Man in Black (MIB) Presents: How Many Books Are There in The Bible?
Man in Black (Father Martino) Presents: “The 7 books in the Bible – simple addition or subtraction?” The answer would be (subtraction) that the Protestants removed 7 books of the Bible!
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You can also read this attached article for more detail information!
Blessings and peace,
Topic: How is the Catholic Bible different from the Protestant Bible ?
Source of this posting: Moderator response
Date originally posted: January 19, 2003
Moderator who originally posted this source: Father Phillip
Question: Can you please help me to understand the dispute concerning the Apocrypha Books? 1) Do Catholics believe that they are the Word of God? — If not, why were they included in the Catholic Bible?/If so, why are they rejected by Protestants today, and why were they rejected by Catholics until the 1500’s? 2) If the Catholic Church added these books to the Bible, how does the Church justify this given what is written in Revelations 22:18-19? — Do Catholics believe that they were originally intended for the Old Testament? 3) Do Catholics believe that they were actually included in the Old Testament that Jesus read? — If so, why did the Apostles only allude to it in two places in the New Testament (not even as authoritative cannon), while Jesus and His Apostles refer to the rest of the Old Testament hundreds of times? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Thanks, Brooke, for your questions. The fact that you’re interested in and committed to knowing more about the Bible is wonderful. Saint Jerome said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ — so I applaud what you’re doing.
Before trying to answer your questions, I would just note that the profile you kindly filled out for CatholicQandA.org shows that you’re an undergrad in humanities. EVERY truly educated person — especially somebody in the humanities — should take a couple of Scripture courses (an Old Testament and a New Testament) while in college. So, I would urge you to take those courses while you’re in school.
Now, on to what you ask…
First off, we need to get the terminology down. You mention the would Apocrypha. While Catholics do recognize a collection of ancient writing which we call “Apocrypha”, I think that you are actually referring to a distinct group of ancient writings which we Catholics call the Deutero-Canonical Books.
Protestants generally call this collection of ancient writings (the ones Catholics refer to as Deutero-Canonical) as the Apocrypha.
So, while both Catholics and Protestants use the word Apocrypha, we’re actually referring to two different groups of ancient writings.
The works that Catholics call Apocrypha have never been considered the inspired Word of God by either Catholics or Protestants. So, we won’t talk about the Catholic Apocrypha any more.
Where the problem lies is in the group of ancient writings which we Catholics refer to as the Deutero-Canonical Books and which Protestants refer to as Apocrypha.
The word Deutero-Canon simply means “second canon.” In no way, for Catholics, does that title suggest any inferiority or second-class-ness. The Deutero-Canonical works have ALWAYS been considered, by Roman Catholics, to be the inspired Word of God.
(So, the suggestion you made in your question about Catholics having “rejected” these Deutero-Canonical works until the 15th century is incorrect. In the 16th century the Catholic Church did make a formal statement at the Council of Trent of how important our Church views the Deutero-Canonical books, but that emphatically does NOT mean that the Catholic Church had rejected those works up until that time. The re-affirmation of the inspired status of the Deutero-Canonical works by the Council of Trent was just that — a re-affirmation of what we already believed.)
When Martin Luther — the primary leader of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century — translated the Bible into German (which was his native language), he decided to use as the basis of his translation of the Old Testament the Bible that Jewish people were using in Germany during the 16th century.
He reasoned that since Jesus was Jewish and since virtually all of the earliest Christians were Jewish, the appropriate text for the Bible would be the works that constituted the Hebrew Bible among Jewish people. So far so good.
The problem for Martin Luther — and the problem which is at the root of your question — was that the Bible which most Jewish people used at the time of Jesus and Saint Paul had changed by the time Martin Luther was working.
So, the Hebrew Bible that Martin Luther “got” from the Jewish community in Germany during the 16th century was, in fact, a different Bible than the one that had been used during the earthly life of Jesus.
Martin Luther, therefore, translated the Jewish Bible of the 16th century thinking, incorrectly, that it was the same as the Bible which Jewish people were using at the time of Jesus.
How, then, did this ‘change’ occur?
For that answer we have to go much further back into Hebrew/Jewish history.
In order to understand how the Hebrew Bible ‘changed’, we have to remember that the Bible didn’t just “drop out of the sky” — whole and entire as we know it today.
While we certainly believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, containing within it everything necessary to salvation, God graciously worked through human persons and through human history and through human experience to give us the divinely inspired Word of Scripture.
As you know from your own life, human experience slowly unfolds. That is to say, you know more today than you did yesterday, and you will know more tomorrow than you do now.
In a similar way, the process by which God gave the Sacred Scripture to our Hebrew/Jewish mothers and fathers in faith was a gradual one. Working through human instruments, the Holy Spirit of God provided the Word of Scripture in “small doses” which the human instruments could “get their minds around.”
Since God so profoundly respects our humanity, God never gives us more than we can adequately experience or “take in.” God does not press us beyond our ability.
With the Scripture, God gave the ancient Hebrew people bits and pieces of what became the Bible over more than a thousand years. Knowing exactly what each generation and culture and person needed, God provided just that and no more at any given point. In time, the inspired Word of God had been collected by God’s chosen people. Each time one of these clearly remarkable, inspired “Words” came to the ancient Hebrew people, they would save it and treasure it, preserving it in memory and, later, in writing for all successive generations.
So, you see, Brooke, the Bible didn’t just “drop out of the sky.”
About 600 years before Jesus was born, the Hebrew people went through one of the most traumatic experiences of their history. While the events were far more complex than I can explain here, the basic story goes like this:
About 700 years before Christ was born, the northern ‘half’ of the Hebrew people were severely defeated in a war in which their capital and leaders were killed or forced to flee.
Then about 550 years before Christ was born the other ‘half’ — the part in the South which had Jerusalem as their capital — was beaten in a war. Their adversaries took their leaders and educated people into captivity to Babylon. In the city of Babylon those leaders eventually established a “school” in which Hebrew was the language. Those exiled people clung fiercely to their language as the most important way of maintaining their culture and their religion in the foreign land which held them captive. In time this “school” became a great and revered center of Jewish learning. They focused their efforts on knowing God around that collection of inspired Words which had been delivered to them in the Hebrew language.
After a time some of them were allowed to return to Jerusalem, to re-build the Temple there, and to re-institute worship of God in that so-called “Second” Temple. The Temple worship, which the people from the Babylonian “school” re-instituted, used that collection of inspired texts which had been preserved in the Hebrew language. This Hebrew text which had been collected, so to speak, by the school in Babylon and which became the basis for all worship and study in the Jerusalem Temple was called the Masoretic Text.
Still with me, Brooke? 🙂
Now, back to the time of the awful defeat 550 years before Christ’s birth. Some of the Hebrew leaders realized that their country was about to be obliterated by the powerful Babylonian army; some of these Hebrew leaders, escaped before Jerusalem was destroyed, and they went to Egypt, finally ending up in the great seaport city of Alexandria. There they, too, founded something like a “school” to provide learning and fidelity to God for themselves and other Hebrews who lived in the area.
Because Alexandria was a seaport where thousands of people from all over the known world passed through, the people of Alexandria spoke the language of commerce — which was, at that time, Greek. To survive in that multi-cultural, polyglot city, one had to know and use the Greek language.
So, while I am way over simplifying a very complex matter, we might say that those Hebrew leaders who established a “school” in Alexandria quickly realized that many of the students who came to them were much more comfortable learning and studying in Greek than in Hebrew. In order to accommodate their situation and to insure that the Word of God which had come to them was ‘available’ to their students, the leaders of this Hebrew “school” translated the collection of inspired Words into Greek. This text is known as the Septuagint and is abbreviated as LXX.
After some time the Jewish people who looked to the great “school” of learning in Alexandria became so comfortable with the inspired Word being read to them in Greek — the language they used for commerce and virtually all other activities — that they slowly began accepting other ancient works which were originally written in Greek.
As far as these ancient Jewish scholars and persons of faith were concerned, the original language — whether Hebrew or Greek — was not the most important thing about the text. What was most important was that God had some important “truth” to reveal to them.
Most often God seemed to provide that truth in a written Word that first came to them in the Hebrew language which was, then, translated into the Greek language – so that they could understand it. But sometimes, these people reasoned, God sent them an important and inspired Word that was written first in the Greek language.
Over time, the Jewish people who looked to the “school” of Alexandria came to believe most fervently that the LXX — which was a translation of Hebrew books into Greek along with the books which had first been written in Greek — was truly the inspired Word of God.
This “school” at Alexandria became the place from which Jewish teachers, that is, rabbis, were trained and sent out to Jewish communities which were scattered throughout the then-known world. But, the Jewish community in Jerusalem continued to be served by leaders from that other school in Babylon which used only the Masoretic text — the Bible that only recognized the books which were written originally written in Hebrew.
You see, then, that beginning about 250 years before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish communities throughout the world had TWO, somewhat different Bibles. Those Jewish communities which looked to Jerusalem — most of which were within a very short travel-distance from Jerusalem — used the Masoretic text. Often the religious leaders of these Jerusalem-focused Jewish communities were called Sadducees and/or Scribes.
Jewish communities virtually everywhere else in the world used the LXX. The leaders of these communities were most often referred to as Pharisees.
The New Testament (which is the same for Catholics and Protestants and always has been the same) clearly indicates that Saint Paul was a Pharisee. So we can rather easily conclude that Saint Paul used the LXX as “his” Bible. Moreover, the New Testament indicates that Jesus Himself worshipped in a synagogue in Nazareth which was in all likelihood served by the Pharisees and, consequently, the Savior Himself probably also knew and used the LXX.
On the basis of these two very logical conclusions, the Catholic Church has ALWAYS recognized the LXX as the Old Testament which was used by the Lord and by the first (Jewish) Christians. Catholics have always believed that the LXX was inspired by God. Since the LXX was “good enough” for Saint Paul and, apparently, for Jesus, it’s definitely “good enough” for us!
The two ‘competing’ Jewish Bibles caused some problems for a while even among the many Jewish communities. But this issue was resolved, more or less, about 150 years after Christ’s birth.
When the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (which, remember, had been re-built by people from the Babylonian “school”), the Jewish communities went through a tremendous period of upheaval and re-evaluation. Even those Jewish communities which were led by Pharisees and which used the LXX had always revered Jerusalem and its Temple. So, its destruction was a severe blow not only to those Jewish communities which were led by Sadducees and which used the Masoretic text but also to the Pharisees’ Jewish communities which used the LXX.
Again the reasons are complex, but suffice it to say, for our purposes, that after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, the Jewish communities eventually decided to use the Masoretic text as their Bible. In some ways, we might say that since the Masoretic text was the Bible of the Jerusalem Temple, Jewish communities decided that by using the Masoretic text as their “only” Bible, they would be honoring the memory of the Temple and keeping some of it’s traditions alive.
So, beginning in about the year A.D. 150 Jewish communities throughout the known world gradually stopped using the LXX and moved toward the exclusive use of the Masoretic text.
By the time Martin Luther comes on the scene in the 1500’s Jewish communities are using only the Masoretic text. So, when Luther decided to use the “Jewish Bible” as the basis for his translation of the Old Testament, he’s actually using a “Jewish Bible” that was not, in all probability, the “Jewish Bible” that Jesus Himself used. And we are virtually certain that Luther’s “Jewish Bible” was NOT the one used by Saint Paul.
For those reasons, then, Protestant Churches, which based their decisions about what should be in the Old Testament on Martin Luther’s judgment, chose the shorter Masoretic text for their translations.
But the Catholic Church has remained faithful to our ancient understanding of the LXX as the “Jewish Bible” which Saint Paul and Jesus used. We have always believed and continue to believe that the LXX is the inspired Word of God.
The Deutero-Canonical books in our Old Testament are simply those books and/or parts of books which were originally given to the Jewish “school” at Alexandria in Greek. These Deutero-Canonical books are simply God’s “second” gift of Scripture to us — fully inspired, ancient, used by Saint Paul and probably by Jesus, and so very clearly part of our Catholic Bible.
Hope this helps.