This development will cause some disruption, inasmuch as all change is ultimately traceable back to the motion of the heavenly
spheres: "So, the motion of the heavens must be the cause of all other
motions." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Three, Chapter
82, p. 277). Some of the pagan critics of Christianity thought it absurd
that the Christian Bible threatens the destruction (not stopping) of the heavens, "And
all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be
rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as
the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig
tree." (Isaiah 34:4). This pagan critic found similar predictions in the apocryphal work the
'Apocalypse of Peter:'
"By way of giving plenty of such sayings, let me quote also what was said in the Apocalypse of Peter. He thus introduces the statement that the heaven will be judged together with the earth. "The earth shall present all men to God in the day of judgment, itself too being about to be judged, together with the heaven which contains it." No one is so uneducated or so stupid as not to know that the things which have to do with earth are subject to disturbance, and are not naturally such as to preserve their order, but are uneven; whereas the things in heaven have an order which remains perpetually alike, and always goes on in the same way, and never suffers alteration, nor indeed will it ever do so. For it stands as God's most exact piece of workmanship. Wherefore it is impossible that the things should be undone which are worthy of a better fate, as being fixed by a divine ordinance which cannot be touched."
(The Apocriticus of Macarius Magnes, Book IV, Chapter VI).
How absurd that the Christians did not know, as everyone else did, that
the heavens are the place of unchanging perfection, whereas change
and decay are limited to the sublunary realm, the sphere below the
moon! Actually, it's just obsolete science. Even the Thomists do
not believe it any more.
Authors today are often asked to contribute endorsements to appear on the dust jacket of upcoming
books. This is commonly perceived as one of the lowlier tasks undertaken by those who
labor in the garden of literature. Some blurb-writers, however, have all but shouldered aside the authors
of the works they recommend. Take Pope Damasus I, the bishop of Rome in the late fourth century. This
man is celebrated by Roman Catholics, because it is he, they say, who included the Apocrypha in the
Latin Vulgate, when Jerome didn't want it. Pope Damasus encouraged the work
of translation, one might almost say he gave the project his endorsement.
What to make of the modern-day fan club of a blurb-writer,
who magnified his achievement until you
might almost think he was the author of the work rather than its
advertiser? Watch his flatterers puff and preen
as if he had created what he only found! Isn't this
like putting one's own name on another's material,
claiming credit where none is due? A translation crossed his desk, yet some people think there is no
Bible without this man; God could not do it alone. Editing, you see, was needed; the services of a
gate-keeper are required before even God can gain admittance; until the work is validated, God labors
Pope Damasus served the church faithfully in encouraging Jerome
to undertake the Herculean task of translating the scriptures. But far from adorning the work
he advertised, he vandalized it, pressuring Jerome, against his
better judgment, into adding the apocryphal books to the Latin Vulgate (if
indeed it is he, as Catholics claim, who included these books and not the fifth century Pope Gelasius.) To
some this counts as a step upward; others must see him as one who tossed a monkey wrench
into the machine, or drew a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
Unfortunately this one individual's personal predilection has overturned,
in some quarters, the consensus opinion of the early,
So long as Jerome's prefaces remained attached to the deutero-canonical
books, these works were understood to be less than fully canonical,
not to be used to resolve doctrinal disputes. So they were
understood through much of the medieval period. But this placement always
carried the risk, ultimately realized, that they would
be elevated to full canonicity, by those who had forgotten the terms of
Discovering the embarrassing fact that no ecumenical
council had ever addressed the canon, the anti-Reformation Council
of Trent later ratified Pope Damasus' minority view, which is the Roman Catholic
canon of scripture to this day. At that time also the distinction
between the canon proper and the 'deutero-canonical' books was
flattened out, a danger always present in binding these second-tier
works together with the fully canonical books, and has by this
point, in the minds of contemporary Roman Catholics, disappeared
Roman Catholics are prone to over-emphasize the work of recognizing God's inspiration, versus
God's work of inspiring these books. The works are inspired by God
whether anyone recognizes this fact or not. They put the focus on
the wrong place, in the hope of feeling needed. People today pick up the Bible and hear the word of
God in it; Catholics imagine nobody would do this if Pope Damasus
hadn't specified for them which books were authored by God.
But many who care not at all about Damasus, Gelasius or any other
Pope will find that the Holy Spirit authenticates His own material. It is all
the more difficult to understand why the Catholics are still waiting to hear 'thank you'
when one reflects that, far from thanking Pope Damasus, many believers say 'no thanks'
to the plumper Bible for which we would have to thank him, if we didn't like the
earlier 'Pope-less' model better.
There can be no doubt that the church had wandered from its early
days of purity of faith by the times of Pope Damasus I. The church,
once persecuted, had already turned persecutor, though the horrors
of the Inquisition still lay in the future. While it is certain that
the early church was filled with the Spirit of God, it is far from
certain the same can be said of this man, standing against the tide.
It's a good rule to remember, concerning the Christian church, that early is good, late
is bad. It's a shame that Jerome did not stand his ground, when he knew better.
The medieval church and the early church display a difference of
opinion. They have different canons of scripture. How can we judge
between them? By their fruits.