The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha
Part 3: From Jerome to the Reformation
For the endnote references please refer to Part 3 Endnotes
This article provides extensive translations of the writings of many of the major Western theologians from the fifth to the sixteenth centuries on their view of the Canon for the first time in English. The translations are found in the Endnotes section linked above.
The overall practice of the Western Church with respect to the canon from the time of Jerome (early fifth century) until the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome. The Apocryphal books were accorded a deuterocanonical status, but were not regarded as canonical in the strict sense. That is, they were not accepted as authoritative for the establishing of doctrine but were used for the purpose of edification. Thus, the Church retained the distinctions established by Jerome, Rufinus and Athanasius of ecclesiastical and canonical books.
The Eastern Church
The Eastern Church generally followed the views of Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem and Ephiphanius. For example, the sixth century bishop, Anastasius of Antioch, taught that the Old Testament canon consisted of twenty-two books.96This did not include the books of the Apocrypha.
One of the Councils often cited by Roman Catholic apologists in favor of the Councils of Hippo and Carthage is the ‘Quinisext’ Council, also known as the Council of Trullo. This was held a few years after the sixth Ecumenical Council (III Constantinople) and was considered a continuation of the fifth and sixth general councils. It was primarily an Eastern Council. The sixth Ecumenical Council promulgated no decrees but, historically, the decrees of Trullo have been recognized as part of III Constantinople. As a result, it has been recognized as forming part of the ecumenical Council. In canon I of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (II Nicaea), the Council states:
Seeing these things are so, being thus well-testified unto us, we rejoice over them as he that hath found great spoil, and press to our bosom with gladness the divine canons, holding fast all the precepts of the same, complete and without change, whether they have been set forth by the holy trumpets of the Spirit, the renowned Apostles, or by the Six Ecumenical Councils, or by Councils locally assembled for promulgating the decrees of the said Ecumenical Councils, or by our holy Fathers. For all these, being illumined by the same Spirit, defined such things as were expedient. Accordingly those whom they placed under anathema, we likewise anathematize; those whom they deposed, we also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate; and those whom they delivered over to punishment, we subject to the same penalty.97
Note the reference to ‘Councils locally assembled for promulgating the decrees of the said Ecumenical Councils.’ This is a direct reference to the Quinisext/Trullan Council. II Nicea considered the decrees of the Council of Trullo to be those of the sixth Ecumenical Council. Roman Catholic historian, Charles Joseph Hefele, affirms that this was the case:
That the seventh Ecumenical Synod at Nicea ascribed the Trullan canons to the sixth Ecumenical Council, and spoke of them entirely in the Greek spirit, cannot astonish us, as it was attended almost solely by Greeks. They specially pronounced the recognition of the canons in question in their own first canon…98
Philip Schaff provides the following comments of Beveridge on canon I of II Nicea:
Here are recognized and confirmed the canons set forth by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. And although all agree that the fifth and sixth Synods adopted no canons, unless that those of the Council of Trullo be attributed to them, yet when Tarasius the Patriarch of Constantinople claimed Canon 82 of the Trullan Canons as having been set forth by the sixth synod, all the canons of Trullo seem to be confirmed as having issued from the Sixth Synod.99
The seventh Ecumenical Council officially accepted the Trullan Canons as part of the sixth Ecumenical Council. The importance of this is underscored by canon II of Trullo which officially authorized the decrees of Carthage, thereby elevating them to a place of ecumenical authority.100
Roman Catholics are quick to point out that the canons of Hippo and Carthage were given ecumenical authority and therefore the force of law for the whole Church by this Council. Thus, its decrees on the canon have been officially sanctioned. However, the Council also sanctioned the canons of Athanasius and Amphilochius that had to do with the canon and both of these fathers rejected the major books of the Apocrypha. In addition, the Council sanctioned the Apostolical canons which, in canon eighty-five, gave a list of canonical books which included 3 Maccabees, a book never accepted as canonical in the West.101 Furthermore, the Apostolical canons were condemned and rejected as apocryphal in the decrees of Popes Gelasius and Hormisdas.102 These facts prove that the Council received the canons of Carthage with the understanding that the term ‘canonical’ was to be interpreted in a general sense in that the books listed were authoritatively received for reading in the Church. As Henry Percival points out:
We have thus four [five if we accept the Laodicean list as genuine] different canons of Holy Scripture, all having the approval of the Council in Trullo and of the Seventh Ecumenical. From this there seems but one conclusion possible, viz.: that the approval given was not specific but general.103
John of Damascus in the eighth century expressed the same view as that of Athanasius.104 He stated that the Apocryphal books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus were not received as canonical but were placed in a subordinate category by the Church. This view was repeated by Nicephorus, the patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century. He cited the number of canonical Old Testament books at twenty-two and stated that the books of the Apocrypha were not received as canonical by the Church.105 The perspective of the Trullan Council was also reiterated by Zonaras106 and Theodore Balsamon,107 the Patriarch of Antioch in the twelfth century. Both wrote commentaries on the canons of the council of Carthage in the fourth century. They wrote that those books which were authorized for reading in the Church were the same as the ones listed by Athanasius, Amphilochius and Gregory of Nazianzus.
The Western Church
In the Western Church, opinions among theologians varied on the extent of the canon and the status of the Apocrypha. Some followed Augustine while others followed Jerome. Cassiodorus, the sixth century Roman writer, statesman, and monk, related the opinion of both Augustine and Jerome without rendering a judgment as to which was correct.108 But an examination of the historical record reveals that though some followed Augustine, and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, the majority followed the judgment of Jerome.
The Influence of Augustine
There are a number of important proponents of the canonical status of the Apocryphal books as expressed by Augustine. Pope Innocent I, in the early fifth century, sanctioned the canon ratified by Augustine and the North African councils in his letter to Exuperius.109 In so doing, he confirmed the books of I and II Esdras according to their use in the Septuagint, giving canonical status to a book (I Esdras) later deemed noncanonical by the Council of Trent. His judgment was followed in the late fifth and early sixth centuries by Popes Gelasius110 and Hormisdas,111 each of whom provided an authoritative list of canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, which included the Apocrypha. As pointed out earlier, these papal decrees also condemned the Apostolical canons, which were later approved by the Trullan council, whose decrees were ratified by II Nicea (the seveneth Ecumenical Council). Isidore of Seville, in the mid-seventh century, reflects the view of Augustine:
The Jews receive the Old Testament in 22 books, according to the number of their letters, dividing them into three sections: Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa…There is a fourth section of the Old Testament among us, whose books are not in the Jewish canon. First of these is the book of Wisdom; second Ecclesiasticus; third Tobit; fourth Judith; fifth and sixth the books of Maccabees; which although the Jews separate among the Apocrypha, the Church of Christ honors and preaches among the divine books.112
Another example is that of Rabanus Maurus in the ninth century. He was the archbishop of Mainz, a prolific writer, and reputed to be the most learned man of his age. He wrote commentaries on nearly all the books of the Old Testament, listing of the canonical Old Testament books at forty-five, the same number cited by Augustine. He reiterated the opinion of Isidore given above that while the Hebrew canon consisted of only twenty-two books, the Church embraced a fourth category of books, not received as canonical by the Jews but considered divine by the Church, and venerated as such. The books in this category were Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Maccabees, Tobit, and Judith.113 Another theologian who agreed with Augustine was Peter Blensensis (twelfth century). The Catholic Encyclopedia gives the following background on him:
A statesman and theologian, born at Blois about 1130; died about 1203. He appears to have first studied at Tours, and was, perhaps, the disciple of Jean de Salisbury, who taught in Paris from 1140 to 1150; he studied law in Bologna, and theology in Paris, where he taught the liberal arts. In 1167 Count Stephen du Perche brought him to Sicily (1167). Here he became preceptor of the king, guardian of the royal seal, and one of the queen’s principal counsellors. But the favouritism shown the foreigner excited the jealousy of the nobles and he was obliged to leave Sicily (1169). After several years in France, he went to England, where he became one of Henry II’s diplomatic agents and was charged with negotiations with the pope and the King of France. In 1176 he became chancellor of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archdeacon of Bath…He entered the service of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, to whom he was secretary (1190-95), and was made Archdeacon of London…Not only was he the king’s chief counsellor, but many bishops consulted him and obtained his advice on important matters regarding their dioceses. He wrote numerous letters, models of his epoch…He wrote also numerous treatises…His other writings are sermons, commentaries on the Scripture, moral and ascetic treatises, in which he attacks with blunt frankness the morals of the English and Aquitainian bishops treatise entitled, ‘Quales sunt’.114
Peter’s position on the canon was the same as Isidore and Rabanus Maurus. He wrote that the Hebrew canon consisted of twenty-two books under three categories: the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa. He listed the canonical books by name according to the Hebrew rendering, and then stated that while the Jews rejected the Apocryphal books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith and Maccabees, the Church received them as a fourth category of divine books.115Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, also followed Augustine in accepting the full canonical status of the Apocrypha. He wrote:
Jerome designates a fourth division of books, namely the apocrypha. Apocrypha is named from ‘apo’, which means ‘very’, and ‘cryphon’, which means obscure, because their teachings and authors are in doubt. But the catholic church has received these books in the category of holy scriptures, whose teachings are not in doubt, though its authors are; not because the authors of these books are unknown, but because these men were not of known authority. Hence the books have their power not from the authority of the authors, but rather from the reception of the church.116
In addition, there were Councils which accorded the deuterocanonical books full canonical status. In the fifteenth century, the Council of Florence cited Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, Tobit and Susanna as authoritative. Florence also issued a decree on the canon in A.D. 1442, precisely the same as Trent, in the papal Bull of Eugenius IV titled Bull of Union With the Copts,117 but this was not considered infallible from a Roman Catholic perspective. The New Catholic Encyclopedia informs us that the only infallible aspect of the Council was the decree of union between the Greeks and Latins, Laetentur caeli. It states: ‘Laetentur caeli is an infallible document, the only one of the Council.’118
The Influence of Jerome
While there were some who followed Augustine and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage in accepting the Apocryphal books, the vast majority of theologians, bishops and cardinals throughout the Middle Ages followed Jerome. This is seen in three major historical examples: the express statements of the Glossa ordinaria-the official Biblical commentary used during the Middle Ages, the teaching of major theologians who cited Jerome as the authority for determining the authoritative canon of the Old Testament, and Bible translations and commentaries produced just prior to the Reformation.
The Glossa Ordinaria
The Ordinary Gloss, known as the Glossa ordinaria, is an important witness to the position of the Western Church on the status of the Apocrypha because it was the standard authoritative biblical commentary for the whole Western Church. It carried immense authority and was used in all the schools for the training of theologians. The New Catholic Encyclopedia describes its importance:
A designation given during the Middle Ages to certain compilations of ‘glosses’ on the text of a given MS. The earliest Glossa ordinaria is that made of the Bible, probably made in the 12th century…Although glosses originally consisted of a few words only, they grew in length as glossators enlarged them with their own comments and quotations from the Fathers. Thus the tiny gloss evolved into a running commentary of an entire book. The best-known commentary of this type is the vast Glossa ordinaria of the 12th and 13th centuries…So great was the influence of the Glossa ordinaria on Biblical and philosophical studies in the Middle Ages that it was called ‘the tongue of Scripture’ and ‘the bible of scholasticism’.119
Karlfried Froehlich summarizes the importance, authority and influence of the Glossa ordinaria on the Middle Ages:
For medieval Christians this tool was supremely necessary, indispensable for the reading of the sacred book which could not be understood without it. In their preface of 1617, taking up Peter Lombard’s remark about the Gloss as the ‘tongue’ of Scripture, the Douai theologians gave voice to this sentiment. Many generations, they suggested, ‘thought of this collection of scriptural interpretation so highly that they called it the “normal tongue” (glossa ordinaria), the very language (lingua) of Scripture, as it were. When Scripture speaks with it, we understand. But when we read the sacred words without it, we think we hear a language which we do not know.’120
Alister McGrath adds these comments:
…the Glossa Ordinaria may be regarded as a composite running commentary upon the text of the bible, characterized by its brevity, clarity and authoritativeness, drawing upon the chief sources of the patristic period…So influential did this commentary become that, by the end of the twelfth century, much biblical commentary and exegesis was reduced to restating the comments of the gloss.121
The original Glossa ordinaria began as a marginal gloss on the Bible and was attributed to Walafrid Strabo in the tenth century. Over time the interlinear gloss was added which most likely originated in the twelfth century with Anselm of Laon. Margaret Gibson confirms this:
To this extent the old heresy is not without foundation: that Walafrid Strabo (a Carolingian) wrote the marginal gloss, whereas Anselm of Laon (the early scholastic) wrote the interlinear. The dating is sound enough.122
The work consisted of standard commentaries on the books of the Bible by major Church fathers and theologians from the Carolingian period. The principal Church fathers and theologians who provided authoritative commentary in the Gloss are described by Margaret Gibson:
Ultimately the principal contributor to the Gloss-the giant who bears it on his shoulders-is Jerome. He was responsible for the text of the Bible, for many of the explanatory prefaces to individual books, and for the learned and comprehensive exegesis of most of the Old Testament and part of the New. Behind Jerome stands Origen, whose work was known directly to Jerome but to later scholars indirectly (and partially) in Rufinus’ translation. Augustine contributed to Genesis and Ambrose to Luke; Cassiodorus to the Psalms, and Gregory the Great at least to Job and perhaps to Ezekiel and the Gospels. The next great figure is Bede. He is the leading player in Ezra-Nehemiah, Mark, the Acts of the Apostles and the Canonical Epistles. The basic material from Jerome to Bede, was edited in the ninth century by Rabanus Maurus, who commented the entire Old Testament (except Baruch) and much of the New. Paschasius Radbertus supplied a commentary on Lamentations and revised Jerome’s commentary on Matthew.123
The importance of the Glossa ordinaria relative to the issue of the Apocrypha is seen from the statements in the Preface to the overall work. It repeats the judgment of Jerome that the Church permits the reading of the Apocryphal books only for devotion and instruction in manners, but that they have no authority for concluding controversies in matters of faith. It states that there are twenty-two books of the Old Testament, citing the testimonies of Origen, Jerome and Rufinus as support. When commenting on the Apocryphal books, it prefixes an introduction to them saying: ‘Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon; here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon’ and so forth for Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Maccabees etc. These prologues to the Old Testament and Apocryphal books repeated the words of Jerome. For example, the following is an excerpt from the Prologue to the Glossa ordinaria written in AD 1498, also found in a work attributed to Walafrid Strabo in the tenth century, under the title of canonical and non-canonical books. It begins by explaining the distinctions that should be maintained between the canonical and non-canonical or Apocryphal books:
Many people, who do not give much attention to the holy scriptures, think that all the books contained in the Bible should be honored and adored with equal veneration, not knowing how to distinguish among the canonical and non-canonical books, the latter of which the Jews number among the apocrypha. Therefore they often appear ridiculous before the learned; and they are disturbed and scandalized when they hear that someone does not honor something read in the Bible with equal veneration as all the rest. Here, then, we distinguish and number distinctly first the canonical books and then the non-canonical, among which we further distinguish between the certain and the doubtful.
The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into doubt or contention, or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogma, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false. Hence, concerning them Augustine says to Jerome: To those writers alone who are called canonical I have learned to offer this reverence and honor: I hold most firmly that none of them has made an error in writing. Thus if I encounter something in them which seems contrary to the truth, I simply think that the manuscript is incorrect, or I wonder whether the translator has discovered what the word means, or whether I have understood it at all. But I read other writers in this way: however much they abound in sanctity or teaching, I do not consider what they say true because they have judged it so, but rather because they have been able to convince me from those canonical authors, or from probable arguments, that it agrees with the truth.124
The Prologue then catalogues the precise books which make up the Old Testament canon,125 and those of the non-canonical Apocrypha,126 all in accordance with the teaching of Jerome. Again, the significance of this is that the Glossa ordinaria was the official Biblical commentary used during the Middle Ages in all the theological centers for the training of theologians. Therefore, it represents the overall view of the Church as a whole, demonstrating the emptiness of the claims of Roman apologists that the decrees of Hippo and Carthage officially settled the canon for the universal Church. We come back again to the New Catholic Encyclopedia which states that the canon was not officially settled for the Roman Catholic Church until the sixteenth century with the Council of Trent.
The Teaching of Major Western Theologians of the Middle Ages
The perspective of the Glossa ordinaria is reflected in the views of the most influential theologians of the Church throughout the Middle Ages. They separated the Apocrypha from the canon, consistently citing the Hebrew canon and Jerome as authorities. Bruce Metzger affirms this reality:
Subsequent to Jerome’s time and down to the period of the reformation a continuous succession of the more learned Fathers and theologians in the West maintained the distinctive and unique authority of the books of the Hebrew canon.127
We have already noted the comments of Anastasius of Antioch, Leontius of Byzantium, Nicephorus of Constantinople, John of Damascus and the Trullan Council in the East. The Western theologians documented in the remainder of this chapter span the intervening centuries from Jerome to the Reformation and are representative of their respective ages.
The majority view is expressed by Cardinal Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan), the great opponent of Luther in the sixteenth century. The Catholic Encyclopedia gives the following background on his importance and influence:
Dominican cardinal, philosopher, theologian, and exegete; born 20 February, 1469 at Gaeta, Italy; died 9 August, 1534 at Rome…In 1501 he was made procurator general of his order and appointed to the chairs of philosophy and exegesis at the Sapienza. On the death of the master general, John Clérée, 1507, Cajetan was named vicar-general of the order, and the next year he was elected to the generalship. With foresight and ability, he devoted his energies to the promotion of religious discipline, emphasizing the study of sacred science as the chief means of attaining the end of the order…. About the fourth year of his generalship, Cajetan rendered important service to the Holy See by appearing before the Pseudo-Council of Pisa (1511), where he denounced the disobedience of the participating cardinals and bishops and overwhelmed them with his arguments. This was the occasion of his defence of the power and monarchical supremacy of the pope…On 1 July, 1517, Cajetan was created cardinal by Pope Leo X…He was later made Bishop of Gaeta…In theology Cajetan is justly ranked as one of the foremost defenders and exponents of the Thomistic school…To Clement VII he was the “lamp of the Church”, and everywhere in his career, as the theological light of Italy, he was heard with respect and pleasure by cardinals, universities, the clergy, nobility, and people.128
Cajetan wrote a commentary on all the canonical books of the Old Testament which he dedicated to the pope. He stated that the books of the Apocrypha were not canonical in the strict sense, explaining that there were two concepts of the term ‘canonical’ as it applied to the Old Testament. He gave the following counsel on how to properly interpret the decrees of the Councils of Hippo and Carthage under Augustine:
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.129
This is a fair summary of the overall view of the Western Church from the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century. Jerome’s opinion dominated as will be evident from the writings of the theologians to follow. Where possible, biographical background will be provided by the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Primasius was a sixth century African bishop who was present at the Fifth Ecumenical Council. In his commentary on the book of Revelation, he cited the number of authoritative canonical Old Testament books at twenty-four, equating the number of books with the number of elders pictured in chapters four and five who worship before the throne of God. This would come to be a common practice of theologians in the ages to follow.130
Gregory the Great
Gregory the Great is a doctor of the Church and was bishop of Rome from A.D. 590-604. In his commentary on the book of Job he stated that the book of 1 Maccabees was not canonical:
With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed (1 Macc. 6.46).131
This is significant, coming as it does from a bishop of Rome, who denied canonical status to 1 Maccabees long after the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. But he taught that the book was useful for the purpose of edification, the same sentiment expressed by Jerome. This is in direct contradiction to what the earlier Roman Church decreed under Innocent I, who confirmed the books sanctioned as canonical by Augustine and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. Gregory’s comments on 1 Maccabees are from his Morals on Job. There are some who suggest that this was simply Gregory’s opinion as a private theologian and that he did not write his commentary while bishop of Rome. The truth is, however, that he wrote part of his commentary prior to his position as Roman bishop while he was in Constantinople, and part while he was the pope of Rome. Roman Catholic patristics scholar, William Jurgens, gives the following background on Gregory’s commentary:
When Gregory, while Apocrisarius in Constantinople, met Bishop Leander of Seville about the year 578, Leander asked him to write a commentary on the Book of Job. Gregory’s response was his Moralia or Moralium libri or Expositio in librum Iob, at which he worked intermittently for many years, finally completing the work in thirty-five books about the year 595 A.D. The Moral Teachings is devoted mostly to discussions of questions in moral theology and of practical applications of Gregory’s solutions. In a sense it may be regarded as the first manual of moral and ascetic theology.132
Note that Jurgens affirms that Gregory did write his commentary while he was pope. Additionally, in asserting that I Maccabees was not canonical, Gregory was not sharing his personal opinion as a private theologian, but stating the position of the Church of his day. Gregory would never have purposefully taught a view contrary to what he knew had been authoritatively established by the Church. Clearly, when the Church received the Apocryphal books as canonical it defined the term in the sense expressed by Cardinal Cajetan above. The term had both a broad and a narrow meaning. Broadly, it included all the books that were acceptable for reading in the Churches, which included the Apocrypha. But, in its narrower meaning, only the books of the Hebrew Canon were sanctioned as truly canonical for the purposes of establishing doctrine.
Furthermore, the assertion that Gregory’s Morals on Job was not an official Church document is erroneous. In the later Middle Ages, his Morals was the standard commentary for the entire Western Church on Job. That this commentary was written while he was pope and was used as an official commentary for the entire Western Church is proof enough that this work was an official Church document. Moreover, Gregory never retracted what he wrote about the Apocrypha. Thus, we have the official and authoritative perspective of a bishop of Rome in the late sixth and early seventh centuries regarding the canonical status of the Apocrypha.
The Venerable Bede
Historian and Doctor of the Church, born 672 or 673; died 735. In the last chapter of his great work on the ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ Bede has told us something of his own life, and it is, practically speaking, all that we know. His words, written in 731, when death was not far off, not only show a simplicity and piety characteristic of the man, but they throw a light on the composition of the work through which he is best remembered by the world at large. He writes:
I was born in the territory of the said monastery, and at the age of seven I was, by the care of my relations, given to the most reverend Abbot Benedict [St. Benedict Biscop], and afterwards to Ceolfrid, to be educated. From that time I have spent the whole of my life within that monastery, devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily charge of singing in the Church, it has been ever my delight to learn or teach or write. In my nineteenth year I was admitted to the diaconate, in my thirtieth to the priesthood, both by the hands of the most reverend Bishop John [St. John of Beverley], and at the bidding of Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time of my admission to the priesthood to my present fifty-ninth year, I have endeavored for my own use and that of my brethren, to make brief notes upon the holy Scripture, either out of the works of the venerable Fathers or in conformity with their meaning and interpretation.
Bede’s influence both upon English and foreign scholarship was very great… In point of scholarship he was undoubtedly the most learned man of his time.133
As mentioned above, Bede’s Commentaries on Ezra-Nehemiah, the Gospel of Mark, the Book of Acts and the Canonical Epistles were included in the Glossa ordinaria as the authoritative commentaries on those books for the Church as a whole. In his commentary on Revelation, he tallied the canonical Old Testament books at twenty-four.134
Agobard of Lyons
Agobard was a bishop of Lyons in France during the ninth century. He followed the Hebrew canon, stating that the books which carry divine authority from the Old Testament were twenty-two in number, thereby excluding the books of the Apocrypha.135
An eminent educator, scholar, and theologian born about 735; died 19 May, 804. He came of noble Northumbrian parentage, but the place of his birth is a matter of dispute. It was probably in or near York. While still a mere child, he entered the cathedral school founded at that place by Archbishop Egbert. His aptitude, and piety early attracted the attention of Aelbert, master of the school, as well as of the Archbishop, both of whom devoted special attention to his instruction. In company with his master, he made several visits to the continent while a youth, and when, in 767, Aelbert succeeded to the Archbishopric of York, the duty of directing the school naturally devolved upon Alcuin. During the fifteen years that followed, he devoted himself to the work of instruction at York, attracting numerous students and enriching the already valuable library. While returning from Rome in March, 781, he met Charlemagne at Parma, and was induced by that prince, whom he greatly admired, to remove to France and take up residence at the royal court as “Master of the Palace School”…In 796, when past his sixtieth year, being anxious to withdraw from the world, he was appointed by Charlemagne Abbot of St. Martin’s at tours. Here, in his declining years, but with undiminished zeal, he set himself to build up a model monastic school, gathering books and drawing students, as before, at Aachen and York, from far and near. He died 19 May, 804…Of his work as an educator and scholar it may be said, in a general way, that he had the largest share in the movement for the revival of learning which distinguished the age in which he lived, and which made possible the great intellectual renaissance of three centuries later…Under his leadership the Palace School became what Charles had hoped to make it, the centre of knowledge and culture for the whole kingdom, and indeed for the whole of Europe.136
In a treastise written against Elipantus, the bishop of Toledo in Spain, Alcuin rejected the authority of the book of Ecclesiasticus, maintaining, on the authority of Jerome and Isidore, that the book was apocryphal and of dubious authority because it was not written during the time of the prophets.137
German poet and theologian of the ninth century…In 829 he became precepter of the young Prince Charles (the Bald) at the Court of Louis the Pious. In 838 he succeeded Erlebold as abbot of Reichenau…Walafrid’s works, written in fluent, elegant Latin, consist of poems and of theological treatises in prose…Of his prose-works the most famous is the ‘Glossa ordinaria,’ a commentary on the Scriptures, compiled from various sources. The work enjoyed the highest repute throughout the Middle Ages.138
As the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions, Walafrid is reputed to have been the originator of the Glossa ordinaria. We have already seen that he followed Jerome by separating the Apocryphal books from canonical status in his Prologue to the Glossa.
Haymo of Halberstadt
The exact date and place of his birth are unknown. When a youth, he entered the Order of St. Benedict at Fulda, where the celebrated Rabanus Maurus was one of his fellow-students. He went together with him to the Monastery of St. Martin at Tours to profit by the lessons of its great teacher, Alcuin. After a brief sojourn at Tours, both friends came back to the Benedictine house at Fulda, and spent there most of their life previous to their promotion to the episcopal dignity. Haymo became chancellor to the monastery, as is proved by his records of its transactions, which are still extant. It is indeed probable that owing to his great learning he was also entrusted with the teaching of theology in the same monastery; yet there is no positive proof that such was actually the case. He had been living for only a short while in the Benedictine monastery at Hersfeld, perhaps as its abbot, when in the last weeks of 840 he was nominated to the Bishopric of Halberstadt…
Although a certain number of works have been wrongly ascribed to Haymo of Halberstadt, there is no doubt that he was a prolific writer. Most of his genuine works are commentaries on Holy Writ… As might be naturally expected from the exegetical methods of his day, Haymo is not an original commentator; he simply repeats or abridges the Scriptural explanations which he finds in patristic writings.139
In his commentary on the Book of Revelation, Haymo followed the exegesis of Primasius and numbered the authoritative canonical Old Testament books at twenty-four.140
Ambrose of Autpert
Ambrose, a ninth century theologian, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in which he, like Haymo of Halberstadt and Primasius before him, cited the number of canonical Old Testament books at twenty-four.141
Radulphus was a tenth century theologian. In his commentary on Leviticus, he stated that the books of Tobit, Judith and Maccabees were useful for reading in the Church, but were not considered to be authoritative since they were not considered canonical.142
Hugh of St. Victor
Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141) was a leading theologian of the twelfth century who had great influence on theologians of subsequent ages. He was the prior of the school of St. Victor from 1133 to 1141. George Tavard refers to him as ‘that greatest theological figure of the twelfth century.’143 The Catholic Encyclopedia says this of his influence and importance:
A great mystical writer, he was also a philosopher and a scholastic theologian of the first order. Primarily, he was a great lecturer, and that fact accounts for the early dispersal of his works as his hearers dispersed, their frequent incorporation in later treatises, and the publication under his name of so many unauthentic treatises. His teaching was one of the foundations of Scholastic theology, and his influence has affected the whole development of Scholasticism, for he was the first who after synthesizing the dogmatic treasures of the patristic age systematized them and formed them into a coherent and complete body of doctrine.144
Hugh wrote that the entirety of the Scriptures is contained in the Old and New Testaments. Both Testaments are divided into three distinct classes of books, that of the Old Testament being the Law, the Prophets, the Hagiograph. He listed the Old Testament canonical books just as Jerome did and states that they are twenty-two in number. He concluded by saying that in the Old Testament there are some books which were not included in the canon and yet were read, specifically the Wisdom of Solomon, the book of Jesus the son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees.145 F.F. Bruce writes of the importance of Hugh and his attitude towards the Apocryphal books:
Hugh of St. Victor…enumerates the books of the Hebrew Bible in a chapter ‘On the number of books in holy writ’ and goes on to say: ‘There are also in the Old Testament certain other books which are indeed read [in the church] but are not inscribed in the body of the text or in the canon of authority: such are the books of Tobit, Judith and the Maccabees, the so-called Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus.’ Here, of course, the influence of Jerome can be discerned: for medieval students of the Bible in the Latin church there was no master to be compared with him.146
Richard of St. Victor
Richard, a native of Scotland, was a disciple of Hugh of St. Victor and eventually prior of the monastery. He died in A.D. 1155. He was a highly influential theologian. He shared the same opinion on the canon as that documented by Hugh. He listed the canonical Old Testament books according to the Hebrew rendering at twenty-four in number and stated that the Apocryphal books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith and the Maccabees, though authorized for reading in the Church, were not received as canonical.147
John of Salisbury
Born near Salisbury, he went at an early age to Paris, where he studied arts and philosophy (1136-38) under Peter Abelard, Alberic of Reims, and Robert of Melun; then under William of Conches, Richard l’Evêque, and Theoderic of Chartres at the famous school at this latter town (1138-40); finally again at Paris, completing his studies in theology under Gilbert de La Porrée, Robert Pullus, and Simon of Poissy (1141-45). This solid education, under such brilliant masters, he perfected by some private teaching, perhaps with his lifelong friend Peter, Abbot of Moutier La Celle, near Troyes, with whom he was living in 1148…John of Salisbury was one of the most cultured scholars of his day….His collected letters (over 300 in number), no less than his other works, form an invaluable source of the history of thought and activity in the twelfth century. His fine taste and superior training made him the most elegant Latin writer of his time. He is equally distinguished as an historian and as a philosopher: he was the first medieval writer to emphasize the importance of historical studies in philosophy and in all other branches of learning.148
John was one of the leading scholars of the twelfth century and late in life became Bishop of Chartres. In a letter addressed to Henry I, the Count of Champagne, he responded to a number of theological questions which had been submitted to him. In particular, Henry I wanted to know John’s opinion as to the number of Old and New Testament books. John answered that he followed Jerome.149 He then listed the specific books of the authoritative canon, totalling their number at twenty-two. After enumerating the New Testament books he said of the catalogue he had provided that it was the well-known and undoubted tradition of the Church, that this was the number of the books which were accepted into the canon of the Holy Scriptures, and that these books alone were considered to be truly inspired. He further explained that the books of the Apocrypha, though not canonical, nevertheless were received by the Church for the purpose of edification.
Peter was successor to John of Salisbury as Bishop of Chartres. He was formerly the Abbott of La Celle at Troyes. He too wrote that the Old Testament canon consisted of twenty-four books.150
Rupert of Deutz
Rupert was an early twelfth century theologian. In his commentary on Genesis he taught that the book of Wisdom was not canonical.151 Furthermore, in his commentary on the Book of Revelation, in his remarks on the twenty-four elders, he applied that number to the books of the Old Testament canon, as did Primasius, Haymo of Halberstadt and Ambrose of Autpert before him.152
Honorius of Autun (Augustodunensis)
A theologian, philosopher, and encyclopedic writer who lived in the first half of the twelfth century…He flourished between the years 1106 and 1135, that he spent the greater part of that time in Southern Germany, and that he wrote a very large number of works, most of which have come down to us. He is generally said to have been a native of Autun in Burgundy, and in one of his works (De Luminaribus Ecclesiæ) he styles himself ‘priest and head of the school (scholasticus) of Autun’. On the other hand, his references to contemporary events in Germany, the frequency of German glosses in his writings, and the possibility of reading ‘Augustodunensis’ to mean ‘a native of Augst’ (near Basle) or ‘of Augsburg’ (in Swabia), have induced some historians to conclude that he was a German. In recent times it has been suggested that he was a monk of St. Augustine’s at Canterbury, in which case ‘Augstodunensis’ should be read ‘Augustinensis’…The list of Honorius’s writings is a very long one. In Pez’s ‘Thesaurus’…we find as many as thirty-eight titles.153
Honorius made mention of the Old Testament canon in several of his works, dividing it into the three traditional Hebrew categories of the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa, the last category which he also referred to under the general title of the book of Psalms. He noted that the books of Judith and Tobit were not included among the canonical books by the Jews but were considered worthy for reading in the Church. He placed these books in the ecclesiastical category, in contradistinction to their being fully canonical.154
He was first attached to the Church of Notre-Dame at Troyes and habitually signed himself as ‘Presbyter Trecensis’. Before 1148 he became dean of the chapter and received a benefice in 1148. About 1160 he formed one of the Chapter of Notre-Dame at Paris, and about the same year he replaced Eudes (Odon) as chancellor. At the same time he had charge of the theological school. It was at Paris that Peter Comestor composed and certainly finished his ‘Historia Scholastica’…The surname of ‘Comestor’, given to Peter during his life, also proves the esteem in which his learning was held…155
In his work Historia Scholastica, Peter aligned himself with Jerome in separating the Apocrypha from the canonical books of the Old Testament.156
Peter Mauritius (Venerabilis)
Twelfth century theologian and abbot of Clugny in France, Peter Mauritius listed the books of the authoritative Old Testament canon as those which reflected the Hebrew canon.157
A theologian and Church historian of the latter part of the twelfth century. He was born either in Scotland or England, and joined the newly-founded order of Saint Norbert. It is also believed that he became Abbot and Bishop of Candida Casa, or Whithorn in Scotland, and died after 1180…He was one of the most appreciated mystical authors of the Middle Ages; both in style and matter his works show unusual sweetness and spirituality. He is also known as Adam Anglicus and Anglo-Scotus.158
Adam identified the canonical Old Testament books as numbering twenty-two according to the Hebrew canon of five books of the Law, eight of the Prophets and nine of the Hagiographa.159
Hugh of St. Cher (Hugo Cardinalis) (1200 – 1263)
A Dominican cardinal of the thirteenth century; b. at St-Cher, near Vienne, in Dauphiné (France), about 1200; d. at Orvieto (Italy), 19 March, 1263. He studied philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence in Paris, and next taught law in the same city. In 1225 he entered the Order of St. Dominic, and soon discharged therein the office of provincial, and next (1230) that of prior of the Dominican monastery in Paris. He became the confidant and adviser of several bishops, and the trusty envoy of Gregory IX to Constantinople (1233). In 1244 Innocent IV raised him to the cardinalate, and was greatly helped by him at the Council of Lyons (1245)…
Chiefly through Hugh’s exertions, the Dominicans were provided with a new Biblical ‘Correctorium’, which is still extant in manuscript, and which is still known as ‘Correctorium Hugonis’ and ‘Correctorium Praedicatorum’. His ‘Postillae in universa Biblia juxta quadruplicem sensum, litteralem, allegoricum, moralem, anagogicum’ has often been printed, and bears witness to his untiring industry as a compiler of explanations of the Sacred Text. He is justly regarded as the first author of a verbal ‘Concordance’ to Holy Writ, a work which became the model for all following publications of the kind.160
In the Prologue to his commentary on the book of Joshua, Hugh gave a listing of the books of the Old Testament according to the Hebrew canon, indicating that the entirety of the Old Testament was comprised in the specific books listed. He also made mention of the Apocrypha but stated that they were not numbered in the canon. The Church, he said, accepted them, but what he meant by this, since he followed the opinion of Jerome, was that the Church placed them in the secondary category of being useful for edification but not for the purposes of establishing doctrine.161
Philip of Harvengt
Praemonstratensian abbot and ecclesiastical writer; b. Harvengt(?), near Mons (Belgium), early 12th century; d. Bonne-Esperance, April 11(13?), 1183. He received a good classical education, probably at the cathedral school at Cambrai. He entered the monastery of Bonne-Esperance and in 1130 was made prior under the first abbot, Odo. Difficulties ensued with St. Bernard of Clairvaux over an incident involving a monk from Bonne-Esperance who wished to join the house of Clairvaux. The conflict caused considerable notoriety, and opposition to Philip was aroused. In 1149 he was removed from his position by the general chapter of the order, and with seven other monks he was sent to another monastery. He was reinstated at Bonne-Esperance in 1151, and in 1158 he succeeded Odo as abbot. Under Philip’s rule the abbey prospered, the collection of manuscripts continued, and intellectual activity among the monks flourished.
His writings reveal a vast knowledge of the ancient classics, the Bible, and the writings of the Church Fathers. He stands as a distinguished representative of prescholastic Augustinian philosophy. Many of his works were written for the education and inspiration of his own monks. Of these, the De institutione clericorum is a mirror of his views on monastic and clerical life. In his commentaries on Scripture, of which that on the Canticle is most important, he employed the allegorical explanations typical of his time. He wrote also a number of biographies, including those of St. Augustine and Odo of Rivreuille.162
Philip adhered to the authority of the Hebrew canon and rejected the Apocrypha from canonical status.163
Nicholas of Lyra
Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1340) was one of the most highly regarded and influential theologians of the Middle Ages, surpassing even Thomas Aquinas in authority as a biblical commentator. His influence is evident in that his commentary was included in the Glossa ordinaria. Michael Woodward gives the following background on his importance:
Today, Nicholas of Lyra (c.1270-1349) is known as the most influential biblical commentator of the later middle ages. Well into the 17th century, his work was widely read and appreciated by both Catholic and Protestant exegetes. His running commentary on the entire Scriptures, Postillae perpetuae super totam Bibliam, was the first of its kind to be printed (Rome: Sweynheym and Pannartz, 1471-72). From this editio princeps up to the Biblia Maxima of Johannes de La Haye (Paris 1660), the Postilla litteralis was printed no less than 37 times, often accompanying the Glossa ordinaria in six folio volumes. Called ‘the clear and useful teacher (doctor planus et utilis),’ Nicholas was renowned for his knowledge of Hebrew…In 1322, Nicholas began work on his magnum opus, the Postilla litteralis…The Postilla genre consists of verse-by-verse glosses on the Bible, so-named because they come after those (post illa) glosses collected in the Glossa ordinaria…In his Postilla litteralis, Nicholas commented upon every canonical and deutero-canonical book, though the latter were treated more summarily…The Postilla litteralis became enormously popular. Besides the hundreds of manuscripts and printed editions of the entire work, many copies of extracts from the Postilla circulated as separate works and were translated into French, German and Italian…The Vita Benedicti XII prima, dated 1337, called Nicholas ‘the most learned master of theology, who commented upon (postillavit) the whole Bible most deeply and most subtly.’164The countless manuscripts of his works throughout Europe, about 100 of which are in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris alone, witness to Nicholas’ enduring popularity…Margaret Deanesly states that Nicholas’ ‘postill, or commentary, on the Bible became the universal textbook for scholars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.’165 But Hans Rost is right to add that its preeminent place in Scripture studies lasted well into the Reformation period.166 …Indeed, Nicholas’ authority in biblical interpretation held sway until the 18th century, as the numerous editions of his works in the 16th and 17th centuries testify.167
Nicholas was a Hebrew scholar who endorsed the Hebrew canon according to the judgment of Jerome. In his preface to the book of Tobit, he wrote that the books of Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, and Maccabees were not considered canonical but were received and read by the Church only for the purposes of edification and moral encouragement.168 In his introductory remarks to the book of Ezra, Nicholas stated that he would forgo making comments on the books of Tobit, Judith and Maccabees because, even though they were included in Bibles, they were not received as canonical by either the Jews or Christians.169When he did comment on the text of one of the Apocryphal books, he would begin by asserting its non-canonical status. For example, with Tobit he wrote, ‘Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon.’170 Or, ‘Here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon,’171 and, ‘Here begins the Book of Wisdom which is not in the canon.’172 Michael Woodward states:
When it came to the legitimate use of biblical argument, Nicholas not only followed the common view in the schools by shunning mystical interpretations, but also shunned the use of the deutero-canonical books…For Nicholas, the deutero-canonical books, like mystical interpretations, were useful only for moral instruction. In his Postilla litteralis in Esdr. 1.1, Nicholas justified skipping Tobias, Judith and Machabees until he had glossed the canonical books.173 In De visione divinae essentiae, Nicholas again affirmed the non-canonical status of these books:
The second way of demonstration is by the authorities of holy and canonical Scriptures. I say ‘canonical’ because of the books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus and Machabees, whose authority is not efficacious for proving anything that comes into dispute, as Jerome says in his Helmeted Prologue, placed before the book of Kings.174
In the cited prologue, Jerome had excluded the questionable books from the canon.175 And in his Prologue to Judith, Jerome had approved the Jewish approach to the apocrypha, ‘whose authority for supporting those things that come into dispute is not considered sufficient.’176 This position was later adopted by the Protestants, while the Roman Catholic determination of the Old Testament canon did not come until the Council of Trent.177
William of Ockham
He is said to have studied at Merton College, Oxford, and to have had John Duns Scotus for teacher. At an early age he entered the Order of St. Francis. Towards 1310 he went to Paris, where he may have had Scotus once more for a teacher. About 1320 he became a teacher (magister) at the University of Paris…In 1323 he resigned his chair at the university in order to devote himself to ecclesiastical politics….Ockham’s attitude towards the established order in the Church and towards the recognized system of philosophy in the academic world of his day was one of protest. He has, indeed, been called “the first Protestant”. Nevertheless, he recognized in his polemical writings the authority of the Church in spiritual matters, and did not diminish that authority in any respect.178
In his Dialogues, Ockham wrote that the Church did not receive the books of the Apocrypha as canonical and were therefore not used for the confirmation of doctrines of the faith. He mentioned Judith, Tobit, Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom by name in this regard. He referred to the authority of Jerome and Gregory the Great as confirmation of this view.179
At the age of fifteen (1404) Antoninus applied to Bl. John Dominic, the great Italian religious reformer of the period, then at the Convent of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, for admission to the Dominican Order. It was not until a year later that he was accepted, and he was the first to receive the habit for the Convent of Fiesole about to be constructed by Bl. John Dominic… In 1414 he was vicar of the convent of Foligno, then in turn sub-prior and prior of the convent of Cortona, and later prior of the convents of Rome (Minerva), Naples (Saint Peter Martyr), Gaeta, Sienna, and Fiesole (several times). From 1433 to 1446 he was vicar of the Tuscan Congregation formed by Bl. John Dominic of convents embracing a more rigorous discipline. During this period he established (1436) the famous convent of St. Mark in Florence, where he formed a remarkable community from the brethren of the convent of Fiesole…As a theologian he took part in the Council of Florence (1439) and gave hospitality in St. Mark’s to the Dominican theologians called to the council by Eugene IV…Despite all the efforts of St. Antoninus to escape ecclesiastical dignities, he was forced by Eugene IV, who had personal knowledge of his saintly character and administrative ability, to accept the Archbishopric of Florence. He was consecrated in the convent of Fiesole, 13 March, 1446, and immediately took possession of the see over which he ruled until his death… He was called by Eugene IV to assist him in his dying hours. He was frequently consulted by Nicholas V on questions of Church and State, and was charged by Pius II to undertake, with several cardinals, the reform of the Roman Court. When his death occurred, 2 May, 1459, Pius II gave instructions for the funeral, and presided at it eight days later. He was canonized by Adrian VI, 31 May, 1523…The literary productions of St. Antoninus, while giving evidence of the eminently practical turn of his mind, show that he was a profound student of history and theology. His principal work is the ‘Summa Theologica Moralis, partibus IV distincta’, written shortly before his death, which marked a new and very considerable development in moral theology.180
Antoninus wrote that the Apocryphal books were not considered canonical by the Church and were therefore not authoritative for the confirmation of doctrines of the faith. He numbered the canonical books of the Old Testament at twenty-two, thereby indicating that he followed the Hebrew canon and cited Jerome and Nicholas of Lyra as authorities for his position.181
After a course of grammar under the Franciscans he entered the University of Salamanca, where, besides philosophy and theology, he studied civil and canon law, Greek, Hebrew, and the other branches then comprised in the curriculum of a university. By great application joined to an unusually brilliant mind and an extraordinarily retentive memory he accumulated such a vast store of knowledge that his contemporaries styled him the wonder of the world. At twenty-two he began to lecture on a wide variety of subjects to large audiences attracted by his learning. Later he assisted with distinction at the Council of Basle…He was appointed grand Chancellor of Castile, and in 1449 Bishop of Avila, whence his title Abulensis. Besides a Spanish commentary on the chronicles of Eusebius and other minor works, he wrote commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament as far as II Par., and on the gospel of St. Matthew.182
In his commentaries, and in particular in his Preface to the Gospel of Matthew, Tostado taught that the books of the Apocrypha were non-canonical and, as such, were not authoritative for establishing points of doctrine. He also affirmed that the Church allowed the books to be read and studied for the purpose of edification.183
Dionysius (Denys) the Carthusian
Born in 1402 in that part of the Belgian province of Limburg which was formerly comprised in the county of Hesbaye; died 12 March, 1471…Having applied for admittance at the Carthusian monastery at Roermond (Dutch Limburg), he was refused because he had not reached the age (twenty years) required by the statutes of the order; but the prior gave him hopes that he would be received later on, and advised him to continue meanwhile his ecclesiastical studies. So he went forthwith to the then celebrated University of Cologne, where he remained three years, studying philosophy, theology, the Holy Scriptures, etc. After taking his degree of Master of Arts, he returned to the monastery at Roermond and this time was admitted (1423). In his cell Denys gave himself up heart and soul to the duties of Carthusian life, performing all with his characteristic earnestness and strength of will, and letting his zeal carry him even far beyond what the rule demanded… It seems marvellous that, spending so much time in prayer, he should have been able to peruse so vast a number of books; but what passes all comprehension is that he found time to write, and to write so much that his works might make up twenty-five folio volumes. No other pen, whose productions have come down to us, has been so prolific…He began (1434) by commenting the Psalms and then went on to comment the whole of the Old and the New Testament. He commented also the works of Boethius, Peter Lombard, John Climacus, as well as those of, or attributed to, Dionysius the Areopagite, and translated Cassian into easier Latin. It was after seeing one of his commentaries that Pope Eugene IV exclaimed: ‘Let Mother Church rejoice to have such a son!’ He wrote theological treatises…a great many treatises relating to morals, asceticism, church discipline, liturgy, etc.; sermons and homilies for all the Sundays and festivals of the year, etc… He has been called the last of the Schoolmen, and he is so in the sense that he is the last important Scholastic writer, and that his works may be considered to form a vast encyclopedia, a complete summary of the Scholastic teaching of the Middle Ages; this is their primary characteristic and their chief merit. His renown for learning and especially for saintliness, drew upon him considerable intercourse with the outer world. He was consulted as an oracle by men of different social standing, from bishops and princes downwards; they flocked to his cell, and numberless letters came to him from all parts of the Netherlands and Germany…posterity has surnamed him ‘Doctor ecstaticus’… St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and other writers of note style him ‘Blessed’.184
In his Commentary on Genesis, Denys commented on the books of the canon. He gave a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament repeating Jerome’s Prologue to the book of Kings in which he listed the canonical Old Testament books as corresponding to the Hebrew canon and comprising twenty-two in number. He also made mention of the books of Judith, Tobit, Maccabees, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon and Ecclesiasticus stating that they were not included in the canon and were therefore not used for proving articles of the faith.185
Thomas Walden (Netter)
Theologian and controversialist, b. at Saffron Waldon, Essex, England, about 1375; d. at Rouen, France, 2 Nov., 1430; from his birthplace he was commonly called Waldensis. He entered the Carmelite Order in London, and pursued his studies partly there and partly at Oxford, where he took degrees, and spent a number of years in teaching, as may be gathered from the titles of his writings (the actual works being for the greater part lost), which embrace the whole of philosophy, Scripture, Canon Law, and theology, that is, a complete academical course. He was well read in the classics and the ecclesiastical writers known at the beginning of the fifteenth century, as is proved by numerous quotations in his own writings… in England he took a prominent part in the prosecution of Wycliffites and Lollards, assisting at the trials of William Tailor (1410), Sir John Oldcastle (1413), William White (1428), preaching at St. Paul’s Cross against Lollardism, and writing copiously on the questions in dispute (‘De religione perfectorum’, ‘De paupertate Christi’, ‘De Corpore Christi’, etc.). The House of Lancaster having chosen Carmelite friars for confessors, an office which included the duties of chaplain, almoner, and secretary and which frequently was rewarded with some small bishopric, Netter succeeded Stephen Patrington as confessor to Henry V and provincial of the Carmelites (1414).
Of his numerous works only the ‘Doctrinale antiquitatum fidei eccleaisæ catholicæ’ has permanent value. It is in three parts, the first of which might be termed ‘De vera religione’, the second bears the title ‘De sacramentis adversus Wiclefistas’ etc., and the last ‘De Sacramentalibus’. The first two were presented to the pope, who on 8 August, 1427, expressed his satisfaction, encouraging the author to continue his useful and learned undertaking, and communicating to him the text of the Bull condemning the errors of Wyclif ‘Dudum ab apostolorum’… It is a complete apologia of Catholic dogma and ritual as against the attacks of the Wycliffites, and was largely drawn upon by the controversialists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.186
Thomas taught that the Church of his day accepted only twenty-two books of the Old Testament to be of canonical authority. He cited Jerome’s judgment from his prologue to the book of Kings called the Prologus Geleato.187
Jean Driedo was a sixteenth century theologian and member of the faculty of the Catholic University at Louvain who condemned Luther’s teachings in 1519. He stated that the Apocryphal books were not considered part of the Old Testament canon. The Church used them for the purposes of edification but they did not carry the same authority as the canonical books, which alone were used for the confirmation of the doctrines of the faith.188
In his book, The Examination of Those Who Were to Be Ordained for the Sacred Ministry of the Church, John Ferus listed the books of which he says comprised the Old Testament canon. He included the books of the Apocrypha among that list. In so doing he made a distinction between those that were truly canonical and authoritative and the Apocrypha which he said was not canonical but was useful for private reading in one’s own home.189
Jacobus Faber Stapulensis
Jacobus Faber Stapulensis was a sixteenth century theologian and Doctor at the University of Paris. In referring to the Apocrypha he followed Jerome in stating that those particular books were not considered part of the canon and consequently did not possess the authority of the canonical Scriptures, though they were useful for the edification of believers.190
In the early sixteenth century, just prior to the Reformation, Cardinal Ximenes, the Archbishop of Toledo, in collaboration with the leading theologians of his day, produced an edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia. There is an admonition in the Preface regarding the Apocrypha, that the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Maccabees, the additions to Esther and Daniel, are not canonical Scripture and were therefore not used by the Church for confirming the authority of any fundamental points of doctrine, though the Church allowed them to be read for purposes of edification.191 B.F. Westcott comments:
At the dawn of the Reformation the great Romanist scholars remained faithful to the judgment of the Canon which Jerome had followed in his translation. And Cardinal Ximenes in the preface to his magnificent Polyglott Biblia Complutensia-the lasting monument of the University which he founded at Complutum or Alcala, and the great glory of the Spanish press-separates the Apocrypha from the Canonical books. The books, he writes, which are without the Canon, which the Church receives rather for the edification of the people than for the establishment of doctrine, are given only in Greek, but with a double translation.192
This Bible, as well as its Preface, was published by the authority and consent of Pope Leo X, to whom the whole work was dedicated. The New Catholic Encyclopedia gives us the following information on this Bible:
The first Bible which may be considered a Polyglot is that edited at Alcala (in Latin Complutum, hence the name Complutensian Bible), Spain, in 1517, under the supervision and at the expense of Cardinal Ximenes, by scholars of the university founded in that city by the same great Cardinal. It was published in 1520, with the sanction of Leo X. Ximenes wished, he writes, ‘to revive the languishing study of the Sacred Scriptures’; and to achieve this object he undertook to furnish students with accurate printed texts of the Old Testament in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, and of the New Testament in the Greek and Latin. His Bible contains also the Chaldaic Targum of the Pentateuch and an interlinear Latin translation of the Greek Old Testament. The work is in six large volumes, the last of which is made up of a Hebrew and Chaldaic dictionary, a Hebrew grammar, and Greek dictionary. It is said that only six hundred copies were issued; but they found their way into the principal libraries of Europe and had considerable influence on subsequent editions of the Bible.193
Bruce Metzger provides additional information on the view of the Western Church during the sixteenth century:
The earliest Latin version of the Bible in modern times, made from the original languages by the scholarly Dominican, Sanctes Pagnini, and published at Lyons in 1528, with commendatory letters from Pope Adrian VI and Pope Clement VII, sharply separates the text of the canonical books from the text of the Apocryphal books. Still another Latin Bible, this one an addition of Jerome’s Vulgate published at Nuermberg by Johannes Petreius in 1527, presents the order of the books as in the Vulgate but specifies at the beginning of each Apocryphal book that it is not canonical. Furthermore, in his address to the Christian reader the editor lists the disputed books as ‘Libri Apocryphi, sive non Canonici, qui nusquam apud Hebraeos extant.’194
Petrius’ version of Jerome’s Vulgate also included all of Jerome’s prologues to the Old and New Testaments books and the Apocrypha. He upheld the Hebrew canon, excluding the Apocryphal books from canonical status. Metzger briefly describes the historical situation for the Western Church just prior to the Reformation:
Subsequent to Jerome’s time and down to the period of the reformation a continuous succession of the more learned Fathers and theologians in the West maintained the distinctive and unique authority of the books of the Hebrew canon. Such a judgment, for example, was reiterated on the very eve of the Reformation by Cardinal Ximenes in the preface of the magnificent Complutensian Polyglot edition of the Bible which he edited (1514-17)…Even Cardinal Cajetan, Luther’s opponent at Augsburg in 1518, gave an unhesitating approval to the Hebrew canon in his Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, which he dedicated in 1532 to pope Clement VII. He expressly called attention to Jerome’s separation of the canonical from the uncanonical books, and maintained that the latter must not be relied upon to establish points of faith, but used only for the edification of the faithful.195
The Polyglot Bible of Cardinal Ximenes was sanctioned by Pope Leo X. It separated the Apocrypha from the canon of the Old Testament and received papal sanction. Roman Catholic apologists make much of papal approval like that given by Innocent I for the Council of Carthage in his letter to Exuperius. The sanction of Leo X is as authoritative as that of Innocent, yet they are fundamentally contradictory, demonstrating again that Rome’s claim that she determined the canon for the Church universal in the late fourth and early fifth centuries is not supported by the historical facts.
The weight of historical evidence supports the exclusion of the Apocrypha from the category of canonical Scripture. Thus, we must conclude that the decrees of the Council of Trent, relative to the true canon of Scripture, were made with brazen disregard for Jewish and patristic historical evidence, as well for the overall historical consensus of the Church prior to that Council. Renowned scholar, B.F. Westcott, makes these comments regarding the decree of Trent:
This fatal decree, in which the Council…gave a new aspect to the whole question of, the Canon, was ratified by fifty-three prelates, among whom there was not one German, not one scholar distinguished for historical learning, not one who was fitted by special study for the examination of a subject in which the truth could only be determined by the voice of antiquity. How completely the decision was opposed to the spirit and letter of the original judgments of the Greek and Latin Churches, how far in the doctrinal equalization of the disputed and acknowledged books of the Old Testament it was at variance with the traditional opinion of the West, how absolutely unprecedented was the conversion of an eccelesiatical usage into an article of belief, will be seen from the evidence which has already been adduced.196
In addition to these historical reasons for rejecting the Apocrypha as being inspired and therefore not truly canonical, there are also heresies, inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies in the writings themselves which disqualify them from being given the status of Scripture. The following example from Bruce Metzger on the Book of Judith is a case in point:
One of the first questions that naturally rises regarding this book is whether it is historical. The consensus, at least among Protestant and Jewish scholars, is that the story is, sheer fiction…The book teems with chronological, historical, and geographical improbabilities and downright errors…For example, Holofernes moves an immense army about three hundred miles in three days (2:21). The opening words of the book, when taken with 2:1ff. and 4:21, involve the most astonishing historical nonsense, for the author places Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, over the Assyrians (in reality he was king of Babylon) at Nineveh (which fell seven years before his accession!) at a time, when the Jews had only recently returned from the captivity (actually at this time they were suffering further deportations)! Nebuchadnezzar did not make war on Media (1:7), nor capture Ecbatana (1:14)…The rebuilding of the Temple (4:13) is dated, by a glaring anachronism, about a century too early. Moreover, the Jewish state is represented as being under the government of a high priest and a kind of Sanhedrin (6:6-14; 15:8), which is compatible only with a post-exilic date several hundred years after the book’s presumed historical setting.197