Chapter 3 of the first question is a recounting of ancient heresies that rejected parts of the Bible that neither Catholic nor Protestant reject today. I will make only one brief comment on this chapter before moving on to the substance of Whitaker’s arguments against the Apocryphal books. There are modern heresies that deny parts of the canon. One might think of Dan Brown and his attack on the entirety of Christendom through his revisionist historical readings of the New Testament, and his preferring of the Gospel of Thomas. One might think of the Mormons, who use only part of Scripture, but not all of it. It is useful, therefore, to read this chapter, if only to get a feel for how these kinds of heresies operate.
Moving on to chapter 4, then. Whitaker summarizes his opponents’ argument in this manner:
Our adversaries have but one argument in behalf of these books, which is derived from the authority of certain councils and fathers. They allege, in the first place, the third council of Carthage, (in which Augustine himself bore a part,) can. 47, wherein all these books are counted canonical. Should any one object, that this council was only provincial, not general, and that its judgment is, therefore, of less consequence; our antagonists proceed to shew, that this council was confirmed by pope Leo IV (Dist. 20. C. de libellis), and also in the sixth general council held at Constantinople, which is called Trullan, can. 2…Besides, they adduce the council of Florence under Eugenius IV. (in Epistol. ad Armenos), that of Trent under Paul III (sess. 4), and pope Gelasius with a council of seventy bishops. Of fathers, they cite Innocent I., who was also a pope, in his third Epistle to Exuperius of Tholouse; Augustine, Lib II. c. 8. De Doctrina Christiana; Isidore of Seville, Etymolog., Lib. VI. c. I. So that the argument of our opponents runs thus: these councils and these fathers affirm these books to belong to the sacred canon; therefore, these books are canonical (p. 39).
Whitaker rejects the evidence of the councils of Florence and the council of Trent on the basis of their late date (p. 40). That Trent was not a general council is proven by the fact that all who were in attendance made about 50, almost all of them Italians and Spaniards, hardly a general council of all bishops throughout Christendom.
The council of Carthage, says Whitaker, was merely provincial, despite Catholic objections. He says it was composed of only a few bishops. Furthermore, canon 26 of that council says the following: the bishop of the chief see shall not be called high priest, or chief of the priests, or by any such title (aut ejusmodi aliquid). Whitaker argues that these kinds of titles are exactly what the Roman Catholic church claims for the pope, and that therefore, if part of this council be rejected, then the rest of the council cannot have the kind of authority required. Further, if the Trullan council approved the Carthaginian council, then it approved all of the Carthaginian council, and therefore such titles cannot be given to the pope. Whitaker acknowledges that the Trullan synod was fully ecumenical. He argues that it proves too much. Furthermore, there are things in the Trullan council that the Romanists cannot accept, either. For instance, in canon 36, the see of Constantinople is equal to that of Rome (and by extension, the bishop of Constantinople is equal to the bishop of Rome). Canon 13 forbids the current Roman practice of forbidding wives to priests. Whitaker notes that several Romanists rejected Trullo, such as Pighius and Melchior Cano (p. 41). Therefore, Trullo cannot be used to legitimate Carthage. We will get to the other evidences in a later post.