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.
I would suggest that we first consider that the true importance of any Bible is the MESSAGE, not the individual words.
Those who insist that their particular Bible is THE exact correct one have missed the point altogether.
There are many versions, and the apocrypha and the more of them one reads, the more one gets the MESSAGE.
All these different BIBLES, all these different INTERPRETATIONS are not a 'problem' with the Bible, they are the answer.
Why? Because, for each of us, the MESSAGE we get from the BIBLE is DIFFERENT, because GOD knew we would each have different NEEDS.
After all, if God were to speak to you (which He does all the time, but few listen because they don't like what he is saying), he would do so in a language that you understood. And he would tell you what YOU and only YOU need to hear.
The Bible is no different.
If the “message” is different for everyone, does it mean that those who wrest the scriptures to deny the Trinity and promote heresies are “correct” in some relative way?
The Catholics had the Bible first. So what is the problem?
Are you saying that all Scripture is NOT inspired by the Holy Spirit? First time I heard that one.
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“The OPINIONS of individual Catholics mean nothing.”
What’s ironic about this is that the RCC’s opinion today is that the apocrypha, though part of their “scripture,” aren’t even true anyway, unlike when they made them holy scripture after a millenium where the majority opinion in the West was the exact opposite.
For example, from the Vatican website introduction to Judith:
Any attempt to read the book directly against the backdrop of Jewish history in relation to the empires of the ancient world is bound to fail. The story was written as a pious reflection on the meaning of the yearly Passover observance. It draws its inspiration from the Exodus narrative (especially Exodus 14:31) and from the texts of Isaiah and the Psalms portraying the special intervention of God for the preservation of Jerusalem. The theme of Gods hand as the agent of this providential activity, reflected of old in the hand of Moses and now in the hand of Judith, is again exemplified at a later time in Jewish synagogue art. Gods hand reaching down from heaven appears as part of the scene at Dura-Europos (before A.D. 256) in paintings of the Exodus, of the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22), and of Ezekiels valley of dry bones (Eze 37).
And another, also official Catholic source:
Judith is a dramatic fictional narrative... Because Judith is fiction replete with historical and geographical inaccuracies, it is difficult to date its composition. (New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Nihil Obstat: Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm., Imprimatur: Reverend William J. Kane, Vicar General, Diocese of Washington)
Thus, you want me to believe that Pope Gregory the 1st was in disagreement with his own religion, that the RCC has the right to correct previous Popes and Bishops and create new doctrines, and then has the right to discard those doctrines later on!
As for your paraphrase of Augustine. It would have to be a paraphrase, because there wasn’t even a universal head of Catholicism until Boniface, after Gregory, who petitioned the emperor for the right to call himself such. Gregory explicitly denied such a title, and even asserted that the headship of western Christianity was shared equally by the Bishops of Rome, Antioch and Alexandria.
“The Catholics had the Bible first. So what is the problem?”
Salvation, I’m not sure why you would even believe that, but go ahead.
What Bible was printed on the Gutenberg press?
Careful with your answer.....LOL!
I sure wish you the absolute best.
You so silly.
And you’re so easy to silence!
The spirit of ecumenism appears somewhat lacking in your reply.
Books included in the Bible Ping!
Thought this might interest you two.
Why couldn't you have stopped with this one sentence?
The Jews had the Bible first. Jesus was a Jew, the Disciples were Jews and Paul was a Jew.
**Paul was a Jew**
Not after he had his encounter with Jesus. The Bible tells us of all he went to Ananias and then immediately began to preach Jesus Christ.
That didn’t change his Jewishness. Your response makes no sense.
The answer about the Gutenberg Press.
Just curious as to how you get that either of those quotes means that Judith is not considered Scripture by the authors.
“Judith, for example, says that Nebuchadnezzer is King of the Assyrians, which is wrong, amongst many other historical and geographical errors.”
The Babylonian Empire subsumed the Assyrian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar, so it’s not a stretch to say that he was King of the Assyrians. He was king over all that he surveyed, including Assyria.
The problem is where did the Catholic Church come from, and from where did it get its authority to decide what books were to be in the Bible - BEFORE the Bible was compiled?
After all, the authority couldn't have come from the Bible, because it hadn't been compiled yet.
From the article: "...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.""
So it's fine once you have a Church that then draws its authority from Scriptures, but what about the beginning - where did the authority come to make the first Bible? Actually, it goes even deeper than that, because the actual act of creating the first Bible was the act of THROWING OUT scriptures that didn't fit the agendas of those who were editing what they wanted the Bible to be, so that they could base the Catholic Church on it.
Quite convenient. Especially since we know from history that none of those involved in this process had a political agenda, were power seekers, were treacherous, or were trying to hide true teachings of Jesus or God that might have gotten in their way. And how do we know this from history? Because the Church teaches that though there were human failings, Grace guided the creation of the Bible. And how does the Church justify that teaching? Why, because it's in the Bible!
Like I said, convenient. VERY convenient.
“Just curious as to how you get that either of those quotes means that Judith is not considered Scripture by the authors.”
I said they didn’t believe that the contents of Judith were even true. I didn’t say they didn’t consider it scripture, though their calling it “fiction” certainly nullifies its position as scripture.
I should point out that the canon of Scripture was actually fixed by the disciplinary session of the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 692 (called by Western scholars variously the Trullan Synod or Quinisext Council — though both Orthodox and Latin hierarchs, at least before the Latin Schism referred to its canons as those of the Sixth Ecumenical Council). One of its canons explicitly gave the canons of the Synod of Carthage of 419 universal force throughout the Church.
There is the fact, very uncomfortable for protestant defenders of the short canon, that it is not only the Latins, whom they like to vilify as “adding” books to the Bible, but the Orthodox and Monophysites (Copts, Armenians Ethiopians, Syrian Jacobites) and the Nestorians (Assyrian Church of the East), that is all Christian confessions still extant and dating from before the 16th century, include in their canon of Scripture all or most of the books the protestants reject under the name “the Apocrypha”.
You can quibble about 4th Maccabees and 2nd Esdras, maybe they don’t belong, but all of us in the East think that all of you in the West (Latin and protestant alike) are missing the 151st Psalm and the Prayer of Manasseh, and most of us think you should all have 3rd Maccabees in your Bibles — the Copts and Ethiopians stand with you Westerners on that one and against the Armenians and the Jacobites.
I would observe that this unanimity exists despite the fact that the Assyrians have been out of communion with the rest of us since 431, the Copts, Ethiopians and Jacobites since 451, the Armenians since 506.
“The Babylonian Empire subsumed the Assyrian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar, so its not a stretch to say that he was King of the Assyrians.”
Judith asserts that Nebuchadnezzar reigned in Nineveh, which is the Assyrian capital, as opposed to Babylon, though he ruled over many various tribes and cities. And that is just one of the many historical and geographical problems of Judith, hence why the RCC does not regard Judith as actually historical.
I thought the thread was about which books are Scriptural. Sorry, if I read into your post that because these men believe Judith to be fiction, it means that they also considered it not to be Scripture.
As per your response, it seems that is your opinion. What about it being fiction nullifies it being Scripture?
**Paul was a Jew**
“Not after he had his encounter with Jesus.”
Paul remained a devout, observant Jew even after his conversion to Christianity.
After these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem. Acts 21:15
Paul was getting ready to go back to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
When he got there, the apostles in Jerusalem were concerned that other Jews would accuse him of not being devout because of his ministry to Gentiles. So the apostles in Jerusalem told him to do this:
“Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them. Acts 21:23-26
“I should point out that the canon of Scripture was actually fixed by the disciplinary session of the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 692 (called by Western scholars variously the Trullan Synod or Quinisext Council”
The Trullan synod, which was rejected by Pope Constantine, actually affirmed a great deal of books as canonical, affirming, actually, several different and contradictory lists, even some with books that the RCC today does not regard as part of the canon, such as III Maccabees. Hence the reason why even up to the eve of the Reformation, the RCC still reverted to the default position of Jerome.
It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of these books de-canonize themselves anyway due to their errors and even self-admissions of having them. You can cling to these books if you like, but aside from the empty authority of some church tradition, there is no internal or truly historical reason to accept them.
And it would seem you are not accepting St. Paul as a Christian — is that what you are saying?
“What about it being fiction nullifies it being Scripture?”
Well, if it is filled with “historical and geographical errors,” there’s no good reason to think that it is binding on doctrine or the Christian conscience. It can be brought forward for the “edification of the faithful,” in the same way Narnia is, but certainly not for the “confirmation of doctrine.” For its former use, I have no problem. The problem is the RCC wants to put forward the apocrypha for the latter use.
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