Joe Heschmeyer is at it again. Though corrected on the matter several times, he continues to repeat myths such as the “66-Book Protestant Bible wasn’t used by any of the early Christians” and “the belief that all Christian teachings must come from Scripture, a teaching not itself found in Scripture.”
Usually, when one resorts to repeating patent untruths, this is a sign that the position he defends lacks merit. For this reason, I call on Joe to cease repeating these myths as he is undercutting his own position intellectually and it is a true disservice to Catholic apologetics.
Myth #1: 66-Book Protestant Bible wasn’t used by any of the early Christians
First, Joe contradicts his very words in his own article (“Jerome and Rufinus stand alone amongst the early Christians in arguing for the 66-book canon.”) While this alone is sufficient to disprove his claim that one cannot find “any of the early Christians” using a 66 book Bible, I won’t merely stop there. Rather, I will list nearly every ancient writer who listed a Canon and where he stood on the issue.
The result? Four men had a 66 book Canon, seven different men and councils came within one or two books of the Protestant number, and a grand total of ZERO had the Catholic number of 73 before the Council of Carthage. Further, it is possible this Council did not even include the Book of Hebrews, which means that not one ancient Christian in recorded history has the Catholic Canon, when four have the Protestant Canon! Ancient Canon lists are courtesy of Bible Researcher.
Early Christians that held to the Protestant, 66 book Canon:
-St Amphilochus of Iconium
-Epiphanius (He speaks of Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach being under dispute.)
Early Christians that held to the Catholic, 73 book Canon before the Council of Carthage:
–Zero. It is worth noting that the Council of Carthage probably did not include the Book of Hebrews, so it was in fact a 72 book Canon. Further, Augustine wrote of Maccabees that it is “not in the Holy Scriptures.” Being that Augustine took part in this council, it is not immediately clear how he really viewed a book such as Maccabees in light of these two seemingly contradicting positions, probably seeing it as having a secondary status.
Early Christians that were close to the 66 book Canon:
-Cyril of Jerusalem (65 Books: excluded Revelation, included Baruch and the Epistle as part of Jeremiah*)
-Gregory of Nazianzus (64 Books: excluded Esther and Revelation)
-Athanasius (65 Books: included Baruch and the Epistle as part of Jeremiah* excluded Esther)
-Council of Laodicea 363 AD (65 Books: excluded Revelation)
-Origen (66-67 Books: He names the “22 books” of the Old Testament corresponding with the Protestant list and immediately afterwards writes, “And outside of these there are the books of the Maccabees.”
-Melito (does not give a definitive list of the New Testament, but he lists the Protestant Old Testament sans Esther.)
-Hilary of Poitiers (does not give a definitive list of the New Testament, but he lists the Protestant Old Testament, mentioning only “some” add Tobit and Judith.)
*The issue of including Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah is to me an issue of manuscripts. In the LXX, these books were included with Jeremiah so they would have been seen as one complete book. It is possible in that several men that fail to list these books actually, implicitly, include them. Protestants reject these books because they do not believe they were originally part of the Book of Jeremiah. Further, the Hebrew and Vulgate version of Jeremiah is much different than the LXX version, accepted by most early Christians and the Eastern Orthodox Church today. So, debate over these books does not show a difference in Canon any more than the EO having a different Jeremiah than the RCC reflects the same. Rather, it is a debate over manuscript accuracy (one which usually favors the LXX.)
Myth #2: No Sola Scriptura
This is an issue I have already debated at length, so I will merely say in short that 2 Tim 3:15-16 says that the Scripture equips us for every good work and gives us knowledge for salvation. Both Paul in 2 Tim and Peter in 2 Peter compel us to go to the Scriptures to counter the false doctrines to come. The Church Fathers are replete with affirmations of Sola Scriptura including Augustine doubting the inerrancy of ecumenical councils and affirming that only Scripture is unquestionably true. While certainly none of the Fathers would have allowed for the reading of Scripture outside the historical, doctrinal understandings of the Church, none of them posited an infallible teaching authority(!). This puts their reading of Scripture in line with the historical Protestant view (as opposed to the modern, “Solo Scriptura” view) and not the modern Catholic view.
Conclusion. Joe takes issue with the fact that Protestants allegedly use Jerome “in a dishonest way.” Sadly, his own claims in his article are in fact dishonest, because he is well aware that there were Fathers with a 66 book Canon, because he names them. My goal is that through writing this we may have a truthful and productive dialogue between our two sides so that we may not resort to myths to buttress our points.