Saturday, March 04, 2000

The first is from F. F. Bruce's book, The Canon of Scripture, a familiar book, I'm sure.

From the bottom of page 90:

"Athanasius had distinguished three categories of books: canonical, edifying (but not canonical) and apocryphal. The 'edifying' books (the Wisdom of Solomon and of Ben Sira, Esther, Judith and Tobit, with the Didache and the Shepherd from the New Testament age) might be read in church; the 'apocryphal' books were to be avoided altogether. This threefold distinction was maintained, among the Latin fathers, by Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 345 - 410), who referred to the second category as 'ecclesiastical' books."

Then, this quote from St. Jerome: "Therefore as the church indeed reads Judith, Tobit and the books of Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical books, so let it also read these two volumes [Sirach and Wisdom] for the edification of the people but not for establishing the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas."

The second is by Fr. Raymond Brown, SS, in his article on Canonicity (New Jerome Biblical Commentary). Fr. Brown reiterates the above distinction between canonical and ecclesiastical books:

"Doubts about the deuterocanonical books keep recurring in the history of the church among those who are aware of the Jewish canon. At the time of Trent, there were insufficient historical tools to reconstruct the real picture of the canon in the 1st century. Yet, curiously, Trent by accepting a wider canon seems to have preserved an authentic memory of the days of Christian origins, whereas other Christian groups in a professed attempt to return to primitive Christianity have settled for a narrower Jewish canon that, if Protestant researchers like Sundberg are correct, was the creation of a later period. The Tridentine fathers did not determine the canon on the basis of purely historical reconstruction but on a theological basis: the consistent church usage of certain books." [Brown lists early and ongoing resistance to the universal acceptance of Jerome's Vulgate and Trent's ultimate insistence upon its use] Then, "Not one of these difficulties impairs the binding force of the Tridentine decree, but perhaps they illuminate the difficulties often voiced by non-Catholics."