The first decree from the fourth session of the Council of Trent is primarily a declaration of the council’s norm and source for their future decisions. It states, “[The council] receives and venerates with equal devotion and reverence all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament (since one God is the author of both) and also said traditions, both those pertaining to faith and those pertaining to morals, as dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Spirit and preserved by a continuous succession in the Catholic Church.” The list of Scriptures they hold to include the thirty-nine Old Testament books alongside the Apocrypha with no distinction in authority with the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Their second decree is to uphold the use of the ancient Vulgate edition approved for centuries by the church.
Chemnitz opens his examination of these decrees by noting the good intentions of the church. What they say they intend to do is needed and they way they say they are going to perform the council is in accord with the process of the ancient church. The issue however is in setting their rule and norm. That the council holds the unwritten tradition to be as authoritative as scripture, that the apocrypha is held as authoritative without caveat, and that the old Vulgate has been shown to contain error discourage Chemnitz as to the effectiveness of the council. Beyond this the decrees also note that only they as church authorities have the right and authority to interpret Scripture.
Chemnitz notes in his sixth paragraph, “They could have resolved the whole matter with a few words if only they had declared at the opening of they synod that they wanted to retain the present condition of their church, such as it is, and stubbornly defend it, nor permit anything whatsoever to be corrected or emended according to the norm of the canonical Scripture. Then it would not have been necessary to take so many years, unless they judged that people had to be deceived under the pretext and name of a synod.”