Why the Roman Catholic Arguments for the Canon are Spurious
By William Webster
It is often asserted by Roman Catholic apologists that Protestants must rely on their tradition in order to know which books ought to be included in the Biblical Canon. The argument says that since there is no “inspired table of contents” for the Bible, then we are forced into relying upon tradition to dictate which books belong in the Bible, and which books do not. It was the church of Rome, these apologists alledge, which determined the canon at the Councils of Hippo (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.), and it is only due to this, that Protestants know which books are inspired, and which are not. Consequently, it is the Roman Church which should be submitted to on issues of faith.
The argument of Roman Catholics for the Canon is spurious on a number of counts.
First of all, the Councils of Carthage and Hippo did not establish the canon for the Church as a whole. The New Catholic Encyclopedia actually affirms the fact that the Canon was not officially and authoritatively established for the Western Church until the Council of Trent in the 16th century and that even such an authority as Pope Gregory the Great rejected the Apocrypha as canonical:
St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries…For example, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicolas of Lyra and Tostado continued to doubt the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. 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 Chruch at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Canon).
There are major fathers in the Church prior to the North African Councils who rejected the judgment of these councils such as Origen, Melito of Sardis, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Hilary of Poitiers, Epiphanius, Basil the Great, Jerome, Rufinus and a host of others. They hold to the view, generally speaking, that the Old Testament books were 22 in number or sometimes listed as 24 depending on how the books were grouped together. This corresponds to the Jewish canon which did not accept the books of the Apocrypha as being canonical. Jerome, who spent many years in Palestine and who had Jewish teachers, rejected the Apocrypha because those books were not recognized as canonical by the Jews. Some have suggested that the Septuagint included these books as canonical which is proof that the Alexandrian Jews had a broader canon than the Jews of Palestine but this is untrue. They make this assertion because the apocryphal books are included in some of the early manuscripts we have of the Septuagint. But all that tells you is that the Septuagint included the books of the Apocrypha along with the canonical books of the Old Testament for reading purposes, not that they were received as canonical. The only manuscripts we posses of the Septuagint are of Christian origin from the 4th and 5th centuries so they are not necessarily reflective of the Jews of Alexandria at all. Also, these Septuagint manuscripts contain works such as III Maccabees which were never received as canonical. In addition, Origen and Athanasius who were from Alexandria both reject the Apocryphal books as being canonical. There are a couple that Athanasius does receive such as Baruch but he mistakenly thought such a work was part of canonical Jeremiah.
Hippo and Carthage were provincial councils which did not have ecumenical authority. In addition, those councils actually contradict the Council of Trent on an important point. Firstly, Hippo and Carthage state that 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras are canonical. They are referring here to the Septuagint version of 1 and 2 Esdras. In this version 1 Esdras is the Apocryphal additions to Ezra while 2 Esdras is the Jewish version of Ezra-Nehemiah from the Jewish canon. The Council of Trent however states that 1 Esdras is actually Ezra from the Jewish canon and 2 Esdras is Nehemiah from the Jewish canon. Trent omits the Septuagint version of 1 Esdras. Secondly, Hippo and Carthage state that Solomon wrote 5 books of the Old Testament when in actuality he wrote only 3.
A second major point that proves the Roman Catholic claims to be spurious is the fact that the universal practice of the Church as a whole up to the time of the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome who rejected the Old Testament Apocrypha on the grounds that these books were never part of the Jewish canon. Those books were permissable to be read in the Church for the purposes of edification but were never considered authoritative for the establishing of doctrine. This is why I believe that the term canonical in the early Church had 2 meanings, one broad in the sense that it encompassed all the books which were permissable to be read in the Church and another narrow which included only those books which were authoritative for the establishment of doctrine.
Jerome’s views are as follows:
These instances have been just touched upon by me (the limits of a letter forbid a more discursive treatment of them) to convince you that in the holy scriptures you can make no progress unless you have a guide to shew you the way…Genesis … Exodus … Leviticus … Numbers … Deuteronomy … Job … Jesus the son of Nave … Judges … Ruth … Samuel … The third and fourth books of Kings … The twelve prophets whose writings are compressed within the narrow limits of a single volume: Hosea … Joel … Amos … Obadiah … Jonah … Micah … Nahum … Habakkuk … Zephaniah … Haggai … Zechariah … Malachi … Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel … Jeremiah also goes four times through the alphabet in different metres (Lamentations)… David…sings of Christ to his lyre; and on a psaltry with ten strings (Psalms) … Solomon, a lover of peace and of the Lord, corrects morals, teaches nature (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), unites Christ and the church, and sings a sweet marriage song to celebrate that holy bridal (Song of Songs) … Esther … Ezra and Nehemiah.
You see how, carried away by my love of the scriptures, I have exceeded the limits of a letter…The New Testament I will briefly deal with. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John … The apostle Paul writes to seven churches (for the eighth epistle – that to the Hebrews – is not generally counted in with the others) … The Acts of the Apostles … The apostles James, Peter, John and Jude have published seven epistles … The apocalypse of John …I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books, to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953, Volume VI, St. Jerome, Letter LIII.6-10).
As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Eccesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church…I say this to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon…(Ibid., Volume VI, Jerome, Prefaces to Jerome’s Works, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs; Daniel, pp. 492-493).
Let her treasures be not silks or gems but manuscripts of the holy scriptures…Let her begin by learning the psalter, and then let her gather rules of life out of the proverbs of Solomon…Let her follow the example set in Job of virtue and patience. Then let her pass on to the gospels…the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles…let her commit to memory the prophets, the heptateuch, the books of Kings and of Chronicles, the rolls also of Ezra and Esther. When she has done all these she may safely read the Song of Songs…Let her avoid all apocryphal writings, and if she is led to read such not by the truth of the doctrines which they contain but out of respect for the miracles contained in them; let her understand that they are not really written by those to whom they are ascribed, that many faulty elements have been introduced into them, and that it requires infinite discretion to look for gold in the midst of dirt (Ibid., Letter CVII.12).
What the Savior declares was written down was certainly written down. Where is it written down? The Septuagint does not have it, and the Church does not recognize the Apocrypha. Therefore we must go back to the book of the Hebrews, which is the source of the statements quoted by the Lord, as well as the examples cited by the disciples…But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Song of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant…The apostolic men use the Hebrew Scripture. It is clear that the apostles themselves and the evangelists did likewise. The Lord and Savior, whenever He refers to ancient Scripture, quotes examples from the Hebrew volumes…We do not say this because we wish to rebuke the Septuagint translators, but because the authority of the apostles and of Christ is greater…”(The Fathers of the Church (Washington: Catholic University, 1965), Volume 53, Saint Jerome, Against Rufinus, Book II.27, 33, pp. 151, 158-160).
Rufinus who was a contemporary of Jerome’s, a fellow student with him at Rome. He dies shortly after 410 A.D. He writes these comments on the Canon AFTER the Councils of Hippo and Carthage:
“And therefore it seems proper in this place to enumerate, as we have learnt from the tradition of the Fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which according to the tradition of our forefathers, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and have handed down to the churches of Christ. Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; then Jesus Nave, (Joshua the son of Nun), the Book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the Hebrews reckon two; the book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah), which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve minor Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the Churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles. These comprise the books of the Old Testament.
Of the New there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke; fourteen Epistles of the apostle Paul, two of the Apostle Peter, one of James, brother of the Lord and Apostle, one of Jude, three of John, the Revelation of John. These are the books which the Fathers have comprised within the Canon, and from which they would have us deduce the proofs of our faith.
But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not ‘Canonical’ but ‘Ecclesiastical:’ that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament the little book which is called the Book of the Pastor of Hermas (and that) which is called the Two Ways, or the Judgment of Peter; all of which they would have read in the Churches, but not appealed to for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they have named ‘Apocrypha.’ These they would not have read in the Churches. These are the traditions which the Fathers have handed down to us, which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place, for the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the Word of God their draughts must be taken” (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), Rufinus, Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 36, p. 557-558.).
Pope Gregory the Great, writing at the end of the 6th century states that the book of 1 Maccabees is NOT canonical. I give the exact quote below. And Cardinal Cajetan, the leading scholar in the Church of Rome at the time of the Reformation affirms that the Church of his day followed the authority of Jerome and he suggests that there were 2 concepts of the term canon as I have just explained. He gives the following counsel on how one is to properly interpret 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.” (In ult. Cap. Esther. Taken from A Disputation on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker (Cambridge: University, 1849), p. 48. See also Cosin’s A Scholastic History of the Canon, Volume III, Chapter XVII, pp. 257-258 and B.F. Westcott’s A General Survey of the Canon of the New Testament, p. 475.)
These statements by Catejan are a fair summary of the overall view of the Church in both the East and West from the time of Athanasius and Jerome up through the 16th Century. Jerome’s opinion completely dominated that of the ensuing centuries in the Western Church as is seen in the testimony of Cajetan. The following is a brief documentation of some of the leading theologians and doctors of the Church throughout the centuries as confirmation of Cardinal Cajetan’s views:
Gregory the Great – “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). (Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, (Oxford: Parker, 1845), Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Volume II, Parts III and IV, Book XIX.34, p.424.)
Junilius – North African Bishop – States that the books that are canonical are those according to the Hebrew Canon – He follows Jerome.
Primasius – North African Bishop – Follows Jerome in his evaluation of the canonical OT books.
Anastasius of Antioch – States that there are 22 OT canonical books
Leontius – Follows the Hebrew Canon
6th Ecumenical Council – “It has also seemed good to this holy Council, that the eighty-five canons, received and ratified by the holy and blessed Fatliers before us, and also handed down to us in the name of the holy and glorious Apostles should from this time forth remain firm and unshaken for the cure of souls and the hearing of disorders. And in these canons we are bidden to receive the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles written by Clement. But formerly through the agency of those who erred from the faith certain adulterous matter was introduced, clean contrary to piety, for the polluting of the Church, which obscures the elegance and beauty of the divine decrees in their present form. We therefore reject these Constitutions so as the better to make sure of the edification and security of the most Christian flock; by no means admitting the offspring of heretical error, and cleaving to the pure and perfect doctrine of the Apostles. But we set our seal likewise upon all the other holy canons set forth by our holy and blessed Fathers, that is, by the 318 holy God-bearing Fathers assembled at Nice, and those at Ancyra, further those at Neocesarea and likewise those at Gangra, and besides, those at Antioch in Syria: those too at Laodicea in Plirygia: and likewise the 150 who assembled in this heaven-protected royal city: and the 200 who assembled the first time in the metropolis of the Ephesians, and the 630 holy and blessed Fathers at Chalcedon. In like manner those of Sardica, and those of Carthage: those also who again assembled in this heaven-protected royal city under its bishop Nectarius and Theophilus Archbishop of Alexandria. Likewise too the Canons [i.e. the decretal letters] of Dionysius, formerly Archbishop of the great city of Alexandria; and of Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria and Martyr; of Gregory the Wonder-worker, Bishop of Neocaesarea; of Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria; of Basil, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia; of Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa; of Gregory Theologus; of Amphilocius of lconium ; of Timothy, Archbishop of Alexandria; of Theophilus, Archbishop of the same great city of Alexandria; of Cyril, Archbishop of the same Alexandria; of Gennadius, Patriarch of this heaven-protected royal city. Moreover the Canon set forth by Cyprian, Archbishop of the country of the Africans and Martyr, and by the Synod under him, which has been kept only in the country of the aforesaid Bishops according to the custom delivered down to them. And that no one be allowed to transgress or disregard the aforesaid canons, or to receive others beside them, supposititiously set forth by certain who have attempted to make a traffic of the truth. But should any one be convicted of innovating upon, or attempting to overturn, any of the aforementioned canons, he shall be subject to receive the penalty which that canon imposes, and to be cured by it of his transgression” (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, p. 361).
Roman Catholics apologists often assert that the canons of the council of Carthage were authoritatively received by the 6th ecumenmical council. What they never add is that this council also authoritatively received the canons of Athanasius and Amphilocius which also have to do with the canon. Both of these fathers rejected the apocrypha. The council did receive the canons of Carthage also which suggests that they are either in complete contradiction or they received the canons of Carthage with the understanding that the term canonical was to be interpreted in the sense that the books listed were the books authoritatively received for reading in the Church.
John of Damascus – “Observe, further, that there are two and twenty books of the Old Testament, one for each letter of the Hebrew tongue. For there are twenty-two letters of which five are double, and so they come to be twenty-seven…And thus the number of the books in this way is twenty-two, but is found to be twenty-seven because of the double character of five. For Ruth is joined on to Judges, and the Hebrews count them one book: the first and second books of Kings are counted one: and so are the third and fourth books of Kings: and also the frirst and second of Paraleipomena: and the first and second of Esdra. In this way, then, the books are collected together in four Pentateuchs and two others remain over, to form thus the canonical books. Five of them are of the Law, viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. This which is the code of the Law, constitutes the first Pentateuch. Then comes another Pentateuch, the so-called Grapheia, or as they are called by some, the Hagiographa, which are the following: Jesus the Son of Nave, Judges along with Ruth, first and second Kings, which are one book, third and fourth Kings, which are one book, and the two books of the Paraleipomena which are one book. This is the second Pentateuch. The third Pentateuch is the books in verse, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes of Solomon and the Song of Songs of Solomon. The fourth Pentateuch is the Prophetical books, viz the twelve prophets constituting one book, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. Then come the two books of Esdra made into one, and Esther.
There are also the Panaretus, that is the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Jesus, which was published in Hebrew by the father of Sirach, and afterwards translated into Greek by his grandson, Jesus, the son of Sirach. These are virtuous and noble, but are not counted nor were they placed in the ark” (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-NiceneFathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), Series Two, Volume IX, John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Chapter XVII).
Bede – In his Commentary on Revelation he gives the number of OT Books in conformity with that given by Jerome.
Alcuin – Writing against Elipantus, Bishop of Toledo, who made reference to Ecclesiasticus in defending a doctrine he rebuked him saying: ‘That the prophets of God failed him, whereof he had never a one to bring for the defense of his error; and then, that the book of the Son of Sirach, which he had produced, was, both by Jerome’s and Isidore’s undoubted testimonies, since it was apocryphal, and therefore a dubious scripture, having not been written in the time of the Prophets, but in the time of the priests only, under Simon and Ptolmey.’
Nicephorus of Constantinople – Lists the canonical books and those that were only received as ecclesiastical following the standard set by Athanasius.
Rabanus Maurus – Archbishop of Mentz – Greatly influenced by Alcuin – followed the teaching of Isisdore and numbered the OT canonical books at 22.
Agobard of Lyons – States expressly that the OT contains 22 conanical books.
Zonaras – Eastern Theologian – Wrote Commentaries upon the Canons that were received in the Greek Church – He states that the best rule for knowing what ought to be read in the Eastern Churches is to have recourse to the Apostles’ Canons, the Council of Laodicea, and the canonical epistles of Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen and Amphilochius, who had given their rules as they had received them from the Apostles and their successors.
Rupert of Tuits – Wrote concerning the book of Wisdom that it is not in the canon. In his discourse on the 24 elders in Revelation he makes mention of the 24 canonical books of the OT.
Petrus Mauritius – Abbot of Cluny and friend of Bernard of Clairveaux – In a treatise in which he refutes the writings of certain heretics who wrote against the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments he defends the integrity of each of the books of the Old Testament and lists them as does Jerome. He then mentions the apocryphal books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith and Maccabees as books ‘very useful and commendable in the Church’ but then he adds ‘that they are not to be placed in the same sublime and equal dignity with the rest’ that he had mentioned before; thereby plainly distinguishing between the Divine canon of Scripture, and those that were merely Ecclesiastical and used for the general edification of the Church.
Hugo of St. Victor – Abbot of St. Victor’s in Paris – At least 5 times he sets forth a list of canonical OT books. He lists the 22 books of the Hebrew Canon as enumerated by Jerome and then lists Wisdom, Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus and Maccabees saying of them: ‘That though they be read and used in the Church, yet they are not written in the Canon.’
Richard of St. Victor – Is in complete agreement with the judgment of Hugo.
Peter Comestor – He wrote an abbreviated history of the Bible and called it the Scholastical History. In his preface on Joshua he gives the division of the Canonical OT books as the 5 books of Moses, the 8 books of the Prophets and the 9 books of the Hagiographa following the order of Jerome. When referring to Judith he explicitly states that it was not part of the canon.
John Beleth – Doctor of Divinity in Paris – In his book of Divine Offices he specifically says that Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit and Maccabees are apocryphal and states though the Chruch allows them to be read yet she does not receive them as being canonical.
John of Salisbury – Bishop of Chartres – Follows Jeorme in numbering the OT canon at 22 books. He states that neither Wisdom, nor Ecclesiasticus nor Judith, nor Tobit, nor the Pastor, nor either of the Maccabees are to be considered canonical.
The Ordinary Gloss upon the Bible known as the Glossa Ordinaria – This became the standard authoritative biblical commentary for the Western Church as a whole. 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 philisophical studies in the Middle Ages that it was called “the tongue of Scripture” and “the bible of scholasticism” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Glossa Ordinaria; Glosses, Biblical, pp. 515-516).
The Glossa ordinaria states in the Preface 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 goes on to state that there are 22 books of the OT. In listing those 22 books it uses the testimonies of Origen, Jerome and Rufinus as support and when commenting on the apocyphal books it prefixes an introduction to them all 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 Ecclesiaticus, Wisdom, and Maccabees etc.’
Johannes de Columna – Archbishop of Messina – Author of the book The Sea of Histories. In this work he names all six apocryphal books and states that they are not to be numbered within the canon of divine Scriptures, though otherwise allowed by the Church. He qualifies what he means by use in the Church when he says they are to be used for edification in good life and manners, although insufficient for the resolution of any doubts in matters of faith.
Nicholas of Lira – He was converted from Judaism to Christianity. He wrote commentaries on all the books of the Bible which were highly regarded by the Churchmen of his day. In his preface to the Book of Tobit he states that by the favor of God assisting him he had already written upon all the canonical books of Scripture from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. He then declared his further intention to write upon those books which he said were not canonical, namely, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Tobit, and the Maccabees. He distinguished the apocrypah from the canonical books in the following way: the canonical books were not only before them in time, but in dignity and authority; while those that are not in the canon, were received into the Church, to be read there for men’s instruction in manners, but not for any establishment of their Faith, while the others which were canonical were the prime source of doctrine of the true religion and contained nothing in them but what is true. In his Commentary on Ezra he states that he passed by the histories of Tobit, Judith and the Maccabees because they were not in the canon of Scripture, either with the Jews, or with Christians.
William Occham – He states that ‘neither Judith, nor Tobit, nor the Macabees, nor Wisdom nor Ecclesiasticus, are to be received ‘into any such height of honour’ (as compared to Scripture), since the Church did not number them among the canonical Scriptures.’
Antoninus – Archbishop of Florence – Specifically states that the canon of the Old Testament consists of 22 books. He holds this view he says on the authroity of the Hebrews themselves as well as the common judgment of the Latin Church for which he appeals to Jerome, Thomas Aquinas and Nicholas of Lira. The apocryphal books while held in high esteem are not considered to be on the same level as those which are truly canonical and inspired.
Alphonsus Tostatus – Bishop of Avila – He follows the judgment of Jerome in excluding the apocrypha from the canon of the Old Testament stating that the Church of his day did not receive these books as canonical but allowed them merely to be read in the Churches for the purpose of edification.
Francis Ximenius – Cardinal and Archbishop of Toledo – Was responsible for producing an edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia. In producing this work he collaborated with the leading theologians of his day. In the Preface of this work there is an admonition given regarding the apocrypha. It states that the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Maccabees, the additions to Esther and Daniel (which were given there in Greek only), were not canonical Scripture. The Preface goes on to say that the Church did not receive the apocryphal books for confirming the authority of any fundamental points of doctrine, though the Church allowed them to be read for purposes of edification. This Bible and its Preface was published by the authority and consent of Pope Leo X, to whom the whole work was dedicated.
Jacobus Faber Stapulensis – Doctor at the University of Paris – Likewise states that the apocryphal books were not reckoned as part of the canon by the Church. They were not considered to be Scripture.
Erasmus – In his Explication of the Apostles’ Creed, and the Decalogue he deals with the question as to the number of canonical books in the Old Testament. He states that the number is precisely that as given by Rufinus in which he enumerates the specific books listed by him and he concludes by saying that ‘the ancient Fathers admitted no more, of whose authority it was not lawful for any man to doubt.’ He goes on to say that the Church did not grant the same authority to books like Tobit, Judith and Wisdom which it did to the canonical Scriptures.
In light of this history it is understandable how BF Westcott could make the following judgment regarding the decree of Trent relative to the Canon of the Old Testament:
‘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 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 ecclesiastical usage into an article of belief, will be seen from the evidence which has already been adduced’ (BF Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (MacMillan: Cambridge, 1889), p. 478).
The claims of Rome for the Canon are historically bankrupt. She suggests that we should receive her as supreme authority because of this issue of the canon. This would be equivalent to the Pharisees demanding that Jesus receive their teaching as supreme authority simply because as Jews they had determined which books were truly the word of God. Even if the claims of the Roman Church were true with respect to the canon, and they aren’t, it doesn’t follow that this makes them automatically authoritative in every area and are to be blindly followed any more than the Jews and Jesus should follow the Pharisees. The teachings of Rome contradict Scripture and much of its teaching, such as that on Tradition, the Papacy, Mary, the sacraments, purgatory, in addition to that of the Canon is patently contradictory to much of the teachings of the early Church. More importantly, its gospel message is a perversion of the teaching of the Scriptural gospel.
Rome is guilty of misrepresenting history and the teachings of the Reformation and has misinterpreted Scripture. It is a false system which has become corrupted over time, just as occurred with the Jewish system in the Old Testament culminating in the rejection of the Messiah.