Where Does the Road to Rome Lead Ch. 6
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. The Old Testament of modern Protestant Bibles contains the same books as the Hebrew Bible.
The New Testament was written by Christian apostles. None of them were Roman Catholics, because there was no Roman Catholic Church at the time. This was more than two centuries before the Emperor Constantine and Bishop Silvester joined together to create the Roman Catholic Church. (See Chapter 10, “The Birth of the Roman Catholic Church.”)
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 being 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.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.” 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 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.3
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 literature was never considered to be canonical by the Jews. Because the Catholic Bible was translated from the Septuagint, it includes the Apocrypha. Jerome, who did the translation of the Latin Vulgate from Greek and Hebrew, considered the Apocrypha to be ecclesiastical books that were useful for edification—but not canonical books.4
The Early Fathers disagreed about their value. Many of the early Church fathers, and clergy throughout the middle ages (including the time of the Reformation), agreed with Jerome. They saw the Apocrypha as being useful for edification, but not authoritative for establishing doctrine.5
As far edification goes, there is a wide variety among the Apocryphal books. The Books of Maccabees tell about some Jewish leaders who led a revolt against a Greek tyrant. Their courage is inspiring, and that is edifying. However, the Book of Tobit is another matter. I’ve summarized it below so that you can draw your own conclusions about it.
Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament hundreds of times, but they never quoted from any of the Apocrypha. The apocryphal books themselves never claim to be the Word of God. The books of Tobit and Judith contain some serious historical inaccuracies.6
One problem with the Apocrypha 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.7
In 1548, the Council of Trent declared that the Apocrypha are canonical (inspired Scripture), which means having the same authority and credibility as the New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament.8 Instead of being optional devotional books, they were made part of the official Catholic Bible.
The Book of Tobit
Following is a summary of the main events in the Book of Tobit. (You can read it online.)9
There is a wide variation in translations of Tobit, including differences in essential matters. In addition, there are some historical and geographical inaccuracies. For example, Sennecherib was not the son of Shalmaneser. (Tobit 1:15) He was the son of Sargon the Usurper.10
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)
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 Scripture?
The Catholic Church did not give us the Bible. However, monks preserved the Bible by hand copying it for hundreds of years. The Council of Trent added some devotional books to the Bible by declaring them to be canonical. These are known as the Apocrypha. These cause confusion by teaching false doctrines. (For example, Sirach and Tobit teach that we can be saved from our sins by giving alms to the poor.) By declaring books such as Tobit to be canonical—and therefore equal in credibility and authority to inspired Scripture—the Catholic Church undermined the credibility of the entire Bible.