"Canonical Scriptures"/ "Word of God"
In contrast to the ELCA description of the Scriptures,
both the confessions of faith of the Lutheran World Federation and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have traditionally referred to the Holy Scriptures using the 1580 Formula of Concord's description," the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments" (BkC 464.1;503.3).
The Church of Sweden's only official text of the Augsburg Confession (confirmed in the 1593 Synod of Uppsala) designates "the Godly holy Scripture." This follows the German text butnot the Latin text(CA 28) translated "kanoniska." It is the Latin, (unofficial) text which is given exclusively in the presently available, standard Swedish Pro Fide edition of the Book of Concord.
Contrary to a generally accepted assumption
that the Confessions of Faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church ignore the concept "canon of Scriptures" and do not even use the word canonical, there is indeed one interesting use of the word!
The concluding section of the Lutheran Churches' primary statement of faith, the Augsburg Confession, states, "Augustine also says in reply to the letters of Petilian that not even catholic bishops are to be obeyed if they should happen to err or hold anything contrary to the canonical Scriptures of God" (CA 28 Fortress Press ed BkC85.28).
The only critique launched by the catholic opponents against CA 28
is stated in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (BkC 282.6):"In this article of the Confession we included various subjects. But our opponents' only reply is that bishops have the power to rule and to correct by force in order to guide their subjects toward the goal of eternal bliss...."
Therefore, it must be assumed that there is basic agreement in the contemporary commentaries on the Augsburg Confession. Both the author of the Confession and its opponents seem to agree on the contextual meaning of the term "canonical" as used by Augustine.
THUS, those who read the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions of faith in their historical contexts must agree that Catholics and churches of the Augsburg Confession are really in basic agreement on the number of books included in the canon of scriptures.
The canons espoused by Bishop Augustine of Hippo
(de doct.christ.2,13) and accepted by the local Councils of Hippo (393AD) and Carthage (397)
were drawn up in reaction to the biblical scholar St. Jerome (Praef. Sam.et Mal.,c.391). Like the learned and influential Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome attempted to limit the Latin canon to 66 books (the Masoretic Original Testament plus the Christian NT). But the Church of Rome, which had commissioned Jerome to publish the Vulgate, has instead followed Augustine's opinion on the canon. The present Cathéchisme de l'Église Catholique persists in following the Augustinian tradition as "la Tradition apostolique," despite the influence of the Vulgate's editor and translator.
Most of the Protestant denominations follow the list limited to only those 66 books canonized in the Reformed catechisms and confessions of faith(Conf.Gall.iii,j,Conf.Belg.iv,Westminster Conf.I).
Most Lutherans assume that the Reformed canon is also the Lutheran "canon."
The assumption is usually justified by references to Martin Luther's edition and translation of the German Bible.
However, a careful look at Luther's Bible (which omits pagination for both the "Apocrypha" and several New Testament books) would show that his "authority" would espouse a strict canon with fewer than 66 books. Recent discussion about Luther's purported critical "canon within the canon" has not led to any fruitful inter-Lutheran agreement despite its popularity in so-called "modern critical scholarship,"(see the historian J.Pelikan's evaluation of this trendy use of "sowiet Sie Christum treibet"in the standard english ed. of Luther's Works (LW 21 xv and "L the Expositor",p86). As with the Catholics and Jerome, so with Lutherans and their editor and translator:
more inclusive canons, often including most of the Jewish Septuagint's and the early church's books, (some of which Luther dubbed "apocrypha") have been followed by the worshipping communities.
Furthermore, if one ancient meaning of canon as "those books which are used in the liturgy" is followed, liturgical useages in the prior Lutheran Hymnal, the Service Book and Hymnal and the Lutheran Book of Worship reflectsuch a "canon" of more than 66 books.
In 1932, this more crude understanding of scriptural "inerrancy" had been officially adopted by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. A suposedly conservative backlash insisting on strict adherence to the 1932 Brief Statement led to the firing of seminary professors who supposedly had evolved a more sophisticated view of the Bible in the post-WW II Missouri Synod.
In the interests of a fully honest view of our (dis)unity in diversity as Lutherans, you are hereby encouraged to cautiously peek at this our theological skeleton in the closet, prayerfully ponder these things in your heart and make up your own mind.