Friday, February 27, 2009

On the Necessity of the Apocrypha

I have discussed before the hypocricy of those who use the slogan "Let Scripture Decide", yet use Bibles like the 1599 Geneva Study Bible that edits out vital Scipture like Deuteronomy 30:19, I Timothy 2:4, and Revelation 22:19. Elsewhere, we have discussed self-referentiality, paradoxes, and closed systems. I have ceaselessly stressed that there are certain premises that must be maintained in order to maintain the Integrity of the Scriptures. I hope to tie a few things together with this post.

Maccabees is a book frequently discarded by the Protestants in part becauxe it is one of the main supports for the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory. I am willing to concede that Purgatory is an inconsistency of the book of the Maccabees, thus excluding it from Scripture proper.

Nevertheless, as a Historical Book, Maccabees does things that no other book can do. It explains why King Herod was King at the Birth of Christ. If we look at he very short book of Haggai, we see some stage setting taking place. As Judah was being restored by the Persians,
Zerubbabel, the uncrowed King of David's line Zerubbabel, and Joshua, the heir of the High Priesthood, were returned. When Chapter 2:22 of Haggai said "The Lord announced that He[Zerubbabel] was going to overthrow the rulers of the nations of the earth", the Persian Monarchy was displeased, and Zerrubbabel was never crowned. The High Priestly line of Joshua continued in, and the political authority of the Davidian Kingship, such as it was, devolved to them.

Persia fell to Alexander the Great, who willed his empite to "The Strong". His Generals interpred this to mean that they were his heirs and divided his Empire. Enter Antiochus Epiphanes IV, a descendant of one of the Generals. To consolidate power, Antiochus, whose name means "The Illustrious Manefest God", decided to show everybody just who was boss. Antiochus Almighty decreed to the Jews that they must propitiate him with a sacrifice of a sow in the Holy of Holies. The Maccabee family responded by waging a protracted war. The Maccabees were able to acquire the High Priesthood, and hence acquired the authority of the Davidian line via regency. As the Maccabee family died out, they intermarried with the Herods. The Herods, in fact, was Regents, not Kings, during the time of Christ. The Books of the Maccabees is the all-important historic link from Haggai to Christ, and is a book that cannot be discarded.

Having shown the necessity of the Books of the Maccabees, I will mention that there are other examples where Apocrapha are necessary to flesh out Scripture; however, I will restrict myself to Maccabees for the sake of brevity.

I will move on to the work of the Council of Carthage. They sorted candidtate books of Scriptures into their different piles because of their different uses. Obviously, the Histories of Suetonius, and Tacitus are not Scripture because they were Romans, not Jews, and Jewish Historian Josephus was not a Christain. However, there is need to keep some historic record of an independant source verifying Chirst's existence, so Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius were kept, though not necessarily in Scripture. Training Manuals such as the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas, as well as some Patristic Writings from St. Irenaeus, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius explained the message of Chist well, so these books were kept, but not in Scripture. The Gnostic Gospels, such as the Gospels of Judas Iscariot, Phillip, and Thomas, were tossed. The work of the Council of Carthage was to elevate from the various writings of Tradition those writings that would become Scripture. They did not toss anything but the Gnostic Gospels. Thoses other books were kept around for reference and authentication. They did not want Scripture to be a Closed Self-Contadictory System of Paradoxes, as has beeen warned of by implication from Kurt Godel.

This brings me to what happens when you make the error of having a Closed System of Scriptures and use the motto "Let Scripture Decide.". To make the Scripture conform to your "doctrine", you will have to "deemphasize" some Scripture to the point of eliminating it, as has been shown in the Edited-Not Translated posts which discusses the fact that certain Scripture was deleted from the 1599 Geneva Study Bible, and not why. On the surface, de Beza and Whittington had to maintain their preconcieved doctrines, regardless of cost; however, because of their methodology of Sola Scriptura, it was inevitable that they would have to eliminate some Scripture. It gets worse than that. Eventually, you will get to the point where you will have to discarded the totally of Scripture if you are academically honest and adhere to premises of Sola Scriptura, Calvinism, and get overzealous about debunking the Apocrypha. Even Francois Turretin foresaw this. Clearly, Calvinism is not Full Gospel Doctrine.

I close with comments on Chapter 12 0f the Didache:

12:1 But let every one who comes in the name of the Lord be received; 12:2 And then when you have tested him you shall know him, for you shall have understanding on the right hand and on the left. 12:3 If the visitor is a traveler, assist him, so far as you are able; 12:4 But he shall not stay with you more than two or three days, if it be necessary. 12:5 But if being a craftsman, he wishes to settle up with you, let him work for and eat his bread. 12:6 But if he has no craft, according to your wisdom provide how he shall live as a Christian among you, but not in idleness.12:7 If he will not do this, he is trafficking upon Christ. [Or, "he is a Christ-peddler."] 12:8 Beware of such men.

This Chapter is a very necessary one for the evaluation of Pastors. I have had problems with "Pastors" who preached so-called Social Gospels and Prosperity Theologies. If actively used, this Chapter would act as a check upon the excesses of Liberal Theology. Yet the very "Conservative" Protestants who preach Sola Scriptura are the very ones who enable the Liberal Protestants to turn the Church into a Social Club for the Rich by ignoring the Didache's Advice.


Tony-Allen said...

Nice argument you make for the book of Maccabees. What always amazed me was it was left out, yet it tells the background for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. What also amazed me was how after 1500 years of Church tradition, Martin Luther thought he could just step in and make things better. I guess.

As for Purgatory, the most I can see is that the book supports prayers for the dead, which many later Roman Catholic apologists (including Thomas Aquinas) distorted to support Purgatory. I've seen some Roman Catholic websites even quote men like Saint John Chrysostom and their opinions on prayers for the dead as a support for Purgatory, where this is nowhere near the original context.

Constantino della Brazos said...

Tony, you are correct in what you say. I'm not debating that. I also hold that the miniscule supportfor Purgatory, the strongest of which is in Maccabes, is only incidental.

We're historically married to the Maccabees. Even if we don't ascribe any doctrinal importance to it, it's still required for Biblical authentication. This business of Sola Scriptura turns Scripture into a closed system, which in turn forces paradoxes and contradictions which would otherwise be resolvable. The Church Fathers had an intuitive grasp of this fact. This causes the need to throw other Scripture overboard until there is no Scripture, which is what I see happening in Calvinism.

Yes, I was overly brief and certainly oversummarized, as I was seeking to highlight Godel.

By the way, in view of the Didache Quote, do you think it is possible for a Baptist Preacher to give a sermon on this?


Tony-Allen said...

The Word of Faith preachers, who mostly belong to Charismatic groups, would have a problem with it. Their theology of "God does everything for you" is really socialist soteriology when you think of it. To suddenly introduce a traditional Christian teaching that a person had to actually work to make a living wouldn't vibe with them.

As for Baptist preachers, if he believed in "solo" scriptura, he would have a big problem because the Didache didn't make it into the Bible, so he would be dead-set against it. If a preacher believes in the more appropriate sola scriptura, he might use it in preaching, but to a point. The problem you have with sola scriptura, even if it recognizes Church history, the Church Fathers, or the original language, is that it only goes so far as the preacher is willing to accept it. Hence a preacher might use Didache if he deemed it "godly" enough, but if he didn't he might just throw it out. An Orthodox scholar I once listened to made the good point that sola scriptura only lets the Church Fathers out of their caves long enough to agree with the preacher/scholar in question, but then are tossed back into their cage before any embarrassing disagreements pop up.

I'm reminded of a Roman Catholic joke I once heard, which said, "Protestants think everyone is right except the Pope."

Constantino della Brazos said...

Tony, the lights came on a couple of days ago over these reflections. I think this is the crux of the disagreements between Arminians and Calvinists, and between the Calvinists themselves, that is, how much of the Scriptures to ignore and discard, once Tradition has been dispensed with.

I like what you say about the Church Fathers. You'll note that the Calvinists never quote St. Ambrose or even St. Irenaeus. It's always St. Augustine or sometimes St. Athanasius. If you mention St. Photius, it doesn't mean anything. If it's St. Nicholas, they want a present from you.

Let me know if you ever hear a Baptist Preacher preach on the Didache, especially on the part about Christ Peddlers. I'll want to meet such a person.

Finally, I'm tempted to post on the Charismatics, Liberation Theology, and Prosperity Theology; however, the season suggests I instead do something on The Junk that goes into Easter Baskets, which compares a REAL Orthodox Easter basket to the one that the Secularists would have us use.

As alway, Tony, I welcome your comments.

Tony-Allen said...

Ah, thank you sir, always a pleasure to enter gentle conversation regarding these topics :)

The problem with western church traditions (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, etc) is they're only familiar with the Latin Fathers, who separated themselves gradually from the east on several key issues. Ironically they chose to accept certain teachings: Roman Catholics kept the extreme pro-virginity stance of many Latin Fathers (such as Saint Jerome); Protestants (at least the Reformed ones) kept Saint Augustine's beliefs in predestination; both Roman Catholics and Protestants kept the Latin tradition regarding the filioque. Few of them look to the Greek Fathers, who taught virginity was a virtue but not a requirement, believed in the synergism regarding salvation, and kept the original language of the Creed.

Most of the time it's out of innocent ignorance, but I know for certain Martin Luther wasn't fond of the Greek Fathers - he had some nasty things to say about Saint John Chrysostom! That's the problem I see with sola scriptura: yes, it accepts the teachings of church tradition, the Church Fathers, lexicons and concordances...but only to a point. Once you get to that line where the teachings transcend your own opinion, you put the Church Fathers back into their cages.

Constantino della Brazos said...


I value your praise. Your comment about Luther's dislike of St. John Chrysostom intrigues me, and I'll eventually havwe to follow up.

The bad news is that I feel that I have to prepare for my next post on Easter Baskets where I address the topic of their secularization. In a Protestant Easter Basket, a bottle of Hot Sauce (Bitter Herbs) would be out of place, as would a bottle of wine, especially for Baptists. On the othe hand, any children's toy which has nothing to do with Christ is permitted. The Secular Liberals even have the UNMITIGATED GALL to tell us that we should celebrate Easter when they do, when in fact, Easter/Pascha was originally reckoned by our calendar.

As much as I enjoy our dialogue, it's time to put the Protestants back in their cages. If it's any consolation to you, I thaink we're in 100% agreement.

God Bless.