April 22, 2007

The Creed came before the Canon. The Canon stands on the Creed.

The Nicene or "Niceno-Constantinopolitan" Creed.

The Council of Nicea, A.D. 325, authored this Creed up to and including the words affirming faith in the Holy Spirit. The Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381, added the remainder.

The two councils were responses to controversies concerning what to think and believe about Christ, the Trinity and the Church.

The establishing of a Christian list or measure (canon) of Scripture by the Church happened subsequent to the formulation of the Creed.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go and teach. He never tells them to go and write.

The writings of the New Testament grew out of the Church's obedience to Jesus: go teach!

In other words, the New Testament is the fruit of the Church teaching as Jesus commanded. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James.... Their teachings and testimony are handed down.

That is why Christianity did not get around to defining what the "canon of Scripture" was until after A.D. 390. Until then, the Church simply taught, since that was what Jesus told his disciples to do.

The Councils of Nicea and Constantinople were about what could and could not be reconciled with Church teaching. There was no officially recognized and published canon. The Church was the arbiter and teacher, of what was Christian or not. As Jesus says it in the Gospel, "Whoever hears you, hears me."

So the "Nicene" (and Constantinopolitan) Creed, as a binding "canon" of Christian teaching, was the stage on which, after A.D. 390, the Church stood in order to add the teaching that, "These— and not those— are the writings that Christians shall acknowledge as the inspired word of God."

If you banish the Church and its Creed, your understanding of Scripture has no foundation historically, theologically or spiritually. Your understanding and interpretation of Scripture then have no connection to authentic Christian teaching.

The canon of Sacred Scripture rests on the authority of the Church teaching in obedience to the command of Jesus, "Teach!"

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

I believe one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through Him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation,
He came down from heaven: by the
power of the Holy Spirit He was
born of the Virgin Mary,
and became Man.

For our sake He was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered, died, and was buried.

On the third day He rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;

He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the
Father. He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the Giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and
the Son. With the Father and the Son
He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic,
and apostolic Church.

I acknowledge one Baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.


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Blogger Athos said...

Thank you, Fr Stephanos. This is one of the plethora of evidence that led me into full communion with Christ's Catholic Church after 47 years as an evangelical Christian (25+ of which spent as a Methodist pastor).

John Henry Cardinal Newman said that such individual pieces of evidence did not constitute proof of the claims of Catholicism in themselves, but wound together, cumulatively, they formed convincing "illative" proof.

Again, thanks for keeping the fires lit for others whom the Paraklete is calling home to the Catholic Church!

4:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would clarify that it was in 382 A.D., at the Council of Rome, that Pope Damasus issued the "Decree of Damasus," listing for the first time all of the books of the OT (46) and all of the books of the NT (27) that today comprise the 73-book Catholic canon. The great St. Jerome, who was at the Council, then embarked upon his translation of that canon from the Hebrew and Greek texts into the vernacular, Latin. His translation, the "Vulgata" or "Vulgate," which he completed in 405 A.D., has remained the official text of Holy Scripture of the Catholic Church throughout history. Indeed the canon of the "Decree of Damasus" (i.e., Vulgate) is the canon that was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in response to the Protestant’s removal of 7 books from the Catholic OT (hence the lie that is the claim that the Catholic Church “added” 7 books to the bible at the Council of Trent!). The Vulgate was most recently revisited, and minor revisions made, in the 1990s by Pope John Paul II.

4:15 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Dear “Anonymous from 4:15 A.M.”:

Thank you.

Everything you have pointed out would still make the canon post-Constantinopolitan.

A few more clarifications.

A.D. 367, in the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius, is the first time we find a complete list of all the New Testament writings. However, this is not an official, Church-wide promulgation. It is just a mention in a letter.

The “Decretum Gelasianum” contains the complete canon of Scripture, but not until A.D. 1794 was the “Decretem Gelasianum” ever said to be connected with the Council of Rome. So dating the promulgation of the canon to the A.D. 382 Council of Rome is controversial.

The complete canon of the entire Bible was ratified at the council of Hippo in A.D. 393, and again at the Third Council of Carthage in A.D. 397.

That is why in my blogpost I refer to the canon as post-A.D.-390.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Stephanos,

Thank you. Yes, I was not denying that the canon is post-Nicene Creed. 382 came after 381!

I would clarify too, that, while there were other partial lists of the OT, the NT, or the OT and NT before the Decree of Damasus, none were lists of the full 73-book canon.

As for the Decree of Damasus itself, its authenticity is confirmed and explained by Rev. William A. Jurgens, S.T.D., M.A., in “The Faith of the Early Fathers,” The Liturgical Press (1970), pp. 405-07. According to Rev. Dr. Jurgens: “It is now commonly held that the part of the Gelasian Decree dealing with the accepted canon of Scripture is an authentic work of the Council of Rome of 382 A.D., and that Gelasius edited it again at the end of the fifth century, adding to it the catalogue of the rejected books, the apocrypha. It is now almost universally accepted that these parts one and two of the Decree of Damasus [the second part being the list of 73 canonical books] are authentic parts of the Acts of the Council of Rome of 382 A.D.”

The “controversy” you refer to concerns the third part of the Decree of Damasus (910u), which does not deal with the canon.

Indeed, the Decree of Damasus is so not controversial that the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself cites it as the source for the 73-book canon of sacred scripture: CCC para. 120, n. 91; cf. CCC pg.728.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Anonymous from 5:10 P.M.

Thank you again.

Your comments have been arriving in duplicates. So both times I have deleted the duplicate.

Here are the texts of the citations you supplied.


The Canon of Scripture

120 It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books.[90]

This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New.[91]

The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.

The New Testament: the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of St. Paul to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, the Letter to the Hebrews, the Letters of James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, and Revelation (the Apocalypse).

- - - -
[90] Cf. Dei Verbum 8 # 3.
[91] Cf. Denzinger-Schoenmetzer 179; 1334-1336; 1501-1504.

(For the visitors who don't know, the Denzinger-Schoenmetzer contains the texts of ancient and more recent documents of councils, popes, etc.)

6:29 PM  
Blogger Barsanophius said...

I would like to clarify the fact that the phrase, "and the son", which is in the sentence, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the father and the son,"... is a much later addition. It's inclusion DID NOT occur at either the Council of Nicea, or the Council of Constantinople. The Filioque, as it is known in eastern christendom had its genesis at the Synod of Toledo in 447. Even though universal acceptance of this addition was not codified by the western church for quite some time, it's inclusion was in clear violation of the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431, which strictly forbade any alteration of the Creed. The Eastern or Orthodox Churches of the eastern empire vehemently refused acceptance of the addition of "the Filioque"and stand by that decision to this day. This is a contributing factor that led to the Schism of 1054.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Barsanophius is correct.

Please carefully note he has not called into question the doctrinal content of the "Filioque".

He has simply cited the procedural process of its inclusion, and he is correct in doing so.

The Eastern Churches, both the Orthodox and the Catholic (such as Byzantine Catholic, for example), do not include the phrase "and the Son" (Filioque) in the Creed.

The Vatican permits Eastern Catholic Churches to use the Creed without the Filioque.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father.

I would like to clarify for the readers that the citation in paragraph 120 of the Catechism that you reference is in fact a citation to the Decree of Damasus. Your "[91] Cf. Denzinger-Schoenmetzer 179" appears in my Catechism as "[91] Cf. DS 179" (same citation), which is identified on page 728 of my Catechism as the very Decree of Damasus. In other words, item "179" of "Denzinger-Schoenmetzer" (or "DS") is the Decree of Damasus.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

your latest comment also arrived twice. I deleted the duplicate.

9:08 AM  

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