Skip to comments.The Missing Books of the Bible (Ecumenical)
Posted on 07/20/2013 5:38:15 PM PDT by narses
Last week, my friend who is a Baptist was visiting and came with me to Mass. The first reading was from the second Book of Maccabees. She had never heard of that book. I said, "It is in the Bible." She said, "It is not in my Bible." Is there a difference?
Yes, there is a difference between Catholic and Protestant editions of the Bible. However, to appreciate this question and its answer, one must first remember that almighty God never handed anyone a complete Bible and said, "Here it is." Rather, over the centuries of salvation history, the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Sacred Scripture to write down God's revelation to us. As time went on, the Church compiled these books to form a Canon an authoritative set of Sacred Scripture and declared it "God's Word." The books of the Old Testament were written probably between 1000 and 100 BC, and are usually distinguished as four sets: The Law (or Torah, our first five books of the Old Testament), the Historical Books, the Prophets, and the Writings. (The books of I & II Maccabees belong to the historical set, being written between 150 - 100 BC.) Even in the New Testament itself, we find references to the reading of the Law and the Prophets in synagogue services (e.g. Luke 4:16-19, Acts 13:15). After the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Jewish rabbis convened the Council of Jamnia (90-100), at which time they established what books would be considered their Sacred Scripture. At this time, some controversy still existed over what are called the seven "deuterocanonical books" Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and I & II Maccabees although they had been incorporated in their entirety or at least partially in versions of the Septuagint, the official Greek translation of the Old Testament (c. 100 BC). Part of the reason for the controversy was because these were the latest writings of the Old Testament and were written in Greek rather than Hebrew; the other books of the Old Testament the "protocanonical books"-- were older and originally written in Hebrew. Modern scholars note that Jamnia did not exclude any books definitively; a rigid fixing of the Jewish canon does not occur until at least 100 years later, and even then other books-- including the deuterocanonical books-- were read and honored. Many Scripture scholars, however, have no doubt that the apostolic Church accepted the deuterocanonical books as part of its canon of Sacred Scriptures. For instance, Origen (d. 245) affirmed the use of these books among Christians even though some of the Jewish leaders did not officially accept them.
Meanwhile, the writing of the New Testament books occurred between the time of our Lord's death and the end of the first century. (Recent studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls by some scholars suggest a date of the earliest writings closer to the time of our Lord's death, whereas much scholarship seems to place the writings between 50 and 100 AD). After the legalization of Christianity in 313, we find the Church striving to formalize what writings of the New Testament were truly considered inspired and authentic to the teachings of our Lord. St. Athanasius in his Paschal Epistle (367) presented the complete list of 27 books of the New Testament saying, "These are the sources of salvation, for the thirsty may drink deeply of the words to be found here. In these alone is the doctrine of piety recorded. Let no one add to them or take anything away from them." This list of 27 books along with the 46 books of the Old Testament (including the deuterocanonical ones) was affirmed as the official canon of Sacred Scripture for the Catholic Church by the synods of Hippo (393), Carthage I & II (397 and 419). The letter of Pope St. Innocent I in 405 also officially listed these books.
Although some discussion arose over the inclusion of other books into the Church's canon of Sacred Scripture after this time, the Council of Florence (1442) definitively established the official list of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament.
With this background, we can now address why the Protestant versions of the Bible have less books than the Catholic versions. In 1534, Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. He grouped the seven deuterocanonical books (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and I & II Maccabees) of the Old Testament under the title "Apocrypha," declaring, "These are books which are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures and yet are useful and good for reading." Luther also categorized the New Testament books: those of God's work of salvation (John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, I Peter, and I John); other canonical books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, rest of Pauline epistles, II Peter, and II John); and non-canonical books (Hebrews, James, Jude, Revelation, and books of the Old Testament). Many Church historians speculate that Luther was prepared to drop what he called the "non-canonical books" of the New Testament but refrained from doing so because of possible political fall-out. Why Luther took this course of action is hard to say. Some scholars believe Luther wanted to return to the "primitive faith," and therefore accepted only those Old Testament books written in Hebrew originally; others speculate he wanted to remove anything which disagreed with his own theology. Nevertheless, his action had the permanent consequence of omitting the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament in Protestant versions of the Bible.
The 39 Articles of Religion (1563) of the Church of England asserted that these deuterocanonical books may be read for "example of life and instruction of manners," although they should not be used "to establish any doctrine" (Article VI). Consequently, the King James Bible (1611) printed the books between the New Testament and Old Testaments. John Lightfoot (1643) criticized this arrangement because he thought the "wretched Apocrypha" may be seen as a bridge between the two. The Westminster Confession (1647) decreed that these books, "not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of Scripture, and therefore are of no authority of the Church of God; nor to be in any otherwise approved, or made use of than other human writings." The British and Foreign Bible Society decided in 1827 to remove these books from further publications and labeled these books "apocryphal." However, many Protestant versions of the Bible today will state, "King James version with Apocrypha."
The Council of Trent, reacting to the Protestant Reformers, repeated the canon of Florence in the Decree on Sacred Books and on Traditions to be Received (1546) and decreed that these books were to be treated "with equal devotion and reverence." The Catechism repeats this same list of books and again affirms the apostolic Tradition of the canon of Sacred Scripture.
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a “Straight Answers” column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.
How shall we discuss this in an ecumenical way, when the article itself disparages non-Roman Bibles and extols Roman Bibles?
Question: Who has the authority to determine the canon of Scripture?
Scripture used to be based upon stone tablets, scrolls, hard copy and the Bible.
Today it is based upon a biased controlled ego centric media moguls that have digitized everything so that they can now globally edit the words not only of history, but of the Bible itself.
We the subjects of their propaganda have not begun to understand just how pliable the media has made society to their beliefs.
There are about 18 books mentioned in the Bible that are not in the bible. Although they are not accepted in the Bible they can be use for history and reference like Josephus and Usher and other historians.
Actually the scripture is still based on the original writings. If you want to learn hebrew and greek you can read them. Of course digital copies are easier to access.
“the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Jewish rabbis convened the Council of Jamnia (90-100), at which time they established what books would be considered their Sacred Scripture.”
This is a myth. A complete invention that this article wants us to believe as fact, with no evidence.
As for the apocrypha, Pope Gregory the first, quoting Maccabees:
Concerning which thing we do nothing irregularly, if we adduce a testimony from the books, which although not canonical are published for the edification of the people. For Eleazar wounding an elephant in battle, slew him, but fell under him whom he had destroyed. Morals, book 19, on 39th chap, of Job.
Notice how he mentions that they are put forward not for the confirmation of the faith, but for edification of the faithful. This is an important distinction. They considered these books useful for instruction in righteousness, kind of like a positive story, but not to be brought forward for the confirmation of doctrine. This same idea is repeated by many authors:
Athanasius on the apocrypha:
But for the sake of greater exactness I add this also, writing under obligation, as it were. There are other books besides these, indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former [standard new and old testament canon], my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read. (Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle, A.D. 367.)
Rufinus on the Apocrypha:
They were willing to have all these read in the churches but not brought forward for the confirmation of doctrine. (Rufinus of Aquileia, Exposition of the Creed)
Cardinal Cajetan calls them not canonical for the confirmation of the faith, but canonical only in a certain sense for the edification of the faithful.
Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St. Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus, as is plain from the Protogus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage. (Cardinal Cajetan, Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, cited by William Whitaker in A Disputation on Holy Scripture, Cambridge: Parker Society (1849), p. 424)
Official prefaces to Latin translations of the scripture making the same distinction:
At the dawn of the Reformation the great Romanist scholars remained faithful to the judgment of the Canon which Jerome had followed in his translation. And Cardinal Ximenes in the preface to his magnificent Polyglott Biblia Complutensia-the lasting monument of the University which he founded at Complutum or Alcala, and the great glory of the Spanish press-separates the Apocrypha from the Canonical books. The books, he writes, which are without the Canon, which the Church receives rather for the edification of the people than for the establishment of doctrine, are given only in Greek, but with a double translation. ( B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Cambridge: MacMillan, 1889), pp. 470-471.)
Ill also add one final point, that is, that the apocrypha usually expose themselves as not being inspired scripture. Judith, for example, says that Nebuchadnezzer is King of the Assyrians, which is wrong, amongst many other historical and geographical errors. Tobit features an Angel of the Lord teaching witchcraft. Maccabees apologizes for possibly containing errors, since he wrote it to the best of his ability. So does Sirach.
“A complete invention that this article wants us to believe as fact, with no evidence.”
To put a new spin on things - I would think the true test of God inspired writings is whether they continue to inspire the reader towards God. And although there are other tests necessary to verify the writings’ age, authenticity, religious content etc than can be no truer test than it inspires true, sacrificial love for God.
“Today this theory of canonization is no longer in favor with the scholarly community. Its fatal flaw is the alleged council of Jamnia. A critical reading of the Rabbinical sources has led most scholars to conclude that there never was a council of Jamnia; it [is] a historical chimera of dubious Christian inspiration. Because the Council of Jamnia is not an historical detail but the cornerstone of the theory, its dismissal disqualifies the theory as a whole.”
These books are perfect examples of why human created doctrine should not be placed on the same level as the Bible.
have fewer books
The good father apparently went to public school.
How shall we discuss this in an ecumenical way, when the article itself disparages truncated Bibles and extols complete Bibles?
There are competing opinions, to claim fact out of opinion is not rational.
THe bible is obviously missing a lot of things...which is why we must rely on the wordless holy spirit for life.
“There are competing opinions, to claim fact out of opinion is not rational.”
That’s basically what your article did, even though its opinion is in the minority, having long fallen from its hay-day in the 1960s.
An interesting and instructive commentary.
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