Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Defense of the Deuterocanon: Part 2

Here is the second part of my answer to "Lady Mo" on the deuterocanonical books. Also see Part 1.

Pax Christi,
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Also, if you compare the writers of the NT with writers from the apoc, they contradict one another, is unorthodox. For example 1 Cor 14:37, Paul writes, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, tel him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." Ok, 2 Macc. 15:38 it is written, "If it is poorly done and mediocore, that is the best I could do." The writer does not even claim authority as the apostle Paul does, and has been given to him by God. How do you reconcile the differing authorities, the contradiction, yet all one Scripture?
Easily :D For one, there are many books in your canon that do not have a statement from the author claiming inspiration for what they have written. Does this mean we should throw them out? Also, many books written at the same time as the canonical books do claim to be inspired, but they were never included, by Catholics or Protestants. So, it is seen from this that a claim of inspiration is not enough to accept or reject a book.
There are also mentions in the apocrypha of prayer to the dead, salvation by works, alms for atonement for sin, not to mention historical and geographical errors, that what the Jews have always recognized as Scripture (what the Protestants rec. as Scripture) do not include.
I too consider the principle of non-contradiction to be very important, and the early Church even used this as part of Her criterion for what was canonical.

You mention prayers to the dead. Do you mean prayers for the dead? That's usually what the beef is with so that is what I will respond to.

Most Protestants cite 2 Mac 12:41-45 as a passage that contradicts Scripture. But there are examples of prayers for the dead in your canonical books as well. It may not seem readily apparent, but please hear me out. Consider the following:

1 Ki 17:20-22 And [Elijah] cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, hast thou brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?" 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this child's soul come into him again." 22 And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Eli'jah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

Jn 11:41-43 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me." 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Laz'arus, come out."

Acts 9:40 But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, rise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

In these passages, Elijah, Peter, and Jesus himself all pray for the dead. It is true that the prayer is for the person to come back to life. But, that doesn't change the fact that the soul of a dead person is still being prayed for, which according to Protestants is strictly prohibited. Note also that, in order for these souls to return to their bodies, they must have been in an intermediate state, since heaven and hell are irrevocable and eternal judgments. This is what "prayer for the dead" is: prayer for souls in this intermediate state.

There is also this example from Paul:

2 Tim 1:16-18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph'orus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me-- 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day--and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Paul is seen here praying to God for Onesiphorus (who is dead), that he will obtain mercy from God at his judgment. This too would constitue prayer for the dead.

As for almsgiving to atone for sin, Tobit 12:8-9 and Sirach 3:30 are often seen as the unorthodox passages. This always surprises me b/c offerings and sacrifices to atone for sin are all over the OT. Here are just a few examples of when money in particular is given, instead of animals for sacrifice or grain offerings:

Exo 30:14-16 Every one who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD's offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD's offering to make atonement for yourselves. 16 And you shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tent of meeting; that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for yourselves."

Num 31:50 And we have brought the LORD's offering, what each man found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and beads, to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD."

2 Ki 12:16 The money from the guilt offerings and the money from the sin offerings was not brought into the house of the LORD; it belonged to the priests.

For more examples of almsgiving to atone for sin, go here and here. If you think about it, if you can't give money to atone for sin, then you can't give an animal or grain either. They are all gifts of God's creation. But, sacrifice of animals and grain offerings to atone for sin is all over the OT. So, if you are going to reject almsgiving to atone for sin then you basically have to throw out the entire OT, especially the first 5 books.

As for "salvation by works," Catholics don't believe in that, so I feel no need to defend it. As for "historical and geographical errors," these can easily be found in your canon as well. Just do a google search for "historical errors in the Bible." Note that there are various arguments you could use to defend these supposed "errors" in your books:
  • "these are not actually errors"
  • "the author is not trying to make an historical statement"
  • "the Bible is only inerrant in the point it is getting across, not in incidental facts about history that aren't important to the author"
  • "OT authors viewed history differently than we view history"
I'm sure there are many others, and I'm not here to say which ones are legitimate. My point is that whatever argument you may use to support these supposed "errors" in your books I could just as easily use to support the supposed "errors" in my books. So, we're kinda in the same boat on this one.
I mentioned earlier traditional use, catholicity and orthodoxy, which Im sure you are aware are some of the criteria of canonicity. You are pretty educated with these things, I have found, so I dont want to seem like I am patronizing you. That is not my intent at all. I just want to know your take on the criteria and the fact that the apocrypha does not meet the requirements, yet is still a part of the catholic bible. How does one justify that?
I hope I have at least begun to show that the apocyphal books do in fact meet the requirements that you listed. For a collection of articles in defense of the apocryphal books, go here.

Pax Christi,


Anonymous said...

Excellent - thanks.
Prayers for the dead are part of Orthodox Judaism.

Orthodox Judaism is a development of the Pharisaic Judaism of Jesus' time. Jesus was a Pharisee.

Therefore the historical Jesus would have fulfilled His religious duties by praying for His deceased relatives eg Joseph. This is not mentioned explicitly mentioned in the gospels perhaps because it was 'taken as read' by the Church at the time the gospels were written. There is also a continuous Tradition from the earliest times of praying for the dead.

phatcatholic said...

Yea, good call Anon. I was sticking mainly with Scripture, but the point you raise is a good one.

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