Gill....Well, the Wisdom of Solomon is accepted by the Catholic Church in the deuterocanon. Protestants have rejected all the deuterocanonical works because these anticipate certain Catholic teachings, such as intercession by angels/saints. The Catholic Church, meanwhile did not accept something like the Shepherd of Hermas into its canon because it is clearly not apostolic and by the the fourth century apostolic status (even indirect connection to an apostle) became a requirement for canonicity (and even by the start of the third century this gave the Shepherd on lower status, as the Muratonian Fragment attests). The theme of penance in the Shepherd was quite agreeable to Christians, but it had a "confused" christology (from the point of view of later theologies) and there was a prejudice against works featuring "visions" after the Montanist controversy in the third century. The Shepherd however was clearly considered "scripture" by the creators of the Codex Sinaiticus, who included it in the NT. As for the Apocalypse of Peter, it aroused suspicions by its exceedingly graphic portrayal of hell, and for the lack of linguistic and stylistic similarity with 1 Peter (the same cause for suspicion of 2 Peter in the Church). Even more than this, the Apocalypse of Peter hinted that punishment in hell was not eternal, but claimed that no one can know this because otherwise people would sin freely without worry. Thus, unlike most other apocalyptic works, it holds out some hope of universalism. This suggestion may have also made the work undesirable, especially when Revelation (the apocalypse of John), which had greater prestige, claimed the opposite.
The Bible Canon, the Muratorian Fragment and the WTBTS.
You're right it might raise some curiosity. And a still greater surprise at finding that such "lost books" are not anything like the "JW truth".
Actually there are a lot of related questions that might raise a JW's curiosity:
- Why was the canon of my "Hebrew Scriptures" fixed by the "unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus"?
- Why do my "Christian Greek Scriptures" quote and refer to texts that were no part of this canon (e.g. 1 Enoch in Jude)?
- Why was the canon of my "Christian Greek Scriptures" fixed by "Christendom's apostates" at the same time they were adopting the "pagan Trinity" doctrine?
Seems like the "holy spirit" has a strange way of working.
Unfortunately the optical illusion of "providence" and egocentrism are generally stronger. Not only for JWs.
Didn't the whole history lead straight to ME?
Narkissos - This is obviously your subject!
So, why do you think they risked putting such an article in the Watchtower? Was it just an attempt to appear scholarly? Could whoever wrote the article not realise the falseness or dare I say,' misrepresentation' of the Muratorian Fragment, that they were portraying?
The "risk" is minor imo. Very few people will actually check and come to a different analysis.
Moreover they are not alone. The Muratori Fragment is one of those documents which are often waved from afar as "evidence" (in that case, for an early NT "canon") by fundamentalists / apologists. A few conservative scholars gloss over the approximations and thousands of second-hand apologists are content just to repeat the "evidence," forgetting about the approximations altogether. How many times have we heard and repeated, for instance, "the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the Hebrew OT" before even looking at what those scrolls actually were?
I can't imagine that the original writer of the WT article didn't read the Muratori Fragment itself. However, he was also relying on some conservative presentations as the quotations show. Moreover, any WT article goes through many revisions before publication. In the past the French Writing dept. made a lot of research on the early church period (as is still apparent from the frequent quotations of French works in the articles on Church Fathers), but the material they submitted was always modified by the Brooklyn Writing dept. before it was published. The less qualified "corrects" the best qualified on grounds which have nothing to do with research -- especially a concern not to cause any questioning from the readers. Many nuances are lost in the process.
There are some recent very good arguments that the MF dates to the 4th century and the above statement was meant to mean that the Sh.Hermas was written in postApostalic (our) times rather than from earlier Apostalic times. If so then the MF would not be so anomalous. Most everything about it more comfortably fits the 4th century than the 2nd.
If the Bible canon was guided by the Holy Spirit then the canon is absolutely correct, with only the Catholic and Protestant split regarding it's contents as a factor.
If the Bible canon was not guided by the Holy Spirit and men decided in their wisdom what was to be included and what was not, then it STILL CONTAINS THE COMPLETE BELIEFS OF CHRISTIANITY.
Either way there are no 'lost books of the Bible', there are only other books that might have a varying amount of influence. They were kept out because Christianity defined and refined it's beliefs when heresies challenged those beliefs.
Leolaia - What was the reasoning for not including the Apocalypse of Peter? Apart from the fact that it painted a very scary picture of hell?
It certainly made me understand the Catholic teachings of hell, (even if I didn't believe in them myself).
I would have thought that a lot of extreme Christian fundamentalists would have been rather keen on the Apocalypse of Peter in their Sermons also.
Narkissos - I expect you're right and very few JWs will actually try to find out more about the article on the Muratorian Fragment. The majority will just accept it. Those few, who just might look for information, will assume that the Society is correct 'as usual' and the rest, just don't have 'guidance from Jehovah'.
peacefulpete - That's an interesting point, that it was most likely 4th Century. The Watchtower was also 'not impressed' with the scribe who copied the fragment. It seems to have taken several centuries to correct his 'errors'. That could mean anything.
shiningone - With the time scales that we are talking about and the 'non existence' of the very original manuscripsts, we can NEVER be sure what was meant to be said in the first place.....people can only assume, and since a single comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence......Christianity's basic beliefs will always be open to conjecture.
Leolaia - What was the reasoning for not including the Apocalypse of Peter? ; Apart from the fact that it painted a very scary picture of hell?
I already mentioned a possible reason in my reply....
As for the Apocalypse of Peter, it aroused suspicions by its exceedingly graphic portrayal of hell, and for the lack of linguistic and stylistic similarity with 1 Peter (the same cause for suspicion of 2 Peter in the Church). Even more than this, the Apocalypse of Peter hinted that punishment in hell was not eternal, but claimed that no one can know this because otherwise people would sin freely without worry. Thus, unlike most other apocalyptic works, it holds out some hope of universalism.
Just to clarify my comment, there are arguments for it being a fouth century fragment, the general consensus still holds to the 2nd century. It is contentious. Also the character of the MF is one of disputation not authoritative declaration so it itself demonstrates the unsettled state of the matter. Then there is the matter of it being a very crudely wrttten/worded 8th century Latin translation of an earlier Greek. Everyway you look at it the MF is not the proof the WT and others are looking for to support their claim that the NT Canon was fixed from its inception. The overwhelming evidence shows the opposite.
What makes me quite hesitant about a fourth century date is the reference to the Shepherd as being "recent". Its unabashed use of pseudepigrapha, focus on pneumatic visions, unconventional christology, and quasi-scriptural status in some fourth and fifth-century codicies all point to the second century to me. A date in the second half of the third century or fourth century would be much too late. Putting the completion of the Sherpherd at about 150 and the Muratorian Fragment at about 200 sounds right to me.