Church History

The Old Testament Canon and the “Council of Jamnia”

Many popular myths are believed simply because people want to believe them—not because they are true. Wishful thinking is a poor substitute for truth. It is always preferable for one to dig deep and discover the facts and not just believe things because one wants them to be true.

IMG_6527In order to reject the Catholic Bible, it is popular in some Protestant circles to claim that the Jews had a closed canon of Scripture in the first century and that the early Christians accepted this final Jewish collection of inspired writings as final and binding upon the Church. The Council of Jamnia is usually assumed as the “proof” for this assertion. At the “Council of Jamnia” you see, the Jewish rabbis supposedly got together—something like an Ecumenical Council in the Catholic Church—to lay down specific criteria for inspired Scripture and to finally define and close the Old Testament canon.

Is this true? First, we will look at how various authors defend the Protestant exclusion of seven books based on a flawed understanding of the so-called “Council of Jamnia”. Second, did this “council” actually discuss the limit of the Old Testament canon, and third, if so, did they have the authority to close the canon? Fourth, did they actually compile a final list of accepted writings and fifth, and very importantly, if such a decision had been made, would the Christian be bound by that decision? We will conclude with the teaching of the Catholic Church and why we can so securely trust it.

First, let’s clarify a few terms. The canon of Scripture refers to the final collection of inspired books included in the Bible. The Catholic Bible contains seven books that do not appear in Protestant Old Testament. These seven writings are called the deutero-canonicals, or the Second Law. Protestants usually call these writings the Apocrypha (meaning “hidden”)—books they consider outside the canon.

These seven writings include 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch along with additional passages in Daniel and Esther. Before the time of Christ, these writings were included in the Jewish Greek Septuagint (LXX)—the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures, but they were not included in the Hebrew Masoretic text.

To read the whole document, click here.

 

{ 2 comments }

A friend and fellow pilgrim got in a row with a friend on Facebook and asked for my help. You might enjoy the question and the answer.

St. Ignatius of Antioch eaten by lions in 106 AD

My friend wrote: “I have a quick apologetic question.  A Protestant Facebook page was denying the Eucharist and I pasted St Ignatius’ quote about the Eucharist, “Let us stand aloof from such heretics. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.” (Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans).   (Picture to right: Ignatius of Antioch eaten my lions in 106 AD).

The antagonist guy responded with this:

“Mike, I have a homework assignment for you.  I want you to find out who “those who hold heterodox opinions” are.  I want you to find out what they believe.  I want you to read this letter from beginning to end and look for the context of what you posted.  Can you confirm in the affirmative that Ignatius had Aristotelian concepts in mind when writing his letter?”

“Any idea what he is referring to and how to respond? If you don’t have time to respond, I understand.”

Mike is a friend so of course I had time to respond:

5283570-3x2-700x467“I am not sure what he is referring to other than that in the 1200’s Aquinas defined Transubstantiation in terms of Aristotelian philosophy of substance and accidents. It is a trick question to get you to admit that St. Ignatius did not know about transubstantiation in Aristotelian terms and therefore did not believe in transubstantiation. 

The truth is — doctrine develops over time. For example Ignatius would not have described the two natures of Christ in terms of the hypostatic union nor the Trinity in the sophisticated words of “generation,” “proceeds” and “spiration” that were later used to more carefully and philosophically define what orthodox Christians had always believed but were later developed further to combat the heretics. 

nt2Even the canon of the New Testament took 400 years to develop and close; neither St. Paul nor Ignatius could have rattle off the 27 books of the NT since that also took time to develop into the canon used by your Protestant interlocutor, though he doesn’t realize that. By trying to trick you he steps in his own trap.

Ignatius believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the two natures of Christ, the Trinity, etc. though he would not have used the sophisticated words later developed to define these things more precisely and deeply.

The little sapling doesn’t look like the big oak tree but they are organically the same thing.  The baby pictures of your challenger may not look like him as a full-grown man but he’s developed over time and is still the same organic person. Theology also develops and takes on new words and explanations but is only a further development of what was already believed by the early Christians. 

Hope that helps. I feel sorry for the deluded Protestants who are so “wise” in their disputations. I used to be one of them and thank God those days are in the past.”

{ 0 comments }

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray

The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you’.” From the first century the Apostolic Fathers referred to this Blessed Sacrament as the Eucharist, emphasizing that it was both the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Sacrifice of the New Covenant.

6a29d71314e8119903342fe7ef723835Our Lord taught the Apostles the meaning and liturgical form of the Eucharist and the apostles in turn passed the tradition on to the early Church. Many Christian sects deny apostolic tradition and attempt to derive details of the sacrament from the Bible alone.

However, the NT was never intended as a manual with detailed sacramental instructions—the Blessed Sacrament was learned by apostolic instruction and the faithful transmission of that tradition through the bishops. The final canon of Scripture was not recognized for almost four centuries after Christ, yet the Christians faithfully celebrated the Eucharist as taught by the apostolic tradition deposited in the Church.

Confusion about the Eucharist abounds in non-Catholic Christian circles. But, for the first twelve or thirteen centuries, with the exceptions of Ratramnus (d. ad 868) and Berengarius (d. 1088), both of whom affirmed the Real Presence in the end, there was a universal understanding and a consistent practice of the Eucharist throughout the Church, but only fifty years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door there was a book published entitled Two Hundred Definitions of the Words ‘This is My Body’. The Fathers of the Church knew no such confusion.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.09.45 AMOne of the earliest usages of the word Eucharist is in the Didache which was written as early as ad 60—before many NT writings. In the Didache we read: “Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14). In the fourth century, St. Athanasius used the Didache as a catechetical text for his students.

Malachi’s prophecy helps understand the Fathers’ grasp of the Eucharist. St. Paul uses Malachi’s technical term “the table of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10:21. Referring to the “table of the Lord”, used in the context (Malachi 1: 7, 12), the prophet Malachi wrote, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (KJV).

eucharistThis reference to “a pure offering” offered on “the table of the Lord” was interpreted repeatedly by the Fathers, from the first century onward, as a reference to the Eucharist. Even the Didache alludes to Malachi: “For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’(Didache 14).

Clement of Rome (AD 96), a fellow-worker with the Apostles, relates the new priesthood to that of the Old Testament Levites, emphasizing the distinction between the service of the priest and the laity: “In the same way, my brothers, when we offer our own Eucharist to God, each one should keep to his own degree (calling)” (Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, 41).

St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 106), another associate of the Apostles, wrote of “one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with His Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice” (Epistles to the Philippians, 4). St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) cites Malachi 1:11:  “[God] then speaks to those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist” (Dialog with Trypho the Jew, 14).

St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred 106 AD St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred 106 AD

St. Ignatius of Antioch, though writing around ad 106, clearly represents the theology of the first century. He warns, “But look at those men who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus Christ which has come down to us, and see how contrary to the mind of God they are . . . . They even abstain from the Eucharist and the public prayer, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ, which [flesh] suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness raised up again” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6, 7).

St. Ignatius speaks nobly of the Eucharist: “Share in one common breaking of bread—the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ evermore” (Epistle to the Ephesians, 20).

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.16.20 AMThe Catholic Mass continues the theology and liturgy of the first centuries. St. Justin Martyr offers a glimpse of the Eucharistic sacrifice in the mid-second century. “And this food is called among us Eucaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (First Apology, 1, 62).

The word “Transubstantiation” was commonly used in the 12th century and given classical formulation by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th. Though the early Fathers did not use this exact terminology, the teaching was essential to their theology. The Fathers unanimously held to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Some Protestants (e.g., William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History) tend to approach the Church Fathers in one of two ways. First, they may just ignore or disregard the Fathers as “uninspired” or irrelevant—why study the Fathers when we have the Bible? Second, they may search for perceived contradictions. The perceived contradiction is then presented as a false dilemma. This false dilemma forces an either/or dichotomy.

For example, “The Eucharist is either a “symbol” of the Body of Christ or it “is” the Body of Christ. The Fathers rejected such contrasts and espoused the both/and approach, understanding that the Eucharist was both a symbol (but never merely as a symbol) and the Real Presence.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 11.17.33 AMIf the Real Presence was an illicit teaching or unorthodox teaching we would expect to find early orthodox Christians condemning it? Instead, we see the earliest and most respected Christians consistently promoting both the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the reality of the Real Presence. Never is this teaching condemned or forbidden. The Catholic doctrine is the result of the organic development of the doctrine taught by the apostles and faithfully preserved by the bishops in the apostolic succession.

As an example of such false dilemmas, Fundamentalists Protestants may claim that St. Augustine rejects the Real Presence and refers to the Eucharist as a mere symbol (“eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually”). With such words, St. Augustine is exhorting believers to eat and drink the Eucharist in faith.

However, the Fundamentalists fail to disclose that St. Augustine taught that “[Jesus] took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he adores it” (Sermon 174, 7). St. Augustine certainly does not see any contradiction; in fact, his teaching is foundational to the dogmas of the Catholic Church.

With glorious harmony, the Fathers of the Church proclaimed the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Altar. Opposition was virtually nonexistent until the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. The confusion began with the Reformers, who could form no doctrinal consensus on the Eucharist.

Luther and Zwingli heatedly disagreeing on the Eucharist Luther and Zwingli heatedly disagreeing on the Eucharist

At the Marburg Conference in 1529 they were sharply divided and departed the conference in utter disarray. In contrast, the Catholic Church has maintained unity and the fullness of the apostolic teaching by unabashedly proclaiming for two thousand years that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. St. John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) writes, “This is the Body which He gave us, both to hold in reserve and to eat” (Homily on 1 Cor 24, 4).

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376?444) concurs, “[Jesus] states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in a sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ” (Commentary on Matthew, 26:27).

*************************************************

Sources:

Didache quote: “On Sunday Worship,, Early Christian Writings, trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin Books, 1968, p. 197.
Second Didache quote: ibid.
St. Clement’s quote: Early Christian Writings. trans. Maxwell Staniforth. Penguin Books, 1968, p. 39.
St. Ignatius’s first quote: Early Christian Writings. trans. Maxwell Staniforth, Penguin Books, 1968, p. 66.
Justin Martyr’s first quote: Ante-Nicene Fathers. Roberts and Donaldson, Eerdmans, 1985, vol. 1, p. 215.
St. Ignatius’ second quote: The Early Christian Writings, p.102?103.
St. Ignatius’ third quote: Early Christian Writings, p. 66
St. Auqustine’s first quote: Faith of the Early Fathers, William Jurgens, Liturgical Press. 1979, vol. 3, p. 20.
Chrysostom’s quote: The Faith of the Early Fathers, 2:118.
Cyril of Alexandria’s quote: The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3:220

**************************************************************

Recommended Reading:

Crossing the Tiber,  Steve Ray, Ignatius Press, 1987 (Whole section on the Eucharist).
The Real Presence through the Ages, Michael Gaudoin-Parker, Alba House, 1998.
The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVeriere, Liturgical Press, 1996.
The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. James T. O’Conner, Ignatius Press, 1988.
The Faith of the Early Fathers in three volumes, William Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1979.
The Holy Eucharist. Aidan Nichols, OP, Veritas Publications, 1991.
Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist, C. Lattey, ed. B. Herder Book Co., 1923.

{ 3 comments }

Steve’s Interview on Guadalupe and Conversion of Human Sacrificing Aztecs

December 14, 2016
Read the full article →

At Guadalupe All Day! Wow! Conversion of the Americas

December 12, 2016

Join  us as we tour the whole shrine and grounds of Guadalupe along with a special Mass in front of the Tilma of Our Lady. Amazing climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill where Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego. For the homily in front of the image of Guadalupe, click here.

Read the full article →

The Sign of the Cross: It’s History, Meaning and Biblical Basis

November 8, 2016

SIGN OF THE CROSS By Steve Ray The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the […]

Read the full article →

Quiz: Did Jesus Found a Church and If So, Where Is It?

November 4, 2016

I am sharing this from John Martignoni’s e-mail and website at www.BibleChristianSociety.com. Thanks for your good work John! 1) Did Jesus found a church?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18  2) How many churches did Jesus found?  A) One; the church is the Body of Christ and there is only one body of Christ – Rom 12:5, […]

Read the full article →

Great Pictures, Charts and Info on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

September 25, 2016

Since we are having Mass in the Holy Sepulchre early this morning I wanted to share these many beautiful and helpful picture, diagrams, charts and more about the Holy Sepulchre. See all this wealth of information written and visual. For me this is the most holy and important spot in the Universe. It is where […]

Read the full article →

Why Protestants Reject 7 Books of the Bible – the Short Answer

August 19, 2016

Gary Michuta is an expert on the canon of Scripture, especially in regards to the Deutero-canonical books, what the Protestants call the Apocrypha. You can read his book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger to see what I mean. Recently a friend asked Gary for the short answer as to why the Protestants removed seven books from […]

Read the full article →

Mega-church Mania: One Mom’s Observations (she’s a good writer) and Observations from the Early Church

August 18, 2016

Mr. Ray, My eldest daughter invited me to my grandson’s ‘dedication’ at her new place of worship.  Worship? Sorry. Her new place of…..well, the giant Olympic-sized structure that, after being directed in by police/traffic officers, upon entering, reminded me of a mall.  Oh and by the way, I didn’t witness any worship. My 1st thoughts were…”Wow! […]

Read the full article →

Eucharistic Miracles Website

August 15, 2016

Interesting site with articles on the Eucharist and the Real Presence, a catalog of Eucharistic miracles and more. It is a wealth of information — especially as we approach Corpus Christi Sunday. I knew nothing of this as a Protestant and find it absolutely intriguing now. I am so glad to be a Catholic and […]

Read the full article →

Steve’s Interview about his trips to India, the Work of the Apostles after Pentecost and more

August 5, 2016
Read the full article →

Another Chart of the Apostles after the New Testament

August 4, 2016

I posted a chart a few weeks ago but this one surfaces and since everyone seemed very interested in the previous post, I thought you’d appreciate this one as well. Thanks to the ChurchPop.com website site. For another chart, click here.

Read the full article →

How Many Churches Did Jesus Intend?

July 31, 2016

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father… so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent […]

Read the full article →

Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

July 26, 2016

From Little Catholic Bubble website Leila@LittleCatholicBubble Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament? At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following: “Where did you get your […]

Read the full article →

Volume 4 Added to Steve Ray’s Audio Set on Acts of the Apostles

July 9, 2016

In this Bible study on the first 17 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, Steve Ray opens the Scriptures and shows how the Early Church of the New Testament is the same as the Catholic Church of today. This well-documented study introduces you to many key people and places, struggles and strifes in the […]

Read the full article →