Who Gave Us The Bible?
Mary Ann Collins
The Catholic Church claims that it gave us the Bible. Is this supported by the historical evidence?
The Old Testament was written by God’s inspired prophets, patriarchs, psalmists, judges, and kings. It was faithfully copied and preserved by Jewish scribes. Modern Protestant Bibles have the same content as the Hebrew Bible.
The early Christians expected that Jesus would return for His Church at any moment. As a result, they didn’t see the need for long-term planning for future generations. Furthermore, Christians were persecuted by the Romans. When your life is in constant danger, it is difficult to collect writings which are scattered all over the Roman Empire. So it took time to collect all of these writings, decide which ones were authoritative Scripture, and make complete sets of them.
The Apocrypha are discussed below. More detailed information about adding the Apocrypha to the Bible is given in the Appendix.
The Apocrypha are books which occur in Catholic Bibles but not in Protestant ones. They were never part of the Hebrew Bible, and the Jews did not recognize them as canonical. In 1548 the Council of Trent declared that the Apocrypha are canonical (part of inspired Scripture) and it anathematized anybody who believes otherwise. [Note 3] (See the Appendix.)
SUMMARY OF THE BOOK OF TOBIT
One night Tobit slept outdoors, with his face uncovered. He slept by the courtyard wall. There were sparrows on the wall, and bird droppings fell into Tobit’s open eyes. As a result, a white film formed over his eyes and he became blind. The physicians were unable to help him. (Tobit 2:9-10)
Does this sound like inspired Scripture to you? Does it reveal God’s nature and character, and His ways of dealing with His people? Does it inspire you to want to know God better? Does it give you strength and courage to be a faithful Christian?
The Apocrypha were added to the Bible by the Catholic Church. This happened in 1546 when the Council of Trent declared the Apocrypha to be canonical. In other words, they were declared to be inspired Scripture, on a par with the rest of the Bible.
Before I discuss the history of the Apocrypha, I want explain what I mean by saying that they were “added to the Bible.”
There are a number of Study Bibles and Devotional Bibles available in Christian bookstores today. They come in a variety of formats and Bible translations, and they emphasize different things. The Reformation Study Bible has a Presbyterian perspective, the Ryrie Study Bible has a Baptist perspective, there are devotional Bibles for women, there are study Bibles for charismatics, and the Life Application Study Bible is non-denominational.
All of these Bibles contain commentaries and/or devotional essays in addition to Scripture. They have introductory material before each book of the Bible. They also have footnotes with material that is either explanatory or devotional or related to applying the Biblical text to your life in practical ways. Some of them also contain articles explaining things, or brief devotional teachings scattered throughout the Bible. What they all have in common is material in addition to the Scriptures.
As valuable as this material might be, it is optional. It is not part of Scripture. You can take it or leave it. You can get Bibles that have nothing in them but the Scriptures. If you read a Study Bible or a Devotional Bible, you can ignore the commentaries and just read the text of Scripture.
But what would happen if a Church council officially declared that the commentaries were canonical? That would be a declaration that they have the same authority and credibility as Scripture. And that would be adding the commentaries to the Bible. They would no longer be optional. They would become mandatory. And they would have the same weight as Scripture.
Something like that happened with the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha are books that were never in the Hebrew Bible. The Israelites did not consider them to be canonical. They are not in modern Jewish Bibles (the Jewish Old Testament). Modern Jewish scholars don’t consider them to be canonical either. The modern Jewish Old Testament and the modern Protestant Old Testament contain the same books.
The Apocrypha showed up when some Jews, who lived in Egypt, translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (the Septuagint). In addition to the books of the Old Testament, they included some contemporary Jewish literature. This was literature never considered to be canonical by the Jews. Because the Catholic Bible was translated from the Septuagint, it includes the Apocrypha. However, the Early Fathers disagreed about their value. Jerome, who knew Greek and Hebrew, rejected them. But Augustine approved of them, and he was influential. [Note 8]
One serious problem with the Apocrapha is that they contradict Scripture. For example, the Bible says that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins, and we can only be saved by faith in Him. But the Book of Sirach and the Book of Tobit both say that men can be saved from their sins by giving alms. [Note 9]
Jesus and the Apostles quoted extensively from books of the Old Testament, but they never quoted from the Apocrypha. [Note 10]
USE OF THIS ARTICLE
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