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 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]
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]
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 the Word of God?
USE OF THIS ARTICLE
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.
1. William Webster, "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History" (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), page 8.
"The Canon of the New Testament: A Brief Introduction".
2. Walter A. Elwell (editor), "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984), page 141.
3. Walter A. Elwell (editor), "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology," pages 66-67.
4. Gregory Koukl, "The Apocrypha," 1998. This article is available on-line. If this link doesn't work for you, then go to www.str.org. It has a search engine. Search for "apocrypha".
5. The Epistle of Jude refers to an event which is described in the Book of Enoch, a work which was familiar to his readers. However, Jude does not state or imply that the book itself is inspired Scripture. Rather, he uses it in a manner which is similar to a modern pastor using current events or a well known book or movie to illustrate a point which he is making in his sermon. The Book of Enoch is not one of the Apocrypha. It is not part of the Catholic Bible.
6. The Book of Tobit is available on-line.
7. "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia," Electronic Database, 1996, by Biblesoft (a Bible study program).
Copyright 2002 by Mary Ann Collins. All rights reserved.