The Canon, Development of Doctrine, and Sola Scriptura

Here’s what Bruce has to say about the interest in the canon from Jerome to the early Middle Ages:

Throughout the following centuries most users of the Bible made no distinction between the apocryphal books and the others: all alike were handed down as part of the Vulgate. But the vast majority western European Christians, clerical as well as lay, in those centuries could not be described as ‘users’ of the Bible. They were familiar with certain parts of the Bible which were repeated in church services, and with the well-known Bible stories, but the idea of well-defined limits to the sacred books was something that would not have occurred to them. even among the most literate Christians a lack of concern on such matters sometimes manifests itself. Thus, of some of the Old English translators of the Bible it has been pointed out that, while ‘Bede, Aldheim, Aelfric, all protest against the widespread popular use’ of some completely uncanonical writings, ‘all three themselves use others’ of the same kind. [Canon of Scripture, 99; emphasis added]

I think that this fact of history comports far better with the Catholic view of Scripture than it does with the Protestant one. On the one hand, as has been often said, dogmas (like the Tridentine definition of the canon) arise in response to error. There was no great debate about the canon prior to the Reformation, and so there was no need for a dogmatic definition. This is consistent with what we saw in yesterday’s post: namely, that the first conciliar definitions of the canon merely “endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and the greater part of the east” (Canon of Scripture, 97). Furthermore, such circumstances are arguably more consistent with the Catholic triad of Scripture, Tradition, and Church than with sola scriptura: if the Church and Sacred Tradition cannot be relied upon (as the Protestant says), then it seems that clarity concerning the bounds of the canon is absolutely essential: else how can one know what God has revealed? But when revelation is faithfully taught by the Church, and preserved in Sacred Tradition, it seems more tolerable that the bounds of Scripture were not well-defined for so long.

Posted in Canon of Scripture, Development of Doctrine
2 comments on “The Canon, Development of Doctrine, and Sola Scriptura
  1. Nick says:

    Based on what you said, I think you’ll really enjoy this article:

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