Some people seem to think there is great significance in the fact that the Catholic Church is not mentioned by name in their Bible. They also challenge Catholics to find the word "Purgatory" in the Scriptures.
It might be mentioned in this connection that neither does the word "Bible" appear anywhere in Holy Scripture.
The word "Bible" is derived from a Greek word meaning "the books" — which is precisely what the Bible is — a collection of books officially recognized by the Catholic Church as containing the Inspired Word of God.
These books are generally divided into those of the Old and the New Testaments. The word "testament" does not necessarily mean a written document wherein a person provides for the disposition of his property after death, but rather an agreement or covenant. The Old Testament records the dealings of God with His chosen people through the Patriarchs and Moses. It contains the account of the agreement, the covenant, between God and man before the coming of the Messiah when the Jews were expectantly awaiting their promised Redeemer. It is a record of the history and aspirations of that people, of the prophecies which were progressively given to them, of their God-given Law and of the counsel and wisdom of their most learned men.
The New Testament
The New Testament comprises those books which were written after the coming of Jesus Christ and in which we find the fulfilment of God's promises and the final covenant between God and His creatures through His Son, Jesus Christ. Its principal interest for us lies in the first four books, the Gospels covering the story of the life of Christ, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Christians of the first century. Two of them, as Apostles, had been intimately associated with Christ throughout His public life. In addition, there are books, chiefly letters, written by Christ's Apostles to the first Christians, giving authoritative information on many points of Christian belief and conduct.
The Jews had carefully preserved and handed down the books of the Old Testament, which had been written at various times throughout their long history, beginning with Moses. There grew up among them a special group of men whose work was accurately to reproduce and preserve their sacred books. The awkward Hebrew characters were scrupulously copied, year after year, word for word, with the scarce and costly writing materials then available.
Into Common Tongues
These books were handed down to each generation as the heritage of inspired books which God had intrusted to His people. Even when large numbers of the Jews left Palestine and began to use foreign languages, as happened at the time of the great Dispersal of the Jews, they were provided with their Scripture. About 250 B.C., the Old Testament was completely translated into Greek, which had become the common language of the Jews in the Western world.
This Greek translation of the Old Testament was the version frequently used by Christ and His Apostles and Christians in early Christian times. Thus it was the Old Testament in Greek of which Paul spoke when he wrote to Timothy: "All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice." (II Tim. 3:16.)
But the Jews had many other writings, which were not included in the Old Testament. Only those books which were considered by them to have been written under the direct influence of God were included in their sacred Scripture.
Early Christian Books
The same is true in the case of the Christian New Testament. We know that there were many Christian books in circulation when the New Testament was being written. A great number of these writings, even those mistakenly considered to be inspired, have come down to us. Some of them contain very sublime thoughts and were obviously
written by sincere Christians for a high purpose. Yet they do not appear in the New Testament for they were not inspired by God. Obviously someone made the decision determining which were and which were not to be numbered among the inspired books of the New Testament.
It is a fact of history that this decision was first officially made for all time by a council of Catholic bishops at Carthage in 397 A.D., and which was approved by the Vicar of Christ, the Pope. This decision gave the first clear and undisputed list of all the 27 New Testament Books, which, together with the 46 Old Testament Books, inherited from the Jews, made up the Bible for the Catholic Church from that day until this. Thus the various inspired Books of the Bible were gathered under one cover.
The Old Testament had already been translated into Greek. Greek copies of the books of the New Testament were widespread. But Greek had gradually ceased to be the common language by the fourth century after Christ, and its place had been taken by Latin in the Western world. By that time, Eastern nations had received 'translations in such languages as Armenian, Syriac, Arabic, etc. It was Pope Damasus I who charged the Scripture scholar, Jerome, to translate the Bible into Latin for the nations of the West.
Monks Copied Scriptures
Previous Latin translations of the Bible had been made for Catholic people, but they were inadequate. Jerome was well equipped for the task. He was one of the most gifted men of his age, familiar with Greek and Latin, and had spent years in Palestine learning Hebrew. He gathered together the best Hebrew and Greek copies of the Bible obtainable and completed the Latin translation known as the "Vulgate" version, which became of common use because written in the common language.
For centuries following — long before there was such a thing as a printed Bible — the Vulgate version remained the standard Bible of the Catholic Church. It was the important duty of Catholic monks and scholars to make copies of it. Special rooms were set aside in monasteries, where the Bible was slowly and laboriously reproduced, sometimes by a whole group copying at the dictation of one, generally by individuals working alone. Printing with movable type was not invented until 1440 and one of the first, and certainly the most famous publication was the Vulgate—the celebrated Gutenberg Bible.
When the Vulgate translation had been made, Latin had been the language generally used and, for all practical purposes, the national languages so familiar to us today did not exist. With the coming of these national languages in later generations, Latin ceased to be the common tongue. It was then that the necessity arose for translation of the Bible into these popular languages. At first, the Vulgate, as the handiest approved text, was translated into German, English, Spanish, Italian, etc. But with the development of modern research to the languages of olden times, and the discovery of valuable ancient manuscripts of the Bible, Catholic scholars began to study and use these manuscripts; and it has been possible to make improved translations, which are painstakingly correct and authentic.
The modern rapid and economical multiplication of books by the thousands and millions became possible after the introduction of the cylinder press in 1810, the roller press in 1850, and the use of steam and electricity as motive power. Thus in our day and age, the Catholic Bible dating from the earliest Christian times is made available in every nation under the sun.
YES, THE BIBLE IS A CATHOLIC BOOK
Are you among the millions who accept the Bible as the Inspired Word of God?
And how do you know that it is? How do you know where it came from—who wrote it?
No man living today was on earth during the life-time of Christ or His Apostles. None living today heard what the Saviour said, or what the Apostles were instructed to teach. We do not hear a voice from Heaven nowadays saying: "Read the Bible; believe in Me and you will be saved."
The plain truth which every sincere person must eventually face is the fact that you can accept the Bible only upon the word of the Catholic Church. The Bible truly is a Catholic book, and it would not be in our possession today but for the Catholic Church.
The Record is Clear
The books of the Old Testament were inherited by the Church from the Jews. And all of the books of the New Testament were written by Catholics, for the use of the Church in carrying out Christ's work for the sanctification and salvation of mankind.
It was the Catholic Church and no other which selected and listed the inspired books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was the Catholic Church which preserved and used the Scriptures in the early centuries and down to our day.
If you can accept the Bible or any part of it as the Inspired Word of God, you can do so only because the Catholic Church says it is.
The Bible did not drop out of Heaven ready-made, all bound and printed in the language we speak and understand. None of the huge printing plants which today publish the Bible by the millions were in existence in the time of Christ on earth. No typesetter who composes the text of the Bible knows if the words he puts into form are God's Word, unless he accepts the assurance of the Catholic Church that they are such.
The Bible is, of course, the only book whose principal author is God Himself. But somebody had to write the original manuscript. Somebody had to be responsible for protecting the original manuscript from man-made changes affecting the meaning. Fair-minded and sensible people eventually have to admit that this responsibility has been with the Catholic Church from the very beginning.
Since the invention of printing, many versions of the Bible have been published. But they are not all the Bible as written and preserved by the Catholic Church. Books and sections of books of the Old Testament which are still in the Catholic Bible, have been deleted from others. Books are given different names ... many of the Psalms are numbered differently ... proper names have not the same spelling ... the text is often changed from the Catholic original.
When we realize that the writing of the Bible covered a span of 1500 years between the writing of the first book of the Old Testament and the last book of the New Testament ... and that the whole Bible contains 73 books and almost as many authors ... we are forced to realize that the Bible, besides being the Inspired Word of God, also represents a monumental human effort and solicitude, which is preserved in the Catholic Bible — the Douay version — which anyone can order, at reasonable cost, from a mail-order catalogue.
THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS DIED—AND NONE SAW THE BIBLE
Some people seem to think that, even in the time of Christ's Apostles, Christians lived and died with the complete Bible in their hands. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The last part of the New Testament was not written by the Apostle John until some sixty years after the crucifixion of Christ. There was no Bible in anything resembling its complete form until several hundreds of years had passed. Yet during these years, Christ's Church had spread throughout the world ... millions of Christians had gone to their Maker ... thousands upon thousands of martyrs had given up their lives for the Catholic Faith.
The plain fact of the matter is: the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith existed before the Catholic Bible, or any other Bible. People became Catholics through the teaching of the Apostles and missionaries whom the Apostles ordained. They believed the truths as Christ commanded, were baptized and died enjoying the fruits of Christ's Redemption, long before they ever saw or read —or could possibly see or read — a single inspired sentence of the New Testament. This for the simple reason that the Church existed long before the New Testament!
How then did they become Catholics? In the same way, of course, that people become Catholics today — by being taught God's revealed truth, His plan of salvation, by the Church Christ instituted for that purpose.
As far as anyone knows, Jesus Christ Himself never wrote more than a few words in the dust of the earth. There is no evidence that He ordered His followers to write and publish His teaching. His definite and plain command was: "Go and teach all nations ... preach the Gospel to every creature... he that hears you, hears Me."
And this was what His Apostles did. They spread Christ's Church throughout the world, not by writing the New Testament, not by presenting people with copies of the Old Testament, but by teaching everyone the doctrines, the death and resurrection of Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Taught Without Bible
The books of the New Testament were written to meet special needs and were not then, and are not now, absolutely necessary for the teaching Christ intended men to believe.
The lives of the Apostles were not long, nor could they travel everywhere. To have a reliable account of Christ's life, His deeds and doctrines, some of the Apostles, Matthew and John, who had first-hand information, made an inspired written record in the Gospels which they have left us. Even in their lifetime, incorrect and unfaithful records and false doctrines began to appear, rendering the character and work of their Master ridiculous. So that it was the avowed purpose of the Evangelist Luke (Luke I, 1) to set forth the true facts in his life of Christ, while Mark, the faithful associate of Peter, recorded the Gospel as it was preached by the leader of the Apostles.
The writers of the New Testament left their Gospels for the use of Christ's Church. One often supplied information that had been omitted by others. Yet none pretended to give a complete and systematic account of Christ's doctrine.
Church Came First
And the same is true of the letters which the Apostles wrote. They were written to meet pressing needs and questions and were addressed to particular individuals and groups in various places. St. Paul wrote to his converts at Ephesus, Corinth and Philippi, to answer their letters or because he had heard that problems had arisen which needed to be settled, situations which needed to be corrected. He wrote to advise and reprove, to encourage and instruct. He wrote to Christians to whom he had taught Christ's doctrine in its entirety. Certainly it was not his intention to set forth in these letters, the entire plan of salvation through Christ.
The books of the New Testament must be given the place they were intended to have ... the place which they deserve — nothing more. The complete Bible came from the Church and is used by the Church, but the Church did not come from the Bible. It existed many years before the Bible was written.
NEWS FROM PALESTINE
You heard the news flashed from India — GANDHI ASSASSINATED!
The report of the death of this leader, whom millions looked upon with reverence and loyalty, was radioed around the world. Newspapers everywhere gave many columns to their on-the-spot reporters. Did anyone doubt the fact of Gandhi's death? Did anyone question the record of his efforts for the betterment of his people? Did anyone dispute the often-published stories of his labours for peace?
No, reasonable and intelligent people accepted the fact of Gandhi's death. They did so because those close to him confirmed the fact—members of his own family and nation. Reporters would not dare to attempt to deceive the world about a matter of such public interest when both the friends and the foes of Gandhi were in a position to know the truth.
The Gospels are History
Why then should anyone question the truth of the news about Christ which came from Palestine? The Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, had died on the cross to redeem mankind. He had risen from the grave. And the reports of these facts, as given in the four Gospels, gave briefly the chief events of His life and His principal teachings.
Two thousand years from now, people will be able to read the report of Gandhi's death, confident that they are reading the historical truth. And today, almost two thousand years removed from the time of Christ, we can also read the Gospel story of Christ, confident that we are reading facts and historical truth.
It has been abundantly proved that truthful, competent eye-witnesses saw and wrote down the events of the life of Christ. Others got the truth from reliable eyewitnesses and recorded it.
Matthew and John both actually saw the events concerning which they wrote. Both were with Christ throughout His public life. They saw the miracles He performed and they heard His teaching. Mark and Luke were not eye-witnesses, but they were in close contact with the Apostles, who witnessed the events they described. And they were careful to verify the facts they relate from other eye-witnesses.
Martyrs to the Faith
That the Apostles themselves were convinced of the truth of the story they told, cannot be doubted. Some of them gave up their lives rather than deny it. It is not likely that these men would have suffered death for the sake of a story which they had written, but which they knew to be a fake.
A careful examination of the Gospels will show that their authors were well acquainted with the events they record, or, at least, in close contact with those who witnessed them. After the death of Christ — thirty-five years at the most — the whole land was devastated with war following the rebellion of the Jews against the Romans. This caused so many and such great changes that the conditions described in the Gospels no longer existed.
This prevented any plausible forgery of the Gospels. No one could have portrayed so accurately and in such detail, the political, social and religious conditions prevailing at the time of Christ unless he had lived in those times or was in close contact with others who had. Modern scholars fail to discover the slightest error on the part of the writers of the Gospels in their descriptions of any of these conditions.
They Knew The Truth
The first Christians were in a position to know the truth. They would not have accepted the Gospels, which imposed so great a restraint upon human nature, nor would they have practiced Christianity at a time when to be a Christian put one in danger of almost certain death, if they had not been convinced that the Gospels contained facts. Many of these early Christians were versed in literature, had trained minds and were of the highest intellectual attainment. We can be sure that they did not accept the Gospels as genuine without the most searching investigation.
But the enemies of Christianity provide what is perhaps the most convincing evidence of all. Even in the days when the Gospels were written, these enemies were numerous and clever. They used every possible argument against the Church and, had the Gospels been forgeries, or their authors deceivers, they would certainly have seized upon that fact to discredit Christians and Christianity. The fact that no such charge of forgery was ever levelled against the Gospels by these early critics of Christ and His teaching, is proof that the Gospels are genuine and historical reports.
Gospels Passed Along
The original manuscripts of the Gospels are no longer in existence, of course. They were written on perishable material and were in such constant use that they eventually wore out or were destroyed. But they were held in such high esteem, that many careful copies of them were made. Some 3,800 ancient manuscript copies of the Gospels or portions of them exist today and are in agreement with regard to everything excepting minor details. They agree with numerous quotations from the Gospels found in the works of early Christian writers who were much closer to the originals than we are.
We do not know out of our own personal experience that there ever was a George Washington. Some of our young men fought in World War II who cannot testify of their own knowledge that there was a World War I. They know these things because of historical records that have been preserved and passed along. We can be equally sure that the Gospels, as we read them in the Catholic Bible, are genuine books of Christian history and the events related in them are true and can be accepted with complete trust and confidence.
Holy Scripture, as preserved by the Catholic Church down through the centuries, is the historical proof that Christ lived and died for us, and that he left us beliefs and rules to live by.
Of what value is the Bible? Shall we value it for the comfort and hope it gives ... for the sublimity of the thoughts it expresses ... for its majestic style as literature?
These and other appeals that the Bible may have are secondary to its real value. Its primary value is as the meeting place of the mind of God and the mind of man.
The Catholic Church highly esteems the Bible solely because God speaks to us through it. He uses it to unveil many truths He wishes us to know. He makes known His divine will in our regard — His love for men and His hatred for sin. But if we have before us God's own statement in the Bible, and still draw out of it meanings that God never intended it to have, we may proclaim ourselves "Bible Christians" to our heart's delight, but we are not.
It is vain to pour over the inspired pages, unless we pierce through the words and get at their true sense. And if we do not arrive at their true meaning, they become a positive danger and a source of confusion and disunity. When anyone, through ignorance, pride or lack of consideration, attaches a false meaning to any passage of the Scripture, he transforms the words of truth into a source of spiritual ruin. He is then not only insisting on what is in itself false, which is bad enough, but also claiming the authority of God in support of error.
There is nothing more important than to arrive at the genuine meaning of the Bible. The Scriptures are valuable, but only when what we learn from them is truth. The only certain source of correct interpretation is the Catholic Church, which Christ Himself created and commissioned to teach His Word to all nations —without error—for all time.
WHY BELIEVE THE BIBLE?
Catholics have no difficulty answering that question. We believe the Bible because God is its Author and the Catholic Church is its publisher.
That Moses wrote the first book of the Bible and the Apostle John wrote the last, are facts of history —facts guaranteed by historical evidence — the same kind of evidence that leads us to accept Caesar as the author of the Gallic wars.
But why do we accept the Bible as having the all-knowing and all-loving God for its Author?
If God, Who spoke through the mouths of the prophets, wrote through the hands of inspired men ... if He mysteriously collaborated with human authors as His instruments in so doing ... He alone could make the fact known. And He has made it known. He has revealed the fact that the Bible is an inspired book, but He did not reveal how this inspiration took place.
A Matter of Faith
It is always easier to describe the appearance of things than to explain the complex factors behind them. There are unexplained agencies in the familiar world about us—in electricity, in seeds, and in light. A child can turn on the radio, but the ablest scientist cannot adequately explain the inner nature of the electricity that transmits the sound. Yet no one, for all of that, denies that he heard the sound. And no one can reasonably deny that God inspired the human authors of the books of the Bible merely because we cannot fully understand how He did so.
Christ Himself gave us something of a description of inspiration when He said to His Apostles: " ... do not be anxious how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father, who speaks through you." (Matthew 10:19, 20) . The Apostles speak, but they say what is given them to say. They speak, yet it is God Who speaks through them.
God moved the human writers, enlightened their minds as they wrote, directed and assisted them to write what He wished — and no more.
Thus the human authors of the Bible wrote their own thoughts, but God gave them these thoughts. They wrote and it was God writing through them. Each book of the Bible has two authors acting as one: God as the principal Author, man as His instrument. This does not mean that one part of the book was written by God and the other part by men. The whole book came from both God and man, but from each in a different manner — from God as its source, from men as its channel.
Easy to Understand
This is the reason why Catholics always have believed the Bible. They know that Christ spoke constantly of the Old Testament and always as the book of God—as containing God's word. They know that Peter wrote: " ... the Scripture must be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke by the mouth of David" ... that Paul told Timothy: "All Scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice ..." They know that when the list of inspired books was first officially published, the Catholic Church taught that Holy Scripture was the In-spired Word of God ... and that the Church teaches the same truth today.
It is the Church, commissioned by Christ to teach us to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded, that gives every Catholic the assurance that the Bible is a divinely inspired book. The Bible itself does not give certain proof of its own inspiration.