GERRY SOLIMAN MISSES THE POINT ON THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON
This is the third part of my series of answers on Gerry Soliman’s “counterarguments” on the issue on the Woman Clothed with the Sun based on Mr. Soliman’s article “The Woman of Revelations 12 - responding to Atty. Marwil Llasos” in http://solutions-finder.blogspot.com/2011/01/woman-of-revelations-12-responding-to.html. As I already mentioned in my previous posts, my response shall be
based on the division of topics he made in that article. In this reply, I will put Mr. Soliman’s words in red, mine are in black and portions from other sources are in blue.
Mr. Gerry Soliman’s original article “Mary as the Woman Clothed with the Sun of Revelations 12: Symbolical or Literal?” found in http://solutions-finder.blogspot.com/2010/11/woman-clothed-with-sun-of-revelations.html ended in the following conclusion:
“Well if your head is aching already, so is mine. Here is the real score on the Roman Catholic Church on the woman of Revelations 12: They didn't have any official and infallible interpretation of it during the first 300 years of Christianity. In fact, none of the church fathers during that time ever interpreted the woman as Mary. Some of the church fathers referred the woman as Israel, the people of God but never on Mary. Mary as woman clothed with the sun is not an apostolic teaching.”
I already answered the part on the Church Fathers in my previous articles, latest may be found here: http://bromarwilnllasos.blogspot.com/2011/02/gerry-soliman-falters-on-church-fathers.html. I will just limit my answer to the issue on the Canon of Scripture. As my readers may note, my article “GERRY SOLIMAN’S INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY” countered Mr. Soliman’s argument –
“Assuming arguendo that the Catholic Church did not have an official and infallible interpretation during the first 300 years of Christianity that the “woman” of Revelation 12 is Mary, so what? There was no need to officially and infallibly define it because there was no necessity for an interpretation as there was no controversy over that. And more importantly, there was no Christian canon of Scripture yet at that time! It is crazy for Gerry Soliman to demand for an official or infallible interpretation of the “woman” in Revelation 12 when the very canonicity of the Book of Revelation itself was being disputed!
In A Handbook of Christian Faith, John Schwarz stated that “[t]he final recognition and acceptance of the books of the New Testament cannot be dated precisely, as with the Old Testament, but it appears that as early as the middle of the second century there was already general agreement on twenty of the twenty-seven books – all except Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation” [John Schwarz, A Handbook of Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Bethany House Publishers), 2004]. (emphasis added)
In his obscene haste to discredit the Roman Catholic Church, Mr. Gerry Soliman conveniently forgot that the canon of Scripture, both the Old and New Testament, was finally settled at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D., under the authority of Pope Damasus I and was reaffirmed on numerous occasions such as the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. and at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. Pope Innocent I reaffirmed the canon in 405 A.D. in a letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse. The second Council of Carthage in 419 A.D. reaffirmed the canon of its predecessors and asked Pope Boniface to “confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church” [see: http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/DEUTEROS.htm].
Given the foregoing historical background, Evangelical professor and author Dr. Tim Perry concluded: “It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Marian interpretation of Revelation 12 begins in the fifth century, after the New Testament canon is fixed. As part of the New Testament Canon, Revelation’s depiction of the heavenly woman completes the biblical Marian material” [Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 113. Gerry Soliman admittedly has not read this book].”
As usual, instead of meeting the issue head-on, Gerry Soliman once again used his much vaunted, now discredited, “divide-and-rule tactic” by pitting my statement against a fellow Catholic apologist and colleague in Defensores Fidei Foundation, Mr. Carlos Antonio Palad. Mr. Soliman’s article may be found here http://solutions-finder.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-was-canon-of-scriptures-finally.html. He quoted me-
“In his obscene haste to discredit the Roman Catholic Church, Mr. Gerry Soliman conveniently forgot that the canon of Scripture, both the Old and New Testament, was finally settled at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D., under the authority of Pope Damasus I and was reaffirmed on numerous occasions such as the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. and at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. Pope Innocent I reaffirmed the canon in 405 A.D. in a letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse.”
Soliman also quoted the response of Mr. Carlos Antonio Palad posted in http://thesplendorofthechurch.blogspot.com/2010/03/first-response-to-gerry-soliman-on.html -
“Like I said, it was the Council of Trent that gave dogmatic force to the Catholic Canon of Scripture. As any informed Catholic knows, this is the equivalent of stating – as the good ol’ New Catholic Encyclopedia, which I devoured during my college days, does – that it was Trent that gave final form, or “definitively settled,” the Catholic Canon of Scripture. Prior to Trent, Local Councils and Popes had identified and taught the Canon of Scripture, but not with dogmatic force, and not with anathemas or excommunications. Therefore, the Canon technically remained open, but historically and in fact – and this should give Mr. Soliman pause -- between Carthage III and Trent, between which there is a distance of more than 1,100 years, there is no difference regarding the Canon.”
Because I used “finally settled” and Mr. Palad used “definitively settled,” Gerry Soliman’s “tunog” system made him conclude that Mr. Palad and I contradicted each other. I pointed out that there is something terribly wrong with Mr. Soliman’s reading comprehension. What happened to “context, context, and more context” that Mr. Soliman is big about? He just doesn’t walk the talk.
Since I was the one who wrote the article, I am in the best position to explain what I exactly meant. By “finally settled” I meant that all the 27 books of the New Testament Canon were already in by the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. because from that time, no books were added or subtracted from what we now know as the New Testament. As I clearly stated in my article, the list was still later on “reaffirmed” on several occasions, thereby indicating that it was not yet “definitively settled” with the force and effect of a dogma. That came later in the Council of Trent. As everyone knows, the list of the 27 New Testament Books was there as early as 382 A.D. and it remained unchanged from that time on to the Council of Trent.
Similarly, Mr. Carlos Antonio Pala explained that “[p]rior to Trent, Local Councils and Popes had identified and taught the Canon of Scripture, but not with dogmatic force, and not with anathemas or excommunications” and so up until Trent, “the Canon technically remained open.” True enough, Martin Luther presumed to tinker with the New Testament canon and wanted to excise from God’s inspired word such “disputed books” as the Epistle to the Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and the Revelation of John (see: http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html). Worth quoting here is Luther’s infamous words calling the Epistle of James as “epistle of straw” and considered it to be “not of apostolic provenance” (http://www.lessonsonline.info/LutherandJames.htm). Yet, despite Luther’s vain attempt, the list 27 books remained the same as it was in 382 A.D. when we had that final list although disputes on some of these books continued to be raised up until its definitive settlement in the Council of Trent. Until Trent, the decision in the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. “was reaffirmed on numerous occasions such as the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. and at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. Pope Innocent I reaffirmed the canon in 405 A.D. in a letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse. The second Council of Carthage in 419 A.D. reaffirmed the canon of its predecessors and asked Pope Boniface to “confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church.”
Despite my explanation, Gerry Soliman maintained his accusation of contradiction. Well, that’s prejudice at its best. Prejudice squints when it looks, and lies when it talks – so it goes. Besides, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Maintaining his stand on this issue, Mr. Soliman referred his readers to the definition of terms from Merriam Webster:
Definite - free of all ambiguity, uncertainty, or obscurity
Final - not to be altered or undone
Open - containing none of its endpoints
Remain - to continue unchanged
Settle - to establish or secure permanently
The implication Gerry Soliman wanted to convey is that I don’t understand those terms. Excuse me? Is this the best argument that Evangelical apologetics has to offer? To hide behind mere semantics without taking into consideration the “context, context and more context” within which those terms are used. But just to indulge Mr. Soliman’s word game, please find here (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/definitive) the meaning of the word “definitive” which I used. Among others, “definitive” means –
(1) serving to provide a final solution or to end a situation definitive victory>
(3) serving to define or specify precisely <definitive laws> b : serving as a perfect example : quintessential definitive bourgeois>
The meanings above support my expression “definitively settled” as when the Council of Trent provided a final solution or ended the situation of disputing or questioning when some of the books of the New Testament. Trent authoritatively and exhaustively passed upon the issue of the canon of scripture by giving its decision “dogmatic force” and by pronouncing “anathemas or excommunications” as what Mr. Palad had been saying all along. Finally, Trent defined and specified the canon of scripture authoritatively, once and for all, for the Catholic Church.
Gerry Soliman is correct in defining “final” as “not to be altered or undone” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/final). This poses no problem at all to my position. As one can note, the same books of the New Testament “finally settled” in the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. are the same books that we have now, despite the fact that some of the books were disputed by Reformers, hence the list has not been altered or undone.
Mr. Soliman gives the definition of “open” as “containing none of its endpoints.” Mr. Soliman is deceptive because he deliberately omitted this definition of “open”: “exposed or vulnerable to attack or question : subject <open to doubt>” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/open). Despite the final list of the canon, it was nevertheless exposed or vulnerable to attack as we see in Erasmus’ and Martin Luther’s attack on some of the books as well as the doubts of some Christians on the apostolic provenance of those disputed books. You see, this definition fully supports my position. I wonder why Gerry Soliman did not state that.
The remaining two words also don’t pose any problem at all. “Remain - to continue unchanged” – Yes, because the New Testament canon remain or continue to be unchanged until now with precisely the same books as in 382 A.D. Does anyone dispute this? Mr. Soliman is clearly nursing a non-issue. “Settle - to establish or secure permanently” – Readers may check the wide range of meanings of “settle” here http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/settle. None of the definitions raise any threat to my position. The first definition of “settle” in the list is “to place so as to stay.” The 27 New Testament Books – from the Gospel of Matthew to the Book of Revelations – were placed precisely in the New Testament and so it stays today.
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Better luck next time, Gerry.
Moving on …
According to Mr. Gerry Soliman, that due to the “lack of evidence” during the first 300 years of the Church, I made the amazing excuse that “the Book of Revelation has not yet been accepted into the canon in the early centuries of the Church. How could there possibly be an interpretation of the woman in Revelation 12 as Mary when the very inclusion of the Book of Revelation into the canon was itself being debated!” Thus said, Mr. Soliman argued, “Granting that there was no final canon before the 4th century, is Atty. Llasos telling here no one believes that the Book of Revelations were inspired?” This is a red-herring. I never said or ever claimed that no single individual at that time believed that the Book of Revelations was inspired. And Mr. Gerry Soliman is very much aware of that because he candidly admitted: “I'm sure he doesn't mean that.” If that is so, why raise the issue in the first place? Gerry Soliman doesn’t make any sense here!
He continued, “Whatever happened to the so-called infallible church?” Excuse me, what has infallibility of the Church got to do with this? The problem with Mr. Soliman is that he is throwing “infallibility” here and there without really understanding what we actually mean by it. To prove that Mr. Soliman is in the dark when it comes to the meaning of “infallibility,” here is his own question: “Is there no infallible bishop who is able to recognize the writings of the apostle John after 70AD?”
Mr. Gerry Soliman is barking at the wrong tree. He is shadow-boxing with an invisible opponent. As is his wont, Gerry Soliman is debunking something that we don’t teach. Where in Catholic teaching does it say that an individual bishop, save the Bishop of Rome, is infallible? We don’t teach that an individual bishop is infallible. So, Mr. Soliman’s question is senseless.
But, were there bishops who recognized the writings of the apostle John after 70 A.D.? If Gerry made his homework thoroughly, he would have not asked that. With a little research, he would have easily ascertained that there were bishops who recognized the writings of John, especially the Book of Revelation, after 70 A.D. They were Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (b. 296) and Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (b. 130). Aside from Bishops, there were others who recognized the Book of Revelation. They were Origen (b. 185) and, if Mr. Soliman checked his own evangelical apologetics sources, the following:
A. Justin Martyr (150 AD) refers and quotes Revelation 20:
"And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place." (Justin Martyr, Dialogue 81.4)
B. The Muratorian Canon (200 AD) includes Revelation.
C. Hippolytus (170-235) accepted Revelation as scripture.
Despite the ignorance shown by Mr. Soliman on the foregoing points, he nevertheless had the gall to jeer at me by asking –
Has it occur to Atty. Llasos that there is at least one writer during the 2nd and 3rd century, Hippolytus, who identified the woman as the church:
“Now, concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary, John also speaks thus: “And I saw a great and wondrous sign in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun ...By the woman then clothed with the sun, he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the “moon under her feet” he referred to her being adorned” (Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist).
Unknown to Mr. Soliman, and unlike him, I did research on this and I realized that his research is woefully inadequate. In addition to Hippolytus (c. 170 – c. 236 AD) who identified the woman as the Church: (1) Methodius (d. 311 AD) and (2) Victorinus (d. 303 or 304 AD) [see: Robert A. Sungenis, The Apocalypse of St. John (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publication, 2007) p. 238-239].
I already answered the point of Mr. Soliman here http://bromarwilnllasos.blogspot.com/2011/02/gerry-soliman-falters-on-church-fathers.html. I replead my arguments herein.
In the last argument of Mr. Soliman, his common sense reached rock bottom. He said –
So if the canon is being debated, why are there people like Hippolytus who gave an identification of the woman?
So what’s the point? Even if the canon was being debated, it certainly didn’t mean that no Christian, like Hyppolytus, Methodius and Victorinus would not recognize the Book of Revelation as among the inspired writings. By the very nature of a debate, there are at least two sides in a controversy. And Hyppolytus, Methodius and Victorinus just happened to be on the side of the inclusion of the Book of Revelations and made an identification of the woman as the Church. As I explained in my previous article on the Church Fathers, the identification of the woman with the Church by some Church Fathers did not altogether exclude other Church Fathers from seeing a Marian referent in that woman insofar as the Fathers saw Mary in the Church and in the Church Mary. The Catholic Church holds this ecclesiological and ecclesiotypical Mariology then as now.