Prior to the 4th century, books included in the Christian Canon were The Shepherd of Hermes, The Epistles of Pope St. Clement, The Didache (The Teaching of The Twelve) among others - but these books (including some Gnostic writings) did not make the final editorial inclusion as canonical.
The problem sola scriptura Protestants have here is that Scripture itself does NOT declare exhaustively which books should be canonical and which should not - which is the reason for the flux of the canon for nearly 400 years in the Early Church. It would be an authority, not apart from Scripture - as this authority is declared BY Scripture, outside the confines of Scripture which would declare the canon. If Protestantism accepts that the New Testament Canon is without error (infallible) then the concept of Scripture being the sole infallible source for Christianity is refuted right there - for (again) Scripture does not define its own canon - the Church did!
We need to emphasize that the authority of the Church is not something foreign to Scripture! Not only is infallible authority given to the bishops as a group (Matthew 18:18) but is also given to our first pope, St. Peter, in singularity (Matthew 16:18-19). Yes, we realize that Protestants irrationally deny this infallibility - but they cannot deny that the authority to bind or loose "whatsoever" they chose to bind or loose is not only bound or loosed on Earth, but also in Heaven. Now since we would all agree that no error could be bound or loosed in Heaven - then this authority MUST be infallible authority.
So why attack the Latin Vulgate? The answer is simple, it was the papal commissioned work which presented THE Christian Canon and did so in the 4th century - over 1000 years prior to the dawning of Protestantism. When Protestantism, primarily Martin Luther, denied PART of the Christian Canon it became necessary to present an alternative authority to the Catholic Church and thus the previously unheard of concept of "sola scriptura" is born, but I digress. It would be the Latin Vulgate which the Council of Trent would infallibly declare as THE Canon of Sacred Scripture.
Protestantism would rely upon a wholly different authority - and that would be the authority which rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah - and wholly rejected the New Testament as any sort of canon - the Jews. At the time of Jesus and the Apostles (the "time of enscripturation") the Jews had at least TWO canons (the very terminology of "canon" is relatively foreign to Judaism, I might add). The Jews had the Palestinian (Hebrew) Canon and the Alexandrian (Greek) Canon. The Alexandrian Canon includes the Deuterocanonical books (often erroneously called "Apocrypha" by Protestants) and the Palestinian Canon did not. The Deuterocanonicals were in Greek. By the time the Jews would settle upon any sort of canon - it would be in the age of Christendom, when the Jews no longer had ANY authority over God's People (His Church). The Jews, struggling to maintain any sort of identity in the Diaspora (the dispersion of the Jews after the fall of Jerusalem) went with the canon in their Hebrew tongue - the Palestinian Canon whereas Christendom, by this time largely Greek and Latin speaking, went with the Alexandrian Canon.
So while Protestants may CLAIM to rely upon sola scriptura - at the very ROOT of Scripture itself they have relied upon an extra scriptura authority - and a non-Christian, even anti-Christian authority at that!
The bottom line is Protestants rely on the Catholic Church for the Canon of the New Testament. They can hem and haw all they want and deny this easily seen truth, but they're only fooling themselves. The FACT is there were several New Testament "canons" prior to the 4th century - but not after the 4th century. What happened in the 4th century? As mentioned earlier, three different Catholic councils met AND Pope Damasus I commissioned St. Jerome to translate the original tongues into Latin, which he did and that became the "Old Latin Vulgate" which is affirmed, infallibly, by the Council of Trent.
Some blogs making recent attacks on the Vulgate and/or Trent's validation of the Vulgate as the version/canon for the Christian Church:
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4696 (same article as posted to "TurretinFan's" blog)
Addendum, Saturday, July 9, 2011:
Steve Hays of Triablogue (taking his points in reverse order) says:
Addendum, Saturday, July 9, 2011:
Steve Hays of Triablogue (taking his points in reverse order) says:
vii)... Unless it already had a canon, independent of the church, it can’t use Mt 16 to prooftext the papacy. For the canon is supposedly a product of the very church that authorizes the canon. How can the church authorize the canon if the canon must authorize the church?That's a rather silly argument. Just because the book, written by a Catholic, refers to the point where Jesus confers infallibility upon our first pope - that does NOT invalidate the Catholic position in the least! The ONLY point Mr. Hays could POSSIBLY have here is if he contends St. Matthew, and thus Scripture, got it wrong when "Whatsoever you shall bind/loose on Earth shall be bound/loosed in Heaven" (paraphrased a bit) was recorded. IF that were so then HIS premise of Scripture being the sole infallible source for the Christian has been destroyed - for he would be contending Matthew 16:18-19 is in error.
v) And it’s not just the canon. Catholics also try to prooftext the papacy (among other things) from the church fathers. But where’s the infallible list of church fathers?
vi) Likewise, is there an infallible list of papal encyclicals? And even if there were, how do we know that the listed encyclicals refer to the same encyclicals that happen to go by that name? What if some encyclical by that name is misattributed?Same thing with church councils. Is there an infallible list of church councils? And even if there were, how do we know what historical gathering that list refers to? How do we connect names on a piece of paper with historical events? The list itself doesn’t pick out the corresponding event.
When Protestants are losing and/or have lost this debate this is one of their most common arguments/diversions - they can't demonstrate from THEIR OWN INFALLIBLE AUTHORITY an infallible Canon of Sacred Scripture - so they attempt to throw the argument back on Catholics and ask us "Where is your infallible list of (infallible) papal encyclicals?" Such a ploy is invalid for it is not Catholics who claim to have a SOLE infallible source! Just because the Church has never assembled an infallible list of infallible papal decrees does not mean she could not! IF such a list were deemed necessary, she COULD present such a list. Just because Protestants who have lost a debate demand such a list does not make it necessary for the Church or any Catholic apologist to present one. The argument is simply a red herring argument, attempting to get the Catholic apologist off the scent/trail of the REAL matter at hand. The Protestant using such argumentation THINKS they have avoided admitting to their defeat in this debate but in actuality the argument only confirms their defeat - they have lost and are attempting to change the subject.
iv) One traditional line of evidence for the NT canon are patristic attributions. Church fathers attribute certain books to certain authors.But the Catholic objection to the Protestant canon undercuts that appeal. Before we know that Irenaeus attributed a certain book to the Apostle John, we must know if the book attributed to Irenaeus is authentic. Is there an infallible list of which church fathers wrote which books?
This is really the same argument as above - and I offer the same responses. 1) If Mr. Hays premise were to have any merit, he'd have to be assuming (in his example) that the book attributed to the Apostle John is a) not St. John's writing and/or b) that St. Irenaeus in referring to SCRIPTURE was not referring to the SAME book of St. John which has been included as SCRIPTURE. Again, Mr. Hays destroys his own premise of sola scriptura IF we were to, for the sake of argument, accept his argumentation here.
2) It is not the Catholic Church which claims to have a SOLE infallible source for the Christian - PROTESTANTS claim this, and they CLAIM the Scriptures are that SOLE SOURCE - but their problem is they cannot infallibly know which books ARE Scripture - because Scripture doesn't tell them! Yes, Scripture refers to SOME, even MANY other books included in the canon, but NOT ALL!
ii) Suppose the Bible came with a table of contents. An infallible list of the books comprising the Bible. How would a Catholic apologist respond? Would he withdraw his objection? I doubt it.
The Council of Trent actually states which edition - it is the "Old Latin Vulgate." That being said, Hays argument is spurious because while the differing "editions" of the Vulgate may have some slight variations in translation, the CANON of the Latin Vulgate regardless of edition REMAINS THE SAME!iii) However, this merely pushes back the problem which the Catholic posed for himself.a) Trent has a list of books. Even if (arguendo) the list is infallible, how do we know what the list refers to? How do we infallibly match the books on the list with a corresponding set of books to which the list ostensibly refers? The list itself doesn’t single out a physical book.After all, different books can go by the same title. Moreover, what if the title is spurious?So to what edition of the Vulgate was Trent referring?b) Trent also mentions the Vulgate, but was there a uniform edition of the Vulgate? No. Was there an official, infallible edition of the Vulgate? No.
As for point "ii)," the Catholic would not "withdraw" his objection if such a table of contents existed - for the objection would not have been raised in the first place!
In topic "i)" Hays refers to RC Sproul's statement, "...the canon is a fallible collection of infallible books," but Hays dismisses this (without even a link) as something he claims to have already addressed and that the Catholic challenge to RC Sproul is "misleading." Well, I for one believe Sproul's admission is quite telling - but since Hays has not addressed it, neither will I at this time. Hays claims he "wants to make a different point" and while he actually presents several of them, I have addressed and exposed the fatally flawed nature of each of his points.