Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions
Full of deliberate inaccuracies.
I was reading Dr. Blomberg's book "Can We Still Believe the Bible?" and I was very disappointed in the section on the Old Testament Canon. I have enjoyed his books in the past and I was sad to see him reiterate falsehoods that have been the mainstay of Protestant objections to the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical books. These falsehoods have been refuted over the last 40 years as scholarship has advanced and it is inexcusable that a man with Dr. Blomberg's reputation should try to perpetuate them.
I will note few of these errors:
1) The Apocrypha was "not even put forward for canonization within Judaism." (p. 47)
This is false. In the opening pages of the Babylonian Talmud, there is a description of the process of discernment for determining which books should be included in the Jewish Bible. Both Sirach and Wisdom were considered for inclusion though ultimately rejected because of their late date. Nevertheless, the Talmud quotes from Sirach as Scripture 3 times and the copy of Hebrew Sirach found in the Cairo Genizah was written using all of the conventions that the Jews reserved only for biblical books. We now know that there were several different Biblical Canons extant among the Jews in the 1st Century AD and many of them included the Deuterocanonical books, especially those of Greek speaking Jews who used the Septuagint (LXX) as their primary Bible.
2)"Despite their widespread usage...no ecumenical (i.e., empire wide) council officially declared them canonical until the Council of Trent in 1546." (p. 48)
This is false. In the late 4th and early 5th Centuries there were 16 Councils held in North Africa to deal with the Pelagian and Donatist problems. The Council of HIPPO in 393 AD gave a list of the Canon of Scripture which was IDENTICAL to the list reaffirmed at Trent. It referred its canon on this to the "Transmarine Church" (i.e. Rome) for confirmation which was indeed granted. (NB: No distinction was made to an Old or New Testament. The Canon of Scripture was promulgated as a single list.) Two Popes in the next 25 years reaffirmed the Biblical Canon from Hippo upon request from other bishops for clarification on the Biblical Canon. The policy of the 16 Councils was to reaffirm the list of canons from previous councils in the series before adding new ones. A large list of canons were produced which were considered the definitive response to the errors of the Pelagians and Donatists. In 418 AD, the Pope declared all the canons from the 16 Councils to represent official Church teaching and they were treated as such from that point forward. The 7th Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) reaffirmed a list of 85 previous sources, treatises, and canons of local councils as representing official teaching. The canons from the North African Councils were on that list.
It should also be noted that the Latin Vulgate which became the official Bible of the Latin Church from the date of its publication contained the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture despite St Jerome's misgivings. Furthermore EVERY major Church Father (St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, St. Gregory the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and EVEN St. Jerome himself!) unambiguously quoted from the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture.
Also the Glossa Ordinaria which were glosses in the margins of the Vulgate Bible used as the standard instructional notes on the Biblical text during the Medieval Period included the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture.
At the Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1473 AD, Pope Eugenius wrote an extended letter which included among other things the reiteration of the Traditional Long Canon from Hippo. This letter is considered part of the official output from that Council.
As a result, it was not an "irate" Catholic Church (Dr. Blomberg's words) that reaffirmed the Deuterocanonical books at Trent but a well informed and historical educated one. In fact this is exactly what the Council of Trent said about it in the opening section of the Fourth Session:
" ...(the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament--seeing that one God is the author of both --as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: (THE LIST FOLLOWS)... But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema."
As you can see the Council did not make up a new canonical list but merely reaffirmed the one that it had received from Tradition. The Canon of Scripture had been settled as far as the Catholic Church was concerned over 1000 years earlier.
3) "The New Testament never quotes from the Apocrypha."
This is false. There are several places where extensive use is made of the Deuterocanonical books. St. Paul uses large portions of the Book of Wisdom (esp. Chapter 13) in the early chapters of Romans. The letter to the Hebrews refers to the Story of the Maccabean Martyrs. And there is extensive correspondence between the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount/Plain and Wisdom, Sirach, and Tobit. The same is true for the Epistle of St. James. In fact, the recent translation of Tobit in the NRSV makes it plain that there are several parallels between that book and the NT.
4) "The Protestants asserted not that the Church Fathers did not use the Apocrypha but only that no Jews did."
This is false as I have shown above, but it is endemic of the ignorant, Anti-Catholic and unhistorical attitude that Protestants take towards the Early Church. WHO CARES WHAT THE JEWS THOUGHT? They rejected Christ so why are we holding them up as experts on revelation for Christians? Besides, the consensus of scholarship at this time (e.g., Frank Moore Cross, James VanderKam, John Barton, Lee Martin MacDonald, James A. Sanders, and A. C. Sundberg to name a few) is that the Jewish canon of the Bible was not closed until after the time of Christ. There was no clear consensus of Rabbinical schools on this matter until the late 4th Century. By the time the Jews tried to discern their canon, the Holy Spirit had descended on the Church at Pentecost and the Jews no longer had any authority to speak definitively on this matter. Why do Protestants insist on giving more authority to non-Christian Rabbis than they do to Catholic Ministers about whom Jesus said "He who hears you hears me"(Luke 10:16)?
In short, everything he used to claim that the Deuterocanonical material is not Scripture were lies. The real reason that Protestants rejected them is that the Deuterocanonical books CONTRADICTED the innovative religious systems invented by the Protestant heresiarchs. The emphasis on wisdom literature in the Deuteros contradicted the anti-nomian assertions of the early Protestants. The Deuteros agreed with St. James about the meaning of the Aqedah and Abraham's righteousness before God which undermines the Protestant theory of imputation. The Deuteros reaffirmed the perennial teachings about prayers for the dead and the intercession of the saints which the Church had inherited from Judaism but which the man-made Protestant systems of the 16th Century could not accommodate. The strong ethical message of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount/Plain have always been difficult for Protestants to assimilate since it contradicts their views on "justification by faith alone." Jesus reiterated much of what was taught in Tobit, Sirach, and Wisdom. There has always been a strong affinity between Jesus' Sermon, the Deuteros, and the Epistle of St. James which was another reason (other than James 2:24) that Luther wanted to throw St. James' Epistle out of the canon.
I had high expectations that Dr. Blomberg would deal honestly with the debate over the Canon. Instead he has perpetuated much of the misinformation that Protestants have come up with on the subject. Meanwhile he has not dealt honestly with the reception of the Patristic Church of the Deueros as Scripture but instead chose to exclude evidence contrary to his prejudices with the deliberate intention of deceiving his readers.
What Dr. Blomberg has done is morally reprehensible and he needs to repent of his misrepresentations.
March 25, 2014