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.
Slight correction; the Septuagint was the Greek translation of the Old Testament, not the Hebrew. It should be noted that it was the Scripture read by the vast majority of the world's first century Jews, most of whom lived outside Israel.
As a side note it was this Scripture that St. Paul referenced when preaching the Gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles in Asia minor, Greece and Italy. So when the Bereans searched Scripture it was the Septuagint they searched.
Peace be with you
“it proves itself”
As opposed to the Didache?
“The Bible stands on its own authority.”
Except that the Bible accords to itself no such authority. Who wrote the Bible? The early Church. Who put the first bible and the Canon together? The Church with Pope Damasus in 400 AD. Why is scripture authoritative? Because of the Church. You cannot argue that Scripture is authoritative and the Church itself is not anymore so than you can divorce Apostles from the Church.
Thanks for posting.
This link from the article looks extremely promising - for students of all ages:
“There was no universal canon in the early church.”
I didn’t say universally church-accepted canon, I said universally accepted Hebrew canon, meaning the books which all Jews recognized as inspired Scripture.
“Then why doesnt Eastern Orthodoxy exclude them? The motivation for their removal was a protestant novelty.”
You could say the decision to exclude them was a Protestant one, but the motivation certainly wasn’t, since the books were clearly in question for many centuries before Luther lived. Jerome tried to exclude them, was he a Protestant?
Interesting. An electronic copy should be available, but where?
I asked you this question: “Okay, exactly where does the Bible tell you 2 Timothy is scripture?
Do you have an actual verse or not?
“The Bible claims to be Gods Word;”
No. Certains books IN the Bible claim that.
“it proves itself;”
Not on this point it doesn’t.
“the various books were cited as authoritatively Gods word in other books;”
False. The New Testament, for instance, never cited or quoted - if I recall correctly - Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, or the Song of Solomon.
“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 Gods very voice in it.”
Do you have a verse about 2 Timothy or not?
“Certainly we can see the early church so accepted it.”
Show me in the Bible where it says the “early church so accepted it.”
“Perhaps this trumps the Scripture verifies itself argument in your mind.”
There is no such argument of any validity really.
“But even Scripture details failures and want of right doctrine and living in the early church times.”
Just show me EXACTLY where it says 2 Timothy is scripture. Can you do it or not?
“So, while the churchs acceptance of the Bible is certainly reassuring, for me I cant make the churchs acceptance the criteria for believing it. The Bible stands on its own authority.”
Show me where the Bible tells you - on its own authority - that Matthew wrote a gospel. After you fail to do that, and you will, show me where the Gospel of Matthew says it is inspired.
Get back to me when you actually can answer the simple questions I asked.
“Except that the Bible accords to itself no such authority.”
Heb 4:12 -
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Isaiah 55:11 -
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.”
John 1:1-2 - “
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Seems to me that you are forgetting the Word of God is much more than a simple dusty tome compiled by men long ago. The Word of God IS God, and carries all of the authority of God, as God’s authority cannot be diminished.
“since the books were clearly in question for many centuries”
No, they were not. Jerome lived in the 4th century. That was 12 centuries prior to Luther.
“Jerome tried to exclude them, was he a Protestant?”
Jerome did not do that. Jerome’s job was to prepare the Latin Vulgate translation. To prepare the Vulgate, he had to get the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. For some books he had Hebrew manuscripts - for others he had Greek Manuscripts. Some of the books in the Old Testament were originally written in Greek - but Jerome didn’t know this. What he did know is that some had Greek manuscripts and others had Hebrew manuscripts.
He expressed his concern that he only had Greek and not Hebrew manuscripts for some and expressed that concern to Pope Damasus. Damasus included them in the canon, where they remained for 12 centuries prior to Luther.
Let me put it another way. Jerome was closer to the founding of the City, than Luther was to Jerome.
And you can infer from those references as to which books ought to be contained in the Canon?
gotta point out....don't catholics argue "we don't PRAY to mary...we ask her to intercede?"
well...seems to be a bit of gray area there.
No, I infer from those references that the Word of God reveals itself to man as it chooses, because the Word is God, and has full authority of God to do His bidding. It won’t return to Him without fulfilling His purpose, and nothing man can do can thwart His purpose.
They tell me that Scripture is self-proving, for God is self-proving. When he stood before Abram, or Noah, or Saul, he didn’t need any stamp of approval from a religious body, and neither does his Word. If a man met Christ and denied Him, it wasn’t because the evidence that Jesus was Christ was missing, and if a man reads the Bible and denies it is the Word of God, neither is that because the evidence of the provenance is missing from the Bible.
Then why do you tear parts out?
Any way you try to slice it, there was a question about the authenticity, and inspiration about the books long before Luther showed up. To paraphrase Mr. Joel, Luther didn’t start the fire.
I didn’t tear anything out. I read the Apocrypha with an open mind, just like I read the Scriptures, and most of the pseudoepigraphia and other related literature. The divine nature of the OT and NT is self-evident, while the others are, at best, partially, and at worst wholly the uninspired work of men.
If there is some vital divine message that is in those other works that I failed to detect, then I am comfortable that God, for His reasons, chose not to reveal it to me.
What do they call it when you dig up something that’s been dead 12 centuries old and then try to bring it back to life?
I thought it was Jesus’ job to intercede for us.
The Apocrypha was part of the King James translation. In fact, it was the first part finished.
“The divine nature of the OT and NT is self-evident, while the others are, at best, partially, and at worst wholly the uninspired work of men.”
By definition if this were so we wouldn’t be having this argument. :)
Unsurprisingly the list of books that you regard as ‘self evidently true’ coincides with the list of books that you regard as authoritative. Since your list differs from my list, I can only conclude that scripture isn’t ‘self-evidently inspired’.
“You cannot argue that Scripture is authoritative and the Church itself is not anymore so than you can divorce Apostles from the Church.”
No, but you can argue as to what the relative degrees of authority are. Christ obviously had greater authority than the Apostles who followed Him, who had greater authority than the disciples who followed them. Similarly, the Scriptures, being the Word of God, carry greater authority than the Church which follows them. You claim the Church “wrote” the Bible, but the Bible is clear that its author is God, and He doesn’t share a credit with anyone else.