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Biblical Inerrancy


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#21 Ryan H.

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 09:44 PM

This is helpful ... for the record, I think I'd be much more favorable to a non-chronological reading of Gen. 1 than of Gen. 2 ... it still seems counterintuitive to maintain that Gen. 2 is specific about who, what, and where, down to the names and characteristics of the rivers in the garden, but doesn't care a fig (leaf) about when.

When I last heard from Walton, he said he was developing some new thoughts on Genesis 2, but was unsure whether they would actually lead anywhere or were just a rabbit trail.

I think the chronology of Genesis 2 is hard to toss aside. I don't think it's so hard to reconcile it with the chronology of Genesis 1, since I think there are understandings of Genesis 1 that allow for all sorts of possibilities and there is a pretty firm divide between Genesis 1 and the remainder of the text, but Genesis 2 is a bit harder to deal with, and as you say, it gets specific, even if there are ambiguities (is "bush of the field" meant to signify all plant life, or something more narrow?). The ESV preserves it, mostly, though it dodges it with the animals, rendering the Hebrew as "Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them." Though it does note in a footnote that the tense here might not be perfect, and puts forth the alternate selection of just "And out of the ground the Lord God formed . . . " I don't know Hebrew and its verb tenses well enough to know which reading is more viable.

#22 mrmando

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 10:32 PM

The Incarnation (John 1:14) is not something I would ever pretend to fully understand.

Well, the Creation is not something I would ever pretend to fully understand either. Isn't it nice to be able to play the mystery card whenever you want?

But, if you insist on defining the word "human" as sinful, then Jesus wasn't fully human. Scripture simply states He was a human being. If you insist on defining the word "God" as omnipotently incapable of physical weakness, then Jesus wasn't fully divine. But Jesus said He was and so they crucified him.

I don't know that those are essential attributes of humanity and divinity. I'm just saying that in every other instance I can think of, we would be inclined to define "human" and "divine" as bearing some degree of exclusivity to each other. For Jesus we make an exception.

The ESV preserves it, mostly, though it dodges it with the animals, rendering the Hebrew as "Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them." Though it does note in a footnote that the tense here might not be perfect, and puts forth the alternate selection of just "And out of the ground the Lord God formed . . . " I don't know Hebrew and its verb tenses well enough to know which reading is more viable.

Huh? Wha...? In my copy of the ESV, "formed" is in the text and "had formed" is in the footnote, whereas in the NIV at BibleGateway.com, "had formed" is in the text and I don't know if there's a footnote or not. So, from my research, it's the NIV that punts and the ESV that goes for the chronology (the ESV even begins v. 19 with "So," ostensibly in order to suggest that it follows, both logically and chronologically, from v. 18.)

#23 mrmando

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 10:37 PM

All I'm saying, man, is that Biblical writers, just like any other writer, are allowed to focus in and focus out during the story.

Ah, but the kind of shifts in focus you are claiming for Gen. 2 are not "just like any other writer," nor like shifts in focus elsewhere in scripture. If Gen. 2 really does shift in focus as much as you claim, then it does so in a way that is sloppy and deliberately misleading.

We ought only insist on a chapter being chronological when the writer insists upon it.

As the writer of Gen. 2 does when God states in v. 18 the need for an action to be taken and decides what action he will take, then proceeds to take that action in v. 19.

Edited by mrmando, 21 May 2011 - 10:58 PM.


#24 Ryan H.

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 10:37 PM

Huh? Wha...? In my copy of the ESV, "formed" is in the text and "had formed" is in the footnote, whereas in the NIV at BibleGateway.com, "had formed" is in the text and I don't know if there's a footnote or not. So, from my research, it's the NIV that punts and the ESV that goes for the chronology (the ESV even begins v. 19 with "So," ostensibly in order to suggest that it follows, both logically and chronologically, from v. 18.)

Weird... the online copies of the ESV I was consulting, one at BibleGateway and another here (which I assume is a fairly "official" online text version) has "had formed" in the text. My physical copies of the ESV are in the car, and I'm too lazy to hobble on down and look 'em over.

#25 mrmando

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 11:12 PM

Well, both Bible Gateway and the online ESV site say they are using a 2001 edition of the ESV, whereas my print edition is 2003. Weird.

I guess we could claim that God was worn out from all the creating and temporarily forgot he had already made the animals, or we could take Walton's ideas about "make" in Gen. 1 and apply them to Gen. 2:18.

#26 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 02:28 AM

Persiflage wrote:
: The book of Genesis, as far as Biblical literature goes, is historical narrative.

Well, that's one view.

Ryan H. wrote:

: : There are ways to explain what Matthew is doing here: The number 14 is the numerical value of the name "David" in Hebrew (D+V+D = 4+6+4 = 14), and Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the son of David, or something like that. But the simple fact remains: Matthew seems to edit the Old Testament, to make it say something that it does not, in fact, say. And if anyone today were to use the Bible this way, inerrantists in particular would point out the interpreter's divergences from scripture and laugh him out of church.
:
: Really? That would seem to be a POV that many of my firmly inerrantist professors from my Wheaton College days wouldn't reject; they suggested similar approaches to other passages.

Really? They suggested that, to prove or illustrate a point, you could say, e.g., "Ten is a special number, and there were 10 tribes," even though we know from the OT that there were actually 12 tribes and that you were ignoring the two extra ones that posed a challenge to your numerological scheme? I find that hard to believe.

mrmando wrote:
: Indeed, when Matthew (2:14-15) talks about Jesus' family hiding out in Egypt, he quotes Hosea: "Out of Egypt have I called my son." Of course, in Hosea this is a reference to the Exodus, and the "son" is the Hebrews. Matthew reinterprets the verse so that the son is Jesus. Here, then, is another example of Matthew making the OT say something it does not, in fact, say . . .

Yeah, and he does something similar when he cites the bit from Isaiah 7:13-17 about the young woman (or virgin) having a son named Immanuel, which in its original context is clearly a reference to a boy who was born in Isaiah's day (and who may have been sired by Isaiah himself; cf. Isaiah 8:1-8), but which Matthew turns into a prophesy about Mary and Jesus. Matthew does that sort of thing.

But I don't think repurposing an OT prophecy is quite in the same league as what Matthew does with his opening geneaology, where he explicitly says "there were fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon" and everyone who knows their OT history knows that that's factually incorrect. As we know from both Kings and Chronicles, there were eighteen generations, not fourteen. There may be some larger poetic or metaphorical truth that Matthew is pointing to, but to the extent that Matthew is asserting any sort of cold, objective fact here, he's wrong. And if "inerrancy" means "ignore what the person actually said and focus on what we think he meant," then I wonder what the point of the concept is.

Ryan H. wrote:
: I'll be interested to see when this discussion moves towards questions of canonicity, and all the ambiguities and difficulties encountered there, particularly regarding the Apocrypha.

Well, I for one have already moved in that direction a couple times. I'd be happy if others moved with me, though -- especially since the "God-breathed" nature of the Apocrypha would seem to be one of those things that we have to take seriously if we subscribe to what Paul told Timothy about "all" scripture (presumably including, at a minimum, everything that was included in the standard Greek translation used by Paul, Timothy and their coreligionists) being "God-breathed".

#27 Ryan H.

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 05:47 AM

Really? They suggested that, to prove or illustrate a point, you could say, e.g., "Ten is a special number, and there were 10 tribes," even though we know from the OT that there were actually 12 tribes and that you were ignoring the two extra ones that posed a challenge to your numerological scheme? I find that hard to believe.

On a few occasions, similar explanations were suggested for Biblical passages. I never heard a defense of it as a modern mode of explanation.

Well, I for one have already moved in that direction a couple times. I'd be happy if others moved with me, though -- especially since the "God-breathed" nature of the Apocrypha would seem to be one of those things that we have to take seriously if we subscribe to what Paul told Timothy about "all" scripture (presumably including, at a minimum, everything that was included in the standard Greek translation used by Paul, Timothy and their coreligionists) being "God-breathed".

I'm not a scholar, and am still working my way through canonical studies, but I've heard it argued by many people that there's a significant lack of evidence to the effect that what we know as the Apocrypha was actually included in the Septuagint until the 2nd century. If there's any truth to that, then Paul's statement to Timothy isn't so clear-cut.

I guess we could claim that God was worn out from all the creating and temporarily forgot he had already made the animals, or we could take Walton's ideas about "make" in Gen. 1 and apply them to Gen. 2:18.

The verb "bara" does not appear in Genesis 2, and thus it would be pretty difficult to extend his argument to Genesis 2.

Edited by Ryan H., 22 May 2011 - 05:49 AM.


#28 mrmando

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 09:52 PM

A closer look at Gen. 2:5, thanks to the notes on the Hebrew at NET Bible. Very interesting stuff:

2:5 Now13 no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth, and no plant of the field14 had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.15


14tn The first term, שִׂיחַ (siakh), probably refers to the wild, uncultivated plants (see Gen 21:15; Job 30:4,7); whereas the second, עֵשֶׂב (’esev), refers to cultivated grains. It is a way of saying: “back before anything was growing.”

15tn The two causal clauses explain the first two disjunctive clauses: There was no uncultivated, general growth because there was no rain, and there were no grains because there was no man to cultivate the soil.


The argument that this verse is focused on the Garden of Eden encounters the following difficulties in addition to the ones I've already mentioned. Perhaps you can get away with claiming that the statement about rain is a specific statement: it didn't rain on this patch of earth although it did rain elsewhere. You cannot, however, make a similar claim about the next statement ("there was no man to cultivate the ground"). This is obviously and inescapably a general statement: there is no man to be found anywhere, because the first man won't be created until 2:7. Either both pairs of disjunctive/causal clauses constitute general statements ... or there is a series of sudden and completely un-idiomatic shifts in focus — from specific to general, then back to specific, then back to general, right in the middle of a parallel construction, and then back to specific again ... or, if both statements are specific statements about a given patch of earth, you'd have to admit the possibility that there are already other men tilling the ground on other patches of earth.

Furthermore, the very concept of a garden implies a caretaker (see 2:15). Thus the idea that 2:5 focuses on the Garden of Eden takes on an additional layer of implausibility when we realize that one of the things that verse is telling us is that gardening hasn't been invented yet.

Edited by mrmando, 23 May 2011 - 10:20 AM.


#29 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:41 AM

FWIW, I was talking to my priest (who grew up Plymouth Brethren) about this yesterday, and he mentioned that an even better passage to bring up than Matthew 1 might be Matthew 21:1-7, where Matthew, instead of trimming the number of generations creatively, takes a prophecy so literalistically that he seems to expand the number of animals that Jesus sat on simultaneously -- in contrast to Mark 11:1-7, Luke 19:29-35 and John 12:14-15, all of which clearly refer to a single animal.

Ryan H. wrote:
: On a few occasions, similar explanations were suggested for Biblical passages. I never heard a defense of it as a modern mode of explanation.

In other words, the only way to defend the "inerrancy" of this passage (and others) was to give them a pass that would never be given to any Christian today.

: I'm not a scholar, and am still working my way through canonical studies, but I've heard it argued by many people that there's a significant lack of evidence to the effect that what we know as the Apocrypha was actually included in the Septuagint until the 2nd century.

That's curious, especially in light of the fact that the NT apparently alludes to the Apocrypha the same way it alludes to the rest of the OT. (As I understand it, the Septuagint was created at some point prior to the birth of Christ and was already the standard Greek version of the OT during the time of the Apostles, and it was only when St. Jerome was creating his Latin translation of the OT and couldn't find any copies of the Apocrypha in the original Hebrew -- some three centuries after the Jews tossed those books out of their canon -- that the Latin West put a question mark over the Apocrypha. FWIW, the most recent book I've read on the subject was by Jaroslav Pelikan, a lifelong Lutheran who converted to Orthodoxy a decade or so before his death.)

#30 Ryan H.

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:59 AM

That's curious, especially in light of the fact that the NT apparently alludes to the Apocrypha the same way it alludes to the rest of the OT.

That's a bit of a strong statement. NT references to the Apocrypha are not as strong and direct as those references to the OT. Furthermore, some Apocryphal books are alluded to, others are not. Some books alluded to in the NT aren't even part of the Apocrypha as we now have it. So this discussion brings us into murky territory.

As I understand it, the Septuagint was created at some point prior to the birth of Christ and was already the standard Greek version of the OT during the time of the Apostles, and it was only when St. Jerome was creating his Latin translation of the OT and couldn't find any copies of the Apocrypha in the original Hebrew -- some three centuries after the Jews tossed those books out of their canon -- that the Latin West put a question mark over the Apocrypha. FWIW, the most recent book I've read on the subject was by Jaroslav Pelikan, a lifelong Lutheran who converted to Orthodoxy a decade or so before his death.)

I've heard differently; I've heard it suggested that by all indications the Septuagint was under development throughout the centuries of Jesus and the Apostle's lives. The original translation of the Septuagint was just the Torah, and many of the Apocryphal books came to be associated with the Septuagint later on (indeed, according to many scholarly estimates, many of these books were written after the original translation of the Septuagint, though dating the Apocryphal books is a difficult endeavor).

Some fathers either prior to or contemporary with Jerome--Melito of Sardis, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazanius, Amphilocus of Iconium, Epiphanius of Salamis--did not include the Apocrypha in their canonical lists (Melito, being pretty early, is perhaps the most significant name on that list). They occasionally included a book or two from the Apocrypha and excluded a text from the 22 book Hebrew canon, but there was never a full embrace of what we now recognize as Apocrypha. Now that, on its own, doesn't resolve anything, since a treatment of their use of apocryphal literature is in question, but I've heard it claimed that the bulk of Patristic writing prior to the time of Clement did not strongly rely on the Apocryphal books, and it's unclear if the texts were seen as authoritative in the same way.

Other issues is that what can surmise of the Septuagint's formation suggests a complicated relationship with the Apocrypha. In Against Apion, Josephus doesn't recognize the Apocrypha as part of the Hebrew Canon. Aquila's translation of the OT doesn't include the Apocrypha, and neither does the one belonging to Symmachus. Theodotion, who had a marginal knowledge of Hebrew, revised the Greek OT and produced a version widely used by early Christians (Theodotion's Septuagint does not seem to be the one used by the first and second century Patristic writers, but became what writers viewed as the Septuagint afterwards). Theodotion's version apparently made use of some of the Apocryphal books, but not all; some point to this adoption of the Apocrypha as the first point in history that we see the Apocryphal books generally coming to be associated with the Old Testament canon, and further suggest that this adoption of these books may have been entirely inadvertent on Theodotion's part. Origen's later revision of the Septuagint, which was a highly problematic project in some ways given his source material, helped solidify the placement of the Apocrypha in Christian practice, and the earliest actual texts we have that do include the Apocrypha--fifth century texts--seem to have been modeled on Origen's revision.

Now all the above is summary pieced together by me, and may present a narrative easily challenged. It becomes pretty overwhelming when you start digging into canonical history and the many different points of view, and sometimes I feel like I'm drowning.

#31 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:43 PM

Re: the chronology of Genesis 2, don't verses 18ff pretty clearly indicate that the birds and other animals were created AFTER the first man, as God tried to find "a helper suitable for him"? And would this not contradict the chronology of Genesis 1, in which birds are created on the fifth day while humans and other land animals are created on the sixth?

The animals being created before or after man is a standard objection for those who want to disprove inerrancy. But 2:18-19 indicate the some animals were created after Adam only if you insist that the Hebrew verb yatsar as "formed" instead of "had formed." Bible scholars all agree that the verb can be translated both ways. So the next question becomes what reason is there for translating the verb one way over the other. The translation is determined by the context and relevant questions including what the purpose of Genesis 2 is, and whether the author of Genesis 2 was aware of the existence of Genesis 1. After studying this, isn't it reasonable to conclude that "had formed" is the more likely correct translation? Or, in other words, is there any reason to insist that yatsar can only be translated as "formed" instead of "had formed"?

Turning to other matters, what would an "inerrantist" reading of a passage like, say, Matthew 1 be? This is the passage which famously lists Jesus' ancestors, going back to Abraham, and groups them into groups of 14. On a plain surface reading, this passage clearly contradicts the words of Kings and Chronicles, which tell us that there were *18* generations in one of those groups, rather than 14. (For the clearest and most succinct demonstration of this discrepancy, compare Matthew 1:7-11 with I Chronicles 3:10-16.)

There are ways to explain what Matthew is doing here: The number 14 is the numerical value of the name "David" in Hebrew (D+V+D = 4+6+4 = 14), and Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the son of David, or something like that. But the simple fact remains: Matthew seems to edit the Old Testament, to make it say something that it does not, in fact, say. And if anyone today were to use the Bible this way, inerrantists in particular would point out the interpreter's divergences from scripture and laugh him out of church.

I'd have to dig up the sections in my theology library that talk about this, but I'm pretty sure Matthew 1 is not the only place in the Bible where genealogies do not line up precisely. This goes back to the meaning of "son of" which can literally refer to ancestors, grandsons, etc. as well as just father and son. Unlike modern family trees, not all Biblical genealogies are meant to name every father and son, instead the people who are included in the list are included for a reason (including the specific women who are mentioned, a practice that is also unusual). So it's not just Matthew, comparing the genealogies in the books of Samuel and the books of Kings also results in finding dissimilar lists. The question here was whether this was a practice in genealogy listing that was commonly accepted at the time. Scholarship on the question seems to conclude that it was.

Would all our talk of "inerrancy" and "assertions" actually clear anything up for the average churchgoer in the pew, or would it just sow confusion and bad exegesis? Might the doctrine of "inerrancy", in fact, do more harm than good?

Not if you don't use the doctrine in the wrong way. It's primarily a character of God issue - does God tell the truth? Is everything in God's inspired Word true? Bad exegesis is reading something into the text that isn't there, or insisting on a conclusion on the meaning of the text that isn't necessarily true. As far as the average churchgoer in the pew goes, there are a couple important questions worth asking and answering on this issue. Is God powerful enough to ensure that we have an accurate copy of His Word to us? Does God care enough to ensure that His Word is understandable and not distorted by human error so that we can trust what we read is true?

2:4 is clearly summarizing and beginning a new section that focuses on more specifics than chapter 1.

It begins a new section, but 2:4 itself is clearly focused on the earth and the heavens in general. Later on there is a specific focus, yes, but where exactly do we change focus from general to specific?

Since the writer of Genesis 2 specifically mentions the Garden of Eden in verse 8, verse 10, and verse 15, it is simple to conclude that he is writing about the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps a bit too simple, since you appear to be claiming that 2:5-6 is focusing on something that hasn't even been mentioned yet.

Chapter 2 changes focus as soon as the writer steps back to take another closer look at what was only generally summarized in chapter 1. Verse 5 is discussing specific plants "of the field" and makes no claim specifically as to the origin of botanical life on the entire planet. It could of course refer to the entire planet, or just the one place on the earth where man is first placed, but that doesn't really matter, does it? These objections are not new. But even a minimum look at the those who discuss the original Hebrew reveals that the Hebrew text does not necessarily support inferences you could make from the English text (if you just decide to ignore the Hebrew - not, I might add, a practice supported by any single study on hermeneutics).

Similar to the English word earth, the Hebrew word eres has more than one meaning depending upon the context.

Does it mean something different in 2:5 than in 2:4?

Doesn't the writer seem to be doing something different with the word itself? Verse 4 is not only a summary, but a symmetrical summary, starting with heavens and earth and ending with earth and heavens. Verse 5 is beginning another discussion going back into more specific detail. But even if eres here refers to only the Garden of Eden or the entire planet, does that really matter if the writer is discussing specific cultivated "plants of the field."

A literal reading of the passage as inerrant does not require that chapter 2 be read as ordered chronologically rather than topically.

So if I wanted to claim, as some early Mormon teachers did, that God made Adam on another planet and then decided to make the earth and put him there, that could be construed as a "literal reading of the passage as inerrant"?

No. That would contradict literal readings of either chapter 1 or 2.

Are you saying that chronology plays no role whatsoever in our understanding of Gen. 2? And if so, again, where else in Genesis (or for that matter, the Bible entire) is it necessary to throw chronology out the window, the better to cling to inerrancy?

No and nowhere.

It shreds the text to say, "Yes, v. 19 comes after v. 18, and in v. 18 God states the reason for doing what he does in v. 19, but that's no reason to assume the events in v. 19 took place after the events in v. 18."

The reason for creating the animals in the first place or the reason for bringing the animals that God "had formed" to Adam? Another thing, it's funny, but I'm starting to think that nowhere in the text does it necessarily even demand the conclusion that Eve had to be created on the first day. Adam studying and naming the animals could have taken years for all we know. This also results from making sure we interpret God resting on the seventh day to mean only what it says it means. 2:1-3 doesn't mean God still didn't later create subspecies of animals, new stars, or Eve out of Adam after the seventh day/period of time.

OK, you're saying that by "inerrancy" you mean what Grudem said about original manuscripts.

Well, we don't have any of those, do we? What a shame. Let's just chalk up all the textual difficulties to copyists' errors and go out for Chinese food, shall we?

Again, Grudem defines inerrancy as meaning that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.

In other words, the Bible always tells the truth and does not contain any falsehood. Containing contradictions would mean it contained some falsehoods.

Of course, this is taken along with the fact that, if God wants to, He is powerful enough to actively ensure that the reliability of His Word is preserved in future translations of the original manuscripts. As Dr. Virkler points out on pg. 35 in his Hermeneutics textbook -

The careful work of Jewish scribes in transmitting the text and the present work of textual critics combine to give us a text that reflects the wordings of the original with a very high degree of accuracy. The vast majority of variant readings concern grammatical details that do not significantly affect the meaning of the text. The words of F.F. Bruce are worth repeating in this regard: "The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice." The question of the authority and veracity of the biblical texts as we have them today should be decided on bases other than the fact that we do not possess the autographs.



#32 mrmando

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:33 PM

After studying this, isn't it reasonable to conclude that "had formed" is the more likely correct translation? Or, in other words, is there any reason to insist that yatsar can only be translated as "formed" instead of "had formed"?

Rather than trying to make the two chapters "clash at as many points as possible," as this article asserts, the preference for "formed" vs. "had formed" is simply a way of trying to follow the narrative logic from v. 18 to v. 19. "Will make" in v. 18 is nonsense if the animals have already been made, isn't it? This is what I mean by "shredding" the text. I guess you could argue that v. 18 really refers to the woman, not the animals, but then v. 20 doesn't make a lot of sense.

In response to the "clash" comment, I could just as easily say that the preference for "had formed" exists because conservative scholars insist on trying to paper over every discrepancy they find in scripture, all in service to a law of non-contradiction that doesn't appear to have been of great importance to the writer(s) of Genesis.

More later, gotta run...

#33 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:32 PM


After studying this, isn't it reasonable to conclude that "had formed" is the more likely correct translation? Or, in other words, is there any reason to insist that yatsar can only be translated as "formed" instead of "had formed"?

Rather than trying to make the two chapters "clash at as many points as possible," as this article asserts, the preference for "formed" vs. "had formed" is simply a way of trying to follow the narrative logic from v. 18 to v. 19. "Will make" in v. 18 is nonsense if the animals have already been made, isn't it?

Only if you assume that God made the animals to be that "help" for Adam, but kept making mistakes and not getting it right until finally, after thousands of trials and errors, God finally got it right with Eve. It is more reasonable to conclude that verse 19-20 is some sort of lesson for Adam (not God), and therefore when God says what He says in verse 18, He already knew what He was going to do in verse 22. Doesn't that make sense?

This is what I mean by "shredding" the text. I guess you could argue that v. 18 really refers to the woman, not the animals, but then v. 20 doesn't make a lot of sense.

So yes, you've got me making a little assumption here (based upon what I know about God from the rest of Scripture). The assumption is that, in verse 20, God did not think that maybe a monkey or a giraffe might have been a good mate for Adam.

In response to the "clash" comment, I could just as easily say that the preference for "had formed" exists because conservative scholars insist on trying to paper over every discrepancy they find in scripture, all in service to a law of non-contradiction that doesn't appear to have been of great importance to the writer(s) of Genesis.

That's not the question. The question is what reasons are there, taking the entire passage in context, for believing this one little Hebrew verb should be translated to either "formed" or "had formed." In context of the whole story, "had formed" makes more sense. I don't get where you're getting this idea that the writer of Genesis for some reason didn't care about making sense or being logically consistent.

Grudem needs to define what he means by "fact" and state whether it's synonymous with what he means by "truth." I don't know anyone, even the most literal six-day creationist, who believes in a flat earth surmounted by a bowl-shaped "firmament," which serves to keep the celestial waters from covering the earth except when it rains. Yet that is the cosmology we are given in Gen. 1. So in what sense is that a "fact"? It certainly isn't a scientific fact.

Where do you get that the "firmament" is bowl-shaped from Genesis 1? Verses 6 to 8? There's nothing there to say the "firmament" or "expanse" couldn't be around the whole planet. A spherical earth is referred to more than once in the Bible (Isaiah 40:21-22 - "the circle of the earth", Job 26:10 - "He described a circle upon the face of the waters...") that is hung in space (Job 26:7 - "He spreads out the northern skies over empty spaces; he suspends the earth over nothing.") The word "circle" in Hebrew is also translated as "sphere." Luke 17:34-36 also describes the Second Coming of Christ as happening both during the night and during the day for different people on the earth - easily inferring the rotation of a round earth. Is this somehow suspect? If so, why?

When it comes to Bible translations, and you can research this, there is a difference between essentially literal translations (based on formal equivalence or "phrase for phrase") and paraphrase translations (based on dynamic equivalence, or "thought for thought"). Both sorts of translations are useful for different purposes, you just need to be aware of which kind you are reading. The ESV is one of the former, the NIV is one of the latter.

I see. So in establishing a "literal" reading of Gen. 2:18-19, it's best to ignore the literal ESV and rely instead on the paraphrased NIV. Got it.

Nope. Elementary to Bible Interpretation is making use of the basic rules of hermeneutics. This involves being aware of, and when necessary looking at, the original Hebrew. We are privileged to have a whole wealth of Bible scholarship at our fingertips whenever we do want to engage in such a study. I think anyone will find that, whenever they look closer, not only does the Bible not contradict itself, but it turns out to validate current scientific discoveries more than past generations of Christians even realized. Thomas Aquinas was right in simply assuming the Scripture would never, with future scientific discovery, actually contradict anything in contained within General Revelation as well.

Walton argues that for the Ancient Near Eastern mind, creation was not a matter of bestowing material existence, per se, but of bestowing function or purpose, and that we have to understand Genesis 1 as embodying not a material ontology but a functional ontology. He sees Genesis 1 as essentially God performing the opening temple ceremony of the earth over a period of seven days, bestowing function to the luminaries of the cosmic temple (temple dedication ceremonies of the period follow the seven-day form we get in Genesis 1), and then "resting" in the temple in a way that is beyond what has been traditionally understood, not just ceasing to work, but God entering into it, filling it with his presence. In his reading, "formless and void" is not so much a statement about material make-up, but that the earth had not yet been given its declared, direct purpose. If you're curious about Walton's view, I suggest you check out his book on the subject. I'm personally not wholly convinced, but his POV on Genesis 1 raises some compelling points.

I'll have to check the book out, thanks. I guess my main objection to the literary-framework idea is that I can't find anything in the text to distinguish the Creation account as any less literal than the rest of the book of Genesis. I also have a few "literary-framework" friends, and it almost seems like they believe it partly because they don't believe the Biblical account of Creation can be reconciled with science. Maybe it can't be reconciled with what we know about science if one insists that each day is only a 24-hour day, but the 24-hour day interpretation, similar to the literary-framework interpretation, both appear fairly recently in church history.

Indeed, when Matthew (2:14-15) talks about Jesus' family hiding out in Egypt, he quotes Hosea: "Out of Egypt have I called my son." Of course, in Hosea this is a reference to the Exodus, and the "son" is the Hebrews. Matthew reinterprets the verse so that the son is Jesus. Here, then, is another example of Matthew making the OT say something it does not, in fact, say ... and it's very convenient for the Hal Lindseys, Tim LaHayes and Harold Campings of the world.

Unless of course, the God of the Bible is a God who could and did orchestrate historical events that, in and of themselves, were prophetic of the life of Christ. There is far more in the historical events of Exodus that are prophetic of Christ than simply Israel's stay in Egypt. Just look at the symbolism of the passover for instance. Plenty of prophets may have been discussing the passover without fully understanding how detailed and prophetic the signs of the passover really were.

... after all, if Matthew repurposed scriptures, at least he did so inerrantly, under the guidance of divine inspiration, which is something that modern-day "prophecy" teachers cannot claim (or had better not, if they know what's good for them). If we want to be inerrantists, we have to come up with a definition of inerrancy that allows for this kind of repurposing within the canon of scripture. There are many other examples of this, too ... some a grade or two less straightforward than Mt. 2:15.

Not sure what you mean by repurposing, but otherwise you're hitting the nail on the head here. Explaining how historical events and Old Testament Scriptures were pointing to the life, death and resurrection of Christ in ways that even the scribes and Pharisees didn't realize was also a practice frequently engaged in by the Apostle Paul and Jesus Himself.


The Incarnation (John 1:14) is not something I would ever pretend to fully understand.

Well, the Creation is not something I would ever pretend to fully understand either. Isn't it nice to be able to play the mystery card whenever you want?

But, if you insist on defining the word "human" as sinful, then Jesus wasn't fully human. Scripture simply states He was a human being. If you insist on defining the word "God" as omnipotently incapable of physical weakness, then Jesus wasn't fully divine. But Jesus said He was and so they crucified him.

I don't know that those are essential attributes of humanity and divinity. I'm just saying that in every other instance I can think of, we would be inclined to define "human" and "divine" as bearing some degree of exclusivity to each other. For Jesus we make an exception.

First, without playing "the mystery card" there is enough explained in Scripture about the Incarnation, both concerning Christ's humanity and divinity, that allows us to gain some understanding of it - at least, the understanding of it that God intended for us to have during our finite lives on earth. Second, yes, Jesus is the exception to a whole number of earthly rules. Exceptions like this are also generally referred to as miracles. But there is a difference between breaking natural laws and logical laws. My disagreement here was only insofar as anyone would claim God could break the logical law of noncontradiction. Did you read the C.S. Lewis excerpt at the beginning of this thread?

Edited by Persiflage, 23 May 2011 - 06:33 PM.


#34 Ryan H.

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:11 PM

Where do you get that the "firmament" is bowl-shaped from Genesis 1?

Reading Genesis in its original cultural context. The cosmology of Genesis 1 corresponds fairly neatly with general Ancient Near Eastern cosmology, and there's no real reason to see it as distinguishing itself in this respect (unlike its theological content, which makes Genesis 1 through 3 seem like something of a polemic against other creation accounts).

I think anyone will find that, whenever they look closer, not only does the Bible not contradict itself, but it turns out to validate current scientific discoveries more than past generations of Christians even realized.

I claim the label "inerrantist," but I don't buy this kind of POV at all, and think it's easily challenged. The Bible does not contain any hints that God sought to revise the scientific understanding of the world in his revelation to his people, and indeed, the Bible is full of ancient conceptions of physiology and cosmology which God does not correct (for example, the word often translated as "mind" is actually "stomach," reflecting an incorrect assumption about the seat of consciousness on part of the Biblical authors).

#35 mrmando

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:36 PM

Chapter 2 changes focus as soon as the writer steps back to take another closer look at what was only generally summarized in chapter 1.

You don't seem to be willing to pinpoint the verse where you think this occurs. I'll tell you what I think: 2:4 is a general summary statement. 2:5-6 are general statements that introduce one of the chapter's topics (the relationship between plants and people), but according to narrative and contextual logic (i.e., assuming that 2:5 has some logical reason for coming after 2:4 and before 2:7), as well as the Hebrew words used, they refer to all of creation. Nothing in these verses suggests that the geographic focus has yet narrowed at all. 2:7 doesn't seem to have a geographic focus ... the dust could have come from anywhere on the earth. So, the focus does not tighten until the introduction of geographic terms in 2:8. In other words, the chapter does not zoom in on the Garden of Eden until ... it starts talking about the Garden of Eden.

Any other interpretation leads to awkward and sudden shifts in focus, across both time and space, and the only reason for assuming that such shifts take place is to avoid contradicting chapter 1.

Verse 5 is discussing specific plants "of the field" and makes no claim specifically as to the origin of botanical life on the entire planet.

I disagree. It mentions both wild and cultivated plants and says there were none of either. That pretty much covers it.

It could of course refer to the entire planet, or just the one place on the earth where man is first placed, but that doesn't really matter, does it?

Um ... that is the question we are trying to resolve, so what do you mean by saying it doesn't matter? It is the matter at hand. If you're indifferent about it, then why bother responding to me?

But even a minimum look at the those who discuss the original Hebrew reveals that the Hebrew text does not necessarily support inferences you could make from the English text (if you just decide to ignore the Hebrew - not, I might add, a practice supported by any single study on hermeneutics).

Um, see above, where I discuss 2:5 in more detail, including a look at some of the Hebrew terms.

So if I wanted to claim, as some early Mormon teachers did, that God made Adam on another planet and then decided to make the earth and put him there, that could be construed as a "literal reading of the passage as inerrant"?

No. That would contradict literal readings of either chapter 1 or 2.

It doesn't scramble the chronology of chapter 2 any more than you're scrambling it. If I want to assert, based on chapter 2, that Adam was made before the earth was, then what the heck? After all, according to you the chapter is arranged topically, not chronologically.

2:1-3 doesn't mean God still didn't later create subspecies of animals, new stars, or Eve out of Adam after the seventh day/period of time.

2:1-3 doesn't, but 1:26-31 says all of the above was done by the end of the sixth day.

Again, Grudem defines inerrancy as meaning that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.

And again, what does Grudem mean by "fact," especially when we are discussing highly poetic/symbolic passages such as these?

The question of the authority and veracity of the biblical texts as we have them today should be decided on bases other than the fact that we do not possess the autographs.

Then why does Grudem bother hedging his bet by referring to "original manuscripts"?

Edited by mrmando, 24 May 2011 - 02:05 AM.


#36 mrmando

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 11:58 PM

Only if you assume that God made the animals to be that "help" for Adam,

Well, v. 20 certainly makes that assumption; who am I to do otherwise?

but kept making mistakes and not getting it right until finally, after thousands of trials and errors, God finally got it right with Eve.

Who said anything about mistakes? Ask Thomas Edison: a failed experiment is not the same thing as a mistake.

It is more reasonable to conclude that verse 19-20 is some sort of lesson for Adam (not God),

Yes, I like that very much.

and therefore when God says what He says in verse 18, He already knew what He was going to do in verse 22.

Except that v. 20 suggests there was indeed an attempt on somebody's part (more likely Adam's than God's) to find a "help" among the animals. And since the antecedent of that idea is found in v. 18, it makes sense to assume that the antecedent of "(had) formed" in v. 19 is also found in v. 18.

So ... there are at least three reasons for bringing Adam the animals. One, it's a co-creative exercise: God wants to see what Adam will call them. Two, it's a search for a "help": Adam looks among the animals for a companion. (God may know he won't find one there, but Adam doesn't.) Three, it's a lesson: Adam learns that he belongs with someone of his own kind. None of this precludes the idea of the animals being formed in v. 19 rather than preformed.

So yes, you've got me making a little assumption here (based upon what I know about God from the rest of Scripture).

In other words, a canonical fallacy.

The assumption is that, in verse 20, God did not think that maybe a monkey or a giraffe might have been a good mate for Adam.

I do think it's a pretty safe assumption, but it doesn't prove anything about when the animals were made.

I don't get where you're getting this idea that the writer of Genesis for some reason didn't care about making sense or being logically consistent.

That's not what I said. I said the writer(s) didn't trouble themselves with the law of non-contradiction, i.e., the author of Gen. 2 doesn't make a heroic effort to prevent his chapter from contradicting the previous chapter in some of its details. As for "making sense or being logically consistent," it is precisely your insistence upon non-contradiction which renders a reading of Gen. 2 that is not logically consistent.

My disagreement here was only insofar as anyone would claim God could break the logical law of noncontradiction.

You are confusing "God" with "the Bible."

Did you read the C.S. Lewis excerpt at the beginning of this thread?

I admit I'm more interested in what you have to say in your own words than I am in how many quotations you can assemble.

Reading Genesis in its original cultural context. The cosmology of Genesis 1 corresponds fairly neatly with general Ancient Near Eastern cosmology, and there's no real reason to see it as distinguishing itself in this respect (unlike its theological content, which makes Genesis 1 through 3 seem like something of a polemic against other creation accounts).

Precisely, and adducing other scriptures here is another canonical fallacy, unless there's some textual reason to suppose that those scriptures are intended to be commentaries upon Genesis.

Edited by mrmando, 23 May 2011 - 11:59 PM.


#37 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 03:57 AM

Ryan H. wrote:
: I've heard differently; I've heard it suggested that by all indications the Septuagint was under development throughout the centuries of Jesus and the Apostle's lives.

Well, I'd ask who's suggesting it, but I haven't followed this field in any depth lately. All I can say is that Pelikan was a pretty good scholar, at least for his era, and it would be a curious thing indeed if the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures only began to include certain books at some point during the century AFTER the century in which the Jews stopped keeping copies of those books in the original Hebrew.

: I've heard it claimed that the bulk of Patristic writing prior to the time of Clement did not strongly rely on the Apocryphal books, and it's unclear if the texts were seen as authoritative in the same way.

Which Clement is this? The one I'm most familiar with lived near the end of the 1st century in Rome, and wrote an epistle to the Corinthians in which he apparently discusses the death and rebirth of the phoenix as though it were a genuine scientific phenomenon.

: In Against Apion, Josephus doesn't recognize the Apocrypha as part of the Hebrew Canon.

And he would have written that around the time of the Council of Jamnia, which is more or less when the Jews gave the Hebrew canon its present form, yes? (Oh, great. So a lot of scholars doubt whether the council even took place. Ah well, the basic point remains: Natural-born Hebrews disagreed with their Hellenistic kin over the canon. And Josephus, as the son of a Jerusalem priest and the leader of a Jewish army during the war against the Romans, was, perhaps, closer to the former than the latter in sensibility.)

: Now all the above is summary pieced together by me, and may present a narrative easily challenged. It becomes pretty overwhelming when you start digging into canonical history and the many different points of view, and sometimes I feel like I'm drowning.

I sympathize!

Persiflage wrote:
: The translation is determined by the context and relevant questions including what the purpose of Genesis 2 is . . .

Quite so. I think mrmando's been handling this tangent pretty well, so I'll leave it to him.

: I'm pretty sure Matthew 1 is not the only place in the Bible where genealogies do not line up precisely. This goes back to the meaning of "son of" . . .

No no no no no. That particular escape hatch is most definitely NOT available to you here, and that is why I cited this passage and not some other geneaology. Matthew says "there were fourteen generations", period. The definition of "son of" has no bearing here. Either there were fourteen generations, or there was some other number of generations. And we know from multiple sources in the OT that there were eighteen generations here. So, what do we do with this number "fourteen"?

Likewise, either Jesus rode one donkey into Jerusalem (as per Mark, Luke and John), or he rode two donkeys (as per Matthew). How can both of these statements be "inerrant"?

: It's primarily a character of God issue - does God tell the truth?

And that basically dovetails with what I said to my priest yesterday: It seems like, whenever people want to defend the doctrine of "biblical inerrancy", all they really end up doing is asserting the inerrancy of GOD. Fine, I have no problem with the inerrancy of God (even though there are plenty of anthropomorphic episodes, in the OT especially, where God seemingly regrets what he has done, changes his mind, and on at least one occasion is even shamed by a human into changing his mind back again, etc.). But why bother asserting the inerrancy of the BIBLE if you're always going to have to back down on the plain meaning of this passage or that passage, and if you're always going to end up saying "It's not what the Bible SAYS that's inerrant so much as what it MEANS", etc?

: Is everything in God's inspired Word true?

Well, apparently that all depends on what a person means by "true".

: Luke 17:34-36 also describes the Second Coming of Christ as happening both during the night and during the day for different people on the earth - easily inferring the rotation of a round earth. Is this somehow suspect? If so, why?

Well, first of all, there's the question of whether that passage is even referring to the Second Coming of Christ in the first place. We happened to discuss that just the other day in the Harold Camping thread, starting here.

#38 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 05:47 AM

Well, I'd ask who's suggesting it, but I haven't followed this field in any depth lately. All I can say is that Pelikan was a pretty good scholar, at least for his era, and it would be a curious thing indeed if the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures only began to include certain books at some point during the century AFTER the century in which the Jews stopped keeping copies of those books in the original Hebrew.

The question becomes, "When did the Jews stop keeping copies of those books in the original Hebrew?" They were certainly around in the Hebrew for Theodotion to consult.

Which Clement is this? The one I'm most familiar with lived near the end of the 1st century in Rome, and wrote an epistle to the Corinthians in which he apparently discusses the death and rebirth of the phoenix as though it were a genuine scientific phenomenon.

Clement of Alexandria.

And he would have written that around the time of the Council of Jamnia, which is more or less when the Jews gave the Hebrew canon its present form, yes? (Oh, great. So a lot of scholars doubt whether the council even took place. Ah well, the basic point remains: Natural-born Hebrews disagreed with their Hellenistic kin over the canon. And Josephus, as the son of a Jerusalem priest and the leader of a Jewish army during the war against the Romans, was, perhaps, closer to the former than the latter in sensibility.)

But the fact remains that we don't have real evidence that the Jews ever regarded the Apocrypha as part of the canon. So that becomes part of the problem. Some scholars--though this is a minority opinion--actually argue that the Hebrew canon was finalized as early as the Hasmonean dynasty. At any rate, it's fairly clear that parts of the Hebrew scriptures, the Torah and Nevi'im, were canonized by 70 CE. Josephus is the first explicit reference we have to a canonical list of the Hebrew scriptures.

#39 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 09:09 AM

Ryan H. wrote:
: The question becomes, "When did the Jews stop keeping copies of those books in the original Hebrew?" They were certainly around in the Hebrew for Theodotion to consult.

Well, the books wouldn't have vanished overnight, of course. Wikipedia indicates that Theodotion's translation would have been composed only 50-60 years after the traditional dating of the possibly non-existent Council of Jamnia, and about 250 years before Jerome created his own translation. So that doesn't pose too big a challenge to the broader narrative that I'm aware of.

: Some scholars--though this is a minority opinion--actually argue that the Hebrew canon was finalized as early as the Hasmonean dynasty.

What, then, of the contrast (acknowledged in the NT) between the Sadducees, who were affiliated with the Temple establishment and regarded only the five Books of Moses as canonical (and thus did not believe in the Resurrection), and the Pharisees, who were more of a lay movement and had a considerably bigger canon (and thus did believe in the Resurrection)?

Speaking of which, the fact that there was a discrepancy between the canons of these two sects -- sects which intermingled on Jewish home turf -- is one of the reasons why I'm not too surprised to hear that there may have been major discrepancies between the canons of the Hebraic Jews and the Hellenistic Jews, especially in the period before the Temple was destroyed.

: At any rate, it's fairly clear that parts of the Hebrew scriptures, the Torah and Nevi'im, were canonized by 70 CE. Josephus is the first explicit reference we have to a canonical list of the Hebrew scriptures.

Though Against Apion was apparently written in the AD 90s. Which is not to say that the canon described therein couldn't have been Josephus' preferred canon a couple decades earlier, too. But Josephus apparently offered his canonical list at a time when there had already been two or three decades of religio-cultural fallout from the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

#40 SDG

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 10:56 AM

I've heard differently; I've heard it suggested that by all indications the Septuagint was under development throughout the centuries of Jesus and the Apostle's lives. The original translation of the Septuagint was just the Torah, and many of the Apocryphal books came to be associated with the Septuagint later on (indeed, according to many scholarly estimates, many of these books were written after the original translation of the Septuagint, though dating the Apocryphal books is a difficult endeavor).

AFAIK, the earliest editions of the LXX was indeed just the Torah, and then other books were added, but by the first century the LXX included the full canon of protocanonical and deuterocanonical books.

The NT bears witness to the presence of the deuterocanonical books in the texts known to the NT writers. For example, Hebrews 11:35 alludes to the seven brothers in 2 Maccabees 7 who accepted torture and martyrdom for the sake of a better resurrection.

Some fathers either prior to or contemporary with Jerome--Melito of Sardis, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazanius, Amphilocus of Iconium, Epiphanius of Salamis--did not include the Apocrypha in their canonical lists (Melito, being pretty early, is perhaps the most significant name on that list). They occasionally included a book or two from the Apocrypha and excluded a text from the 22 book Hebrew canon, but there was never a full embrace of what we now recognize as Apocrypha. Now that, on its own, doesn't resolve anything, since a treatment of their use of apocryphal literature is in question, but I've heard it claimed that the bulk of Patristic writing prior to the time of Clement did not strongly rely on the Apocryphal books, and it's unclear if the texts were seen as authoritative in the same way.

Here is how Protestant church historian J. N. D. Kelly assesses the situation: "It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive [than the Protestant Bible] ... It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called apocrypha or deuterocanonical books" (Early Christian Doctrines, 53).

Both the NT and the OT include books that were embraced early and unanimously and also books that took a longer time to win acceptance. In the NT there are "deuterocanonical" works including James, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation. These works also are less commonly quoted in the earliest patristic sources and were apparently at one time not unanimously recognized as authoritative.

The full OT canon, including the deuterocanonical books, was affirmed by the Council of Rome in 382, and reaffirmed by a number of subsequent councils, including the Council of Hippo in 393, the Council of Carthage in 397, and the subsequent council at Carthage in 419, which asked Pope Boniface to "confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church." Pope Innocent I affirmed the sane canon in a 405 letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse. All of these canons were identical to the modern Catholic Bible, and all of them included the deuterocanonicals.

The seventh ecumenical council, Nicaea II (787), approved the results of the 419 Council of Carthage, implicitly endorsing the same canon. The canon was also explicitly reaffirmed at the council of Florence (1442) as well as Trent (1546).

It's true that some fathers, including Jerome, continued to doubt the authority of the deuterocanonical works -- though the fact that Jerome was persuaded to include them in the Vulgate is some indication of their general acceptance and the expectation that they should be included in any edition of scripture. In his later years, even Jerome displayed some acceptance of deuterocanonical additions to the canon, such as the deuterocanonical additions to Daniel, which Jerome, following "the judgment of the churches," accepted.