|Bible Research > Canon > Lists > Augustine|
Augustine was bishop of Hippo (in the Roman colony on the northern coast of western Africa). He was the first major figure in the Church to set forth a list which included all of the disputed Old Testament books without making any distinction between the fully canonical Hebrew books and the lesser books derived from the Septuagint.
|Erit igitur divinarum scripturarum solertissimus indagator, qui primo totas legerit notasque habuerit, et si nondum intellectu jam tamen lectione, duntaxat eas quae appellantur Canonicae. Nam ceteras securius leget fide veritatis instructus, ne praeoccupent inbecillem animum et periculosis mendaciis atque phantasmatis eludentes praejudicent aliquid contra sanam intellegentiam. In canonicis autem Scripturis, ecclesiarum catholicarum quamplurium auctoritatem sequatur; inter quas sane illae sint, quae apostolicas sedes habere et epistolas accipere meruerunt. Tenebit igitur hunc modum in Scripturis Canonicis, ut eas quae ab omnibus accipiuntur ecclesiis catholicis praeponat eis quas quaedam non accipiunt; in eis vero quae non accipiuntur ab omnibus, praeponat eas quas plures gravioresque accipiunt eis quas pauciores minorisque auctoritatis ecclesiae tenent. Si autem alias invenerit a pluribus, alias a gravioribus haberi, quamquam hoc facile invenire non possit, aequalis tamen auctoritatis eas habendas puto.||The most skilful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding, still with such knowledge as reading gives,—those of them, at least, that are called canonical. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth, so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices averse to a sound understanding. Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal.|
|Totus autem Canon Scripturarum in quo istam considerationem versandam dicimus, his libris continetur: Quinque Moyseos id est Genesi, Exodo, Levitico, Numeris, Deuteronomio; et uno libro Jesu Nave, uno Judicum, uno libello qui appellatur Ruth, qui magis ad Regnorum principium videtur pertinere, deinde quatuor Regnorum et duobus Paralipomenon non consequentibus sed quasi a latere adjunctis simulque pergentibus. Haec est historia quae sibimet annexa tempora continet atque ordinem rerum: sunt aliae tanquam ex diverso ordine quae neque huic ordini neque inter se connectuntur, sicut est Job et Tobias et Esther et Judith et Machabaeorum libri duo et Esdrae duo, qui magis subsequi videntur ordinatam illam historiam usque ad Regnorum vel Paralipomenon terminatam: deinde Prophetae in quibus David unus liber Psalmorum, et Salomonis tres Proverbiorum, Cantici Canticorum, et Ecclesiastes. Nam illi duo libri unus qui Sapientia et alius qui Ecclesiasticus inscribitur de quadam similitudine Salomonis esse dicuntur, nam Jesus Sirach eos conscripsisse constantissime perhibetur qui tamen quoniam in auctoritatem recipi meruerunt inter propheticos numerandi sunt. Reliqui sunt eorum libri qui proprie Prophetae appellantur, duodecim Prophetarum libri singuli, qui connexi sibimet quoniam numquam sejuncti sunt pro uno habentur; quorum Prophetarum nomina sunt haec, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micha, Naum, Abacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias: deinde quatuor Prophetae sunt majorum voluminum Isaias, Jeremias, Daniel, Ezechiel. His quadraginta quatuor libris Testamenti Veteris terminatur auctoritas: Novi autem, quatuor libris Evangelii, secundum Matthaeum, secundum Marcum, secundum Lucam, secundum Joannem; quatuordecim Epistolis Pauli Apostoli, ad Romanos, ad Corinthios duabus, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Philippenses, ad Thessalonicenses duabus, ad Colossenses, ad Timotheum duabus, ad Titum, ad Philemonem, ad Hebraeos; Petri duabus; tribus Joannis; una Judae et una Iacobi; Actibus Apostolorum libro uno, et Apocalypsi Joannis libro uno.||Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:—Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles, these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books. That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following:—Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul—one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John.|
|In his omnibus libris timentes Deum et pietate mansueti quaerunt voluntatem Dei.||In all these books those who fear God and are of a meek and pious disposition seek the will of God.|
Regarding Augustine's statement that the Wisom of Solomon was probably "written by Jesus the son of Sirach," it should be noted that he later corrected this mistake in his Retractions, book 2, chap. 4, where he writes: "In the second book [of On Christian Doctrine] I made a mistake as to the authorship of the book commonly called the Wisdom of Solomon. For I have since learnt that it is not a well-established fact, as I said it was, that Jesus the son of Sirach, who wrote the book of Ecclesiasticus, wrote this book also: on the contrary, I have ascertained that it is altogether more probable that he was not the author of this book." He also mentions the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus in the following passage:
|[Salomon] prophetasse etiam ipse reperitur in suis libris, qui tres recepti sunt in auctoritatem canonicam: Proverbia, Ecclesiastes et Canticum Canticorum. Alii vero duo, quorum unus Sapientia, alter Ecclesiasticus dicitur, propter eloquii nonnullam similitudinem, ut Salomonis dicantur, obtinuit consuetudo; non autem esse ipsius non dubitant doctiores; eos tamen in auctoritatem maxime occidentalis antiquitus recepit ecclesia. Quorum in uno, qui appellatur Sapientia Salomonis, passio Christi apertissime prophetatur ... Sed adversus contradictores non tanta firmitate proferuntur, quae scripta non sunt in canone Iudaeorum.||[Solomon] also is found to have prophesied in his books, of which three are received as of canonical authority, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. But it has been customary to ascribe to Solomon other two, of which one is called Wisdom, the other Ecclesiasticus, on account of some resemblance of style,—but the more learned have no doubt that they are not his; yet of old the Church, especially the Western, received them into authority,—in the one of which, called the Wisdom of Solomon, the passion of Christ is most openly prophesied ... But the things which are not written in the canon of the Jews cannot be quoted against their contradictions with so great validity.|
Many Protestant scholars have argued that Augustine looked upon the extra books of the Septuagint as having a lower degree of authority than those of the Hebrew canon, although he called them all "canonical" for the purpose of distinguishing them from esoteric and pseudepigraphal writings which contain "dangerous falsehoods and delusions." An early example of this analysis is in William Whitaker's Disputatio de sacra Scriptura:
We allow that the council of Carthage, and Gelasius with his seventy bishops, and Innocent, and Augustine, and Isidore call these books canonical. But the question is, in what sense they called them canonical. Now, we deny that their meaning was to make these books, of which we now speak, of equal authority with those which are canonical in the strict sense; and the truth of this we will prove from antiquity, from Augustine, and from the papists themselves.
For, in the first place, if it had been decreed by any public judgment of the whole Church, or defined in a general council, that these books were to be referred to the true and genuine canon of the sacred books, then those who lived in the Church after the passing of that sentence and law would by no means have dissented from it, or determined otherwise. But they did dissent, and that in great numbers; and amongst them some of those whom the Church of Rome acknowledges as her own children. Therefore, there was no such judgment of the Church publicly received.
Secondly, Augustine, in that same place, plainly indicates that he did not consider those books of equal authority with the rest. For he distinguishes all the books into two classes; some which were received by all the churches, and some which were not. Then he lays down and prescribes two rules: one, that the books which all the churches receive should be preferred to those which some do not receive; the other, that those books which are received by the greater and more noble churches should be preferred to those which are taken into the canon by churches fewer in number and of less authority. It will be best to listen to Augustine himself, whose words are these: "Now, with respect to the canonical scriptures, let him follow the authority of the greater number of catholic churches; amongst which those indeed are to be found which merited to possess the chairs of the apostles, and to receive epistles from them. He will hold this, therefore, as a rule in dealing with the canonical scriptures, to prefer those which are received by all catholic churches to those which only some receive. But, with respect to those which are not received by all, he will prefer such as the more and more dignified churches receive, to such as are held by fewer churches, or churches of less authority." Then follows immediately, "Now the whole canon of scripture, in which we say that this consideration hath place," &c.
Hence, then, I draw an easy and ready answer. We, with Jerome and many other fathers, deny these books to be canonical. Augustine, with some others, calls them canonical. Do, then, these fathers differ so widely in opinion? By no means. For Jerome takes this word "canonical" in one sense, while Augustine, Innocent, and the fathers of Carthage understand it in another. Jerome calls only those books canonical, which the church always held for canonical; the rest he banishes from the canon, denies to be canonical, and calls apocryphal. But Augustine calls those canonical which, although they had not the same perfect and certain authority as the rest, were wont to be read in the church for the edification of the people. Augustine, therefore, takes this name in a larger sense than Jerome. But, that Augustine was not so minded as to judge the authority of all these books to be equal, is manifest from the circumstance that he admonishes the student of theology to place a certain difference between the several books, to distinguish them into classes, and to prefer some to others. If his judgment of them all was the same, as the papists contend, such an admonition and direction must appear entirely superfluous. Would Augustine, if he held all the books to have an equal right to canonicity, have made such a distribution of the books? Would he have preferred some to others? Would he not have said that they were all to be received alike? But now, Augustine does prefer some to others, and prescribes to all such a rule for judging as we have seen. Therefore Augustine did not think that they were all of the same account, credit, and authority; and, consequently, is in open opposition to the papists. All this is manifest. It makes to the same purpose, that this same Augustine (de Civit. Dei, Lib. xvii. c. 20.) concedes, that less reliance should be placed upon whatever is not found in the canon of the Jews. Whence it may be collected that, when Augustine observed that some books were not received by all, or the greatest and most noble churches, his remark is to be understood of those books which are not contained in the Hebrew canon: and such are those which our churches exclude from the sacred canon. 2
A highly elaborate and learned form of this argument was published in John Cosin's Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture. 3 B.F. Westcott cautiously takes this approach also:
The real divergence as to the contents of the Old Testament Canon is to be traced to Augustine, whose wavering and uncertain language on the point furnishes abundant materials for controversy. By education and character he occupied a position more than usually unfavorable for historical criticism, and yet his overpowering influence, when it fell in with ordinary usage, gave consistency and strength to the opinion which he appeared to advocate, for it may be reasonably doubted wbether he differed intentionally from Jerome except in language. In a famous passage (de Doctr. Christ. ii. 8 (13)) be enumerates the books which are contained in "the whole Canon of Scripture," and includes among them the Apocryphal books without any clear mark of distinction. This general statement is further confirmed by two other passages, in which it is argued that he draws a distinction between the Jewish and Christian Canons, and refers the authority of the Apocryphal books to the judgment of the Christian Church. In the first passage he speaks of the Maccabaean history as not "found in the Sacred Scriptures which are called canonical, but in others, among which are also the books of the Maccabees, which the Church, and not the Jews, holds for canonical, on account of the marvellous sufferings of the martyrs [recorded in them] ..." (quorum supputatio temporum non in Scripturis Sanctis, quae Canonicae appellantur, sed in aliis invenitur, in quibus sunt et Machabaeorum libri, quos non Judaei, sed ecclesia pro Canonicis habet ... De Civ. xviii. 36). In the other passage he speaks of the books of the Maccabees as "received (recepta) by the Church, not without profit, if they be read with sobriety" (c. Gaud. i. 38). But it will be noticed that in each case a distinction is drawn between the "Ecclesiastical" and properly "Canonical" books. In the second case he expressly lowers the authority of the books of the Maccabees by remarking that "the Jews have them not like the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets to which the Lord gives His witness" (Aug. l. c.). And the original catalogue is equally qualified by an introduction which distinguishes between the authority of books which are received by all and by some of the Churches; and, again, between those which are received by churches of great or of small weight (de Doctr. Chr. ii. 8 (12)) so that the list which immediately follows must be interpreted by this rule. In confirmation of this view of Augustine's special regard for the Hebrew Canon, it may be further urged that he appeals to the Jews, "the librarians of the Christians," as possessing "all the writings in which Christ was prophesied of" (In Ps. xl., Ps. lvi.), and to "the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets," which were supported by the witness of the Jews (c. Gaud, l. c.), as including "all the canonical authorities of the Sacred books " (de Unit. Eccles. p. 16), which, as he says in another place (de Civ. xv. 23, 4), "were preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the care of the successive priests." But on the other band Augustine frequently uses passages from the Apocryphal books as coordinate with Scripture, and practically disregards the rules of distinction between the various classes of sacred writings which he had himself laid down. He stood on the extreme verge of the age of independent learning, and follows at one time the conclusions of criticism, at another the prescriptions of habit, which from his date grew more and more powerful. 4
1. The Latin text is reproduced from Westcott, pp. 565-7. The English translation is that of J.F. Shaw, in the Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church edited by Philip Schaff, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899), pp. 538-9.
2. English translation from A Disputation on Holy Scripture, against the Papists, especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, by William Whitaker, translated and edited for the Parker Society by the Rev. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge, 1849), pp. 44-46. The original work was in Latin, published under the title Disputatio de Sacra Scriptura, contra huius temporis papistas, imprimis Robertum Bellarminum iesuitam, Pontificium in collegio Romano, et Thomam Stapletonum, regium in scholæ Duacena controversiarum professorem. Sex quaestionibus proposita et tractata, a Gulielmo Whitakero, theologiæ doctore, ac professore regio, et collegii D. Joannis in Cantabrigiensi academia magistro (Cambridge: Thomas, 1588).
3. John Cosin, A Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture, or, The Certain and Indubitate Books thereof, as they are received in the Church of England, compiled by Dr. Cosin, etc., (London, 1672), reprinted with notes in volume 3 of The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God John Cosin, Lord Bishop of Durham, Now First Collected. (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1849).
4. B.F. Westcott, "Canon of Scripture," in vol. 1 of Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible: Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History; revised and edited by Professor H.B. Hackett, D.D., etc. (Cambridge, 1881), pp. 362-3.
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