ABOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT
We talk with Archbishop György Jakubinyi about the structure of the Bible, the editing and interpretation of the text of the New Testament.
--The formation of the Old Testament took more than a thousand years. The books of the New Testament were written in the first centuries of our era. The New Testament -- not so much about its interpretation, but more about its editing now. I talked with a famous writer -- "The New Testament is a patchwork!" he blurted out. Then he explained, shouting for a long time. For me: I have a series of questions and hardly any answers.
--"The New Testament is a travesty," blurted out a famous writer. I'm not criticizing. For a believer, and I am one, Scripture is the Word of God, a revelation, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore we must treat it with respect.
-- Angelic greetings, the Three Kings, Joseph and Mary with the child Jesus, the Madonna with the newborn - situations that have been a common theme in art and literature for thousands of years and have been filmed many times. Then we can follow the Savior. Between the two -- a huge gap, both in the literature about Jesus and in the works of art. We don't know anything about Jesus' school years... well. Why? Nobody wrote it? Why? What can we know? What do we need or should we know?
-- About the student years of Jesus. Among the four gospels, only Mt and Lk write about Jesus' childhood, they are called "childhood gospel" in the literature. They don't write though they do not write about his "student years" - he learned and practiced carpentry with his foster father, St. Joseph- because he had no role in salvation. The escape from Egypt, the 12-year-old Jesus in the church is the only thing mentioned by the two evangelists.
It is understandable that the early Christians - and perhaps us too - would be interested in everything about the youth of the Lord Jesus. That is why the "Gospels, Acts, Epistles, etc." similar to the scriptures were created, which filled this gap, but were not accepted by the Church. Since these early Christian "spiritual readings" sometimes had to be hidden, they are called Apocrypha (hidden) in Greek. The most famous e.g. the Protoevangelium Iacobi, i.e. the early Gospel of James, which describes the birth, virginity, etc. of the Virgin Mary. bring Despite the fact that the Church did not recognize it as Scripture, even church holidays were introduced on an apocryphal and non-biblical basis as a result: e.g. the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the church on November 21, the feast of the Virgin Mary's parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, on July 26, etc.
--The New Testament consists of four Gospels, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All four tell or retell the story of Jesus. Why tell the same story four times? Why isn't once enough? Why four times? Why not twice, three times, five times, fifteen times, or say twenty-two times? We know more than twenty Gospels - why just these four?
-- When I was a young priest, they illustrated the rhetorical technique, the enhancement: "Why did the Lord Jesus choose 12 apostles? He could have chosen two, three, or even 40! Oh, how wonderful, he only chose 12.” Well, we are the same with the four gospels. There were many gospels in the early church, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, only these four were recognized as inspired Scripture. Otherwise, the sacred number 4 cf. before the sacred numbers. In the Book of Revelation, there are also four living creatures at God's throne (Revelation 4:6-8) and they corresponded to the four gospels in early Christian symbolism: lion, bull, man, eagle. Man symbolizes the Gospel of Matthew, because it begins with the becoming of the second Divine Person, with the genealogy table. The lion is Mark's symbol because it means the resurrection. The bull symbolizes the Gospel of Luke, because it begins with a sacrifice. János the eagle, because he begins his Gospel by soaring to the divine origin of Jesus on eagle wings. This traditional Christian explanation was first voiced by Saint Irenaeus, the martyr bishop of Lyons (140-202), and then by Pope Saint Gregory the Great (540-604).
--Who chose these four texts? Who had the right to do this? Opportunity? Or, just as the formation of the Old Testament took more than a thousand years, the New Testament also took centuries?
--What is Scripture and what is not Scripture is decided by the Magisterium of the Holy Mother Church. When questions of faith had to be clarified, universal councils were called. The decisions of the synod were approved by the Pope. In 1870, the First Vatican Council declared - raising it to the rank of an article of faith, a dogma - the decisive infallibility and primacy of the Pope over the universal church in matters of faith and morality.
Regarding the Holy Scriptures, we distinguish: canonicity, inspiration (inspiration) and authenticity (authenticitas). Canonicity means that a holy book is part of the Holy Scriptures (the Bible), that is, it is included in the canon of the Holy Scriptures (the list of holy books). Inspiration means that the holy book included in the canon was inspired by the Holy Spirit and is infallible in matters of faith and morals (so there may be linguistic or historical errors in the Holy Scriptures!) Authenticity means that the holy book was written by the person whose name it bears, e.g. Saint Matthew's Gospel.
In the beginning, only local synods dealt with the canon. What was not recognized was classified as apocryphal.
As an article of faith, in the rank of dogma, only the Council of Trent defined the canon on 04.08.1546 under the title "Decision on the Acceptance of Holy Books and Traditions". After listing the 72 books of the Holy Scriptures: 45 of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament, he declares: "And if anyone accepts the books as a whole with all their parts as they are read in the Catholic Church, and they are included in the ancient Latin "Vulgate" edition, he does not accept them as holy and to canonical books, and knowingly and thoughtfully despises the aforementioned traditions: let him be excommunicated." (DS 1502-1504, in: Heinrich Denzinger – Peter Hünermann, Statements of the Creed and the Magisterium of the Church, edited by Ferenc Burger, Örökmécs Kiadó – Bátonyterenye – Szent István Társulat – Budapest 2004, 372-373).
It follows that only canon and inspiration are dogma, authenticity is not! So if someone says that none of the holy books were written by the one whose name it bears today, they are not a heretic, they are not excommunicated, they just hold an extreme view. However, anyone who denies the canonicity or inspiration of any holy book is a heretic. This is only since the decision of the Council of Trent. For example, St. Jerome (347-420) considered only the Jewish Old Testament and the Greek New Testament to be holy books, not the seven Greek-language (so-called "deuterocanonical") books of the Old Testament. He was not a heretic, because there was no article of faith in the canon at that time!
--What were the selection criteria?
--The Council of Trent clearly defines: The list of holy books includes those books that have been and are read as scriptures "at all times and everywhere" in the Church.
--And the few answers:
The Gospels complement each other. Each tells stories that the others do not. By repeating it four times, we can better see and understand the story of Jesus.
--The 2006.4 issue of National Geographic surprised the world by publishing the Gospel of Judas. The paper's specialty is the natural sciences - but it seems that such a topic was not out of their hands. Judas writes differently than the gospels that have been known for thousands of years. Over the course of thousands of years, Christianity has been attacked a lot - the otherness of the Gospel of Judas was not questioned either. It remained at the level of passing sensations. Was the text known at the time the New Testament was edited? Was it deliberately left out then?
-- The apocrypha have already been discussed. The Gospel of Judas is also such an apocrypha, which survived in the Coptic language and reflects the Gnostic faith of the heretic. Saint Irenaeus, the martyr bishop of Lyons (140-202), already mentions it and considers it a heretical book. The sensation was that so far only references have been found, but the book was only discovered in the 1970s under circumstances that are still unclear. Scientists from the II-III. century. It did not exist when the canonical gospels were written.
--The conclusion: John's Gospel ends with the Book of Revelation. The Greek word "apokalypsis" means "appearance". The appearance of the creator deity also means the end of the world. The book of the Apocalypse closes the Bible, the entire cosmic arc. The story of many billion years. The Bible begins with: "In the beginning" -- what was creation. And it ends with a description of the apocalypse. About editing. How was the unity of the Old and New Testaments born? Who, who, where, when, why, how were the two - two edited into one? – text? What were the aspects and criteria of the compilation? Other determining circumstances?
--The entire Holy Scriptures (including the New Testament) ends with the Apocalypse, that is, the Book of Revelation. Tradition attributes five books to St. John: his Gospel, three "Catholic" letters and the Book of Revelation (Jn, 1-3Jn and Jel). To the question, "How was the unity of the Old Testament and the New Testament born?" How were the two texts edited into one?", we can find an ample explanation in the study of the Canon of Scripture (in: Magyar Katolikus Lexikon, XII. kt. SzIT Budapest, 2007, 984-989). In short: The first two of the three parts of the Jewish Old Testament: 5 books of Moses = Torah or Law, Prophets (the historical books and the prophets) and Writings were already closed collections at the time of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus also refers to the Scriptures in this way: "the Law and the Prophets". The Christians adopted the Jewish Scriptures in the Greek Septuagint, which is more extensive than the Jewish Old Testament canon. The documents of the New Testament were slowly assembled into collections: the four Gospels, the letters of St. Paul, e.g. lined up according to length. The collection of 27 books of the New Testament was first listed by St. Athanasius in 367 (in his 39th Easter circular). In the West, this was adopted in 382 at the Roman Council, in 393, 397 and 419 at the African Councils. We can only guess on what criteria the order of the books of the Holy Scriptures was compiled today.
--Holy Bible - God's word is holy. Who, where, when, how, why declared its written and edited version, the book of books, as one and unchangeable? For a saint?
--I have already answered this question in point 1/d (the Council of Trent).
Gyulafehérvár, 06.10.2019 Archbishop György Jakubinyi