Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, December 11, 2006

St. Damasus and The Canon of Scripture

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Damasus (305-383) a pope of the fourth century. It was never a dull moment during his papacy. He was dealing with the Arian and other heresies , defending himself against scandalous charges of adultery and fighting against an anti-pope. He then commissioned his secretary, St. Jerome, to translate Scripture from the original languages into Latin, known as the Vulgate. This would allow the Scripture to be more accessible in a language more commonly understood in that day, than Hebrew and Greek.
It was at the Council of Rome in 382 that St. Pope Damasus decreed the final canon of Scripture. Often, it is said that the Council of Trent codified the canon of Scripture after the reformation, but the evidence points to this early council as the when the canon was finalized. The Council of Trent reiterated the canon in a response to the reformer's revision of the historic canon.
Here is the decretal of Pope Damasus regarding Scripture as well as the authority of the Catholic Church to make such a statement.

"It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. The list of the Old Testament begins: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book: Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Jesus Nave, one book; of Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; of Kings, four books; Paralipomenon, two books; One Hundred and Fifty Psalms, one book; of Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise, Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), one book;
Likewise, the list of the Prophets: Isaiah, one book; Jeremias, one book; along with Cinoth, that is, his Lamentations; Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee, one book; Amos, one book; Micheas, one book; Joel, one book; Abdias, one book; Jonas, one book; Nahum, one book; Habacuc, one book; Sophonias, one book; Aggeus, one book; Zacharias, one book; Malachias, one book.
Likewise, the list of histories: Job, one book; Tobias, one book; Esdras, two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; of Maccabees, two books.
Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, one to the Corinthians [2 Corinthians is not mentioned], one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews.
Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book.
Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament.
Likewise it is decreed: After the announcement of all of these prophetic and evangelic or as well as apostolic writings which we have listed above as Scriptures, on which, by the grace of God, the Catholic Church is founded, we have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was at the Council of Rome in 382 that St. Pope Damasus decreed the final canon of Scripture. Often, it is said that the Council of Trent codified the canon of Scripture after the reformation, but the evidence points to this early council as the when the canon was finalized. The Council of Trent reiterated the canon in a response to the reformer's revision of the historic canon.

TJ: Just a quick question. How do I know with certainty who is right? you, or the New Catholic Encyclopedia which states:

"According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon."

In other words, what you're saying, and what the New Catholic Encyclopedia are saying are in disagreement. How can i know with certainty who is accurate? Both of you claim to be presenting the Catholic position on who made the Canon "certain".

James Swan

December 13, 2006 7:08 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I certainly wouldn't take my word over the Church's position in any issue! But perhaps, the issue you find here is the language which Trent used regarding the canon vs the language I used in my post. Perhaps Trent was the first Council to use the language "infallible decision" to finally and with its apostolic authority put an end to the debate reignited when the reformers rejected the canon that had been accepted since the early Church Councils. The Catholic Church has always had dissenters within its ranks but at the end of the day, when Rome speaks, that settles it.(St Augustine )
Several Church councils Carthage, Hippo, Rome and later Florence, (80 years before the reformation) stated which books were inspired and to be read by the faithful. There have always been those who were questioning which books should make up the Canon, including St. Jerome as you know.
"How can i know with certainty who is accurate?"
My default position is always trust the Church and not what a neophyte Catholic blogger has on his website!
Another section from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia states:

"During the deliberations of the Council there never was any real question as to the reception of all the traditional Scripture. Neither--and this is remarkable--in the proceedings is there manifest any serious doubt of the canonicity of the disputed writings. In the mind of the Tridentine Fathers they had been virtually canonized, by the same decree of Florence, and the same Fathers felt especially bound by the action of the preceding ecumenical synod. The Council of Trent did not enter into an examination of the fluctuations in the history of the Canon. Neither did it trouble itself about questions of authorship or character of contents. True to the practical genius of the Latin Church, it based its decision on immemorial tradition as manifested in the decrees of previous councils and popes, and liturgical reading, relying on traditional teaching and usage to determine a question of tradition. The Tridentine catalogue has been given above."

Thanks for your comment.

December 13, 2006 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Can we know with certainty that the Reformers were correct on their canon of 66 books?
For that matter, how do know you with certainty that any of the books in the Bible belong there?

December 16, 2006 10:21 PM  
Blogger ventana said...

Damasus established the final Canon in the 4th century. All Bibles from that time until the reformation reflected that decision.

What happened at Trent was, not the establishment of the Canon, but the statement that the Church was infallible in that prior decision.

March 23, 2011 3:49 PM  

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