Church History

Posts on the history of the Christian church from the day of Pentecost to today, with an emphasis on the early (Ante-Nicene) church through the end of the Patristic era (about the close of the 8th century).

Thomas Cardinal Cajetan’s Old Testament Canon

Cardinal Cajetan was an opponent of Martin Luther but Cajetan's Old Testament Canon views were in opposition to what his church would later dogmatize.
1870 (oil on canvas) painting of Martin Luther and Thomas Cardinal Cajetan during the controversy over Luther’s 95 Theses. By Pauwels, Ferdinand Wilhelm (source).

Thomas Cardinal Cajetan (1469–1534) is best known for challenging Martin Luther, early in Luther’s 16th century effort to reform corruption in the Western church. Cajetan was a leading theologian and papal legate in Augsburg who served as a spokesman for Catholic opposition to Luther. In many respects, the historical record paints Cajetan as an intelligent, measured interlocutor. Sympathy with the need for reform and agreement with some positions of his opponent(s) are evident in his views. With this perspective in mind, what can we learn from Cajetan’s Old Testament canon views?

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“Deciding” the Canon of Scripture: Damasus and the Council of Rome in 382 AD

Historical recognition of the canon of Scripture is far more complicated than most realize, particularly for the Old Testament (OT). I’m planning a series on the OT canon, but here I hope to address a commonly asserted but false claim, namely that: Pope Damasus/the Council of Rome in 382 decided (or canonized) books of the Bible.

This claim surfaces frequently in online discussions. Both lay and professional apologists repeat it. The latter should keep the former in check but that rarely happens. Repetition of these false claims does not contribute to productive dialog. I suppose those who make a living preaching to the choir don’t consider historicity and productive dialog of much concern. A scholar with whom I recently corresponded said it well: “The biggest pitfall of most avowed apologists (of all stripes) is back-projection, wanting to see the present Church (and typically the one to which they profess membership) in the past.”

The books of the Codes Sinaiticus do not exactly match the canon of Scripture recognized by any Christian tradition.
Codex Sinaiticus (source) is a mid-4th century manuscript that contains the earliest complete copy of the NT. It also contains some, but not all, of the contested OT books that appear today in Catholic Bibles (see here).

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The Mythical Legend of Boniface and the Christmas Tree

In the U.S., my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving) is behind us. Now, the madness of the hyper-commercialized Christmas season is upon us. I confess, the overabundance of hype and secular slant that now dominates, make it difficult for me to enjoy Christmas. I’m most assuredly not joyless but mythical legends like that of St. Boniface and the Christmas tree don’t help.

Unfortunately, madness isn’t confined to secular myths about jolly overweight men in red suits and unbounded commercialism. In recent years, this false legend concerning the origin of the Christmas tree has been widely circulated. The internet era quickens and intensifies the production and repetition of manmade history, both in secular and religious spheres.

The Vatican first displayed a Christmas tree in 1982, a mere 40 years ago and within my own lifetime. I do not oppose Christmas trees. My family recently put our tree up and I’m glad the Vatican does so. This is one Christmas tradition I enjoy. What I am against is false legends that get unknowingly and uncritically consumed by the masses, especially when they are propagated by those who should know better, in support of their exclusivist religious tradition.

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