Archive for the ‘Michuta’ Category

Michuta Contra Athanasius

June 12, 2010

Athanasius’ canon of Scripture, presented in his 39th Festal letter is famous. It’s not nearly as famous as his “Athanasius Contra Mundum” rejection of the Arian heresy, but it is probably the second most famous aspect of Athanasius’ life today (his excellent letter to Marcellinus on the Psalms was famous in ancient times and perhaps we can revitalize interest in that excellent work as well).

The most famous aspect of Athanasius’ canon of Scripture is the fact that his list of New Testament books is the earliest list that we have that is exactly right without expressing doubt about any of the canonical books. Another famous aspect of Athanasius’ canon of Scripture, however, was his attempt to follow the 22-book Hebrew canon. In doing so, he gets it mostly right, despite the fact that he omits Esther and counts Ruth separately from Judges. In particular, Athanasius explicitly rejected many of the so-called deuterocanonical books.

But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.

Greek: Ἀλλ’ ἕνεκά γε πλείονος ἀκριβείας προστίθημι καὶ τοῦτο γράφων ἀναγκαίως, ὡς ὅτι ἔστι καὶ ἕτερα βιβλία τούτων ἔξωθεν, οὐ κανονιζόμενα μέν, τετυπωμένα δὲ παρὰ τῶν πατέρων ἀναγινώσκεσθαι τοῖς ἄρτι προσερχομένοις καὶ βουλομένοις κατηχεῖσθαι τὸν τῆς εὐσεβείας λόγον· Σοφία Σολομῶντος καὶ Σοφία Σιρὰχ καὶ Ἑσθὴρ καὶ Ἰουδὶθ καὶ Τωβίας καὶ Διδαχὴ καλουμένη τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ ὁ Ποιμήν. Καὶ ὅμως, ἀγαπητοί, κἀκείνων κανονιζομένων, καὶ τούτων ἀναγινωσκομένων, οὐδαμοῦ τῶν ἀποκρύφων μνήμη, ἀλλὰ αἱρετικῶν ἐστιν ἐπίνοια, γραφόντων μὲν ὅτε θέλουσιν αὐτά, χαριζομένων δὲ καὶ προστιθέντων αὐτοῖς χρόνους, ἵνα ὡς παλαιὰ προφέροντες, πρόφασιν ἔχωσιν ἀπατᾶν ἐκ τούτου τοὺς ἀκεραίους.

– Athanasius, Festal Letter 39, Section 7.

As James Swan has noted, however, Roman Catholic Bibles are Bigger than Athanasius’ Bible. They include “The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit,” which Athanasius indicated that he did not accept as part of the canon of inspired Scripture.

Roman Catholic lay author Gary Michuta provides numerous alleged examples from Athanasius, where Athanasius is allegedly quoting the apocrypha as scripture. One in particular is of interest:

Athanasius calls the Book of Judith Scripture. (FN: See Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35, [L. Deus autem non ut homo est, quemadmodum testatur Scriptura], quoting Jdt 13:15. See Breen, Introduction, 374.)

– Gary Michuta Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, p. 122.

A careful investigation of this claim requires us to take a look at Judith 13:15. My friend James Swan found the following:

  • Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition: “And all ran to meet her from the least to the greatest: for they now had no hopes that she would come.”
  • Vulgate: “et concurrerunt ad eam omnes a minimo usque ad maximum quoniam speraverunt eam iam non esse venturam.”
  • KJV: “So she took the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said unto them, behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman.”

There’s nothing close to these in Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35 (see page 367). This may seem somewhat puzzling. The puzzle begins to be resolved when one examines the secondary source on which Michuta was relying (amusingly, Michuta’s ccArmstrong in tertiary-sourcing the subject avoids this particular problem when he relies on Michuta, because he cuts off Michuta’s footnote).

Michuta’s reference to “Breen” is apparently a reference to A.E. Breen, A General and Critical Introduction to the Holy Scripture, [Rochester, New York: John P. Smith Printing House, 1897]

The puzzle increases, because there’s nothing about Judith or Athanasius on page 374 of this book. A little further searching leads to some mention that appears relevant. On page 155, Breen does present a list of similarities from Athansius citing the Apocrypha:

Judith XIII.15
“…non enim quasi homo, sic Deus comminabitur, neque sicut filius hominis ad iracundiam inflammabitur.”

Idem contra Arianos, Orat. II.35
” ‘Deus autem non ut homo est, quemadmodum testatur Scriptura.’ “

(also mentioned at p. 160)

Breen is quoting the following from Athanasius:

But God is not as man, as Scripture has said; but is existing and is ever; therefore also His Word is existing* and is everlastingly with the Father, as radiance of light And man’s word is composed of syllables, and neither lives nor operates anything, but is only significant of the speaker’s intention, and does but go forth and go by, no more to appear, since it was not at all before it was spoken;

Breen makes the following comment:

To judge rightly St. Athanasius’ attitude towards Holy Scripture, we must recall what has been said respecting Meliton. We must readily admit that in these ages a distinction was made between the two classes of books, but it did not deny divine inspiration to the deuterocanonical works. A greater dignity was given by some Fathers to the books that had come down to the Church from the Jews; but these same Fathers testify to the veneration in which the deuterocanonical works were held by the Church, and to the part they played in the life of the faithful. It must also be borne in mind that Athanasius flourished in Alexandria the fertile source of Apocrypha, and in his zeal to repel the inventions of heretics he was most conservative in treating the Canon. His location of Esther among the deuterocanonical books is unique, and was probably caused by the sanguinary character of the book, which also led some Jews to doubt of its divine inspiration.

His omission of Maccabees seems to be an oversight since he adverts to their history in his writings. We do not seek to establish that the status of the two classes of books was the same with Athanasius; but we judge it evident from his writings that he venerated these same books as divine, although not equal in extrinsic authority to the books officially handed down from the Jews. The testimony of Athanasius that the Fathers of the Church had decreed that these books should be read in the Church manifests clearly the Church’s attitude towards these books; and the following passages, taken from the writings of Athanasius, show how deeply he also had drunk from these founts.

There are several layers of issues and problems that unravel this puzzle.

Typo in the Reference

It looks like the reference (XIII:15) is a typo.

Judith VIII:15 is

  • Vulgate: “non enim quasi homo Deus sic comminabitur neque sicut filius hominis ad iracundiam inflammabitur”
  • Douay-Rheims Bible translates this as: “For God will not threaten like man, nor be inflamed to anger like the son of man.” (which appears to be an accurate translation of the Latin)
  • Corresponding King James version (via the original Greek) has: “Do not bind the counsels of the Lord our God: for God is not as man, that he may be threatened; neither is he as the son of man, that he should be wavering.” (Judith 8:16, in the KJV)
  • Greek: ὑμεῖς δὲ μὴ ἐνεχυράζετε τὰς βουλὰς κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ὅτι οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς ἀπειληθῆναι οὐδ᾿ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου διαιτηθῆναι. (Judith 8:16, in the LXX)

Ambiguous Reference
The second layer of problems for Michuta and Breen is an ambiguous reference. The second quotation he provided (for comparison in Athanasius’ works) is from Athanasius’ Four Orations against the Arians, Discourse 2, Section 35. Here is the relevant English translation in its immediate context:

Now man, begotten in time, in time also himself begets the child; and whereas from nothing he came to be, therefore his word also is over and continues not. But God is not as man, as Scripture has said; but is existing and is ever; therefore also His Word is existing and is everlastingly with the Father, as radiance of light.


ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐχ ὡς ἄνθροπός ἐστι, τοῦτο γὰρ εἶπεν ἡ γραφή [fn1], ἀλλ’ ὤν ἐστι καὶ ἀεί ἐστι [fn2] (Greek: )

Fn1: Judith 8:16 [15 Vulgate] Fn2: Exodus 3:14

Perhaps you notice the issue: immediately following “as Scripture has said” there is a Scripture text from Exodus 3:14.

Proto-Canonical Alternative

Furthermore, even assuming the ambiguous reference is to the phrase preceding “as Scripture has said,” the “οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς” is the LXX for Numbers 23:19, and Judith 8:16 has exactly the same “οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς,” at least according to my LXX (I’m not aware of any reason to think that Athanasius’ LXX differed on this point). Thus, especially in view of Athanasius’ explicit rejection of Judith as being part of the inspired Word of God, it seems unreasonable to conclude that this reference in Athanasius is a statement that Judith is canonical Scripture.


What is amusing about this from my standpoint is that Michuta is obviously relying solely on his secondary source, Breen. Furthermore, Breen has overlooked (for whatever reason) the apparently equally good canonical reference to Numbers 23:19, possibly based on familiarity only with the Latin translation, or other secondary reference (such as the source I’ve linked above, which provides only the apocryphal reference).

– TurretinFan


Swan’s Response to Michuta on the Canon

January 25, 2008

James Swan has provided a two part response to a portion of Gary Michuta’s recent book on the canon. If the subject, and particularly it’s relation to Luther, interests you, you should check out his detailed comments:

(part 1)
(part 2)


Metzger vs. Michuta

January 20, 2008

UPDATE: I’m not totally satisfied with this post, and I’m thinking of deleting it. Part of the problem is that the link I have provided is to the main page of Michuta’s web site, and not to a particular page on which the article could be found on any permanent basis. I’m thinking about deleting this one.

Metzger writes: “Finally on 8 April 1546, by a vote of 24 to 15, with 16 abstensions, [sic] the Council issued a decree (De Canonicis Scriptures) in which, for the first time in the history of the Church of the Church, the question of the contents of the Bible was made an absolute article of faith and confirmed by an anathema.” (source) (p. 246)

Michuta responds: “Metzger was really saying was that the Decree on the Canon promulgated on April 8, 1546 [sic] was the first decree on the Canon to include an anathema, which was adopted by a 24 to 15 vote with 16 abstaining.” (source)

Michuta also claims: “Metzger didn’t really read Trent very carefully because the vote he recorded likely wasn’t even on the anathema and even if it was “nothing was decided” by it.” (Id.)

We’ll be digging into this in more detail a bit later. It will be interesting to see if Metzger got a fairly simple historical fact wrong, or whether Michuta did. Considering that Metzger is a renowned scholar, and Michuta isn’t, it would seem to be a safe bet to go with Metzger.

Nevertheless, even experts make mistakes (in fact, the present author is hoping to present some Metzger mistakes on slightly more complex issues soon).

So far:

1) The date given by Metzger is the date on which the decree was adopted.
2) Metzger is claiming that the decree was adopted by the 44% plurality vote (thus, Michuta is wrong about at least that detail).
3) Therefore, by virtue of (2), Michuta’s other claims that his Protestant opponents cannot read Metzger are mistaken. It is apparently Michuta who cannot read Metzger.
4) It is odd that Michuta, who seems to have access to some materials on the council, would not simply say, “No: the decree was issued on April 8, 1546, by a vote of: _______,” and then cite his source.

To be updated as the occasion demands.

To decide the matter, we would need to identify what Metzger’s basis for the claim is. Where did Metzger get the 44% number? Michuta has speculatively reconstructed a vote that he thinks matches the 44% number. Michuta calls it a “straw vote” and says it wasn’t even on the anathema. This suggests Michuta may have found the wrong vote.

Sadly, Prof. Metzger died recently (less than a year ago), so unfortunately he is not around to defend his name against Michuta’s charges.


UPDATE: In an act of hypocrisy, Dave Armstrong has taken the opportunity to accuse James White of deficient research for relying on secondary sources (“deficient research” and “miscalculated a bit concerning his description of a vote at the Council of Trent”) after recently defending Steve Ray’s reliance on secondary sources (link). Of course, that issue is simply among the weeds. So far, Michuta’s claim that the decree was not adopted by the vote identified by Metzger is unsubstantiated. Let’s see if Metzger was right or wrong. (UPDATE to the UPDATE: DA has now claimed in his own combox that he was not criticizing James White for using secondary sources, and clearly his post doesn’t use the words “secondary sources.” Since Metzger (the secondary source) clearly gives the same information White does, and since the page DA links to mentions that fact … readers may draw their own conclusions about DA.)

FURTHER UPDATE: Carrie has given some details of this in a recent post at Beggars All Reformation. Teste Carrie, Metzger cited Jedin (second link) (older vol. 1, vol. 2) (new German version) (older German version) (several of Jedin’s works may be getting conflatted in this rushed update), who gives the details of the vote. He also cited a German author, (Maichle, Albert) Der Kanon der biblischen Bücher und das Konzil von Trient (second link) (1929). (Carrie also corrected a typo found in this post.)

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Carrie has given some more details (here). I’d summarize her points, but then you’d miss the fun way in which she presents them. As I note in the comment section there: What I find interesting is Michuta’s reliance on “Concilium Tridentinum.” It’s not as though the Council of Trent itself published a journal of its proceedings. Or perhaps I’m wrong. And, if so, I wonder if Michuta could direct us to that work. Based on the typography in the Michuta’s cut-n-paste jobs, I imagine he’s referring to the immediately succeeding volume (i.e volume 5) of this work (link to volume 4).

One wonders whether we can expect out-of-date photos of Metzger, Jedin, etc. along with more claims of “deficient research” and “miscalculat[ion]” to pop up on DA’s site any time soon. After all, “Michuta locuta est, causa finita est.”

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