome<br />Jerome believed that these “extra books” (deuterocanonical) may edify Christian readers but the Church should not use them as a source for doctrine. <br />Again, Augustine opposed Jerome.<br /> Augustine’s view prevailed.<br />
  46. 46. The Vulgate – Official version<br />Jerome&apos;s translation of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures into the common language, Latin, was completed in 405. It was recognized as authoritative during the Council of Trent (1546) and became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. <br />Martin Luther accepted Jerome’s Old Testament canon of 39 books and his German translation of the Bible while imprisoned in Wartburg castle. It reflects Jerome’s original view, based on the fact that the Hebrew alphabet had 22 letters.<br />
  47. 47. Closing of the Canon of the Bible<br />The Catholic Church formally closed the canon of the Bible in the Council of Trent in 1556.<br />Martin Luther shaped the Protestant Canon by his rejection of the seven deuterocanonical books.<br />
  48. 48. Prior Council canons<br />The Council of Laodicea, c. 360, produced a list of books similar to today&apos;s Catholic canon.<br />Pope Damasus, in the Council of Rome, 382, listed the books of today&apos;s canon. <br />The Council of Hippo, a local north Africa council of bishops created the list of the Old and New Testament books in 393 which is the same as the Roman Catholic list today. <br />In 405, Pope Innocent I listed the present canon.<br /> The Council of Florence, an ecumenical council in 1441, gave the first definitive list of canonical books. <br />
  49. 49. The King James and the NIV versions<br />In 1604, King James I of England authorized that a new translation of the Bible into English be started. It was finished in 1611, just 85 years after the first translation of the New Testament into English appeared (Tyndale, 1526). The Authorized Version, or King James Version, quickly became the standard for English-speaking Protestants.<br />The NIV (1978) is an explicitly Protestant translation. The deuterocanonical books are not included in the translation. Major revision due in 2011.<br />
  50. 50. Current Catholic version<br />The New American Bible (NAB) is a Catholic translation first published in 1970. It had its beginnings in the Confraternity Edition, which began in the 1950s as a revision of the Douay-Rheims Bible.<br />It was specifically translated into English by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine under the principles and reforms of Vatican II (1962-1965).<br />The lectionaries and the several publishers of Mass guides at present use the NAB.<br />New revision is expected into what might be called the Amended Revised New American Bible (ARNAB).<br />