IShould Old Acquaintance Be Not Forgotten...

    James Swan, James White, And Trent (Part 1)

    Just when I thought that James Swan has forgotten me, my book, and the issue of the Old Testament canon, he reappears on the Alpha & Omega website with a canon article. I really respect James Swan even though I have never had the pleasure of meeting him. He seems to try to base his position on research and I’m glad that he is looking into the question of the canon more thoroughly. I should also add that I have respect for James White as well, the president of A & O min.. I enjoyed meeting him at our debate on the Canon of the Old Testament. He seemed like a good guy and I hope to continue to build a good rapport with him. Therefore, I do not want this article to be in anyway construed as ridiculing either gentleman. I find ridicule to be a cheap substitute for sound arguments so I try to avoid it at all costs. I also want to state at the outset that I do not wish to debate the debate with James White a few year ago on this subject. The debate stands by itself and I do not need to add anything to it. Granting all that is said, I must admit that James Swan’s apology for the modern Protestant canon has left me confused.  

    Perhaps a good portion of my confusion deals with ascertaining what is the position of Alpha and Omega Ministries on the Old Testament canon, if indeed there is a single position, because I sometimes find James Swan asserting a position that seems at odds with White and Webster. I assume, since Swan is posting on the ministries’ official website and he is part of the “Pros Apologian” team, that his posts represent the view of the Alpha and Omega ministry and its leaders. When I find things being said by different people contradicting one another I assume that either (a) there is a disagreement among the leaders as to what is the truth on the matter or (b) the ministry espouses contradictory assertions. I admit that I am ignorant of the inner-workings of Alpha and Omega. But on occasion, I am left scratching my head. Take for example James Swan’s post on December 28, 2007 titled: “Who Was One Of The Best Scholars at Trent, And What Did He Think Of The Apocrypha?” In the article, Swan poses the question:

    “What if those who were considered some of the best scholars on the canon at the Council of Trent thought the apocrypha books were not Scripture? There was a group of scholars at the Council of Trent that were considered fairly knowledgeable on this issue. One particular was Cardinal Seripando. The Roman Catholic historian (and expert on Trent) Hubert Jedin explained ‘he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship’ at the Council of Trent” (Emphasis Swan).

    Swan also continues, after an extended quote from Jedin, that: “Jedin also documents a group of excellent scholars that stood against ‘tradition’ as being on the same level of authority as scripture…” (Emphasis mine).

    Despite the fact that his article contains no conclusion, weare left only with the title to direct us as to the purpose of the article, “Who Was One Of The Best Scholars At Trent, And What Did He Think Of The Apocrypha?” Swan’s article focuses on Cardinal Girolamo Seripando (and mentions Bishops Madruzzo and Fonseca) as part of the minority.

    However, the assertion that there were any scholars of note at the Council of Trent seems to directly contradict James White’s opening statement in our debate on the Old Testament canon. Below is the small portion of that debate where James White, in no uncertain terms quotes B. F. Westcott as stating that Trent was devoid of anyone capable of examining the question of the canon.

    “[Trent] erred and did so against the vast majority of the evidence though we have very little reason to believe that those men who promulgated the decree at Trent were even aware of the majority of the information that we will examine this evening.  The renown Anglican scholar B. F. Westcott said concerning the action of the Council of Trent in dogmatically canonizing the apocryphal books that Trent gave a new aspect to the whole question of the canon… ‘[I]t was ratified by fifty-three prelates among whom there is not one German, not one scholar distinguished for historical learning, not one who was fitted for special study for the examination of a subject in which the truth could be determined by the voice of antiquity’” (Michuta v. White, White's Opening Statement) (emphasis mine).

    James White essentially reaffirmed his position on the ignorance of the father of Trent in his post concerning me. Did Trent have scholars or not? White and Swan seem to be at odds in this regard. I don’t understand how there could be “not one” scholar among the fifty-three prelates who voted on the canon and at the same time include Seripando (and others) renown for their “outstanding theological scholarship.” Perhaps someone at Alpha and Omega Ministries can clarify which position the organization takes.

    Stay tuned for part 2…