CHAPTER III.
WHAT ARE THE SACRED BOOKS OF THE WORD OF GOD.

The Council of Trent gives these books as sacred, divine and canonical: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four Books of Kings, two of the Paralipomenon, two of Esdras ( a first, and a second, which is called of Nehemias), Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, one hundred and fifty Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom ,Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharius, Malachy, two of Machabees, first and second: of the New Testament, four Gospels, -S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, S. John,-the Acts of the Apostles by S. Luke, fourteen Epistles of S. Paul,-to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews,-two of S. Peter, three of S. John, one of S. James, one of S. Jude, and the Apocalypse. The same books were received at the Council of Florence, and long before that at the third Council of Carthage about twelve hundred years

These books are divided into two ranks. For of some, both of the Old and of the New Testament, it was never doubted but that they were sacred and canonical: others there are about whose authority the ancient Fathers doubted for a time, but afterwards they were placed with those of the first rank.

Those of the first rank in the Old Testament are the five of Moses, Josue, Judges, Ruth, four of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras and Nehemias, Job, one hundred and fifty Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, the four greater Prophets, the twelve lesser Prophets. These were formed into the canon by the great synod at which Esdras was present. and to which he was scribe ; and no one ever doubted of their authority without being at once considered a heretic, as our learned Genebrard, fully proves in his Chronology (Ad ann. 3638). The second rank contains the following Esther, Baruch, a part of Daniel (the history of Susanna, the Canticle of the Three Children, and the history of the death of the dragon in the fourteenth chapter Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Machabees 1 and 2. And as to these there is a great probability in the opinion of the same Doctor Genebrard (Ib. seqq. Et ad ann. 3860. He quotes S. Epiph., de mens. et pond., and Josephus, contra App. ii. S. Epiph speaks only of Baruch.) that in the meeting which was held at Jerusalem to send the seventy-two interpreters into Egypt, these books, which were not in existence when Esdras made the first canon, were placed on the canon, at least tacitly, because they were sent with the others to be translated except the Machabees, which were received in another meeting afterwards, wherein the preceding were again approved. But however the case may be, as the second canon was not made so authentically as the first, this placing on the canon could not procure them an entire and unquestionable authority among the Jews, nor make them equal with the books of the first rank.

Coming to the books of the New Testament I say that in the same way there are some of the first rank, which have always been acknowledged and received as sacred and canonical. These are the four Gospels, S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, S. John, all the Epistles of S. Paul except that to the Hebrews, one of S. Peter, one of S. John. Those of the second rankare the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of S. James, the second of S. Peter, the second and third of S. that of S. Jude, the 16th chapter of S. Mark, as S. Jerome says, and S. Luke’s history of the bloody sweat of Our Lord in the garden of Olives, according to the same S. Jerome; in the eighth chapter of S. John there has been a doubt concerning the history of the woman taken in adultery, or at least some suspect that it has been doubted, and concerning verse seven of the last chapter of S. John’s First Epistle. These are, as far as we know, the books and parts of books concerning which it appears there was anciently some doubt. And these were not of undoubted authority in the Church at first, but as time went on they were at length recognised as the sacred work of the Holy Spirit, and not all at once but at different times. And first besides those of the first rank whether of the new or of the Old Testament, about the year 364 they were received at the Council of Laodicea, Canon lx., (which was afterwards approved in the sixth general Council *), the book of Esther, the Epistle of S. James the Second of S. Peter, the Second and Third of S. John, that of Jude, and the Epistle to the Hebrews as the fourteenth of S. Paul. Then some time afterwards at the third Council of Carthage ( i.e. in Canon xxxvi. of the Council of Hippo, approved in third Council of Carthage. [Tr.]) (at which S. Augustine assisted, and which was confirmed in the sixth general Council in Trullo), besides those of the second rank just mentioned, there were received into the canon, as of full authority, Tobias, Judith, First and Second Machabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and the Apocalypse. But of all those of the second rank, the book of Judith was first received and acknowledged as divine, in the first General Council of Nice, as S. Jerome witnesses in his preface to this book. Such is the way in which the two ranks were brought together into one, and ever made of equal authority in the Church of God, but progressively and with succession, as a beautiful morning rising, which little by little lights up our hemisphere.

Thus was drawn up in the Council of Carthage, that same ancient list of the canonical books which has ever since been in the Catholic Church and which was confirmed in the sixth general Council, at the great Council of Florence 160 years ago for the union of the Armenians by the whole Church both Greek and Latin, in our age by the Council of Trent, and which was followed by S. Augustine (De doc. Chr. ii.8). Before the Council of Carthage they were not all received as canonical by any decree of the general Church. I had almost forgotten to say that you must not therefore make a difficulty against what I have just laid down because Baruch is not quoted by name in the Council of Carthage. For since Baruch was secretary of Jeremias, the book of Baruch was reckoned by the ancients as an accessory or appendix of Jeremias, being comprised under this; as that excellent theologian Bellarmine proves in his Controversies. But it is enough for me to have said thus: my brief outline is not obliged to dwell on every particular. In a word, all these books, whether of first or second rank, with all the parts, are equally certain, sacred and canonical, and are received in the Catholic Church.

* i.e. in Canon ii. of the Council in Trullo (or Quinisext), which is called by the Greeks the sixth General Council, as being a continuation or supplement of it. Such canons of this Council as were not opposed to previous decrees were approved by Rome. See Hefele Cone. Bk.-xvii. The Saint’s words are well defended by Alibrandi in the procemu& Respons. pp. 8o, 81. [Tr.]

 

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