Saturday, 9 April 2011

Cajetan on the OT Apocryphal Books

Most lay people will be aware that Protestant and Roman Catholic bibles (not to mention Eastern Orthodox bibles!) have different contents in terms of the books/writings included in them. Theologians call this list of definitive biblical writings the canon, meaning the rule of faith. I'll leave the historical reasons for these differences for another time; for now, I simply want to point out that although Luther is often criticised by Roman Catholics for his views on the Old and New Testament canons, his views were not outside of the bounds of accepted late medieval discussion on the subject. In fact, Luther's views were mainstream.

Exhibit number 1 is an excerpt from Cardinal Thomas Cajetan's writings (Cajetan is a particularly relevant figure to cite on this question, since he was Luther's interrogator at Augsburg in 1518):
“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.”
From Cardinal Cajetan's commentary upon the historical books of the Old Testament.

Cajetan (Thomas de Vio, 1469-1534) was the papal representative who interrogated Luther at Augsburg in 1518. That famous meeting crystallised the differences between Thomistic Catholicism and the incipient Lutheran Reformation. Cajetan was a moderate Thomist himself, and in this quote we can see that his views on the Old Testament canon were not dissimilar to Luther's. Following Jerome, Cajetan regards Judith, Tobit, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach, as well as portions of other books, as not forming part of the scriptural canon or rule of faith (note the assumption that scripture is the rule of faith here), but as suitable for reading for purposes of edification.* In short, Cajetan believed books listed by Jerome as apocryphal should not be used as a source of doctrine. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563), the official Roman response to the Reformation, included the writings mentioned here by Cajetan in their canon, although by giving them the name deuterocanonical (of the second canon) it acknowledged that they were not included in the protocanon of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible that Jesus knew. Does it matter? Well, consider that the chief scriptural proof text (Latin: dicta probantia) for the Roman doctrine of purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees.

* At one time Protestant bibles used to invariably include the Old Testament apocrypha, usually in a separate section between the OT and the NT. This reflected Luther's view that the apocryphal writings were beneficial to read, but did not belong to the official canon.

An extract from Cajetan on the New Testament canon will follow shortly.

12 comments:

Lvka said...

...and what exactly was Jerome's view on praying for the departed?..

Pr Mark Henderson said...

It's irrelevant.
Give me a scripture that commands it.

Lvka said...

Peasants and farmers also pray for the health of their cattle: yet I don't see you going ballistic because no sample of such a prayer is explicitly to be found anywhere within the pages of the Bible... Others pray for their pets; etc.

Prayers are of many different kinds: that's what I was getting here at -- and your [religion's] fixation with a certain very specific type of prayer seems... well, odd, really...

Lvka said...

Even if Jerome was proto-Lutheran, Joshua Nave definitely was not: because he prayed for the Sun to stand still, and no-one in the Scriptures written before him (the five books of Moses) ever prayed for that... so your argument still doesn't hold water, even if you manage to show that there is no prayer for the dead in Scripture.

And the fact that no-one else in the Scriptures written before his time ever prayed for a dead boy to rise again obviously didn't hinder Elijah the Prophet to do just that... so your argument is still irrelevant.

Catholics want to be more Catholic than the Pope... and Protestants want to be more "biblical" than the very men whose lives are told in the Bible! -- it'd be funny, if it weren't so absurd...

Pr Mark Henderson said...

So, you have no scripture, only a reductio ad absurdum argument.

I don't have time to go into liturgical theology and why.how scripture shapes and authorises our worship, so let's keep it simple.

Why do you pray for the dead? To ask God for mercy upon them, yes? A pious thought, no doubt, as who does not wish God to have mercy upon our departed loved ones and friends (and even our enemies!), but a thought that needs to be checked against the Word of God. So, Hebrews 9:27, "and...it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment...". A person's eternal fate is determined (judged) by his obedience or disobedience in this life, Lucian, and not by the prayers of the living, however pious that practice may seem. Therefore, without a word from hte Lord authorising it, this is a vain practice.

Lucian said...

only a reductio ad absurdum argument.

The last time I checked, Luther did mention "plain reason" alongside Scripture in his famous speech, did he not? And the reduction to the absurd is an argument from logic, is it not?


You seem to expect more of prayers for the departed than you do from prayers for the living: why is that? Why the double standard? Neither one of these two work in a `magical` manner. Prayers for the departed no more move someone into Heaven than prayers for the still-living `magically` move someone to repentance (for instance). Double standards are a logical fallacy.

You say that we are judged by our deeds (whatever happened to Sola Fide?), but you conveniently fail to mention that we're not forgiven [justified] by deeds, but by God's infinite grace and mercy: and it is precisely to this divine mercy and long-suffering to which we appeal in our prayers so that God may show lenience on the soul of the departed:

"For there is no man alive who did not sin: Your righteousness is righteousness forever, and Your word is the truth". (from the Orthodox prayer for the dead).

We pray for the living and for the dead for the same reason we also pray for men and women, young and old, rich or poor, on earth or on the sea, soldiers and civilians, masters and slaves, etc. Do you have something against coherence and uniformity in prayer?

Pr Mark Henderson said...

You still continue to side-step the scripture, Lucian. I really don't see any point in continuing this discussion, as we clearly have different primary authorities, we therefore seem destined to go on in circles interminably. I never was one for dancing...

Lucian said...

...and just what Scripture would that be exactly?...

Your whole argument is an argument from silence.

Thou shalt not pray for the dead!

Pr Mark Henderson said...

First lesson in theology of worship, Lucian: a rite or practice which conveys grace requires a mandate from the Lord (e.g. "this do in remembrance of me", or "go and baptise"). That's what it means to be a church whose authority is the Word of the Lord!

Lvka said...

a rite or practice which conveys grace requires a mandate from the Lord


Like "go ye & appoint deacons, elders and overseers", you mean?...

Or like "go ye & lay your hands upon them, that they may receive the Holy Ghost" ?

Obviously, all of these practices conveyed the grace of the Holy Spirit: Acts 8:18-19; 10:44-48; 19:1-7; 20:28; 1 Timothy 4:14 & 2 Timothy 1:6; Acts 6:5-8;etc.

Yet none of them was explicitely or specifically ordained by Jesus Christ in the Gospels, was it?

___________________________________
That's what it means to be a church whose authority is the Word of the Lord!

So the original New Testament Church, founded by Christ's Holy Apostles, and described in the Book of Acts, didn't have as its authority the Word of the Lord?...

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Of course it did.
And of course those verses also apply. I wasn't giving an exhaustive list of references, just examples.

Lvka said...

of course those verses also apply


Then why don't Lutherans practice Chrismation or Confirmation? And not only don't practice it, but deny its Biblical character, and then begin to cough when I mention those verses to them?