Such are the sacred and canonical books which the Church has unanimously received and acknowledged during twelve hundred years. And by what authority have these new reformers dared to wipe out at one stroke so many noble parts of the Bible? They have erased a part of Esther, and Baruch, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Machabees. Who has told them that these books are not legitimate, and not to be received? Why do they thus dismember the sacred body of the Scriptures?
Here are the principal reasons, as far as I have been able to gather from the old preface to the books which they pretend to be apocryphal, printed at Neufchastel, in the translation of Peter Robert, otherwise Olivetanus, a relation and friend of Calvin, and again from the newer preface placed to the same books by the professors and pretended pastors of the Churhc of Geneva, 1588.
- 1. They are not found either in Hebrew or Chaldaic, in which languages they (except perhaps the Book of Wisdom) were originally written: therefore it would be very difficult to restore them.
- 2. They are not received as legitimate by the Jews.
- 3. Nor by the whole Church.
- 4. S. Jerome says they are not considered proper for corroborating the authority of Ecclesiastical doctrines.
- 5. Canon Law condemns them;
- 6. as does also the Gloss, which says they are read, but not generally, as if to say that they are not approved generally everywhere.
- 7. They have been corrupted and falsified, as Eusebius says (Hist. Eccl. Iv. 22.);
- 8. notably the Machabees,
- 9. and particularly the Second of Machabees, which S. Jerome says he did not find in Hebrew. Such are the reasons of Olivetanus.
- 10. “There are in them many false things,” says the new preface.
Let us now see what these fine researches are worth.
1. And as to the first, are you unwilling to receive these books because they are not in Hebrew or Chaldaic? Receive Tobias then, for S. Jerome attests that he translates it from Chaldaic into Latin, in the Epistle which you yourselves quote, (Ep. Ad Chrom. et Heliod.) which makes me think oyu are hardly in good faith. And why not Judith, which was also written in Chaldaic, as the same S. Jerome says in the prologue? And if S. Jerome says he was not able to find the Second of Machabees in the Hebrew,- what has that to do with the first? This then receive as it deserves; we will treat of the second afterwards. I say the same to you about Ecclesiasticus, which S. Jerome had and found in Hebrew, as he says in his preface on the books of Solomon. Since, then, you reject these books written in Hebrew or Chaldaic equally with the others which are not written in one of these languages, you will have to find another pretext than that which you have alleged for striking out thee books from the canon. When you say that you reject them because they are not written in Hebrew or Chaldaic, this is not your real reason; for you would not reject on this ground Tobias, Judith, the first of Machabees, Ecclesiasticus, which are written either in Hebrew or Chaldaic. But let us now speak in defence of the other books, which are written in a language other than that which you would have. Where do you find that the rule for rightly receiving the Holy Scriptures is that they should be written in these languages rather thanin Greek or Latin? You say that nothing must be received in matter of religion but what is written; and you bring forward in your grand preface the saying of jurisconsults: “We blush to speak without a law.” Do you not consider that the controversy about the validity or invalidity of the Scriptures is one of the most important in the sphere of religion? Well then, either remain confounded, or else produce the Holy Scripture for the negative which you maintain. The Holy Spirit certainly declares Himself as well in Greek as in Chaldaic. There would be, you say, great difficulty in restoring them, since we do not possess them in their original language, and it is this which troubles you. But, for God’s sake, tell me who told you that they were lost, corrupted or altered, so as to need restoration? You take for granted, perhaps, that those who have translated them from the originals have translated badly, and you would have the original to compare them and judge them. Make your meaning clear then, and say that thery are therefore apocryphal because you cannot yourselves be the translators of them from the original, and cannot trust the judgment of the translator. So there is to be nothing certain except what you have had the control of. Show me this rule of certitude in the Scripture. Further, are you fully assured that you have the Hebrew texts of the books of the first rank, as pure and exact as they were in the time of the Apostles and of the Seventy? Beware of errors. You certainly do not aways follow then, and you could not, with good conscience. Show me this again in the Holy Scripture. Here, therefore, is your fisrt reason most wanting in reason.
2. As to your saying that these books which you call apocryphal are not received by the Jews, you say nothing new or important. S. Augustine loudly exclaims: “It is the Catholic Church which holds the Books of Machabees as canonical, not the Jews.” (De. Civ. Dei. Xviii. 36.) Show me from Scripture that the Christian Church has not as much power to give authority to the sacred books os the Mosaic may have had. There is not in this either Scripture or reason to show for it.
3. Yes, but the whole of the Church does not receive them, you say. Of what Church are you speaking? Unquestionably the Catholic, which is the true Church, receives them, as S. Augustine has just now borne witness to you, and he repeats it, citing the Council of Carthage. The Council in Trullo the 6th General, that of Florence, and a hundred ancient authors are thereto. I name S. Jerome, who witnesses for the book of Judith that it was received in the first Council [of Nice]. Perhaps you would say that of old time some Catholics doubted of their authority. This is clear from the division which I have made above. But does their doubt then make it impossible for their successors to come to a conclusion? Are we to say that if once cannot decide at the very first glance one must always remain waverign, uncertain, and irresolute? Was ther enot for some time an uncertainty about the Apocalypse and Esther? You would not dare to deny it: my witnesses for Esther are too sound, S. Athanasius (In Synopsi) and S. Gregory Nazainzen (In carm. de lib. sac.) : for the Apocalypse, the Council of Laodicea: and yet you receive them. Either receive them all, since they are in equal position, or receive none, on the same ground. But in God’s name what humour takes you that you here bring forward the Church, whose authority you hold to be a hundred times more uncertain than these books themselves, and which you say to have been erring, inconstant,- yea apocryphal, if apocryphal means hidden? You only prize it to despise it, and to make it appear inconstant, now recognizing, now rejecting these books.
But there is a great difference between doubting whether a thing is to be accepted and rejectign it. Doubt does nto hinder a subsequent resolution, indeed it is its preliminary stage. To reject presupposes a decision. Inconstancy does not consist in changing a doubt into resolution, but in changing from resolution to doubt. It is not instability to become settled after wavering, but to waver after being settled. The Church then, having for a time left these books in doubt, at length has received them with authentic decision, and you wish that from this resolution she should return into doubt. It belongs to heresy and not to the Church thus to advance from bad to worse. But of this elsewhere.
4. As for S. Jerome whom you allege, this is not to the purpose, since in his time the Church had not yet come to the resolution which she has come to since, as to the placing of these books on the canon, except that of Judith.
5. And the canon Sancta Romana, which is of Gelasius I.- I think you have taken it by guess, for it is entirely agaisnt you; because, while censuring the apocryphal books, it does not name one of these which we receive, but on the contrary witnesses that Tobias and the Macchabees were publicly received in the Church.
6. And the poor Gloss does not deserve to be thus glossed, since it clearly says that these books are read, though not perhaps generally. This “perhaps” guards it from stating what is false, and you have forgotten it. And if it reckons the books in question as apocryphal, this is because it considered that apocryphal meant the having no certain author, and thereofre it includes as apocryphal the Book of Judges: and their statements are not so authentic that they must pass as decisive judgment; after all it is but a Gloss.
7. And these falsifications which you allege are not in any way sufficient to abolish the authority of these books, because they have been justified and have been purified from all corruption before the Church received them. Truly, all the books of Holy Scripture have been corrupted by the ancient enemies of the Church, but by the providence of God they have remained free and pure in the Church’s hands, as a sacred deposit; and they have never been able to spoil so many copies as that there should not remain enough to restore the others.
8.But you woould have the Machabees, at any rate, fall from our hands, when you say that they have been corrupted; but since you only advance a simple assertion I will return your pass by a simple negation.
9. S. Jerome, you say, could not find the Second in Hebrew; and although it is true that it is only as it were a letter which Israel sent to their Jewish brethen who were then out of Judea, and although it is written in the best known and most general language of those times, does it thence follow that it is not worthy to be received? The Egyptians used the Greek language much more than the Hebrew, as Ptolemy clearly showed when he procured the version of the Seventy. This is why this Second book of Machabees, which was like an epistle or commentary sent for the consolation of the Jews who were in Egypt, was written in Greek rather than in Hebrew.
10. It remains for the new preachers to point out those falsehoods of which they accuse these books; which they will in truth never do. But I see them coming, bringing forward the intercession of Saints, prayer for the dead, free-will, the honouring of relics, and similar points, which are expressly confirmed in the Books of Machabees, in Ecclesiasticus, and in other books which they pretend to be apocryphal. For God’s sake take care that your judgment does not deceive you. Why, I pray you, do you call false, things which the whole of antiquity has held as articles of faith? Why do you not rather censure your fancies which will not embrace the doctrine of these books, than censure these books which have been received for so long a time because they do not jump with your humour? Because you will not believe what the books teach, you condemn it; why do you not rather condemn your presumption which is incredulous to their teaching?
Here now, I think, are all your reasons scattered to the winds, and you can bring no more. But we may well say: if it be thus lawful indifferently to reject or make doubtful the authority of those Scriptures, about which there was formerly a doubt, though the Church has now decided, it will be necessary to reject or to doubt of a great part of the Old and the New Testament. It is then no little gain to the enemy of Christianity, to have at one stroke scratched out of the Holy Scripture so many noble parts. Let us proceed.