The Hotel: Why I Checked-Out of Protestantism: Part 5

by G. D. Andreano

The Problem of the Canon of Scripture

While most Protestants love the Bible, many do not know the origin of their own canon. Many think their Bible is an English version of what the Church has always used since the time of Christ. As I have discovered in my journey, this is simply not true.

First, one must understand that not every English Bible uses the same source material. The two main options are the Greek Septuagint (3rd century BCE) and the Hebrew Masoretic Text (8th-9th century). The major difference between the two texts is that the Septuagint contains Old Testament books (known as the “Deuterocanon” among Catholics, and the “Apocrypha” among Protestants) that the Masoretic does not. Even though the first century church (and Christ Himself) used the Septuagint, the vast majority of Bibles today follow the Masoretic Text, which came nearly a thousand years later. The reason can be traced back to the textual presuppositions of Martin Luther.

Luther argued the later Hebrew text was more authoritative than the Greek because he assumed he would be more accurate using a Hebrew text for his German translation. He also assumed the Hebrew text in his day was the same text the common Jews used in the time of Jesus. Luther was simply mistaken, and that mistake became the Protestant canon. If one is familiar with those Old Testament texts missing from the Masoretic text, it doesn’t take long to figure out that New Testament Jews knew them well. For example, in the gospel of Matthew, the Sadducees come to Jesus asking him about a woman who had seven husbands and all of them dying (Mat 22:25-28). This is an explicit reference to something that literally happened to Sarah in the book of Tobit (Tob 3:8). However, you would not know that without reading those books.

There is no official Protestant canon. Martin Luther wanted to remove the book of James from his German translation, calling it an “epistle of straw.” The only reason why many Protestants have the book of James in their Bible is because Philip Melanchthon talked Luther out of removing it. On what canonical authority did Luther base his presuppositions other than his own mind? If a Protestant suddenly declares the “Apocrypha” to be scripture, on what authority do other Protestants say he is wrong? A Protestant canon is only as exclusive as each individual Protestant declares it to be.

One might say,

“We get our canon from the 39th festal letter of Athanasius!”

To which I will reply,

“Then you must have removed Esther and added Baruch!”

The fact of the matter is, the Church Fathers did not even have a universal canon. The only official canon found in Church History was established by the Roman Catholic Church at the western Council of Trent (c. 1545-1563), and all Catholics officially use that canon.

Aside from that, nobody else has an official canon, even though every other tradition has a widely agreed upon canon.

The reason why the canon is important is because those extra books contain things like prayers for the departed (Macc 12:44-45, which helps understand 2 Timothy 1:18). Protestants say that such things are “not biblical,” when in reality, they are…but only if you have the right canon.

Read Part 6: The Problem of Private Interpretation HERE

 

 

The Problem of the Canon of Scripture

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