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 Issues | The Apocrypha | Trent Decree

Roman Council of Trent on the Apocrypha

The Council of Trent defined the Canon of Roman Catholic Scriptures to include the books of the apocrypha. It did this by simply including them in the list of the Canonical books of the Old Testament in the traditional order in which they had been placed in the Vulgate. Tobit and Judith are listed after Nehemiah whilst the list has ‘Jeremiah with Baruch’, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus come after the Canticle of Canticles (Song of Solomon) and the Old Testament list closes with the two books of the Maccabees. Thus seven books are named by the Canon, but the definitive text which the Canon refers to is the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate includes in its text the additions to Esther, the three different additions to Daniel, and the Letter of Jeremiah as part of the apocryphal book of Baruch.

G.R.Snaith in the introduction to the Commentary on the Apocrypha writes that the decision of Trent “was ratified by 53 prelates among whom there was not one scholar distinguished by historical learning, not one who was fitted by special study for the examination of a subject in which the truth could only be determined by the voice of antiquity.” (p.xxxii)

Having enshrined the Apocrypha in this Canon and anathematised those who dissent the Roman Catholic Church has been obliged to maintain this pretense even when it is plain to everyone else that the apocryphal books were not part of the Canon of the New Testament.

 

DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES

The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent, — lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the Same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein, — keeping this always in view, that, errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament — seeing that one God is the author of both — as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.

And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second.

Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.

But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.

 

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