Thursday, August 23, 2007

Octavius of Hierapolis - Early Reformer?

Until recently (the last 60 years) almost nothing was known about Octavius of Hierapolis (called by some the 'proto-reformer') except for a brief mention in the fragments of Hippolytus.

Fragments of a (supposed) letter from him to the bishop of Alexandria were discovered in Egypt in 1951 though many scholars doubt their authenticity. The author does not identify himself but Protestant scholar James P. Whittington said the following:

It can be said with near certainty, the author is none other than Octavius of Hierapolis12. If not, we must be looking at another of his contemporaries.
Even several Jesuit scholars have agreed on their authenticity. Personally, I don't think it matters whether it's the same Octavius mentioned by Hippolytus or not. This shows that the Reformers were not the first to have the sort of false ideas they had about Church authority & the Scriptures. Listen to Octavius (circa 225 AD):
and worse yet, the bishops of various cities, not the least of which Rome herself, have set themselves above God by their instruction. They contradict the Scriptures with vain teachings. Did our Lord himself not say, 'heaven and earth shall pass but my words shall never pass away'? How then have they set themselves above the very words of our Lord?
And later:
The blessed apostles did not deliver this man-made hierarchy of bishops lording over the people of God. Or tell me then, which of the apostles did set himself as a king over Jerusalem? Or which has made himself a prince over Ephesus? Did not Christ also say 'even the son of man did not come to be served but to serve'? Therefore, all Christians should be servants to one another; not under the rule of any except Christ and the sacred Scriptures.
At a first glance, he seems to be teaching something like an early version of sola scriptura. However, if you read what he is actually saying (especially in the full context or at least what we have of it) you can immediately recognize that what he is concerned with is corruption of bishops. The Church has always had corrupt bishops. This isn't anything new. But just because we have corruption doesn't mean we abandon the structure of the Church.

Octavius was never canonized (for obvious reasons). Perhaps his most blatant attack on Church tradition was the following:
So tell me how it is possible that these [bread and wine] have become the body of our Lord. Is this not madness? Does one look at a goat and call it a tree? Or can one man taste a fig and call it a fish? How much less then shall we say that ordinary food has become the immortal flesh of God? Such men and such teachings have led many astray.
Unfortunately, we only have portions of his writing so it's hard to grasp the full context of everything he is saying. Obviously denying transubstantiation was a heresy. We don't know of an excommunication but it can be fairly certain that he would have been swiftly excommunicated for such heretical teachings.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I'm just kidding. This was a complete parody. There weren't any Christians before Luther who believed that kinda nonsense.

Joseph said...

Ha! I didn't think it was a parody, but I was laughing as I read it.

Anonymous said...

lol that was funny you got me. I found it rather odd that those types of ideas were so well formed.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

In all seriousness, this is the sort of thing we would expect to see not merely mentioned but thoroughly attested to throughout all of Christian history were there even the slightest bit of credibility to the reformers' case.

Oh who knows... maybe all Christians before Luther & company were idiots.

Joseph said...

That's exactly why I didn't think this was a parody! I thought it was funny because I'm used to vain arguments such as these.

Phil Snider said...


First, the parody is good. I didn't even suspect it, although I did think the Octavius of Hieropolis sounded odd as a name. Mind you, this mix of Roman names and Eastern origins are not unheard of. Although I might challenge you that some heretics might well have said something of the same things about the Eucharist and complaints about bishops are not unheard of even in orthodox circles.

Really, this issue is dependent on how Catholics and Protestants deal with the Early Church. I could go on for days on this topic, but I do note that this isn't so much a question of wilful misreading or lying (on either side), but an evident differences of how we read many passages of the Bible and the Fathers. Charity calls us to recognize that difference and choose not to impute less than savory motives to them.


japhy said...


Excellent parody. I was fooled.

Well written, sir.

Tiber Jumper said...

Fooled me too!

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Phil - I get what you're saying and I agree - there are lots with good motives on both sides. But one can't fully grasp Protestantism in all its 'glory' and be genuinely interested in and hold respect for the fathers of the Church. You're a Protestant, but let's face it - you love tradition and history more than most Catholics! Wouldn't you agree?

Calvin used patristics, but he didn't 'love' the Church fathers in any sense of the word. In fact, he condemned the Ignatian epistles as forgeries, himself being so convinced of his own idea of "church" that he rejected historical documents that didn't agree with it. Same thing with Luther - he tossed out Scripture that didn't agree with his theology.

Yes, we do have different ways of reading the early Church fathers (I mean Catholics/Orthodox and Protestants not me and you necessarily).

Didn't you see the terrible rebuttal I made to this 'pre-reformer'? My reading was terrible! I think I just did the reverse of what many Protestants do with the real fathers and the Scripture. Look at what 'he' said:

"all Christians should be servants to one another; not under the rule of any except Christ and the sacred Scriptures."

To which I replied - "At a first glance, he seems to be teaching something like an early version of sola scriptura. However"...

However? What the hell did I mean "at a first glance"! This fabricated Christian's views are clear as day, but did you see me avoiding his views and trying to make them compatible with my own?

Open 95% of Protestant commentaries and turn to Matthew 16:18

Commentator: "At a first glance, it may seem that Jesus is building the Church on Peter himself. However..."

Or read a commentary on Saint Augustine's famous paraphrased - "Rome has spoken the case is closed"

"At first glance, it may seem that Augustine sees the bishop of Rome as having authority over the Church. However..."

Etc... etc... There are as many different ways to read any document as there are words in the document itself (this certainly includes the Scriptures). Which is why we as Christians have a magisterium.

I can only dream of the day when all Christians drop their private interpretations and submit to the magisterium founded by Christ - and on that day we will have only one way to read the Scriptures - and only one way to read the fathers.

I'm not a learned theologian - so when I approached the fathers (and the Scriptures) I did so as a simple lay person trying to understand what the early Christians believed. I was a Protestant when I first read Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, Chrysostom, Clement etc...

How anyone, regardless of whether they're Catholic, Protestant or Hindu, can come up with the idea that the early Christians didn't reject every exclusively Protestant doctrine is beyond me.

When I read them, I believed in sola scriptura and sola fide. I believed in the Presbyterian ecclesial community and her traditions. I believed in the Bible and would have been right at home discussing Scripture with any Protestant.

I can only speak for myself on this matter - but I read them with Protestant bias and came to the conclusion that Protestants (myself included) had really gotten it badly wrong.

In short: the early Fathers rocked my world.

Japhy: glad you liked it - this is my first parody. I can't let Curt Jester have all the fun you know...

Thos said...

Too close for comfort. What if some fool forgets to (or doesn't bother to) read the comments?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Maybe too risky I know. I had a debate with someone on anti-catholic bias once and in order to prove his point that the site I was criticizing for bias wasn't biased - he linked to another site called or something like that I cant remember. Anyway I was like --- a CATHOLIC said this?!?!?!

Then I went to the root of the site - it was "Arian Catholic" yea, you know - good ole Arius and the greatest heresy of the early Church? So he ended up looking like a complete fool when I called him out on it. He asked if I would consider that site 'anti-Catholic' too. I said ... uhhh. YEA! He tucked his tail under and ran so hopefully something similar would happen here if someone carelessly links to or quotes this.

At any rate - I don't plan on doing any more parodies - at least for a long time. I want to get back into blogging on the early Church Fathers again which is something I haven't done in a while. I don't want everyone to think its a parody when I talk about things like Pope Victor nearly excommunicating Asia.

Phil Snider said...

Just a couple comments:

On your suggestion that "one can't fully grasp Protestantism in all its 'glory' and be genuinely interested in and hold respect for the fathers of the Church." I don't know that that is quite true. There are many Protestants who are trying to do just that and, while I'm flattered at the compliment, I am trying to do just what you are suggesting is impossible. There is a tension, of course, but I think it is impossible only if you accept a Catholic reading of the Fathers (or even an Orthodox one). I'm trying to work out how it looks for Protestants to do the same thing, so the result will inevitably be differences.

Second, as far as Luther dropping bits of the Bible, let's remember that the only part that he actually dropped out of his own Bible was the Jewish Apocrypha (which the Jews themselves don't see as canonical, but useful) and that wasn't completely. Yes, he didn't like the Letters of James and to the Hebrews (among others), but, as far as I recall, he didn't actually drop them.

Lastly, it comes as no shock that you think Reformers played fast and loose sometimes in their arguments with Catholics. I would note that the same charge can be leveled from a Protestant point of view to Catholics. I don't condone it, but I think we can assign the blame to the problem on two things: getting too far into polemical writing (and not thinking past scoring points on one's opponent) and different readings of the same text. While I agree both sides have the right to criticize each other, if they think they are misreading Scripture or the Fathers, I deny that all of the differences are because of ill-will as implied by the first reason. Some are, but not all.


Joseph said...


Not that it matters, but I agree with your points. However, the Early Fathers were Catholic, not Protestant.

Protestants have now begun to consume these writings the same way that they have consumed the Sacred Scriptures, which is to do nothing more than prove that their doctrines were believed by early Christians and validate their positions over the Catholic Church. It is a never ending obsession. The Catholic Church doesn't need to do that. So, for the Protestants whom I speak of, it is an exercise in futility. But, if Protestants feel they must take more writings out of context to prove their points, there is no one that can or will stop them. Those writings are open source and the Church does not mind sharing the wealth that is in them. For those who intend to use these writings only to scrape individual quotes that, out of context, reinforce their positions and abandon the rest of the body of works, it will prove to be a fruitless endeavor. For those with an honest desire to learn something, those writings will prove helpful and will likely lead them to the Catholic Church.

No one will stop you from trying to interpret the Fathers in a Protestant light.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Phil - I dont think you "grasp Protestantism in all it's full glory" thats what I'm saying. You're more in the middle - maybe much closer to the Catholic Church than you think. At least, thats how it appears. Much like CS Lewis - I mean a stiff breeze would have blown him into the Tiber I think. Maybe Im wrong but I wouldnt be the only one who's thought that.

The founder of the Anglican church was one of the most outspoken critics of the "reformation" in his day until he decided to jump ship too as Im sure you know.

So what I think you're doing, is embracing the fathers without embracing Catholicism. Fine - but Im just saying I dont think you're fully embracing Protestantism either. (Except insofar as the term 'Protestant' has come to mean "I'm not Catholic" - in which case maybe you are embracing it fully).

Now as for Luther's de-canonization... I was of the opinion that he "wanted" to remove James etc... but eventually didn't only removing the DC books. I have recently learned (from what I think is a trustworthy source) from sort of a 'high-level' debate on the issue, that Luther's Bible contained both the DC books and the questioned epistles (James, 2,3 John 2 Peter etc..) in an unnumbered appendix with prefaces explaining that they were not Scripture. His preface to James, of course, included the famous line calling it "an epistle made of straw" or something like that.

So as I understand it (if anyone disagrees please provide sources)- all of the books now contained in the Catholic bible were in his original translation (a couple of 'faith alone's added for good measure) which the DC books and the questioned epistles unnumbered as appendixes; supplemental works - good reading but not inspired.

Joseph said...

The original Authorized Verison also contained all of the books of the Sacred Scriptures. It was only later that the Church of England had them removed.

Phil Snider said...

Well, I did say that, in the beginning of the Anglican crisis in 2003 when my wife and I were sorely tempted to leave, that we were too Catholic to be Protestant and too Protestant to be Catholic...

Seriously, I think that what you are confronting is not all that common in the sense that there are a large number of evangelicals who are recognizing the good things in the catholic tradition without wanting to say that their Protestant tradition was wrong. My ecclesiology, as I think you see, is quite Catholic, but my hermeneutical principles and my theology of grace are pretty Protestant (of a Lutheran variety, largely but with some other Reformed influences). I don't agree that they contradict, but I've always been a person of synthesizes, not analyses.


Joseph said...


I'm curious, were you a high Anglican (Episcopalian), also known as Anglo-Catholic, I believe?

Joe said...

godfearin said "I'm just kidding. This was a complete parody."

That reminds me of some digging I was doing in the sands of Egypt last summer as part of an archaelogical internship as part of my Phd program.

I actually happened to uncover some documents that were carbon dated about 10 years prior to the NT documents, and they were claiming to be written by the apostles. I realized that I had actually uncovered the real epistles of Paul, and that what we find in the NT are forgeries. In these epistles, Paul gave directives to all the churches to submit to Peter's authority, he begged forgiveness for rebuking him publicly, and he gave may instructions on how to set up a proper altar, officiate at it, how to set up the priesthood. I couldn't believe it! Do you think we have proto-Roman Catholicism here? Or, is this simply the original, and the NT is just a big hoax.

I'm stumped!


Joe said...


I found that in these "real epistles" he also pleaded forgiveness for the inadequacy of his writings and prayed that God would raise up a "magesterium" that would "fill in the blanks" in his absence. It was heartbreaking to read because here you felt that with his Jewish background he really had a fondness for tradition and when he looked at all that he had then to offer in his epistles it was just nothing in comparison.

Joseph said...

LOL!!! Well, shiver me timbers!

Joe said...

Shiver me timbers is right! I just got an email from a fella in Egypt who also did some diggin in the same spot as me, and he has the authentic Pauline Epistle to the Romans. I quote...

Paul, an apostle, albeit without the proper holy orders as I was knocked off my horse by no proper ecclesiastic authority (I'm hoping Peter may look upon this unusual way of getting ordained as 'extraordinary' and give me his blessings!

Grace and mercy to all those in Rome, especially to the holy father Peter. Pete, I'm very sorry for the little 'eruption' in Galatia. I lost all sight of who I was speaking to. Forgive me?

Now, I have no need to write anything more to you as you have an anoint- oops, a magesterium to fill you in. They will be able to read between these humble lines I've sent and fill up what is lacking in the instructions of Christ.

I hope to make it to the Vatican before winter. Till then, send me an indulgence. I keep getting myself into horrible trouble - hunger, shipwreck, beatings, etc. - perhaps the church has some merits to extend to me and get some of my grueling temporal suffering for sin reduced.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Paul/Joe - I take it you've never read Chrysostom on Paul's visit to Jerusalem to see Peter? - Actually - I take it that you haven't read any of the fathers...

And the document you found in Egypt sounds like it must be the gospel of Matthew- the fragment must contain chapter 16 since it records Jesus declaring that He would build the Church on Peter.

What makes my parody funny is that it is actually a reflection of truth - there aren't any documents predating the Lutheran heresy that teach sola scriptura etc... That is an objective historical fact. One that could be easily falsified by producing evidence.

But your attempt at a parody only exposes your lack of any knowledge on Church history whatsoever. Read Ignatius of Antioch's epistles and then get back with me. (Also might want to read the New Testament while you're at it).

Joe said...

fiddler states...

"Read Ignatius of Antioch's epistles and then get back with me. (Also might want to read the New Testament while you're at it)."

I've read Ignatius many times, and the NT so many times I lost count.

Everything you write implies one thing: I am in the "true church." Everybody else is on the other side of "the wall of seperation." About "the wall of seperation" read Galatians.

I used to debate Messianic/Jewish Roots Christians. It's the same dynamic. In their spiritual insecurity they gravitated to the teaching that in order to be right with God we must follow the Torah - no shrimp, must keep Saturday Sabbath and all the OT feasts, no hotdogs, must be circumcised. All other Christians who don't do this are false.

This is the same old stuff, just repackaged.

Going to the apostles' writings directly and exercising simple faith only in what they wrote is not enough. No, I've got to spend enormous amounts of time and intellect studying church history, reading the church fathers, learning greek and latin in the process, reading Scott Hahn's books, basing my salvation on whether I can believe the word of the Pope, ad infinitum.

The wall of separation, (or should I say the "river" of seperation). It was the weakness Peter had in this area in Antioch that led Paul to rebuke him to his face. Paul would have a field day with Peter's supposed successors in Rome.


Thos said...


I'm Protestant like you, but struggle with canon a bit - sounds like you can help me. You said, "Going to the apostles' writings directly and exercising simple faith only in what they wrote is not enough. No, I've got to spend enormous amounts of time and intellect studying church history, reading the church fathers, learning greek and latin in the process...." I think the Catholic or Orthodox would respond that the laity do not need to become experts in Greek and Church History, but rather can rely on the spiritual direction of their Bishop (to play devil's advocate). What I struggle with is your idea of "simple faith only in what they wrote". 1) It requires basing salvation (to coin your words) on whether you can believe that all that the Apostles had to teach is in Scripture, 2) it requires basing salvation on whether you can believe we got the canon right at the Reformation (a stumper for me), and 3) it requires the addition of your word "only" (in what they wrote) to any early church creed. I don't see the word "only" show up, again, until the Reformation. 1 and 3 may be the same, so here's a substitute 3 that also bothers me (and I would be in your debt if you could assist): as opposed to trusting the church to teach us, doesn't this view of 'only scripture' presuppose a literate population and perhaps even the existance of a printing press?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Joe, you need to get a historical perspective - this isn't the "same old stuff repackaged" The Catholic Church has been around for 2000 years and is still the trunk of Christianity. We haven't changed anything - we never will. You're the one that has changed and you're the one with new doctrine.

Im not sure which heresy you adhere to, perhaps like me before my conversion and many others it is your own personally devised heresy. Thats fun and all - its fun being 'your own pope' like Martin Luther said. But Christ established authority on earth so that His Church would be One and it still is. Just because you have left the One Church, doesn't make her any less one.

Ok so you've read Ignatius. Great so you think that the entire Christian Church went completely haywire right after the disciples died. ( I mean within 10 years literally) At least I know where you're coming from now - same place as the Mormons - Muslims - Pentecostals - and a host of other groups decidedly disconnected with history.

It's also good to know you've read the NT - so then you'll know that Peter was always the first among the disciples and was the one to speak infallibly for the Church in Acts 15. Good. That's at least a start.

Maybe you should read the Deutero-Canonical books now - the ones your forefathers removed from the Bible because the teachings disagreed with their heresy.

But the truth is - you've already determined your views - they're already set in stone. Your view is "the Catholic Church is wrong" and so no matter what you read, you're going to make it fit into that presupposition.

And about spiritual insecurity - who's insecure? You came onto my blog attacking me. I didn't come to your blog.

Joseph said...

Joe's profile:

"I am 38 years old, married to an absolute Queen! and am expecting my 5th child. I am an evangelical protestant with a heart for Catholic spirituality. Oy vey! (Yep, I also am strongly interested in Jewish roots.) Catholic spirituality gives me some things Protestantism doesn't. Catholicism and Protestantism each offer something important for each other. The two will never come together visibly, but God has His saints in all visible churches, united eternally in the invisible communion of saints. I don’t know where I would be without the doctrines of grace from the Reformation, yet equally so I don’t know where I would be if I had not discovered the rich mystical and spiritual riches of Catholic spirituality as exemplified in the lives of the Saints."

Sounds in conflict with his stark criticism of Catholicism, no? Perhaps another false ecumenist on the loose?

Joseph said...

One more thing about Joe: his first interest as shown on his profile is Roman Catholicism. With the presumption that the list of interests starts with the greatest and ends with the least, Joe must be really interested in Catholicism.

In light of what he has written here, I wonder exactly what the quality of his interest in the Church is. Jack Chick is also very interested in the Church, so is James White. In fact, you can almost assume that the Church is of such interest to them that they can barely exhale without the sound of "Catholic" escaping from their parted lips. However, that doesn't mean it's a healthy interest.

So, Joe is either truly interested, as in he'd like to learn more about Her, or he's just an "average Joe" false ecumenist lurking within the blogosphere who is only interested in Church where he can bend Her teachings to suit him. He could also hold the same interest as Chick and White. So which is it, I wonder?

Joseph said...

In light of my last post, I thought of a new nickname for false ecumenists and anti-Catholics. How about "White Chicks"?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Hah. Doh! Cover's blown.

Joseph - I think we better just stick to our graceless (yet rich and 'mystical') version of hierarchal Christianity.

The Protestant doctrines of grace are far too complex for our feeble minds to comprehend. Perhaps that is why we left Protestantism for the true Chur-- I mean the do-it-yourself --- we don't need God's grace - Mary worshiping - pope obeying - Catholic Church.

If only we had read a Jack Chick track before converting.

Joe said...

Thos -

No problems with the canon. The apocrypha is not a part of the Hebrew bible for good reason - they were the custodians of the Word of God. As to the NT, there is clear testimony to the canon. So what if Luther had doubts about James. I used to doubt God completely - does that mean there is a question? As a sidenote, many of the Marian excesses have roots in the various gnostic gospels that were floating around the early church.

fiddler -

The "church" began to decay soon after the apostles death. There has been a continual erosion.

Why do you have a hard time going to the writings of the "earliest church", ie, the writings of the NT and just sticking with them?

Here is a question you cannot answer...

"If there was some Apostolic revelation that was SO essential, so much so that failure to know and abide by it will keep you from being part of "the True Church" why then did the apostles NOT commit this revelation to writing?"

Paul, who rebuked Pope Peter to his face, said the Scriptures were so sufficient in themselves that "the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Thoroughly. Why do I need a magesterium to understand correctly what the word "thoroughly" means. It means totally sufficient, so that there is no need for a magesterium.

Why did John write...

"And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him"

There you go. We were given the Scriptures, plus "an anointing." NOT an infallible magesterium who keeps foisting things not taught in Scripture on the people of God.

You are quite clearly wrong, fiddler, but you are in the throes of that which appeals to your spiritual insecurity: the thought that you have made it to "the true church" and all other churches are wrong.

As to myself having an interest in Catholicism, everything I wrote in my profile and on my blog is true to my heart. I believe there is much in the Catholic tradition that is good and beneficial, stuff I can't find in the protestant tradition.

But also note that the Catholic saints I read and benefit from are all dead. I don't care much for the ones who are alive because they are so focused on their all-important ecclesiology and being "the true church" that they have nothing beneficial to offer me in terms of how to love Jesus better. Besides, the Catholic saints who have died now know better - they understand what the "catholic" church really is - the saints in all churches who have "heard the words of God and performed them."


Phil Snider said...


Actually, I'm an evangelical Anglican theologically, although I attend a very Anglo-Catholic parish and, indeed, do serving there (waiving smoke about etc). I'm pretty much fine with anything I see, although the monstrance on Corpus Christi does get up my Protestant left-nostril.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Joe I don't know how to respond without sounding condescending. So I'm just going to say - I'm not interested in discussing any of this with you any further.

Thos said...


Thank you for sharing your theory on canon; I have added it to a list of serious theories I have had put forward to me. It is the fifth such theory (and I'm not counting the claim the Catholics and Orthodox put forward about the Church's authority to identify scripture).

Please answer me this: what of the argument that extant versions of the Septuagint are older than the Palestinian codex (I assume this is what you mean when you say "Hebrew bible"), and that the Palestinian codex removed portions that the Jews were upset to discover Christians using against them to prove the Messiah's arrival (these same scholars having heavily influenced Josephus, by the way)? I have not found a counter to this argument that I find answers the mail. Further, the Apostles and Christ, when quoting Scripture in the N.T. books quote from the Septuagint, and in some places give passages that are likely based on books in the Septuagint's apocrypha (or deuterocanon, as our Catholic brethren would call it).

If you became convinced that the Jews accepted the apocrypha, or that there was an even split amongst those holders of Sacred Writ over whether or not to use them (as you well know, there was no Jewish Pope defining their canon up to the time of the N.T.), would you change your canon?

Who gave us the rule that what the Jews accepted as Scripture we are to accept?

You said there is clear testimony on the NT. Who gave us the rule that those form the only rule of faith?

Thanks for your thoughts. Peace.

Joe said...

Thos wrote...

"Who gave us the rule that what the Jews accepted as Scripture we are to accept?"

Paul did.

Romans (catch the irony?) 3:2...

"First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God."

They were entrusted with the oracles. They knew what they were. Paul did. He never once quoted from the apocrypha as 'grapha'.

Thos wrote:

"that the Palestinian codex removed portions that the Jews were upset to discover Christians using against them to prove the Messiah's arrival "

I can't believe you are actually considering such an idea. I've never heard it before. Do you know that the Jews considered the 'oracles of God' so holy that they would always give worn out scrolls a proper burial? It is completely absurd and unthinkable that they would remove 'oracles of God' from their Scriptures because their theological enemies used them in their apologetics.

What's more, if they did do this, they sure left a ton of damaging stuff behind in the canon - like Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:24, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, etc. etc.

They were never accorded on the same level of authority as the 'graphe.' The Jews in Egypt had them translated into greek alongside the Scriptures, but the Jews never made the mistake of thinking they were on par with the Hebrew Scriptures. That's ultimately why they were not found in the Hebrew bibles. Even early church fathers did not accept their canonical status (Tertuallin, Eusebius, Rufinus, Jerome, Augustine, and Athanasius.)

The church NEVER set the limits of canon. She simply inherited the canon. The fact that one church gradually accepted works that were never considered canonical even by the original recipients of those works shows that churches are subject to fallability and must always be diligent to confirm and verify everything.

The question of canon is all very simple. The church did not create the bible. The bible created the church, and then the church from generation to generation proclaims the Word that gave it birth.

Authority was bound in the prophet or apostle. God endorsed them with miracles to their audiences. When they died, their followers accorded their writings THE SAME authority that they did to the apostle/prophet when they were alive.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thos - With Joe's last remarks - I think us Catholics/Orthodox can completely rest our case on the canon.

Joseph said...

Wow! I'm in utter shock! This guy is a White-Chick! Such ignorance is alarming. By the way, most Protestants have much more knowledge than the "average Joe". Please, no one assume that he represents the many learned Protestants out there who have much more to offer in regards to theological debate. Joe, I recommend putting down your Chick tracts and at least reading from Protestant apologetics before you embarrass yourself on a Catholic blog in the future.

I know it's harsh, but, dude, go home.

Joseph said...

Is Joe really older than I am?

Joe said...


I'll gladly "go home."

I'm not a debator, and I'm not very intelligent - I admit. I just desire only to know "Christ, and Him crucified."

Early on I had doubts about the authority and inspiration of Scripture. I didn't want to lose my faith so I found a couple good books on the issue, settled it, and moved on.

There is a world of difference between striving to find "the true Christ" and striving to find "the true Church."


Joe said...

One more thing.
About the Jack Chick comments. Why, if you are victoriously dismissive of what I have to say do you have to stoop so low as to associate me with Jack Chick. :-0

Anyone who knows what he represents and also has spent some time reading my blog knows that if Jack Chick ever read my stuff he'd instantly blow some internal gasket.

It boggles my mind when people resort to stuff like this - as if you are reduced to simply insulting your enemy rather than engaging.


Thos said...


Thank you again for your time and for sharing the things you learned from the Protestant books you read concerning authority. I’ve tried hard in my struggle with authority to be discerning in what I hear, so please bear with me as I see if what you’ve said holds up to close scrutiny.

I have read a good bit on O.T. canonicity, and do not recall hearing the argument that Rom 3:2 is a proof text for the Jews giving us a defined canon of scripture to believe in. I looked this verse up in my wonderful ecumenical “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture”, and found that none of the five or so church fathers who referenced this specific verse took it to mean what you said. Paul discusses whether it is better to be a Jew than a Gentile. He says that the Jews were entrusted with the ORACLES (logion) of God. According to Strong’s Concordance, logion is an utterance of God. The church fathers I mentioned treated this as referring to the Prophecy (and the Words of Moses) that God put into the hands of the Jews. This is a more discrete set of (what became) literature than either the Protestant or Catholic Old Testaments.

I’m surprised you’ve never before heard the argument that the Jews grew displeased with the Septuagint (LXX) because of Christian apologetic use of it. Do read up on the LXX as it’s a fascinating topic – just last night I came upon the argument in two separate places. One Orthodox history is good:

You appreciate the seriousness with which Jews handled Scripture, and trust the canon they delivered at the time of the Apostles. I think there are some historical points we need to settle.

At the time of Christ, there were at least four different canons used by different groups of Jews. One group used the Pentateuch only (so did not even contain the writings of the Prophets (oracles)!). One group used the Palestinian Canon (now the Protestant O.T.). One group used the Alexandrian Canon (the LXX, now the Catholic O.T.). Finally, one group (the Dead Sea community) used even more books than this. We cannot say what the scriptures were definitively to the Jews at Christ’s birth, because they did not have a formal canon. The canon was set by the Jews in 90-95 A.D. by the Council of Jamnia. Your theory, then, cannot hold. We need some other authority to set which books are in our O.T. besides the Jews as they held it at the time of Christ.

You noted damaging texts that the Jews would have taken out if my theory of doctoring the texts is valid. My theory, though, was that they grew resentful of Christian use of the Greek translations of their holy books. They could do nothing about the texts you noted, where the Hebrew and Greek versions were equally damaging. Isaiah 7:14 is often used to demonstrated my point. The Greek LXX says that “Behold a virgin shall conceive…”. The post-Christ Jews argued that this had been a mistranslation, and insisted on the Palestinian Hebrew rendering that “Behold a young woman shall conceive…”. Note also Acts 7:14, where Stephen is quoted as referring to 75 in Joseph’s family. The Palestinian Hebrew holds there are only 70, but the Septuagint agrees with Stephen’s (Acts’) number. If you believe the Bible is infallible, it would be reasonable to also believe that the Palestinian Hebrew bible (and canon) are therefore not reliable, based on this instance.

Besides all this, the Septuagint Greek texts we have are older than the Palestinian Hebrew texts, and Dead Sea Hebrew texts that were older than both agree with the LXX, specifically on the Acts 7:14 point. It is possible that the LXX is the older and better text that the Palestinian. Clearly the Jews’ handling was not as pristine as you believe, if there are at least three different versions around (and two in Hebrew that don’t agree with each other).

Re: who quotes what, as you know there are several O.T. books we accept that are not quoted or referred to in the N.T. There are some thought-to-be references to the apocrypha (deuterocanon), such as Eph. 6:13-17 following the theme of Wisdom 5:17-20. But this isn’t the rule you follow anyway, you follow what the Jews had at the time of Christ. Also, the Didache and Clement, 1st Century writing and writer respectively, cite apocryphal text as authoritative. Clement wrote before even the last of John’s writing was complete. We have no writing refuting him.

You said: “Even early church fathers did not accept their canonical status (Tertuallin, Eusebius, Rufinus, Jerome, Augustine, and Athanasius.)”

Disputes over which fathers believed what can get ugly. I’d like to avoid it to the extent possible. But please elaborate on your evidence that Augustine refused the authenticity of these texts. I understand that Augustine argued for their inclusion in the Vulgate. I’ve read his Confessions and City of God (hard reading!), and in these and other places I’ve read him cite to these texts indiscriminately from other texts as authoritative.

From Columbia’s website (the school): “Augustine was a clear exponent of the deuterocanonical books, explicitly listing them as being on the canon in "City of God." He derives this from the fact of its wide use in all Christian churches, and in the legend of its composition by the seventy.” Regarding Athanasius, he accepted the book Baruch and did not include our Book of Esther! Jerome studied Hebrew from the Palestinian Jews, and was influenced by their preferences. He ultimately submitted to the judgment of the universal church (as it was at the time). I don’t know about the others, though I know Tertullian became a heretic, so I don’t rely much on him.

So at best there are church fathers debating both ways on which to include.

You said the church never set limits but simply inherited the canon. At risk of repeating here, there was no canon to inherit, as the Jews didn’t define theirs until 90-95 A.D. The church defined the canon (as the Catholics hold it today) at the Councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage in the 4th Century. No council prior to the Reformation defined the O.T. as consisting of the Palestinian (Protestant) canon.

The Bible did not create the Church, brother! This is not the teaching of our Reformation! Christ Jesus created the church through his commissioning of the Apostles! The last texts to be written in the “Bible” did not exist until something like 70 years after Christ’s death – the church definitely existed (and was badly persecuted) in the interim.

I appreciate this dialogue very much. Do let me know where I’m off my rocker.

Joe said...

thos said...

"I’m surprised you’ve never before heard the argument that the Jews grew displeased with the Septuagint (LXX) because "

I have heard that argument. I thought you were saying that the Jews in Jerusalem knew them to be valid scripture but rooted them out because of use by christians.

The Jews in Jerusalem never included them in Hebrew because they were not considered on the same level of scripture.

My argument still stands though. There is no way the Jews would toss books they know to be from God despite their use by heretics.

To answer all your questions (which seem to be the same liberal quagmire I read years ago in my father's seminary books he had to read at a liberal protestant seminary) the best I can do is direct you to the books that helped me.

General Introduction to the Bible, Nix & Geisler.

Introduction to the Old Testament by R. K. Harrison

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason Archer

These are the books that seemed to do it for me. There were others along the way but this was almost 16 years ago.

I can understand why your theories may push you to feeling the need for a pope to decide for you. I am very appreciative of many things in the catholic tradition, but this is not one of them.

Never forget that Paul rebuked the Pope in Antioch. There is a message in that.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Joe - Joseph's 'White Chicks' comment is just a humorous poke at the 2 most anti-Catholic Protestant apologists.

I don't think he means as much offense as you're taking from it. But he is making a legitimate point. In your profile you claim that you're an ecumenist and a lover of both worlds. Neither Joseph or I (or any Catholic that I know of) would deny that a lot of great stuff has come out of Protestant groups. Some of my favorite authors are Protestant.

But the problem came when you went on a Catholic blog and started attacking Catholic doctrine and Catholic history. If you expected a warm welcome by that - then you had another thing coming to you.

I'm not a great apologist either - but I haven't been willing to engage you on these issues because I sincerely believe that you've been misled about so many things that it would take hours and hours just to get past one or two sentences in the replies above.

If you want to dialogue on this blog, you are more than welcome to. Just don't criticize Catholic doctrine without at least substantiating your claims to some degree - and even then don't expect smiling faces in return.

There are plenty of legitimate questions regarding Catholic dogma and plenty of things to be discussed. But pulling one or two verses out of the Scripture and then suddenly thinking this disproves Catholicism is simply not a discussion I'm willing to engage in.

Joseph said...


I enjoyed reading your response very much.

"My theory, though, was that they grew resentful of Christian use of the Greek translations of their holy books..."

St. Justin Martyr argues this point to the Jew rabbi Trypho in "Dialogue with the Jew Trypho". This dialogue took place in the early second century, which would have been very close to the time that the Jews created the Hebrew canon. It is historical evidence that the Hebrew canon removed, what the Christians and Jews believed were, explicit prophecies and references to Jesus Christ.

In my opinion, that is enough of a reason to reject the Hebrew canon as complete.

Unfortunately, Joe is clearly not who he claims to be. No matter how convincing your argument is nor how much you've proven to be much more well-read on the subject, he will not break out of his circular argument. He's not willing to accept any authority on the canon besides his own with help from Nix & Geisler and R. K. Harrison. Perhaps it is because he decided to introduce himself by attacking. Sure, GFF's parody may have caused him to suffer from an aneurysm, but the simple fact is that he would not have engaged everyone in the manner in which he did if he were the Catholic-loving ecumenist he claims to be.

Joe (White-Chick) - First, you need to settle down. Second, Thos isn't quoting from "liberal" sources. You should read his posts after you take my first suggestion. Third, I'm calling you White-Chick because you are completely ignorant on the topic of the canon, even from a Protestant perspective. You have no intention of dialoguing, you just want to be heard. Not only that, you have been attacking the Church in your posts with common (James) White-Chick (Jack) tractates.

Once you calm down a little and re-read Thos' posts you will find that he is currently a Protestant. By saying, "I can understand why your theories may push you to feeling the need for a pope to decide for you," you are accusing him of being a mindless Catholic.

Why won't we seriously dialogue with you? Well, Thos has already tried to do. He was offering "objective" points of discussion. Only on a few points did he make the designation that they were his theory. That was an objective discussion and you could not enter into constructive dialogue. The Roman Catholics, me in particular, on this blog are much less objective than Thos is on this topic. If you aren't going to listen to his posts, why would you listen to mine of GFF's? The other reason is that you claim to know Catholic teaching when you clearly haven't a clue. Here is an example:

"Never forget that Paul rebuked the Pope in Antioch. There is a message in that."

This shows your utter ignorance to Papal infallability. It would take minimal effort for you to find out more on this doctrine. Then you could be an even greater threat to Catholic teaching. Currently, you are shadow boxing. I'm afraid that even attempting to correct you will be futile. I have to weigh what would be more enjoyable: walking through the park, reading a book, or engaging in a completely fruitless debate with you who is obstinately ignorant.

Thos is being very kind and friendly to him and you are needlessly attacking him. Why would I want to put myself in that position? (Sorry Thos, I hope you don't think I'm bailing out on you. One tires of these debates after a while).

All, enjoy the rest of Our Lord's Day.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...


I can be a condescending a-hole and I know it. I have little patience with those who chose to use your style of arguing. I find abominable ignorance without any intention to listen to anyone else extremely annoying. I don't like to repeat more than twice to people even when speaking with them. My impatience is a terrible defect, I know. It is very difficult to overcome.

Joseph said...


I'm interested. Sorry, your last reply got lost in the mix and I barely noticed just now that you had answered my question. I'll probably stop by your blog later to continue our discussion if you don't mind.

Thos said...

Joe, if he’s still checking in, said “The Jews in Jerusalem never included them in Hebrew because they were not considered on the same level of scripture.” He may have read that in some book or other, but I have read plenty of things by theologians and scholars that didn’t withstand a discerning eye. Hence we discuss and put theories to the test in fora like this. Joe may have missed my claim – “the Jews” had no canon until 90-95 A.D. There was no canon to receive at the time of Christ’s incarnation. There was no “same level” when there was no canon – still today the Jews hold the Pentateuch higher than other books, but that doesn’t influence how Christians receive the Prophets or Wisdom literature. I have the strong feeling that this quote is derived from a Protestant theologian considering the Jewish Council of Jamnia, which we have already noted was influenced by losing in apologetics with Christians.

Joe said there’s no way the Jews would toss books they knew to be from God. This presupposes there was agreement on what was from God. As we’ve noted, “the Jews” had many ideas on what was from God.

I fail to see how my views are liberal. The word liberal is often a red herring, and this may be the first time in my life it’s been used to describe me (not being sarcastic here, but honest!). My father, unlike Joe’s, went to a conservative seminary, and he is not interested in (or able) to address the concerns I’ve noted in our preceding posts. He’s got sermons to write.

My feelings do not push me to feel I need a pope to decide canon, nor to feel that I need Bishops in council to decide. I’m a ways from that feeling. Rather, my feelings (as well as my thoughts!) push me to be hesitant before following creedal formulae based on 16th century handling of the Oracles of God.

Finally, I well note (as Calvin’s Institutes reminded me) that Paul rebuked Peter. And Bernard of Clairvaux rebuked the pope of his day without even having to be a fellow Apostle like Paul was. This has nothing to do with Joe’s theory that there was a settled “Jewish” canon at the time of Christ, that we are responsible for using only that canon, and that that canon matches the Protestant bible; I believe I have shown this theory to be untenable, and I would appreciate correction. Or discussion on the four other Protestant canon-rationale theories I have heard about…