To be honest, it’s been a hard week again. I’ve been trying to grab the energy to get back to my study on the 39 Articles, but I have lacked the desire. But today, (Saturday), as I sit on my porch in the most amazing sunshine and temperature, (We’ve actually had spring this year and haven’t gone from “winter” to HOT), I’ve realized that I need to get back to this study. So here we go.
VI: Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or ne essay to salvation. In the name of the Holy scriptures we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books
The First Book of Samuel
The Second Book of Samuel
The First Book of Kings
The Second Book of Kings
The First Book of Chronicles
The Second Book of Chronicles
The First Book of Esdras (Ezra)
The Second Book of Esdras (Nehemiah)
The Book of Esther
The Book of Job
Ecclesiastes or Preacher
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon
Four Prophets the greater
Twelve Prophets the less
And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:
The Third Book of Esdras
The Fourth Book of Esdras
The Book of Tobias
The Book of Judith
The rest of the Book of Esther
the Book of Wisdom
Jesus the Son of Sirach
Baruch the Prophet
The Song of the Three Children
The Story of Susanna
Of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manassas
The First Book of Maccabees
The Second Book of Maccabees
All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly. Received, we do receive and account them Canonical.
The wording of this article can show that Cranmer truly wanted to show that the beliefs of this new English catholicism was parting with Roman one. You can clearly see in wording of the first part, that he was was joining with other reformers in saying Sola Scriptura. Only the Holy Scriptures contained what was necessary and helpful for Salvation. Nothing extra was needed. No tradition, upon which the Roman Catholic Church had depended, would be helpful for that. Some examples of extra biblical teachings that had become a part of the church were purgatory, and Transubstantiation (where the bread and wine actually turn into the body and blood of Christ). The English church said that if it wasn’t in the Bible, it didn’t belong in the church’s teaching. (Bray, Confess, 42).
To deep dive into the history of how which Scripture texts became the Canon of the church would take too much time here. But what is amazing is that in 1563, Matthew Parker, who was the editor of the Articles at that time, wrote up this list and it is the first time a Protestant church ever wrote down an authorized list of the books of the Canon.
Farther down in the Article, the name “Hierome” is mentioned. That is Jerome. Jerome translated the “original” or the best versions of the original languages of the Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. It was Jerome’s insistence on using the originals that gave Cranmer an extra push to make sure to say that it is only the Canon as it stands, is Biblical and is the one upon which the traditions of the church were built.
The last section of the Article mentions the Apocryphal writings. These are writings which were present during the early church but have always been regarded as suspect.
As Bray mentions:(Bray, Confess, 47)
”Some of them are fairly innocuous, but others present Jesus and his companions in ways that seem to go against what the four canonical Gospels tell us.” (Bray, Confess, 46.) As seen in Article VI, Matthew Parker was unwilling to throw out the Apocryphal books completely but added that they were to “not apply them to establish any doctrine.”
These Apocryphal texts have been the impetus to make sure the Church truly knows what is the basis and which texts are the foundations upon which it sits.
Cranmer echoed William Tyndale, who was one of the first translators of the Bible in to English, that the Bible should be in English for the English. He wanted the church liturgy and the Scriptures to be in the tongue of the people who were worshipping. Here he too split from the Roman church which was, at that time, still having all services in Latin. Cranmer wanted to use the translation by Tyndale and finished by Miles Coverdale. So he utilized Miles Coverdale’s version of the Psalms for the Book of Common Prayer and that version is still used today in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer.
I think that his Article shows the tenacity of Cranmer to make sure that Church liturgy and Scripture used in that liturgy were for the people. He wanted them to know where to find doctrine for life. He wanted it to be in their language. He wanted it to be accessible. He wanted them to go to the Source.
In this time of stress and frustration, even for me, for I am preaching to the Choir here, this article is a reminder that no platitudes shown on memes in Facebook and Instagram can be the basis of faith. It is only through Scripture do we find strength in faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1
We do not know what the next few weeks will hold. But let us cling to the Scripture and the Truths that are contained there. As hard as it may be. For we do not see “all the things” that will come to pass, but may we find strength in Christ and the Scriptures.