An Act of God
We cannot be certain that the Scriptures are inspired unless we learn it from some other reliable source. Anything can be written on paper. It is not enough for the author of a book to claim in its pages that he is inspired by God to make it so. Unless there is some evident proof of the inspiration of Scripture independent of Scripture itself, it would be folly to accept only the Bible's own claim.
It must be remembered that inspiration is an act of God. It is not a public and external act as were the miracles of Christ, which witnesses could observe and which can be proved like any other historical fact. Inspiration was an entirely internal act — God's influence on the mental faculties, on the minds of the inspired writers. This influence was beyond the scrutiny of historical witnesses. Perhaps even the writers themselves were not conscious of the divine impulse which moved them. Only God could make known the fact of inspiration. Did He?
Proved by the Church
It is not an argument that appeals to a reasonable man to say that we know that the Scriptures are inspired because the Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts. There are reasonable and well-disposed men who have had no such experience.
Early in the history of the Church, the learned Augustine wrote: "I would not believe the Gospels if I were not moved by the authority of the Catholic Church to do so." The same Catholic Church teaches us that the Bible is an inspired book and we believe it. And we have good reason for believing the Catholic Church which is composed of in-numerable witnesses linked in unbroken succession from the time of Christ to our time.
The historical facts provable by the Catholic Church are that the Son of God was born among men more than 1900 years ago ... He claimed to be God and proved it by miraculous works traceable only to the omnipotent power of God ... He commissioned men, whom He called His Apostles, to preach His Gospel, and to establish His Church, which would teach His doctrine of salvation to the end of time.
These are facts which can be found in the Bible as authentic history. The Catholic Church is the Church which has historically carried on that mission and which has the divinely-protected authority to testify that the Scripture contains the inspired word of God.
So we believe the Bible because, with God as its Author, it has God's authority behind every page. And we know what books constitute the Bible because the Church which Christ established declared which of the books are inspired, and put the Bible into form as a book.
Differences Between the Douay and King James Versions
1) Protestants admit. as inspired and canonical only those books of the Old Testament which are contained in the Hebrew Bible. (See article "The Seven Missing Books," page 20, of this pamphlet.)
2) In the numbering of the Psalms, the King James Version, following the Hebrew, divides Psalm 9 into two (Psalms 9 and 10), and thereafter its numbering is generally one unit ahead of the Douay, until we reach Psalm 148, when the King James agrees with the Douay, having united Psalms 146 and 147 into one.
3) There is a minor difference in the form of the proper names in the Old Testament. The Douay Version, being a translation of the Vulgate, gives those names ending in ah the more classical ending as. The King James Version, on the contrary, generally reproduces the Hebrew form of the names.
4) Another minor difference is that of the title of certain books. The first two books of Kings in the Douay Version are called first and second book of Samuel in the King James, and the third and fourth book of Kings in the Douay are the first and second book of Kings in the other. The two books of Paralipomenon in the Douay are styled the two books of Chronicles in the King James. Apocalypse in the Douay is called Revelation in the King James.
Are Catholics Allowed to Read The Bible?
For years, some gullible people have believed that the Catholic Church is opposed to the Bible and does not want Catholics to read it.
How anyone can believe such a thing is difficult to understand in the face of the fact that it was the Catholic Church which gave the Bible to the world.
Christ Himself established His Church for the specific purpose of teaching His truth to the generations to come (Matthew 18:19) (I Timothy, 4:11). To do so has been the constant and unvarying purpose of the Catholic Church since the times of the Apostles.
Approves Bible Reading
The Church always has pointed to the Scriptures as containing the written Word of God. This was true when the Scriptures were written in the original Hebrew and Greek, and is true today where translations into the modern languages are substantially correct and complete. There never has been a decree of the Catholic Church against the reading of the Scriptures in the languages in which they were composed.
The Church approves the reading of the Bible but does not permit Catholics the free use of any and every modern translation of the Bible. That is a different question altogether, and it has an answer which is both reasonable and consistent.
It is the duty of the Church to see that the people receive the true and unadulterated teaching of Christ. A translation of the Bible can be an accurate, exact and fair rendering of the original, or it can be inaccurate, inexact and in many passages misleading and out of harmony with the original. The Church has never forbidden the reading of the Bible in approved translations, but has definitely condemned the reading of imperfect, misleading and pernicious translations.
Quotations are often made from decrees of the Catholic Church prohibiting the use of the Bible in modern languages. But, on examination, it will be found that these prohibitions were not concerned with the Bible itself, but with translations which, for one reason or another, were defective and dangerous.
Such restrictions did not exist until the need became apparent in the 13th century. And after that time, with the invention of printing and the resulting multiplication of Bibles, the need for regulation became more important when any Tom, Dick and Harry could publish his version of the Holy Book.
Speaking of early non-Catholic English translations, Disraeli complained: " ... we find abundant errors, reducing the text to nonsense or to blasphemy, making the Scriptures contemptible to the multitude who came to pray and not to scoff." There was good reason behind the rules of the Catholic Church prohibiting the use of translations which abused and misused the word of God.
Nor did the Catholic Church withhold the Bible from the Catholic people by keeping it in Latin. Early in the history of western civilization, those who could read Latin could read the Bible. Those who could not read Latin, could not read at all. Who, then, was deprived of the Bible? Not those who could read Latin, for the Cambridge Modern History (p. 639) states: "No book was more frequently republished than the Latin Vulgate, of which 98 distinct and full editions appeared prior to 1500... " In fact, the Latin Bible was as accessible to all, as it would have been in English.
There were translations of the Bible in the popular languages of the people even before the invention of printing and long before 1530, when, it is claimed, the Bible was first given to the people in German. Previous to that date, more than 70 editions of the Bible had been made in different languages spoken by the people of Europe.
Long Before Luther
Fourteen translations of the Bible into German and five into low Dutch existed before Luther's translation appeared. And before that time, there were Catholic translations in Spanish, Italian and French. There were English translations before the time of Tyndale or Wickliffe.
In view of these facts, it is clear that the Catholic Church did not keep the Bible from the people by producing it in Latin.
Today, the Bible is available in every popular language and can be obtained by anyone. The Catholic Church not only authorizes its circulation, but strongly encourages its study and meditation. All it requires as a preliminary condition is that the popular translation be properly made, and that footnotes explaining the more difficult passages be appended. This is merely a wise precaution against the danger of false meanings being drawn from obscure texts.
ALL RIGHT, PROVE IT BY THE BIBLE
Have you ever heard people say this in a discussion of Christian belief or practice? It is by no means uncommon.
Some attach an unwarranted importance to the fact that a doctrine has been written in the Bible and can be read in the very words they expect to find there.
Usually the challenge: "Prove it by the Bible!" is made when the discussion deals with a doctrine they decline to accept. For them, the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation and anything not explicitly found in the Bible must necessarily be counterfeit Christian doctrine — an "addition" to the revealed word of God.
The Catholic attitude is different. Our first question is: Did Christ teach it? It is secondary whether or not an inspired author of the Gospels or Epistles wrote it down. We desire Christ's teaching. We need it. And it matters not whether it was written by John or preached by John, it is still Christ's truth.
The Truth of Tradition
If the teachings of Christ were transmitted to us by way of the teaching of the Apostles and their lawful successors, whom Christ promised to protect from error, we have the same need and obligation to accept them that we have to accept those recorded by the inspired authors of the New Testament.
The teaching of Christ, which contained God's revealed truth, preached by the Apostles but not committed to writing in the inspired Scriptures, is what Catholics mean by "tradition." That is what the Bible means when it speaks of that same kind of tradition.
Christ reproached the Scribes and Pharisees for leaving the Commandments of God and holding the tradition of men (Mark 7:8). Such tradition Christ condemned and so does the Catholic Church.
But there is another kind of tradition of which the Bible speaks and which we are obliged to accept: " ... hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle," St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (II Thess. 2:14) ; and he leaves us under no doubt whatsoever, since he specifically mentions his written and unwritten word and commands that both be received. Thus even as taught in the days of the Apostles, Christ's doctrine was both unwritten and written by inspired authors. Both are of equal importance and of equal obligation. They are not the traditions of mere men, but an integral part of Christ's teaching—the revealed word of God, transmitted by men, the Apostles and their lawful successors.
To accept only the teachings of Christ as given in the Bible would be to act contrary to the precepts of the Bible itself. Far worse, it would mean depriving ourselves of important truths which Christ communicated to the Apostles and, through them, to His Church.
Much Was Unwritten
Recall the words with which St. John concludes his Gospel: "There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written each one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written." Here was a manifestation of God's plan that all was not to be written in the Bible. The Apostle closes His Gospel with a plain statement that he knows many more things that Christ did, many more words that He uttered, than he put into writing.
The first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles expressly states that Christ employed the forty days which elapsed between His Resurrection and Ascension, in teaching His Apostles: For forty days "appearing to them and speaking of the kingdom of God."
And now where are those heavenly instructions given by the risen Christ to His Apostles? Those instructions which had lasted forty days take up only a few lines in the Scripture; whereas the discourse of our Lord on the eve of His death, a discourse which could have lasted but a few hours, takes up five chapters.
The 40 Days' Instruction
No doubt, the discourses for forty days were of the greatest importance, as the inspired writer says they related to the kingdom of God. And who can doubt that the necessity of giving those instructions was one of the most important reasons why Christ remained among men after His Resurrection?
The history of the Catholic Church shows it at the very beginning with its creed, ceremonies, practices, fasts, holy days and Sacraments. There is no direct mention of many of these things in Scripture, and only remote allusions to a few. It is evident, however, that the Apostles received instruction on those points, which they delivered to the Church and which were written, not in the Scripture, but in the belief and practices of the people from the beginning of the Church. This is tradition originating with Christ.
The Apostles founded the Church, and during a long time, it was supported solely on tradition —their teaching. Both Jews and Gentiles were converted and it was the spoken word which made them Christians. From the very beginning, Christians learned Christ's doctrine, and all the facts relating to the establishment of Christianity without the Bible as we know it.
" ... by Word or Epistle"
When error and abuse cropped up, the Apostles, either by preaching or writing, either individually or assembled together, cleared up the facts, dispelled the errors and prescribed to the people that they hold to the traditions which they had been taught, "whether by word or by epistle." The Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament were written in order that the teachings of the Apostles be preserved. These inspired writings, once declared to be such by the Catholic Church, were presented to the world as containing the revealed word of God.
All the books of the Old Testament are addressed to believers and presuppose the Jewish faith as already known. Likewise all the books of the New Testament are addressed to believers in the Christian faith and presuppose Christ's doctrine already taught and received. Nowhere does the New Testament claim to be the sole source of Christ's teaching. It speaks of Christ's teaching as something already known and simply seeks to explain it, to confirm it and to induce Christians to live up to its high ideals and requirements.
Bible Not Full Truth
The New Testament writings were never meant to be the sole and final authority for Christ's revealed truth. They were never intended as the complete and only source of certain knowledge of Christian faith and duty. Prove it by the Bible? The Catholic Church proves it from what Christ and His Apostles taught. The Catholic Church was there to hear them and has held fast to their teaching. From the time of Christ Himself, the Church has been teaching "by word or by epistle"—by the unwritten and the written Word of God.
Just as the Apostles did not consider Christ's entire teachings to be contained in the written word, so does the Catholic Church consider the written word — the Bible — to be only a synopsis of the teachings of Christ.
CHRIST DID NOT MAKE BIBLE ONLY AUTHORITY
If Christ intended the Bible to be our sole guide to faith, why did He not see to it that everybody had a copy ... and that all could read and understand it?
We all know that the Bible was not completed for hundreds of years after Christ left the earth. Are we to believe that the Saviour left the millions of people who lived in those times without a means of receiving His teaching? Are we to believe that Christ intended all these people to remain in ignorance of His teaching until such time as the Bible could be written?
In Jerusalem alone, 3,000 converts came into the Church after Peter's first sermon (Acts 2:41), and 5,000 more shortly afterward (Acts 4:4). Were there 8,000 copies of the Bible ready to distribute among them, so they could understand Christ's teaching and believe in Him? There were not, of course, either 3,000 copies or 5,000. There was no Bible!
Christ and the Bible
If Christ intended the Bible as the sole means of salvation, why did He not write it Himself? And why did He not miraculously multiply its copies to place it in the hands of all people as He had multiplied a few loaves to feed the people? Why did He not, before leaving the earth, see to it that the Bible was translated into the languages of the whole world, so that all could understand it? And why did He not instantly banish illiteracy and miraculously endow all people with the ability to read, for how else could they understand what was written?
Christ never did command His Apostles to write a book, to translate it into all languages, and to place it in the hands of every living human on the face of the earth. He did not say that all His teachings were to be placed between the covers of such a book, and that all who failed to read it, understand it and believe it would be condemned.
If that had been His intention He would undoubtedly have said so. And having omnipotent power, He would have made it possible. But He did neither. Instead, He gave His teaching to the Apostles and commissioned them to "teach all nations." And He instituted an infallible and everlasting Church to see that these teachings were preserved and taught ever more widely by the successors of the Apostles.
There were uncounted Christians who lived and died, without having seen a Bible—without the ability to read it if they had one in their possession. These millions were saved during all these centuries, not because they were readers of the Bible, but because they were hearers and doers of the spoken word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was preached to them by the Catholic Church.
Can anyone believe that God allowed millions to lose their souls during this long span of eighteen centuries — and is allowing many millions to be lost now—simply because they are unable to read? Are we to believe that salvation is reserved only for those who lived after the invention of the printing press?
Even if the Bible contained Christ's complete teaching, think of the vast numbers of people intellectually incapable of understanding it.
And consider the even greater number who ... because of work, illness and other causes ... do not have the time for the reading and study required for even a moderate understanding of the Scriptures.
It is plain that Christ could never have intended to make the Bible as a whole, and the New Testament in particular, the final and only authority for the truths of Christian faith.
THE SEVEN MISSING BOOKS
Did you know that the Catholic Bible contains seven books generally not found in other Bibles? And do you wonder why?
The answer is not that something new has been added to the Bible by the Catholic Church; rather something old has been removed from non-Catholic versions of the Bible.
The books, conspicuous by their absence in modern non-Catholic Bibles, and which should be found in the Old Testament, are the books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and the two books of Machabees—and portions of the books of Esther and Daniel.
To understand this matter fully, it must be borne in mind that before the time of Christ, there were two divisions of Jews. Some remained in Palestine and continued to use the Scripture written in Hebrew. Others, scattered throughout foreign lands, particularly in Egypt, were better acquainted with Greek because Greek was then the common language.
For the use of the Greek-speaking Jews, who were numerous in Alexandria and other parts of Egypt, the Old Testament was translated into Greek several centuries before the coming of Christ. And it was these Greek-speaking Jews who, even before the time of Christ, regarded the seven books of which we speak as inspired.
The Jews in Palestine who spoke Hebrew did not rank these books among the inspired books of the Old Testament, either because they were not written in Hebrew, or because they came too late to be placed in the list of inspired books made by Esdras. After the Babylonian captivity, Esdras collected all the inspired books which could then be found. After his time, the books of Baruch, Tobias, Judith and Wisdom, as well as more complete copies of Daniel and Esther, were brought to light. The book of Ecclesiasticus and the two books of Machabees were not yet written when the collection of inspired books was made.
The Apostles used the Scriptures of the Greek-speaking Jews, and it is upon the authority of the Apostles that the Old Testament, with the seven books under consideration, was held to be inspired. To these Apostles, Christ had said: "He who hears you, hears me." And the Apostles used these seven books. The Apostles must have known whether these books were inspired or not, whether they were the word of God or merely the word of man. If they had been only the word of man, the Apostles surely would have eliminated them from the Old Testament.
As they did not do so, but on the contrary, retained these books in the Old Testament ... and as all the editions of the Bible used by their immediate disciples contained these books ... the Catholic Church must hold them to be inspired Scripture. This is not on the authority of the Jews from whom they were inherited, but on the authority of the Apostles.
From the day when the Catholic Church first published the official list of the inspired books of both the Old and the New Testaments, in 397 A.D., there never has been any interruption in the teaching of the Church concerning their inspired source.
These seven books are accepted as inspired Scripture by 500 millions of Catholics spread over the globe. They are called inspired Scripture by the Greek Church, though separated from the Catholic Church. They are held to be inspired Scripture by all the other Oriental Christian sects. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, all editions of the Christian Bible contained these books. Many of the oldest editions of the Protestant Bibles contained them, sometimes listed in the back of the Bible as Apocrypha — not to be considered inspired Scripture.
When the King James version of the Bible, which is still used by many English-speaking non-Catholics, first appeared, it contained these books. Later complaints, however, caused publishers to begin to omit them and by the year 1827, Bible Societies had eliminated them from the Bible altogether.
When a non-Catholic considers his Bible, it would be well for him to ask . . . why were those seven books omitted? It is not justified by the authority of either the Jews or the early Christians.
IS THE BIBLE EASY TO UNDERSTAND?
Can any intelligent person read and interpret and understand the Bible for himself?
Is it true, as many claim, that the inspired pages are so plain, so simple and their contents so clearly expressed, that every man may grasp their meaning without risk of going astray?
The answer is definitely "No!" The Bible contains peculiarities and special idioms of the original Oriental language in which it was written which are difficult enough to understand in themselves. And they are made much more difficult after they are translated into English.
There are expressions, forms of speech, references and allusions to be found in the Bible which belong to ages, countries and nationalities totally different from our own. Most of the manners and customs described have passed away. References are made to habits and practices familiar enough to those who were on the scene when the books were written and which, at that time, threw light upon the text and its meaning. But these things no longer exist.
Other difficulties arise from the sublimity of the subject matter and from the mysterious character of many of the doctrines. This is especially true of the New Testament, which the earthly and worldly-minded person cannot accept according to the obvious sense of the words.
To say that the correct interpretation of the Bible is easy and within the reach of everyone, even of the unlearned and the unwise, is a contradiction of the teaching of the Bible itself. Referring to the epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter writes that in them "there are certain things difficult to understand, which the unlearned and the unstable distort, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures also, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16). Here are stated three facts of important significance.
The first is that the writings of St. Paul contain statements hard to understand. The second is that the other parts of the Bible likewise contain difficult and obscure passages.
The third is that the unlearned and the unstable not merely fail to discover the true meaning of the passages they read, but that they attach false meanings to them, distort their true sense, with the most disastrous consequences to themselves.
When Christ took the bread in His hands at the Last Supper, He said: "This is My Body." Many who undertake personally to interpret the Bible insist that Christ really meant to say: "This is not My Body," but only a figure or memorial of it. When reading the words directed by Christ to His Apostles: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven," some interpret the real meaning to be: "Whose sin you shall forgive, they are not forgiven by you at all; but if you preach the Gospel, those who hear you and believe in the Lord, will gain forgiveness merely by their faith in Christ as their Saviour."
The Warning of Peter
There are numberless other parts of the Bible which are entirely misinterpreted by people who believe that anyone can interpret the Bible.
If such private interpretation resulted only in error and nothing more, it would not be so bad. But St. Peter forcefully states that it leads to destruction—the loss of salvation. That the obscurities and difficulties pertain to things most important and necessary, is obvious, for St. Peter would not have spoken of them if they concerned neither faith nor salvation.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, we meet with a still more remarkable example of the difficulty of correctly interpreting the inspired text and especially prophecy. The two Apostles who met Jesus on their way to Emmaus, were unable to trace step by step the fulfillment of Scripture in the events that had recently occurred. Christ was obliged to interpret the passages for them. "And beginning then with Moses and with all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures, the things referring to himself." (24:27). Their courage revived as "He opened to them the Scriptures" (24:32).
The need for an authoritative interpreter is clearly seen when we observe disagreement among Christians as to the precise meaning and force of certain words and sentences in the Bible. When various sects claim opposite meanings for the same Scriptural expressions, it is apparent there is need of authoritative interpretation.
The history of the various denominations which have sprung up around the Catholic Church, shows that their origin in most cases was due to the stubborn determination of proud and headstrong discontents to put their own personal interpretation upon the inspired word of God.
Consider such texts as: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build My Church" (Matt. 16:18) ; or "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (John 3:5). Study these and similar passages in the light of the conflicting views and opinions which have raged and still rage around them. If the meaning of Scripture is really so clear to everyone, how is it that there is no unity of belief, no uniformity of doctrine or practice—nothing but widespread confusion?
And None Agrees!
Facts are stubborn things. And there is no more certain fact, as the divided state of Christians proves, than that there is not unity, but disunity, not order, but disorder when the Scriptures are left to the interpretation of the individual. The warning of St. Peter seems to have fallen on many deaf ears.
Besides containing the doctrines of Christ, the Bible also supplies the laws by which we are to govern our conduct. It may, in fact, be considered the law book of Christian life. This being the case, the question may be asked: If a special human authority is needed to interpret the laws of man, which no one will deny, then surely a divinely constituted authority is needed to interpret the laws of God.
In every civilized state, kingdom and republic throughout the world, we invariably find two things: (1)-a code of laws imposed by the State; (2)-a lawfully constituted tribunal whose duty it is to administer these laws, to interpret Their meaning and to see that they are properly applied. There is no such thing as a country where each citizen is presented with a book of its laws and then left to understand them after his own fashion. In civil affairs, men seem to be considerably shrewder than in spiritual affairs.
If an authoritative interpreter is needed in the civil law, which by comparison is simple and intelligible enough, surely such an authority is immeasurably more required in the case of God's law, with its high code of morals and its sublime and mysterious doctrines.
This is what we have in the Catholic Church —an authority to decide finally and forever all questions concerning the correct meaning, the exact force and value of the Bible which Christ committed to her keeping. The Church interprets the law of God much as the Supreme Court interprets the law of the nation.
Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church forever. As this same Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, there can be no doubt that the Holy Spirit protects the Church from error in teaching the true meaning which the Holy Spirit intended the Bible to have.
God assures us that "the things that are of God, no man knoweth, but the spirit of God." (I Cor. 2:11) . How then can every man be his own instructor and his own guide in the difficult and mysterious teachings of Holy Scripture?