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Sources that verify the Canonicity of the Holy Bible
Part 5: The Canon of Saint Athanasios
This Canon was validated by the Quinisext Ecumenical Council. It is therefore one of the six Canons that the Church has acknowledged, as definitive of the Canon pertaining to the Holy Bible.Saint Athanasios provided a Canon pertaining to the Canonized and Divine Books, and a second Canon pertaining to the Newcomer Reading Books. The books that he delivered were CANONIZED and not Canonical, which means that the selection of books for the Holy Bible had not yet been finalized.
The 6 accepted canons:
Herebelow is the Synod’s text and alongside it, is the translation of the Canon:
Commentary on the text
Before we analyze the preceding text, I would like to pause at the last catalogue, in which are mentioned those books that Saint Athanasios supposedly did not nominate (and not only those); he simply placed them in a separate catalogue. And that does not imply that they are supposedly “Deuterocanonical”. (Besides, among them is Esther, whom Protestants consider a canonical book). We shall analyze the true reason, further down.
1. Saint Athanasios wrote this Canon in 367 A.D., that is, a little after the Council of Laodicea, (which canon – as analyzed in the related article – was left open and furthermore, this Council was a local one, in a district other than Athanasios’) and half a century before the Council of Carthage which, as we saw, closed the canon on the “Divine and Proposed Reading” books. This signifies that he had in mind that at the time when the canon had not yet been closed, but was on a course for canonization; and that is why he DOESN’T SPEAK OF CANONICAL BOOKS, but of “BOOKS BEING CANONIZED”. The continuous use of the present tense that he uses, indicates that he himself does not close this Canon; he simply contributes towards its formation. In contrast, the Council of Carthage spoke of CANONICAL books, and not of “books being canonized”, since the process of canonizing had already finished.
2. That he speaks of “divine” books, and yet has fewer books than those stated in the Council of Carthage, does not comprise a contradiction, as they are actually in agreement. And since Saint Athanasios wrote his canon before this council (of Carthage), it is only natural that it has fewer books characterized as “divine”, since the remaining divine books had not yet been canonized at the time. If the Council of Carthage had fewer divine books (than Athanasios) in its canon, then there would have been a problem. But, as it has more, there is no problem.
3. Similarly, there is no problem in the difference that appears between the books of the other local Council of Laodicea, since that canon had not been closed either.
4. Now, as regards the “newcomer reading” books that Saint Athanasios provides in his second canon, we can observe that in it, we find the remaining books that are mentioned in the canon of Carthage, and the Council of Laodicea. Simply because in his time and his territory there were still certain doubts as to whether they belonged to the “divine’ books, Saint Athanasios preferred to list them in a different category: that of “newcomer reading”. The fact that some of them were eventually validated by the Council of Carthage as “canonical” and “divine”, does not conflict with the fact that the books at the time were still “being canonized”; and that some of them remained simply “newcomer reading” and never included in the divine and canonical books.
5. Saint Athanasios’ classification has nothing to do with the Hebrew canon, as is stated by some Protestants that he copied their canon. And this becomes obvious in his words, when he clearly specifies: “As I heard, this is also how many types there are, according to the tradition that the Hebrews have”. He does not clearly say that the Hebrew canon has 22 books; he only says “as I heard”. This is indicative of his uncertainty on this fact. And since he is uncertain, it is impossible for him to support his canon on uncertainties. Even more so, when the total of 22 is produced technically, by the abridging of books, as in the case of the “Twelve Prophets” (“…. For the twelve are numbered in one book”, he writes.) In fact, earlier on he had clearly described the source of his selection: “to set out herebelow the books that are being canonized and also those (books) that have been submitted, which are also believed to be divine books”; and the source of his selections he states clearly as being the Christian tradition, and not what he heard about the books of the Hebrews.
Saint Athanasios uses in both of his lists the same books as the two local councils, only they are classified in two catalogues, because he has separated them into two different categories. In the books “being canonized” (not the canonical ones, because the canon had not yet been closed) and in the “newcomer reading” (and not Deuterocanonical), where he classified those that he was uncertain as belonging to the “divine” – something that was cleared up 50 years later by the Council of Carthage.
All the above signify that for the drafting of the canon of the Holy Bible, there was a fermentation, a sorting out of the books that lasted up to the 4th century, and culminated at the Council of Carthage, and was validated later, at the 5th-6th Ecumenical Council.
The question remains: If Protestants do not accept the tradition of the Church as regards the books of the Holy Bible, what tradition do they accept?
On what grounds do they therefore judge or reject a book of the Holy Bible?
The information was taken from the exceptional book by the reserve professor of the Athens University Mr. Panagiotis Boumis, Dr. of Theology titled:”The Canons of the Church pertaining to the Canon of the Holy Bible” Athens 1986.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 18-7-2005.
Last update: 4-8-2005.