Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Did Luther Throw Out Books of the Bible?

It seems to be the overwhelming accepted version of history among most Catholics, Lutherans, and Protestants alike these days that Catholic Bibles are bigger than the Lutheran Bibles because Martin Luther threw out a number of the books of the Bible. This notion requires not merely a No, but more like a double or triple No. When I see laymen make this mistake, I often take the time to correct them in a friendly and respectful way. But when I see priests, theologians, apologists, writers, and other types of public teachers teaching this nonsense, such occasions call for a respectful yet firm and resounding answer. For 1. such people have less of an excuse for their intellectual transgression, and 2. when lies of this sort come out of their mouth, or from their pen, it is more dangerous. To be clear, when I use the term "lies" here, I know that many who are guilty of these lies do not mean them as such. Some, on the other hand, promote them with such clear animosity toward the Reformer that it makes me wonder. Either way, though, that Luther threw books out of the Bible is a lie, and I would like to help correct it.

I heard this nonsense again a few days ago, this time on Milwaukee's Catholic radio station, on a program called "Go Ask Your Father," hosted on that occasion by Father Richard Simon. According to Simon, Luther "threw out" Ecclesiasticus, along with the other deuterocanonical books.

There are at least a couple problems with the notion that "Catholic Bibles are bigger than Lutheran Bibles because Martin Luther threw out parts of the Bible." First, Catholic Bibles are not, truth be told, bigger. They are bigger than modern Protestant Bibles, yes. They are not, however, bigger than the Lutheran Bible. In fact, the Catholic Bible is even a tiny bit smaller than the Luther Bible. The Anglican Bible, ie, the King James, in fact, is even bigger than either the Luther Bible or the Catholic Bible. I will elaborate below. Second, we must emphatically answer and correct the lie that Martin Luther threw things out of the Bible.

The chief difference between the Bible in official use in Luther's time on the one hand, and Luther's German translation on the other, is the way in which the writings are arranged. Let me take this opportunity, however, to say a word regarding the Vulgate, the Bible of Luther's time, before I proceed. As meaningful as Luther's translation was for the church of his time, as inspiring as it was for translators in other lands, perhaps most notably England, and as important a place as it holds in our Lutheran tradition, none of this means that in translating the Bible into German that Luther rejected or had disdain for the Latin Bible, the Vulgate. Before, during, and after Luther's translating work, the Bible that he lived on, memorized, prayed, and often quoted in the classroom, to the end of his life, was the Vulgate. When Luther spoke of the importance of learning the Biblical languages, and compared the languages to the sheath of the sword of the Word of God, he had in mind not only the Hebrew and Greek, but also the Latin. The Latin scriptures are a part of our Biblical heritage, and they are part of our Lutheran heritage. In some ways the literary achievement of Luther's German Bible is analogous to that of Jerome's Latin Bible. And we do a disservice to our students today, especially our future priests and theologians, when we do not include the Latin in their training.

What we call the Old Testament Apocrypha, writings which in the Roman Catholic scheme are incorporated among the rest of the Old Testament, Luther placed together, at the end of the Old Testament. Where are these writings in the Catholic Bible? Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus, which is also called Sirach, come after the Song of Songs in Catholic Bibles. Baruch comes after Lamentations. Tobit, and Judith, come after Nehemiah. 1 and 2 Maccabees come after Malachi. What we call The Rest of Esther is included with Esther. The Song of the Three Holy Children is found in the third chapter of Daniel. The History of Susana is found at the beginning of Daniel, and Bel and the Dragon at the end of Daniel. These are all included by Luther, together, at the end of the Old Testament.

Some readers may have been surprised when I mentioned above that Luther's Bible even has a bit more than the Catholic one. What I mean by that is that he includes The Prayer of Manasses, with the OT Apocrypha, a writing which you will not generally find in Catholic Bibles. Before concluding, however, that Luther here is guilty of the opposite of what he is usually accused of, and that he innovated by adding a book to the Bible, bear in mind that The Prayer of Manasses has a real history in Biblical tradition, and that even Rome includes it in the back of the Sixto-Clementine edition of the Vulgate. The English Church, with the publication of the so-called King James Version, in 1611, went a bit further than Luther or Rome, in that you will see in the Apocrypha the inclusion of 1 and 2 Esdras, which are also, I hasten to add here, like The Prayer of Manasses, included in the appendix of the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate, though left out of most modern Catholic Bibles.

It might be helpful here to add that there are other examples of seeming differences between a Lutheran Bible which includes the Apocrypha on the one hand, and the classic Roman Catholic Bible, such as, say, the Douay-Rheims, on the other, differences which are really more matters of terminology. For example, what Douay-Rheims calls 1 and 2 Esdras are what we call Ezra and Nehemiah. (What we call 1 and 2 Esdras, the Vulgate calls 3 and 4 Esdras.) What we call 1 and 2 Chronicles Douay calls 1 and 2 Paralipomenon. What we call 1 and 2 Samuel Douay calls 1 and 2 Kings, while what we call 1 and 2 Kings Douay calls 3 and 4 Kings. Such are really merely differences of nomenclature, and of numbering.

In many ways I appreciate Gary Michuta's book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, despite its clear bias. Let me quote Michuta from page 245 and following:

Catholic apologists sometimes claim that Martin Luther removed the Deuterocanonical books from Scripture. This assertion is not entirely true. Luther's German translation of the Scriptures included all of the Deuterocanon.

Here Michuta, a good scholar, is guilty of gross understatement. He comes clean later, when he says that, "It is, therefore, incorrect to say that Luther removed the Deuterocanon." (246)

Significant in this discussion too, I suggest, is not only what is on the shelf in a Luther Bible, but what role these texts play in our liturgical tradition. And here an honest appraisal of Lutheran liturgical tradition will reveal that texts from the Old Testament Apocrypha are read as the lessons on many saints' days, that they are the basis for hymns, and that they show up elsewhere in the propers, especially in introits and graduals. Traditional Lutheran practice also has several canticles which derive from places like Tobit, The Song of the Three Holy Children, and Judith, among others.

Are there Lutheran catechetical curricula that teach that there are precisely 66 books in the Bible? Yes. And as innocent as the intentions of their creators may be, I must respectfully say that they are wrong. They are doing our children a disservice, whose minds are being implanted with these notions that will be near dogma to them. As they go through the later grades and mature physically, intellectually, and mentally, their spiritual maturity will not be all it could be, for they will have yet one more anti-Catholic bias as part of their implicit thinking, since after all, "of course" the Catholics must be wrong for having those extra books. They are also spiritually cheated simply because they are being denied all the rich content in the Apocryphal writings of the Old Testament. A few years back Fr. Burnell Eckardt, at the Concordia Catechetical Symposium, held forth beautifully on the catechetical value of The History of Susana. That is just one example. Luther, Chemnitz, and many other theologians and preachers in our tradition drew deeply from the treasures to be found in Wisdom or Sirach, or Tobit, and the rest.

True, when Lutherans teach that there are 66 books in the Bible, they are in a sense simply being true to the reality of printed bibles that are published, promoted, and used in the world of modern American Lutheranism. This trend is a Protestantism, which needs to change. And printing the Apocrypha in a separate volume is not the answer.

The books of the Bible, and the way they are divided, can be conceived in a variety of ways. Martin Chemnitz can be a good example in this regard, if we study his Ministry, Word and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. I recommend to Lutheran parents and catechists that you teach your children and students something like what I used to teach my Sunday School kids. I required them to learn, and then each recite in front of the class, the books of the Bible, as you find them in the list below. They will complain and not believe they can do it at first. After they learn it, they will tell you with excitement, and after they recite it, they will have a great sense of pride and achievement. To be clear, I did not require my Sunday School kids to learn how many chapters are in each book, which you see in parentheses below. I do think that this can and should be done in the later grades.

To my friends who are of the Anglican tradition, though I enjoy 1 and 2 Esdras, the reason they are not in the list I composed is simply that they are not in the Luther Bible and are not part of Lutheran tradition. When I publish the diglot Bible, however, I am thinking of including them as an appendix.

The Books of the Holy Bible

1. Genesis (50 chapters)
2. Exodus (40 chapters)
3. Leviticus (27 chapters)
4. Numbers (36 chapters)
5. Deuteronomy (34 chapters)
6. Joshua (24 chapters)
7. Judges (21 chapters)
8. Ruth (4 chapters)
9. First Samuel (31 chapters)
10. Second Samuel (24 chapters)
11. First Kings (22 chapters)
12. Second Kings (25 chapters)
13. First Chronicles (29 chapters)
14. Second Chronicles (36 chapters)
15. Ezra (10 chapters)
16. Nehemiah (13 chapters)
17. Esther (10 chapters)
18. Job (42 chapters)
19. Psalms (150 psalms)
20. Proverbs (31 chapters)
21. Ecclesiastes (12 chapters)
22. Song of Songs (8 chapters)
23. Isaiah (66 chapters)
24. Jeremiah (52 chapters)
25. Lamentations (5 chapters)
26. Ezekiel (48 chapters)
27. Daniel (12 chapters)
28. Hosea (14 chapters)
29. Joel (3 chapters)
30. Amos (9 chapters)
31. Obadiah (1 chapter)
32. Jonah (4 chapters)
33. Micah (7 chapters)
34. Nahum (3 chapters)
35. Habakkuk (3 chapters)
36. Zephaniah (3 chapters)
37. Haggai (2 chapters)
38. Zechariah (14 chapters)
39. Malachi (4 chapters)

40. Tobit (14 chapters)
41. Judith (16 chapters)
42. Additions to Esther (7 chapters)
43. Wisdom (19 chapters)
44. Sirach (51 chapters)
45. Baruch (6 chapters)
46. Song of the Three Holy Children (1 chapter)
47. History of Susanna (1 chapter)
48. Bel and the Dragon (1 chapter)
49. Prayer of Manasses (1 chapter)
50. First Maccabees (16 chapters)
51. Second Maccabees (15 chapters)

52. Matthew (28 chapters)
53. Mark (16 chapters)
54. Luke (24 chapters)
55. John (21 chapters)
56. Acts (28 chapters)
57. Romans (16 chapters)
58. First Corinthians (16 chapters)
59. Second Corinthians (13 chapters)
60. Galatians (6 chapters)
61. Ephesians (6 chapters)
62. Philippians (4 chapters)
63. Colossians (4 chapters)
64. First Thessalonians (5 chapters)
65. Second Thessalonians (3 chapters)
66. First Timothy (6 chapters)
67. Second Timothy (4 chapters)
68. Titus (3 chapters)
69. Philemon (1 chapter)
70. Hebrews (13 chapters)
71. James (5 chapters)
72. First Peter (5 chapters)
73. Second Peter (3 chapters)
74. First John (5 chapters)
75. Second John (1 chapter)
76. Third John (1 chapter)
77. Jude (1 chapter)
78. Revelation (22 chapters)


Father Hollywood said...

A helpful post loaded with good information. There is also the issue of 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151 - which are in the Greek canon, and printed in some English versions of the Apocrypha.

I think some of the problem for Lutherans is caused by the fact that the Blessed Reformer placed the Apocrypha between the testaments and prefaced them with this: "Das sind Buecher welche der heiligen Schrift nicht gleich gehalten, und doch nuetzlich und gut zu lesen sind" - which says that they are not held to be like Scripture. Does this mean Luther did not (at least at the time of his translation) accept these books to be Scripture? Or is there a nuance to his definition of Apocrypha? I think this needs to be investigated further.

However, whatever Luther's view may or may not have been at the time of his translation of the Bible, our Confessions refer to both Tobit and 2 Maccabees, and speak of both as "Scripture" (e.g. LC 2:36, Ap 21:9).

I think we Lutheran pastors and teachers need to do a better job of explaining that we do not define the canon, and in fact, we apply the Scriptures in the same way as the early church fathers - making even a distinction between those books in Protestant Bibles that were never disputed (the homolegoumena) over and against those books that were disputed at one time (the antilegomena).

The practical implication of our Lutheran theology of Scripture means that the books of Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelation are treated exactly like the Books of Wisdom, Tobit, and Bel and the Dragon - that is, we do not accept any doctrinal content from them that is not borne witness to from an undisputed book of the Bible.

Even to well-catechized Lutherans, this is often a shocking revelation. And there are treasures that entire generations of Lutherans have been denied because we have lazily made use of English-language Protestant Bibles. It will be a long, hard road to undo this false impression.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Very good comment, Father. Thank you. I think that what makes this so difficult for many theologians is that the de facto article of faith on which all their theology rests is the inspiration and infallibility of scripture. I don't deny the inspiration and infallibility of scripture. But for those whom this has become all too normative a part of theology, I think they want a clear cut canon, with no room for ambiguity. Theology is not that clean cut and mathematical. Luther knew this, as did Chemnitz after him. The neoscholasticism of later Lutheran Orthodoxy does not seem to have helped much in this regard.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Regarding texts like 3 & 4 Macc, and the 151st Psalm, what I have found to be a good resource is the New Oxford Annotated RSV. It aims to be an "ecumenical" bible, and in terms of what it includes, I think it does a pretty good job.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Deacon:

I agree. The Oxford has a nice introduction to the Apocrypha. Apparently, CPH is going to be releasing an ESV Apocrypha with annotations. While I think it should have been included with the Lutheran Study Bible, I understand the reasoning for placing it under separate cover at this time, and I do think it is a step in the right direction.

The ESV is currently available with the Apocrypha - which is basically the RSV Apocrypha with a few stylistic changes.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

When I get the ability, I definitely want to take a look at the ESV with Apoc. My own use tends to remain with the KJV, though.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Hollywood,

You wrote:

Even to well-catechized Lutherans, this is often a shocking revelation.

This is certainly an understatement. If I may lay claim to the characterization of a "well-catechized Lutheran," I will say that it is beyond shocking -- it is incredible. The Church has recognized all of the books of Scripture as canonical -- both protocanon and deuterocanon, and both homolegomena and antilegomena -- and I see no basis for Christians, millennia later, to introduce distinctions among the books of Scripture.

I am glad to hear Dcn Gaba say that Luther, contrary to his reputation, did not "throw out" any of the books of Scripture. If he did not, then let us venerate all of the Scriptures, and not make specious distinctions among the books, as if some are the Word of God and some are only "sort of" the Word of God.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Chris:

You say there is no basis for Christians to introduce distinctions among the books. I agree with that in this sense: when we recognize distinctions, as the Church always did, we are not "introducing" distinctions. To be clear, however, I would have no problem confessing all these writings to be Holy Scripture.

P.S. You were right about the eucharist & priesthood.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Chris:

We treat the books of Scripture as the early church did - making distinctions. Not all were universally accepted. Even today, the two halves of the church (East and West) recognize different canons.

And even within the East, there are some jurisdictions that accept books of Scripture that no-one else does - not even other Eastern Christians. There is no overarching Catholic monolith of canonical definition - unless one wants to recognize Reformed confessions that dogmatically define only the 66 protocanonical books.

Lutherans did not introduce anything new "millennia later." That's just a mischaracterization.

David Opperman said...

Dcn. Gaba,

I have a question regarding this as someone new to Lutheranism. I am under the impression that the Lutheran church has historically taught that the Bible is inspired and infallible. Would the apocrypha be included in this category? This is simply a request for information and not a "challenge" of any kind.

Chris Jones said...

Father Hollywood,

Lutherans did not introduce anything new "millennia later." That's just a mischaracterization.

I'm counting a millenium and a half as a plural. And I do think that something new was introduced: the notion that the so-called antilegomena cannot be used on their own to teach doctrine, but can only be used to support what is taught in the other books. It is true that a few writers in the early Church -- and they were very few -- noted that some books were "disputed" longer than others. But so far as I known neither those writers nor anyone else in the early Church inferred from that fact that the "disputed" books were not "profitable for doctrine" on their own. So far as I can see, that distinction is a Lutheran innovation.

What, after all, does it mean that some books were "disputed" at one time, by some people? Does it mean that such books are somehow flawed, and not fully the Word of God? Or does it mean instead that the judgment and discernment of those few who disputed them was flawed, so that they failed to recognize the inspired character of these works? I am far more comfortable with doubting the fallen and finite wisdom of a few men who disputed these books, than I am with casting doubt on the inspired character of books which the Church has recognized as canonical Scripture. In short, I cannot see that "the inspired Word of God" is a characterization that admits of degrees. A book can no more be "a little bit inspired" than a woman can be "a little bit pregnant."

Your idea that the canon of Scripture varies from one jurisdiction to another in the Eastern Church is a misconception. You can make that true only by including the non-Chalcedonian Churches (such as the Ethiopians) as Orthodox "jurisdictions," which they are not.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Chris:

There is simply no unanimity on the canon. We can all play the game of saying we'll exclude that group and this group, and, voila, unity! There is certainly unity in my own jurisdiction just as there is in yours.

The largest jurisdiction within the Christian Church - the Roman Catholic jurisdiction (whose sacraments and priesthood are fully recognized by Constantinople) - has a different canon than the East.

The point is that the table of contents is not in the canon. The Church (including the ancient Greek Church) has gone back and forth on certain books. As a safeguard, we rely on the disputed books if there is a "second witness" from the undisputed Scriptures.

And all that being said, one would be hard pressed to find even one Lutheran that outright rejects the canonicity of the antilegomena.

Deacon Gaba's original point involves the Apocrypha and how it is treated by Lutherans. We treat it the same way as the ancient Church - which is to say, we recognize the ancient Church's hesitance and lack of unanimity on the matter.

Chris Jones said...

Dear Fr Hollywood,

You keep saying the oddest things.

There is certainly unity in my own jurisdiction just as there is in yours.

You speak as if your "jurisdiction" and mine were not the same. Is there a schism in the Missouri Synod that I do not know about?

[Roman Catholic] sacraments and priesthood are fully recognized by Constantinople

This is not true; you have been misinformed. Orthodox sacraments and priesthood are recognized by Rome; Orthodoxy does not return the favour.

the Roman Catholic jurisdiction ... has a different canon than the East.

This is also not true. The only purported difference is 4 Maccabees, which is sometimes printed as an appendix in Orthodox Bibles (and appeared as an appendix in the LXX) but has never been officially recognized as canonical by the Orthodox Church. Nor is it (so far as I know) ever read in public worship in the Orthodox Church.

One might make a case for Ps 151 and the Prayer of Mannaseh as a canonical difference, since they are sung in Orthodox worship (and in Eastern Catholic worship as well, of course); but lots of things are sung in worship that no one claims are canonical Scripture -- you can start with the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum and go from there. The point is that they are not proclaimed in worship as the Word of God, either among the RCs or the Orthodox.

we recognize the ancient Church's hesitance and lack of unanimity on the matter

You do well to recognize it, but you are mistaken as to its significance. The fact that the Church "hesitated" at one time does not mean that these books are not the Word of God; it means that the Church was being appropriately careful about such an important matter. It is true that these books were disputed at one time, but it is also true that they are disputed no longer. The Church -- at length, with some questioning and lack of unanimity for a time -- has recognized these books as canonical Scripture and as the inspired Word of God. The fact that they were disputed by some, for a time, does not change that, and it does not make them of lesser authority.

I agree with Chris Orr's comment (from memory, not verbatim) that to say "oh, there was a question -- once -- so we will not fully accept these books" is the very definition of patristic cherry-picking.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Unfortunately I cannot give a comprehensive answer to all the arguments here and now, but a thought or two. In one sense, I think there is a bit of talking past the actual arguments. For example, unless I missed it, I don't think Fr. Beane has insisted that certain deuterocanonical writings are less "Word of God." It is closer to accurate to say that his, and my, position is that we do not insist that some are less Word of God than others. That's why we should not take those books and throw them out.

You see, it is precisely man's perception, man's ability to clearly recognize, and agree, that is definitely flawed, not the scriptures. When I come across a portion of the scriptures in which I do not see the gospel very clearly, I do not blame the scripture. Rather, I try to interpret it according to the parts where I do see it.

Luther said things in the classroom or at table on occasion against whole books, it is true, and theologians have the right to express such opinions. He cannot be cited as one who devalued the scripture, though. For we have his Bible, which puts our modern Protestantism to shame, and we have his many arguments, explicit and implicit (such as hymns based on texts, and how he uses scripture in the liturgy, etc). Also, unless we learn the Bible, including the Apocrypha, as well as he knew it, we cannot condemn him for his use, or lack of use, of parts of it.

You are the one, Chris, it seems, that is being dogmatic, where that is not called for. You said that "The Church -- at length, with some questioning and lack of unanimity for a time -- has recognized these books as canonical Scripture and as the inspired Word of God." When did it do that? A committee's explanation of the Small Catechism, or an annotation in a study bible, is not sufficient authority to rule out certain books, on the one hand, nor do I know of any sufficient authority, be it Trent (a sham of a council) or whatever, that can tell us the limit of the canon.

(I may have misread your arguments here, but let's see if this advances the conversation at all.)

Chris Jones said...

Father Deacon,

I'll take time out from my disagreement with Father Hollywood to note that though Mr Opperman did not intend his question as a challenge, it nevertheless goes to the heart of my point about the antilegomena and deuterocanonicals. What exactly is the status of these purportedly "lesser" books, and how does that status fit in to our teaching about the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture?

Chris Jones said...

Father Deacon,

You are the one, Chris, it seems, that is being dogmatic ...

Well I certainly do not apologize for that ...

... where that is not called for.

... and I do not agree that it is not called for. If we are going to posit that Scripture is our highest and normative authority, I do not think that it is inappropriate to try to establish definitively what is, and is not, Scripture. To hold to Scripture as the highest authority, but then to be uncertain as to what the contents of Scripture are, seems to me to undermine the authority of Scripture in a very fundamental way.

When did it do that?

Officially and canonically (no pun intended), at Laodicea (364); but more importantly, the Church recognized the canonical books by using them liturgically consistently over the centuries.

I know you and Fr Beane have not said, and would not say, that the deuterocanonical books are not the Word of God. But by saying that they cannot be used to teach the Gospel except as support for what is taught in the other books, you are establishing two tiers of authority whether you intend it or not. Certainly the deuterocanonical / antilegomena books should not be used to teach anything contrary to what the rest of Scripture teaches. But neither should any of the protocanonical books be used that way. All of the books of Scripture must be interpreted in a way consonant with the rest of Scripture and with the Church's rule of faith -- the protocanonical books are just as much subject to that requirement as the deuterocanonicals.

I simply do not accept a two-tier scheme of Scriptural authority. It is not Scripturally, patristically, or historically tenable.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...


You ask a good question. It deserves an equally good and thoughtful answer. I'm not sure you'll get close to that with me, but I want to try to make a beginning, in between checking guests in.

Amidst these catechetically sloppy times Lutherans tend to be sure of certain things, which are true when properly understood, but upon which they sometimes build improper conclusions, especially if improperly understood.

Is the Word of God inspired and infallible? Yes. Absolutely. It is also true, I hasten to add, that "the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone."

Nevertheless, we ought to be careful not to teach a doctrine that is not handed to us by our Confessional tradition. So, for example, to say that "the Bible" is inspired and infallible, is a theologomenon. And my own reaction to such a formulation is that while it is not false, nor is it the most wholesome way to articulate traditional catholic and evangelical doctrine of the inspiration of scripture.

Let's abide with what is certain for us. For example, one thing that is certain is that we do not teach a dogmatic canon, in the sense of a list. Another theological certainty, too often forgotten by Lutheran preachers and teachers, is that we who have been baptized into Christ must always wrestle with the scripture, and in effect, seek to learn in what way it is promoting Christ, and Him crucified. Thus, Luther would always ask, "Was Christum treibet?" What drives Christ here? In that sense our "canon," or "rule" is like Saint Paul's, viz., "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Let us "walk according to this rule," as Paul says.

When we do, I believe our eyes will be opened up more and more to what the Bible, in its parts, and in its patterns and totality, is telling us.

Like I said, that's just some beginning thoughts in the direction of your question.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Sorry for throwing arguments around in such a haphazzard manner. But let me now throw down on the table another thought or two. Not that these are aimed as criticism of anyone, just that they might help shed more light on the whole subject matter, and help us grasp the issue from another perspective.

The Bible is not a thing, not a something, which the Church ever really knew, until relatively recently. This is not an anti-scriptural argument, mind you. Just to say, rather, that I think we need to learn to see the scriptures as the ancient Church did.

And how did it see them, and essentially still does? First, as liturgical texts which are heard, read, sung, in the liturgy. Long before there were Bibles, there were Evangelaries, which are collections of pericopes from the Gospels, and Epistolaries, which are collections of the other lections at Mass, usually from the epistles of the NT. There were Lectionaries, which have all the lessons of the Mass. There were Psalters, which have the psalms arranged according to the ecclesiastical year. There were gradualis, which have all the choir chants, most of which are right from Holy Writ. Then there were breviaries, sacramentaries, etc, etc. These are true ecclesiastical books, which have their precedent in the way in which the Church worshipped even in the 'before Christ' era.

This is not to denigrate the Bible, just I suppose to reinforce the fact that the true home of the scriptures is the liturgical life of the Church, not the academy.

Is there more to say? of course, but right now I must drive back to the city from Mequon.

Tim said...

How could I miss this conversation?

As for Luther throwing out books of the Bible-

I agree with you that he did not.

As for the content of the canon?
I've been taught all my life as a cradle-Lutheran who attended Lutheran churches and Lutherans schools my whole life that there are 66 books in the Bible. No more, no less.

The more I read into the history of the Church, the more I see the issue of canonicity as being not so cut and dry.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

It's become all but unofficial dogma among modern Lutherans that the Bible has 66 books. It's also supposed to be very poetic, since that is also the number of chapters in Isaiah. Unfortunately, it is just another way in which the people are becoming more Protestantized.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Br. Latif:

I see you deleted the comment from the 2012 guy.

Kyrie eleison, you get more crackpots than I do!

Maybe our Blessed Lord will return in 2011 just to show these people who's boss...

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Father Hollywood:

Taking into our own hands the hastening of God's kingdom, whether in this world or the next, is never a good thing, though sometimes I admit it takes rather humorous forms. Nevertheless, we must enforce some standards here.