Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 3rd, 2014 by Joel Watts

Did John Wesley use the “Apocrypha?” Yes. Yes, he did. #umc

According to James Charlesworth (who used John Vicker’s data) he did.

john wesley apocrypha use deuterocanon

This is taken from James Charlesworth paper for the Charles Wesley society (PDF). He concludes that both Wesleys, while some differences of use, still used and cherished the hidden books. He concludes by saying,

For John Wesley the most revered apocryphal document may have been the Wisdom of Solomon, followed by Sirach. The Wisdom of Solomon and the Fourth Book of Ezra seem to be the most attractive apocryphal books to Charles Wesley.

I note that John Wesley’s Articles of Religion, which was geared to the American Methodists (1784), says,

In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church. The names of the canonical books are:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 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 Book of Ezra, The Book of Nehemiah, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Cantica or Songs of Solomon, Four Prophets the Greater, Twelve Prophets the Less.

All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account canonical.

The 39 Articles of Religion (Anglican) allows for the “apocrypha” but sets them up only to be read, not used for doctrine.

I note Rev. Martin’s suggestion for expanding our current doctrinal standards in regards to this particular article.

We could restore the part of the Anglican article that John Wesley removed before sending his abridged Articles of Religion to the new Methodist Episcopal Church in America. This means naming the additional books that are discussed in the 1971 one-volume commentary and declaring them, as the ancient biblical scholar Jerome did, to be worthy of reading “for example of life and instruction of manners” but not “to establish any doctrine.” Such a step would put us back in basic harmony with not only Jerome but also with the great reformer Martin Luther and with Anglican churches today, including the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. This action would be a limited move, and the additional books would clearly have a second-class status.

Or, we could shorten Article V to its first sentence, leaving us with a general statement about the Bible similar to that of the Confession: “The Holy Scripture containeth 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 [sic] that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Such a broad affirmation would allow us, in our understanding of the extent of the Bible, to come much closer to agreement with Augustine, with the majority view of the Church before the Reformation and with the great majority of Christians in the world today.

Thoughts?

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

2 Responses to “Did John Wesley use the “Apocrypha?” Yes. Yes, he did. #umc”
  1. Here is John Wesley’s expressed opinion about the Apocrypha:

    “The Church of Rome not only adds tradition to Scripture, but several entire books; namely, Tobit and Judith, the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the two books of Maccabees, and a new part of Esther and of Daniel; ‘which whole books,’ says the Church of Rome, ‘whoever rejects, let him be accursed.’

    “We answer, We cannot but reject them. We dare not receive them as part of the Holy Scriptures. For none of these books were received as such by the Jewish Church, ‘to whom were committed the oracles of God:’ (Romans 3:2:) Neither by the ancient Christian Church, as appears from the 60th Canon of the Council of Laodicea; wherein is a catalogue of the books of Scriptures, without any mention of these.”

    — from “Popery Calmly Considered.”

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: