Who Gave Us The Bible?

Mary Ann Collins
(A Former Catholic Nun)

January 2002
Revised September 2008


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  New Testament was written by Christian apostles.  None of them were Catholics, because there was no Roman Catholic Church at the time.  This was over two centuries before Constantine’s “conversion”.
The early Church did not have the New Testament as we know it. Rather, individuals and local congregations had portions of it.  They would have one or more of the Gospels, some of the letters which Apostles had written, and perhaps the Book of Acts or the Book of Revelation.
Why weren’t all of these books collected in one place?  Look at what the books themselves say.  Individual apostles wrote them for specific audiences. For example, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written for Theophilus. (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1) Most of the Epistles were written to specific churches or to specific individuals. (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:1; 3 John 1:1)

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.
By the time of Origen (185-254 A.D.), there was general agreement about most of the New Testament.  However, there was disagreement as to whether the following six epistles should be part of the New Testament canon:  Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude.  This was sixty years before the conversion of Emperor Constantine. [Note 1]
The canon of the New Testament was not formed by the decision of any Church council.  Rather, the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) listed as canonical “only those books that were generally regarded by the consensus of use as properly a canon”. [Note 2]   In other words, it didn’t create the canon.  Rather, it confirmed the identity of the canon which already existed.
So the Catholic Church did not give us the Bible.  However, Catholic monks helped preserve the Bible by copying it.
The Catholic Church changed the Bible.  In 1548, at the Council of Trent, it added the Apocrypha to the Bible.  The apocryphal books contain passages which are used to justify some Catholic doctrines, such as praying for the dead.

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.)
Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament hundreds of times, but they never treated any of the apocryphal books as being authoritative.  The apocryphal books themselves never claim to be the Word of God.  The books of Tobit and Judith contain serious historical inaccuracies.  [Note 4]  [Note 5]
Following is a summary of the main events in the Book of Tobit.  I’ve given links so that you can get the book on-line for yourself. [Note 6]
My references to chapters and verses are those of the Revised Standard translation of Tobit.  There is a wide variation in translations of Tobit, including differences in essential matters. There are also historical and geographical inaccuracies in the Book of Tobit. For example, Sennecherib was not the son of Shalmaneser. (Tobit 1:15) He was the son of Sargon the Usurper. [Note 7]


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)
A maiden named Sarah was reproached by her maids, who accused her of strangling seven husbands before they consummated their marriage with her.  This was attributed to a demon named Asmodeus. (Tobit 3:8)
The angel Raphael was sent to heal Tobit’s eyes, and to bind the demon Asmodeus, and to give Sarah in marriage to Tobias, the son of Tobit.  (Tobit 3:17)
Tobias (Tobit’s son) was traveling with the angel Raphael (who appeared in the form of a Jewish man named Azarias).  A fish leaped up from the river and tried to swallow Tobias.  Then the angel told Tobias to catch this fish.  He caught it and threw it on the land.  Then the angel told Tobias to cut the fish open and to keep the heart and liver and gallbladder.  He said that smoke from the heart and liver would drive demons and evil spirits away.  He also said that if a man’s eyes are covered with white films, then having them anointed with the fish gall would heal him.  (Tobit 6:1-9)
Tobias was afraid to marry Sarah because seven husbands had died in her bridal chamber.  The angel told him to take burning incense and put the heart and liver of the fish on it in order to make a smoke.  He said that when the demon smelled the smoke he would flee and never return. (Tobit 6:11-17)
Tobias married Sarah.  He put the heart and liver of the fish upon burning incense.  When the demon smelled the odor he fled to the “remotest parts of Egypt” and the angel bound him. Tobias and Sarah went to sleep.  Sarah’s family was greatly relieved the next morning when both of them were still alive.  (Tobit 7:1-8:14)
Tobias and his new wife went to Tobit’s home.  The angel Raphael told Tobias to take the fish gall with him and rub it on his father’s eyes.  He did, and Tobit’s eyes were healed. (Tobit 11:2-16)


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?
If this was considered to be part of the Bible, would that increase your confidence in the Word of God?



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]


I encourage you to link to this article. You have permission to quote from this article, as long as you do it fairly and accurately. You have permission to make copies of this article for friends and for use in classes.