A Challenge To The Scripture Expert At EWTN's Web Forum
|An Open letter to Fr. John Echert, S.S.L, (EWTN
Scripture, Divine Revelation Forum Expert), 13 July 2001:
I am publicly offering you my article at biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.htm as proof from the New Testament, that quotes of Christ Himself show conclusively that the Hebrew Canon was the only Old Testament canon recognized by Christ and the Apostles, and consequently, all Catholic councils and papal decrees defining the canon have been in error.
This open letter to you is appended to the above article, and your detailed response is respectfully solicited. Your EWTN forum posted reply, if any, will also be added to the article.
- Go to the article on the Old Testament Canon
- Fr. Echert's First Answer - 16 July 2001
- My First Reply - 18 July 2001
- Fr. Echert's Second Answer - 19 July 2001
- Email from EWTN's Vice President, Colin Donovan - 20 July 2001
- My reply to Colin Donovan - 20 July 2001
- Colin Donovan's Second Email - 20 July 2001
- My Second Reply to Colin Donovan - 20 July 2001
- My Third Email to Colin Donovan - 23 July 2001
- EWTN Capitulates and Removes All Related Forum Entries.
- Colin Donovan's Third Email - 31 July 2001
- My Fourth Email to Colin Donovan - 1 August 2001
- Colin Donovan's Fourth Email - 1 August 2001
- My Fifth Email to Colin Donovan - 1 August 2001
- Colin Donovan's Fifth Email - 2 August 2001
- My Sixth Email to Colin Donovan - 3 August 2001
- Colin Donovan's Sixth Email - 3 August 2001
- My Seventh Email to Colin Donovan - 4 August 2001
- Colin Donovan's Seventh Email - 6 August 2001
- My Eighth Email to Colin Donovan - 12 August 2001
When posted to his forum, Fr. Echert censored the web address from my open letter, so as to prevent, or at least hinder, his Catholic readers from finding and reading the above article in its entirety. Catholics, I have found, resort to this obviously unfair censorship tactic time and time again when they realize they have a lost cause on their hands and cannot adequately defend themselves against the truth.
Fr. John Echert's First Answer, Posted 16 July 2001
(Deleted at EWTN on 24 July)
|Answer by Fr. John Echert on 07-16-2001:
I will respond to your major points as time allows me, with the possibility of subsequent responses. You wrote:
First I point out your inconsistency with regards to the manner in which the sacred canon is known. For you accept that the Old Covenant Jews collectively “knew which books were canonical” yet you reject that the New Covenant Israel which is the Church—often referred to as the Catholic Church—is likewise guided by divine Providence to “know which books are canonical.” Do you really imagine that God guided Israel of old to know the canon but failed to do so with regards to the New Israel?
Secondly, you wrote the following:
It must be noted that simply by referring to three major categories of types of writings of the Old Testament, this in no way precludes that there may be other writings or types of writings. To use an analogy, if I were to say that my mother and my father and my sister all testify that I am a Roman Catholic priest, such does not preclude other family members or other sources from affirming that same truth. Furthermore, the deutero-canonical writings—wrongly referred to as the Apocrypha by some—can be fit into these categories as readily as the modern Jews fit other writings into them. For instance, Joshua and Judges are historical works and yet Jews list them under the category of prophets. They are more properly historical works and precede the prophetic period of Israel. What is your basis for assuming that they belong under the category “prophets” apart from modern Jewish preference? And the category of “the Writings” is so loose as to allow the inclusion of such works as “Wisdom” and others.
Thirdly, a careful study of the texts of the Old Testament which are quoted in the New Testament reveals much more affinity with the texts of the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament than any known Hebrew text, most especially the Masoretic text which has been the basis of biblical scholarship and translations for centuries, for Catholics and Protestants. Unless you can produce a Hebrew text of the Old Testament which accounts for such quotes in the New Testament (over 300) your assumption should favor the use of the text of the Septuagint as the basis for the New Testament. And the Septuagint, of course, contains the works referred to as deutero-canonical.
Finally, you cite the Dead Sea scrolls as important in establishing the presence of Hebrew texts in Israel:
Of course, the Essence community that made use of these texts comprised isolationists who did not associate with mainstream Judaism; in fact, they did not regard Temple worship as legitimate and cannot be regarded as normative with regards to their texts. But more to the point, if you wish to use the Dead Sea Scrolls as important in establishing what was used in Israel at the time of Christ, then by your own admission in your text you should acknowledge and accept at least two of the deutero-canonical works which were found in fragment parts at Qumran. As you wrote:
The bottom line, Michael, is that without the Sacred Tradition of the Church, not only would the canon of the Bible remain uncertain but it is likely that at least some of the works would have been lost or mixed amidst so many other apocryphal writings from the ancient Jewish and Christian world. To justify the elimination of the deutero-canonical works you basically have to reject the councils and great Scriptural writers such as St. Augustine from at least as early as the fourth century AD. I invite you to reconsider you position. ©
For the convenience of the reader, my comments will continue in this normal font, with a blue background, while the specific remarks of Fr. John Echert that I am responding to will be in the indented yellow background in boldface. The entire text of his response can be read above. It has been deleted at EWTN.
My 1st Reply of 18 July 2001
|I find it very curious that you censored my article's
web address for your Catholic readers, while there is no similar
censorship on my web site. What are you afraid of? Don't your Catholic
readers have the right to read my ENTIRE article for themselves on my web
page, and not just the small fraction of it you choose to cite?
If my article had no merit, and could be easily refuted by you, it is likely that you would not have deleted the web address. That you have felt compelled to censor it has an obvious implication, which I think both Catholic and Protestant readers will easily discern. If the truth is clearly on your side, then you would simply have no need to censor or restrict access to an opposing point of view. The effect of your censorship will serve only to peak the interest of your readers, and perhaps motivate them enough to find the article via a web search engine, in spite of your censorship.
There is no inconsistency on my part at all. Up until the time of Christ the Hebrew canon was known, though no church council had formally declared it. Consistency, if you demand it, would not require a formal declaration of either the New or Old Testament canon by any Catholic council.
It is clear from the 3 passages cited from the New Testament in my article that Christ defined the Hebrew canon as the inspired scriptures of His time. This automatically excludes the Apocryphal books from canonical consideration. The responsibility of the Christian church was to collect and preserve the inspired doctrinal, historical and prophetic writings of the apostolic era, and it could have done this just like the Jews, without a single Catholic council or papal declaration.
Now the issue of who has the authority to define and declare the canon of scripture is academic when both Protestant and Catholic agree on the content of the New Testament. However, when it comes to the Old Testament canon, where there is a discrepancy, can there be any higher authority than the words of Christ Himself?
God has not failed. The same canon that Christ knew and referred to 3 times is acknowledged by Protestantism today as the complete Old Testament. If anyone has failed, it was the councils and popes of the Catholic Church who erred regarding the Old Testament canon.
On the contrary, when Luke 24:44-45, Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51 are studied together in context, there can be only one conclusion, that being that Christ was undoubtedly referring to the Hebrew canon as the entire span of inspired scripture of His day. This is so clear as to be unimpeachable.
Can you cite a single scholar that logically concludes that Christ was referring to the Old Testament canon of the Greek Septuagint in Luke 24:44-45?
Has the Septuagint EVER been classified into three categories identical to the Hebrew Bible?
Since the ordering of books in every Septuagint known is radically different than the Hebrew Bible, I dare say the answer to these two questions is definitely NO.
The theoretical placement of Joshua or Judges in either the Prophets or Writings does have any relevance to this discussion. What matters are the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible, and the first and last books as referred to by Christ. These simply cannot be applied to the Septuagint.
As additional evidence, I would suggest that the following verses all refer to the first two divisions of the Hebrew Bible when they cite the Law and the Prophets. These 11 verses, by the way, are quoted from the Roman Catholic Douay Rheims translation:
Mat 5:17 Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
Mat 7:12 All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.
Mat 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John:
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.
Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John; from that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every one useth violence towards it.
Luke 24:44 And he said to them: These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
John 1:45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith to him: We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.
Acts 13:15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying: Ye men, brethren, if you have any word of exhortation to make to the people, speak.
Acts 24:14 But this I confess to thee, that according to the way, which they call a heresy, so do I serve the Father and my God, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets:
Acts 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came very many to him unto his lodgings; to whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, out of the law of Moses and the prophets, from morning until evening.
Rom 3:21 But now without the law the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.
Not true. Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51 both make clear that Christ was referring to 2nd Chronicles as the very last book in the inspired Scriptures. This agrees with the current and historical Hebrew Bible. But most notably, the cited verses can never be reconciled with the altered ordering of the Septuagint. Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51 with Luke 24:44 are absolutely airtight, and do not allow the inclusion of the Apocryphal books of the Septuagint.
It is indeed recognized today that many of the New Testament quotes of Old Testament verses are citations of the Greek Septuagint. This does not, however, lead to the conclusion that the New Testament writers accepted the canon of the Septuagint, for the following reasons:
As Greek was a common language of the day, I will concede that the Apostles likely taught from scrolls of the Septuagint for their Greek speaking audiences.
However, were I a Jew or Gentile in the first century who spoke both Hebrew and Greek fluently, and my audience likely knew Greek but maybe not Hebrew, I too would not hesitate to teach and cite from a Greek translation of the Hebrew canon, like the Septuagint, even if it may have collectively contained some extraneous non-canonical works. I as a Protestant sometimes cite from the Catholic Douay Rheims (as I have done above) or other Catholic editions of the Bible, because it suits my purpose to make a point to a Catholic in their own translation. However, this does not in any way mean that I endorse the Catholic canon, or presumed Catholic authority to declare the canon. In like manner, apostolic era use of the Greek Septuagint in no way constitutes an endorsement of the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical books.
So the assumption that the New Testament writers accepted the Catholic canon, simply because they quoted from the Septuagint, lacks any merit.
I said the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran proves conclusively that the Old Testament was available in Hebrew in Israel at the time of Christ. I did NOT say Qumran made a case for canonicity. There were dozens of non-canonical works at Qumran, and the presence, or absence, of a particular book in the Qumran collection does not provide one iota of proof for, or against, canonicity. Even if all the Apocryphal books of the Septuagint had been found at Qumran, this would NOT establish their acceptance as part of the canon. Qumran was a LIBRARY, which likely collected every religious scroll it could get possession of or duplicate. My own personal library contains many Catholic works, to include Catholic catechisms and several Catholic Bibles, but this does not make me a Catholic, nor does it indicate I accept the Catholic canon. This would quite obviously apply to Qumran.
I reject that premise, as it denies the power of God to preserve His inspired word. I maintain that we would still have the same 66 books of the Protestant Bible today, even if no Catholic council had EVER declared the canon.
On this point you are 100% correct. I do most emphatically and completely reject all Catholic councils, papal decrees, and Church fathers who endorsed the Apocryphal books. My authority for this, as made clear from my article, is the quotations of Christ previously cited in the New Testament. To the unbiased reader, the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church, and the whole of Catholic Tradition falls like a house of cards on this one point.
You have not presented anything that refutes the words of Jesus Christ that I have cited. You are asking me to turn my back on truth that I can see clearly in Holy Scripture, for Catholic Tradition which plainly contradicts the teaching of Jesus Christ.
I invite you, and your Catholic readers to abandon the Traditions of men, and the allegedly infallible Magisterium that clearly erred in declaring the Apocryphal books canonical, and adopt in their stead the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as the sole ruler of faith.
Again, your reply, if any, will be appended to my article at biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.htm
Answer by Fr. John Echert on
(Deleted at EWTN on 23 July 2001)
Not only did I delete your web address in the previous post but I have deleted your arguments in this post, which may mislead the Faithful who are in full communion with the Church. In so doing I am guarding what has been entrusted to me, as the Bible teaches:
[1 Tim] 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, 6:21 for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith. Grace be with you.
[2 Tim] 1:13 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; 1:14 guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
In resorting to this tactic of censorship, it should be clear to even Catholic readers that Fr. Echert has conceded that he is simply unable to deal with the truth, AND HE KNOWS IT. I could get no stronger endorsement from him that my article at biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.htm is absolutely true, and that it proves beyond any doubt that the Roman Catholic magisterium which claims to be infallible in matters of faith is no such thing, having clearly erred fundamentally in defining the canon of the Old Testament.
Heed this warning from Jesus Christ, Fr. Echert, for it applies to you!
Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
An Email from EWTN's Vice President
(EWTN is not a happy camper!)
|Subject: Your post of EWTN material at http://biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.
Date: 20 July 2001
While you are entitled to your freedom of opinion about the Catholic Faith, you are not entitled legally or morally to violate the intellectual property rights of EWTN, as you have done, by taking either in whole or in part material from our site for posting on your own.
Consider this a notice to desist. We thank you in advance for doing so.
Colin B. Donovan
My reply to Colin Donovan - dated 20 July 2001
With all due respect, please note the following points:
1. Fr. Echert was clearly notified IN ADVANCE that his reply to my inquiry, if any, would be published on my web site. Posting a response on EWTN's forum clearly constituted acceptance of that condition on his part. If that was a condition unacceptable to EWTN, then he was under no obligation to post my inquiry or his reply in the EWTN forum.
2. The applicable U.S. copyright law on fair use reads as follows:
3. So, I am within the law in posting EWTN material on my web site so long as its for the purposes of one of the following conditions: criticism, comment, news reporting, or teaching. As anyone can plainly see, I have been well within my legal rights to repost my discussion with Fr. Echert on my web site, since it easily fits ALL these requirements.
4. Also, since I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the Mystery Babylon spoken of by John in Revelation, I have a clear moral and religious obligation to preach this truth as best I can, so that people will know the truth and come OUT of Mystery Babylon. So my conscience is quite clear: I have NOT violated any sense of ethics or morality by reposting material regarding my discussion with Fr. Echert from EWTN's Scripture forum on my web site.
5. Consequently, I would maintain that you have no right, legally, ethically, or morally to censor my web site. I am clearly engaged in criticism, comment, and teaching that Roman Catholicism is a doctrinally apostate church. Since you, as Vice President of EWTN, have in your official capacity attempted to further censor me, that is also validly NEWS, and your email, and this response to you, have been appended to the article at http://biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.htm
6. Now should you wish to pursue this matter further in a court of law, I will be happy to call on the Religious Liberty legal resources of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to represent me. I don't think you want the kind of public attention that would automatically draw to this matter.
When are Roman Catholics going to learn that the medieval tactic of censorship only serves to spread even farther the information they want so desperately to repress?
Colin Donovan's Second Email - 20 July 2001
|RE: Your post of EWTN material at http://biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.htm
Dated 20 July 2001
For the Glory of the Most Holy Trinity,
Thank you for your quick response. Given the facts as you state them your belief that you did not violate our copyright is understandable. However, Fr. Eckert does not have the right to grant you copyright permission and you are hereby informed that any implied permission is revoked.
As for fair use, publishing something in its entirety, even for criticism, on the Internet can hardly constitute fair use, otherwise you could post a newly published novel, interspersed with your comments.
Finally, as for censorship, we have no power to censor you, as we have no control over your web site. We request that you apply the same standards of justice and charity that you would expect to have applied to yourself. Justice is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Charity is "to love your enemies."
I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
My Second Reply to Colin Donovan - 20 July 2001
Under U.S. copyright law, fair use does not require your permission.
Also, please note point 4  of the fair use clause:
2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
Due to the nature of my inquiry of Fr. Echert, and his responses, which involves a scholarly debate, it was patently unfair for him to censor the web address of my article, since he chose to voluntarily post my inquiry and respond to it. That web address was the only way some EWTN readers would be able to gain access to the article Fr. Echert was responding to, in order to judge for themselves the merits of my position. I will not be guilty of the same blatant unfairness on my web site. No true scholar interested in a free exchange of opposing ideas would even contemplate it.
Fr. Echert and EWTN have an undeniable right, in fairness, to have his entire remarks available in the same article as my comments in response to him. Any court would likely agree fully in this specific case. I expected the same sense of fair play, justice, and charity in the EWTN site that I rigidly follow on my web site, but I did not get it. That you are now attempting to remove Fr. Echert's responses from my web site only reinforces that fact.
Please heed the following counsel from the Apostle Paul:
1 Cor 6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law
before the unjust, and not before the saints?
If you still feel you have been wronged by me in this matter, then take this publicly before the church, via the EWTN web site, and not before a secular court, which, I am confident, would not support you in any case. Furthermore, If you can demonstrate to me clearly that I have legally wronged EWTN, and infringed on your intellectual property rights, then I assure you I will apologize and remove that infringing material from my web site.
Again, under that principle, I will post your 2nd email, as well as this response to my web site.
My Third Email to Colin Donovan - 23 July 2001
I would like to refer you to Fr. Echert's forum and the following email he has posted from Anna on 07-20-2001: http://www.ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage.asp?Pgnu=1&Pg=Forum7&recnu=8&number=213779
[Deleted on 23 July at EWTN]
This is a most interesting development. Fr. Echert, who has been quite unable to logically rebut my article on the Hebrew Canon, has sunk to posting ad hominem that characterizes me as a demon possessed hate monger in need of psychiatric help. Is this the level of debate you encourage and condone at EWTN as a Vice President?
Now I am not suggesting for a moment that this item be removed, since I would never try to censor EWTN. PLEASE, let it remain, since it only helps me make my case against Catholicism to the discerning reader, Protestant and Catholic alike. I am positively AMAZED that Fr. Echert is apparently unable to see this. It does make me wonder if he will post any emails he may have received from Catholics that are critical of his censorship. Would I be permitted to respond to this, and any similar email posted in his forum?
Should you choose to reply, I will add it after this email on my web page at: http://biblelight.net/hebrew-canon.htm
EWTN Capitulates and Removes All Related Forum Entries.
As a result of the above email, EWTN on 23 July edited its Scripture Forum as follows:
- The bulk of Anna's remarks, mentioned above, have been edited out, leaving just two sentences. To anyone reading that item now, there is no hint at all that her remarks have been edited in any way at all. I doubt that anyone will find this practice acceptable. When remarks have been edited, it should be apparent to the reader exactly when and where editing has occurred.
- The title of Anna's post, as well two others, were changed from my name to Sacred Scriptures.
- Most significantly, Fr. Echert's second reply to me, that had been posted on 07-19-2001, where he admitted to censoring my point by point responses in order to protect his readers, has been deleted entirely by EWTN. Now it seems to the Catholic visitor to the Scripture Forum that I have never responded to Fr. Echert's initial posting on 7-16-2001 which, curiously, remains on EWTN's site, apparently unchanged. This erroneously leaves the impression that Fr. Echert has won the discussion by default. Could anything be more unfair than this?
On 24 July, Anna's post was totally deleted along with another that referred to my posts, as well as Fr. Echert's initial reply to my inquiry. Now everything related to my inquiry to EWTN has been expunged from the Scripture forum. The reason is obvious. Leaving anything at all in the Scripture forum was simply unacceptable and would provoke further discussion, and questions that EWTN would not be able to answer. There is only one way to view this, a complete capitulation on the part of EWTN on the topic of the Hebrew Canon, that my article on the Hebrew Canon is true, and totally beyond their capability to refute. This is so serious a threat to Catholicism, in their view, that nothing could be allowed to remain on the EWTN forum regarding it. It is as if it never happened, but many Catholics know it did, and they know why EWTN felt compelled to remove it.
Rev 18:2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, ...
Colin Donovan's Third Email - 31 July 2001
|No, EWTN removed it because of the un-Christian polemics your efforts
to proselytize on our web site were creating. Having abused the good will
of others, such as by posting the private emails sent to you by myself in
effort to address this matter, you have made a cordial resolution
Your dissertation on the Canon ignores the fact that no Hebrew canon existed until the late first century AD, when a council of Palestinian rabbis came up with one. This canon took centuries to be widely accepted among Jews, and hardly constitutes an authoritative position for the Church, to whom Christ gave a supernatural teaching charism. For moderns, those with recently founded theologies, like yourself to rely on merely rationalistic analysis, in a matter which historical science cannot definitively settle, is to fall victim to the same trap which divided the schools of rabbis in Our Lord's day and which His gift of apostolic authority to the Church was meant to prevent. Certainty in some matters of the faith is necessary for the salvation of souls. Apostolic Tradition guarantees the authenticity of those matters. Rationalistic arguments that go round and round do not.
My Fourth Email to Colin Donovan - 01 August 2001
In reply to your email of 31 July:
I agree that the ad hominem from Anna that Fr. Echert posted in his forum was not in keeping with a scholarly Christian debate. Unfortunately, my experience has been that it is all too common for Catholics to react that way in such discussions.
I initiated the discussion with Fr. Echert, and from the very beginning EWTN was on notice it was an open email invitation to a public discussion, and any reply would be published on my web site. Now your "good will", as you put it, was nothing short of an attempt to censor my web site after the discussion was going very badly for EWTN, on a topic you recognize to be of immense consequence to Catholicism, and not one you could afford to publicly lose.
You simply cannot allow Catholic readers access to the simple facts of this discussion because you fully realize you have nothing that will stand up in comparison to Christ's own very clear words. In effect, you have cut your losses through censorship on your own site, bailing out of a discussion that you perceive as a lost cause.
You also want any evidence of EWTN participation removed from my site as well, in order to conceal your inability to respond effectively. Your actions will be perceived by everyone as an acknowledgment on EWTN's part that you cannot refute the point I have raised, and know well the inevitable consequence: that the Catholic canon of the Old Testament is in error, and magisterial "infallibility" of Popes and Church Councils is nothing but a pious fraud.
On the contrary, Christ and the Apostles had no problem at all identifying the canon of Scripture, as my essay shows quite clearly, long before the Council of Jamnia. That you want to divert attention from the easily discerned meaning of the cited verses comes as no real surprise.
In recent years Catholic apologists have made the claim that nowhere in scripture is the canon defined, and that this in their opinion, was surely a fatal blow to Sola Scriptura. Just in the last few hours I saw Fr. Levis and Fr. Trigilio make the same faulty argument on EWTN. I think there is a certain poetic justice in having that proved so conclusively wrong that all "infallible" Catholic Tradition falls inevitably after the simple truth regarding the Old Testament canon is known.
Does this leave Catholics adrift without an anchor on which to rely? No. It just confirms the absolute authority of Scripture as the sole ruler for doctrine, which has no peers in Popes, or Councils, or the Traditions of men. Only Scripture is our inspired infallible teacher.
Under the circumstances, I would never expect you to accept the Council of Jamnia as authoritative, since the Roman Catholic Church reserves that authority to itself. In any case, I do not rest my argument on the Council of Jamnia, but rather on the very sure foundation of the words of Christ, cited in the New Testament. Those quotes have an authority that exceeds any council, and are something you simply cannot refute.
The whole point of my essay addresses certainty, absolutely ironclad certainty pertaining to the Old Testament canon. I would respectfully submit that the words of Jesus Christ Himself show, quite clearly and quite irrefutably, that the Hebrew canon was regarded by Him to be the full extent of inspired scripture in His time. This excludes the Apocryphal books from canonical consideration, and is proof positive that "infallible" Popes and Church councils have erred in this regard.
Now if you still disagree, you are publicly, openly, and cordially invited to restore, and resume the discussion in your EWTN scripture forum on an intelligent and scholarly level, free of any ad hominem or repressive censorship of my remarks for your Catholic readers. Failing that, we can continue this open discussion on my web site, as we have been, where the comments of both sides are presented quite fairly, which is to say in full.
Again this is a public discussion, and this email and your reply, if any, will be posted on my web site.
Colin Donovan's Fourth Email - 1 August 2001
|Your assertion that the Jewish Canon was clear in
Christ's day, and proclaimed by the Lord Himself, is just not historically
accurate. For instance the reference in Lk. 24:44 to the Law, the Prophets
and the Psalms refers in the first place to places in Sacred Scripture
where prophecies of Christ are given. It is also a clear liturgical
reference which every Jew would recognize, since Torah and haftorah
readings in the synagogue were, and still are, taken from these books. He
makes no mention of the Writings (except for Psalms). In Christ's day the
historical, moral and wisdom literature were widely considered inspired,
but not universally so. They were seldom used in the synagogue. Christ'
reference is no more a complete canon than His listing of commandments in
Mt 19:18 is a complete Ten Commandments.
As for Jamnia's canon, it was drawn up in contradistinction to the developing Christian Scriptures and theology. It can hardly be considered authoritative, or even representative of first century Judaism, to Christians. Why would Christians look to the People of the Old Law for their canon, when the fallibility of their traditions was clearly identified but Jesus. The Scriptures, correctly identified are not fallible, but the human judgment about what constitutes them, and how they are to be interpreted, is. Post-Exilic Judaism and Protestantism are sufficient proof of the error of private judgment. Only by means of a supernatural charism committed to the Church (as represented in Peter), as opposed to the leaven of the several Pharisee (and thousands of Protestant) theologies, can an authoritative canon be identified and an authoritative judgment about Scripture's meaning be proclaimed (Mt 16:5-18). Christ spoke with authority, and so does the Church. Mankind is free to take them or leave them. But as Augustine said, "No one can have God as His Father who does not also have the Church as His Mother" … "if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." (Mt. 18:17)
P.S. Spare your readership your condescending insights into what other people mean, or the absolute certainty of your logical conclusions. Its poor scholarship. Unless you have a charism of infallibility, yrou conclusions are far from self-evident. That they are to you is simply human nature at work.
My Fifth Email to Colin Donovan - 1 August 2001
Regarding your email of 1 August:
The historical record having the foremost authority in this matter is Scripture itself, and the words of Jesus Christ that testify to the three divisions of the Hebrew canon, and the references to the first and last books of that same canon. Since He is God incarnate, I expect He knows with unerring precision the extent of the canon.
It is also interesting that in all the discussion about Scripture in the New Testament, there was never a dispute recorded between the Christians and Jews over the canon. One would have to conclude that there was agreement in what comprised inspired Scripture, that being the same canon the Jews recognize today and call the TaNaKh, which excludes the Apocryphal books.
Psalms is the first and largest book in the third division of the Hebrew bible, and that last division apparently did not have a settled title in the time of Christ, hence the reference to only the first book of the division, which was obviously symbolic for what today is called the Ketuvim (Writings) or Hagiographa. It is not unknown for the Writings to simply be called Psalms, even historically by other writers.
What Christ made reference to was the three Hebrew divisions of Scripture and the first and last books that define the limits of the Old Testament. While not literally a complete index of the inspired books, the Hebrew canon is obviously the one Christ recognized.
Again, the foundation upon which my essay is built is not Jamnia, it is the testimony of Christ recorded in the New Testament.
On the contrary, I am quite secure in the belief that I do not need Catholics to tell me what constitutes the canon, nor do I need Catholics to interpret the intended meaning of Holy Scripture.
Well then, it boils down to just who the true remnant church is. John the Revelator defines the true church this way:
Now I would suggest that my essay on the Hebrew canon is based quite securely on the testimony of Jesus Christ, while you are appealing instead to unbiblical Tradition. And as to keeping the commandments of God, we Seventh-day Adventists observe the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as a Sabbath day of rest, just as Exodus 20:8-11 declares. This Catholics clearly don't do, since they pride themselves in their changing this precept of God, making Sunday, the first day of the week, the day of worship and rest. This change Catholics also admit, is not based on any command found in Scripture, but rather on the Church's sense of its own power and authority, being rooted in nothing more than Tradition. So, based on Holy Scripture, you are not lining up with the characteristics delineating the true church.
I will let my readers be the judge in this matter. At least my readers have that opportunity.
Again this is a public discussion, and this email and your reply, if any, will be posted on my web site.
Colin Donovan's Fifth Email - 2 August 2001
|While Jesus knew with unerring accuracy the extent of the
Canon you do not. A Canon is a list of the books, not a dart throw -
"well, there's this group and there's this group, and there's that group."
Either The Lord gave a list which is verifiable and complete or He did
not. He did not, any more than He gave anything more than a representative
listing of the Decalogue in Luke 24. Your assertion that the mention of a
single book of the Writings at that place constitutes proof of your
position on the extent of the third part of the Tanach is a logical non
sequitur. This is especially true when the Jewish practice of the day
clearly recognized the Psalms but not the historical or wisdom books. That
leaves the question of the extent of inspiration with respect to the
"Writings" to the Christian era, for which the Jamnia rabbis are not MY
authority. Christ and His Apostles are. And if He didn't provide a Canon
in the written Tradition (Scripture) then we must look to the oral
Tradition (2 Thes. 2:15), as found in the ecclesiastical writings and
decisions of the first centuries.
But lets be honest with your readers, as a Seventh day Adventist you can no more accept that the early Church received the Canon orally from Christ and the Apostles than you can accept that Sunday is the Day of the Lord in Acts 20:7 and Rev. 1:10. Your position is the absolute private interpretation of a less than 200 year old theological tradition, at odds with other Protestants on many points. Frankly, in many ways I find that a more honest sola scriptura position than the pick and choose "traditions" of liberal Catholics and Protestants. So, I think on the matter of whether there is an apostolic Tradition, distinct from merely human traditions, we will continue to disagree, hopefully amicably.
My Sixth Email to Colin Donovan - 3 August 2001
Regarding your email of 2 August:
In Matthew 19:18-19 Jesus mentions the last 6 Commandments of the second table of the Decalogue regarding our duty to mankind, and those not mentioned cover our duty to God. Now do you think it would have been necessary for Christ to list them all for His audience to fully understand what He was talking about, or did His audience know exactly and precisely what He meant? Without question they knew, since Jesus was referring to something that was long standing and well known, the 10 Commandments given to Moses at Sinai. The fact that He did not mention them all does not permit the possibility that He could have been referring to some other nebulous list that included additional commandments, beyond the ten, as your position would logically require.
In a similar manner, there is simply no way Luke 24:44-45, Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51 can be applied to anything but the Hebrew canon, which is precisely what Christ's audience understood Him to be speaking about (explained in next paragraph).
You seem to be overlooking a very important point. In Luke 24:44-45, Christ mentions Psalms, obviously pertaining to a third division of Scripture, and Psalms is the first and largest book of that division. Next, in Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51, the reference to Zechariah is plainly referring to the last book of Scripture, which in the Hebrew Bible is 2 Chronicles. So when these three verses are considered together, Christ has defined the third division of Old Testament Scripture as beginning at Psalms and ending with 2 Chronicles. Here is the logical result of what Christ said:
Now this conclusion is plainly evident, and quite precise, and can only apply to the Hebrew canon, not the grouping and order of the Greek Septuagint, which is radically different [see article].
So if Christ is indeed your highest authority on this matter, then the inevitable result is quite clear, the canon of the Catholic Church is in error, and it must be rejected, along with "infallible" Popes and Councils who in error affirmed the Apocryphal books as canonical. That argument is so simple and logical as to be quite irrefutable.
If you are suggesting that the Apocrypha were passed on by Christ via oral Tradition, you are correct, that is unacceptable, since it clearly contradicts the written record of Christ's teaching in the New Testament.
Now, as to the phrase "day of the Lord", it appears 25 times in scripture, in 23 verses, but I will cite just one passage:
Now I would respectfully suggest that "day of the LORD" here, as elsewhere in scripture, is clearly a reference to the day of the second coming of Jesus Christ, and not Sunday.
Regarding Acts 20:7, it will apparently surprise you to know that I concede that the first day of the week is indeed Sunday. That is not in dispute by anyone that I know of. The question is whether or not "breaking bread" on that day constituted a communion service, and can be used as evidence that the disciples were keeping Sunday. On that issue, I will quote a Catholic publication:
So the fact that they were breaking bread on the first day of the week proves nothing, since Acts 2:46 shows this was done daily. Sunday sacredness simply finds no support in Acts 20:7, and Catholics have freely admitted this.
On Revelation 1:10, and the expression "Lord's day", I quote the same Catholic source as above
Now the Catholic Mirror, quoted above, was the official organ of Cardinal Gibbons and the Papacy in the United States, and it eloquently makes the case that neither "day of the LORD" or "Lord's day" ever refer to Sunday in scripture, but rather to the second coming of Christ. It concludes that Sola Scriptura Protestants should either keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy as the Bible plainly teaches, or abandon Protestantism and the Bible as their only rule of faith to join the Catholic Church in its Tradition of Sunday keeping. I could not agree more.
To their shame, there are indeed many so-called Protestants who nominally lay claim to Sola Scriptura, yet on many points follow Catholic Tradition rather than what the Bible teaches.
I think it will be apparent to most everyone that you have still not provided anything substantial in rebuttal, certainly nothing that would even come close to refuting the clear words of Christ delineating the Hebrew canon. Therefore, I cordially extend an invitation to you, and to all Catholic readers, to abandon the untrustworthy Traditions of men, and the allegedly infallible Catholic Magisterium that clearly erred in declaring the Apocryphal books canonical, and adopt in their stead the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as the sole ruler of faith.
Again this is a public discussion, and this email and your reply, if any, will be posted on my web site.
Colin Donovan's Sixth Email - 3 August 2001
|And you have not given anything substantial in support of your
position. By any definition your position is an interpretation. To the
listeners of His day the Scriptures did not necessarily coincident to what
you consider the extent of the Tanach. Jews differed on these matters, and
Palestinian and Diaspora Jews quite considerably. You cannot make a case
for an evident Canon based on Christ's words. If it requires
interpolating, as you do, then it is a poor standard. Christ does not give
poor standards, He provided a Church, which interpreted in His name and by
His authority, as they did regarding whether the Mosaic law extent (Acts
15). As for the Decalogue, to list the commandments regarding man, (6 in
Exodus, 7 in Deuteronomy), is still to give a partial list. The young
man's question was which commandments must he keep to enter eternal life –
apparently not those regarding God. Since that can't be true, Christ was
giving a representative list. He didn't need to spell everything out
because He did not leave His people at the mercy of their own private and
incomplete interpretation of His words, but left them authoritative
interpreters in His apostles, and those whom they appointed to succeed
them as "overseers" (bishops) of the Church.
As for Saturday or Sunday, your position entails the absurd contention that all early Christians, including the thousands of martyrs for Christ during the imperial persecutions, were in error in celebrating Sunday, that the disciples of Christ turn a left turn as soon as the apostles died, and everyone was in error until modern Sabbatarians came along. You are entitled to your position. However, please admit that it has as its basis only your church's 18 centuries after the fact interpretation of Scripture.
Again, your claims to the self-evident meaning of Scripture, when you can drive a Volkswagen through the holes in your logic, begs the question of the correctness of your interpretation. YOU must prove, logically, syllogistically, your position, without "deus ex machina" filling I nof the meaning. Literal words, not interpolations, please. I need not. Mine rests on the authority of the Apostolic Tradition. Scripture witnesses sufficiently to Catholic claims; witnesses, not proves. The Church like Christ speaks with authority, it doesn't proof-text. Peter, like Christ, is a stumbling stone (skandalon), upon which many rise or fall.
My Seventh Email to Colin Donovan - 4 August 2001
Regarding your email of 3 August:
I think even the average reader will be able to see that is just not true.
It is a logical conclusion, deduced from the facts.
On the contrary, I think the case has been made, and quite effectively, but I will let the reader judge.
Much of Christ's teaching was in the form of parables, which by their nature were not immediately understood by many who heard them, and He was asked about this:
So what you are calling a poor standard was the intentional teaching method of Christ, used to divide sheep from goats.
You are suggesting that in order for anyone to understand what Christ was referring to in Matt 19:18-19, it is necessary for everyone to consult with a priest simply because not every commandment was mentioned. Is this what the man did? Was the man in doubt, and in need of a priest to tell him what commandments were meant?
Obviously the man knew exactly what commandments Christ was referring to. He did not need the remaining commandments recited for clarity, so this passage actually speaks against your position.
I would maintain that history shows there have always been those who kept the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath, since the time of Christ, and that Sunday keeping only developed gradually over time, but was completely unknown to the Apostolic church.
The strongest evidence that I can offer that you don't really believe that, that you have little confidence in your argument, is the censoring of my discussion from Fr. Echert's Scripture forum. This action is clearly intended to prevent Catholics from reading my essay on the Hebrew canon, because once they read and understand it, you will have a major credibility problem on your hands. Fr. Echert implied as much, when he said in his post of 19 July:
So if my argument is full of holes, and this could be proved conclusively, you would undoubtedly be quite willing to set me straight before your EWTN Scripture Forum readers, so that what you believe to be the superior Traditions of the Roman Catholic Church could be exhibited publicly, and a Bible believing, commandment keeping Adventist, relying on the testimony of Jesus Christ, shown to be sadly misguided. Why don't you do that? I think your censorship of EWTN speaks louder than your words, that even in your own estimation people will clearly see that Jesus Christ endorsed the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament, to the automatic exclusion of the Apocryphal books, thus proving the "infallible" Catholic Magisterium a myth, and that is why you cannot permit this discussion, or even a link to it, to be available on EWTN's scripture forum.
Colin Donovan's Seventh Email - 6 August 2001
|Its hard to fight categorical assertions based on the supplying of
information where none exist. You could use a course in Aristotle's
Analytics. Christ either gave a list or He didn't. He didn't. If He didn't
then must He have intended an accepted Canon as He intended an accepted
Decalogue? There is no necessity there. The Decalogue was settled 1200
years earlier with Moses and was contained within recognized Scripture,
the Torah. The books used in the synagogue, with which Jews would have
been familiar, were the Torah, the Prophets and Psalms. The
recognizability of His reference was clear, to liturgical use, not a
settled canon. AND, among the various parties of Jews – Sadducces,
Pharisees, Essenes - there were different opinions, as well. The Sadducees
limited their canon to the Torah. Other books, not generally used in the
synagogue, were later accepted by both Jews and Christians as Scripture.
Both Eastern and Western Christians, that is Orthodox and Catholics,
accepted a broader canon than rabbinical Jews, medieval descendants of the
Pharisee party, who naturally accepted the Pharisee opinion from Jamnia.
To canonize that post-Christian opinion as the mind of Christ, or even of
Palestinian Jews of Christ's day, has no basis.
In the situation of the uncertain 1st century Canon Christ either told His apostles what it consisted in, or, He left it for the mission of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church, as was done in many other things, such as the applicability of the Mosaic Law to Christians (Acts 15). Clearly this is an unacceptable position for you, since it contradicts the Adventist theory of history that the whole Church went astray in the first century until Seventh Day Adventism came along. Well, that's a theory, and you are entitled to it. As you say, let your readers judge.
Thank you for an engaging dialogue. Since we tend to be repeating ourselves, I consider my part at an end. I'm sure you will turn that into a capitulation, instead of a recognition that we have gone about as far as we can go with it. But, do as you must.
My Eighth Email to Colin Donovan - 12 August 2001
Regarding your email of 6 August:
That you are having difficulty is apparent to everyone, but to the contrary, the information provided in my article is conclusive, and this is easily seen by most everyone. The beauty is its simplicity and clarity, and this is also what makes your attempts at rebuttal and obfuscation quite ineffective.
Presumably you have had such a course, and I would suggest that it has not helped you in this case. I think my study of scripture has served me better.
Again, if you believed that argument a sufficient rebuttal, my discussion would never have been censored from EWTN. Your absolute lack of confidence in that argument is self-evident in your unwillingness to let EWTN readers have access to my essay and this discussion.
Scripture warns repeatedly of apostasy entering into the church, even in the apostolic era of the church, and it is plain that this apostasy would soon overwhelm the church at large, developing into the Antichrist power described as the little horn of Daniel, the beast from the sea in Revelation 13, and persecuting harlot riding the beast in Revelation 17. The following passages are warnings of the inevitable apostasy in the church:
Now, contrary to these scriptures, the Catholic Church teaches that it has been protected from apostasy, that it has never taught error, and never will teach error. This notion of an infallible Catholic Magisterium is not taught anywhere in scripture, and as my essay shows, it is proved a pious fraud on the point of the Hebrew canon being endorsed by Jesus Christ.
I am quite confident that my essay stands unimpeached by your attempts at rebuttal. It is your censorship at EWTN that most everyone will interpret as a capitulation on your part. Truth has the courage to be public, because it will surely standup to any test. Error flees from public examination, because it cannot standup under scrutiny. So your own actions are your strongest critic and speak louder than your words.