The Canon of Scripture
"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ"
- St. Jerome
"Knowledge of Church history is the death of Protestantism"
- John Henry Newman
Evidence of Ancient Texts, Scripture Translations, How the Canon was established, New Testament Deuterocanonical passages, Old Testament Deuterocanonical passages, Similarities between NT and OT deuterocanonical books
Whether atheist or agnostic, Protestant, evangelical or fundamentalist, surety of truth is the most difficult thing for someone outside the Catholic Church to know. The central issue is authority. None of the people outside of the Church necessarily recognize a legitimate authority outside of themselves. An individual may insist that s/he recognizes the authority of Jesus Christ, and is led by the Holy Spirit, but, given the 23,000 Christian denominations extant today, the Holy Spirit appears to be agreeable to a number of different, and antagonistic, interpretations of Scripture. It is understandably difficult to distinguish being led by the Holy Spirit from being led by personal tastes. We cannot conclude that someone reading Scripture is not led by the Holy Spirit. It is simply the case that, apart from internal conviction (which may well be inspired by the Holy Spirit), those who do not recognize the authority of the Church has no established authority with whom to test the spirit and verify the correctness of his/her interpretation.
All the books of the New Testament were written in Greek, with the sole exception of the Gospel of Matthew, which was probably originally written in Aramaic (or possibly Hebrew). Unfortunately, the original text of Matthew has not survived. The oldest version of any surviving New Testament book is a papyrus fragment of St. John's Gospel (18:31-33, 37-38) which dates from roughly 125 A.D. According to a 1976 survey, there are over 5,000 surviving texts:
- 88 papyrus fragments
- 274 manuscripts written in capitals (that is, each letter is separate and their are no accent marks)
- 2795 manuscripts written in lower case letters (that is, the letters in each word are linked)
- 2209 lectionaries for public liturgical use
- New copies are continually being discovered. A 1963 catalogue (K. Aland) lists 4689, while a 1976 count was 5366.Over 4000 ancient (100-400 A.D.) translations exist, composed variously in Latin (from 2nd century onward, many prior to St. Jerome's translation), Syriac (2nd to 3rd century), Coptic (3rd century), Armenian (4th century), Ethiopian, Slav, Gothic (4th century), and Arabic. Furthermore, many ancient writers (e.g. Eusebius) quoted Scripture liberally - it is possible to reconstruct virtually the entire New Testament on the basis of these quotations, and the ancient texts from which these quotes come are generally older than the manuscript versions of the Scripture books which have come down to us. Nearly 100 New Testament papyri have survived, all of them Egyptian. Their time of writing was approximately between 100 to 200 AD. In addition, the writings of early Christians quote the New Testament so extensively that virtually the entire New Testament, apart from seven or eight verses, could be reconstructed simply from the works of those same Christians. Keep in mind, however, that the early Christians did not quote chapter and verse, since there were no chapter/verse subdivisions until the Middle Ages (see below). In comparison, we have only two extant copies of accounts that Hannibal crossed the Alps with elephants, and only one line in all of ancient writing which indicates that Alexander reached India during his conquests, yet both of these events are undisputed by historians.
The information in this section summarizes Why Do Catholics Do That?, pp. 24-25.
The first document written in many modern languages was the Bible. In fact, the need to proselytize forced the Church to invent written Slavonic, Gaelic and German. The oldest German document in existence is a translation of Scripture done in 381 by a monk named Ulfilas. There were over 1000 years of manuscript translations done in German between the time of Ulfilas and Martin Luther, with at least 21 mechanically printed (i.e., not manuscript) German editions of Scripture in existence at the time Luther made his translation. In short, Luther was not the first to translate Scripture into German, much less the first to translate it into the language of the people.
So why didn't more people have Bibles prior to Luther's time? In medieval times, a new Bible cost a community about as much as a new church building, it required the slaughter of 400 animals for the vellum which made the pages, years of work by hundreds of scribes who lettered, gilded, and illuminated the text by hand, and it generally merited an ornate, sometimes gold- or jewel-encrusted binding. Given the material and workmanship necessary for the construction of any book, much less the word of God, one Bible was easily worth an entire manor. This, taken in conjunction with the fact that most people were illiterate, precisely because the text materials required for teaching literacy was so expensive, made "a Bible in every house" economically and culturally impossible. It should be noted that despite the high price of the book, churches often kept the Bible on public display in the building, secured only by a chain, so that all who could read might have access to the Scriptures. It should also be noted that Gutenburg, a Catholic, printed copies of Holy Scripture as his very first job.
Because books were so expensive, the vast majority of people could not read until the invention of the printing press. Martin Luther happened to undertake his translation of Scripture at a time when the price of books had begun to fall drastically, and thus literacy had begun to become affordable. In short, Luther's sola scriptura theology was the creation of man-made technology. Sola scriptura was literally impossible (pardon the pun) prior to the invention of the printing press. If the Church had taught what Luther advocated, she would have, according to Protestant theology, condemned all but the very rich to ignorance of Christ and hellfire prior to the invention of moveable type. More than 95% of the pre-print technology population was illiterate. Even today, world literacy runs no higher than about 50%. Given that Christ came to save the lowly, the meek and the poor, it seems highly unlikely that He would have made literacy and books, both marks of wealth, prerequisites for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is worth noting here that chapter and verse divisions were added to Scripture well after Scripture was written. Chapter divisions were introduced around the year 1206 A.D., by Stephen Langton (d. 1228), a professor at the University of Paris and subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury and a cardinal, into the Parisian Bible in that year. The chapter divisions were subsequently added to all editions of the Bible. Chapters were split into verses in the sixteenth century, with Robert Etienne (Stephenus) providing the final form in 1551. The verse divisions are not always consistent (minor variations between translations), and in some instances the chapter divisions arbitrarily chop a contiguous story or theme up into artificially separate pieces (Guide to the Bible, Robert and Tricot, Paris: Desclee, 1960, I:5), as with chapters 2, 3, and 4 of John's Gospel.
By Christ's birth, the canon of Hebrew Scripture had only been partially defined. The Hebrew Scriptures had a tri-partite structure: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. While the list of books belonging to the Law and the Prophets was clearly fixed and ordered by 130 B.C., it was not clear what books belonged to the Writings. The Septuagint, on the other hand, arranged books by style; narrative, poetical, and prophetic. Since most post-Exile Jews wrote primarily in Greek, the Greek collections soon added historical books which the Hebrew version never saw. Because the Septuagint didn't have a standard ordering or a completely standard list of books, the list of books included in the Greek varied according to collection, with no distinction made between earlier and later works. By the time of Christ's Incarnation, the Septuagint had acquired several more books than the Hebrew Scripture had: Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch (including the Letter of Jeremiah), 1-3 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, the Book of Jubilees, 1 Esdras, additions to Esther and Daniel, and very rarely, 4 Maccabees, since this last was not widely used and was never considered inspired by Jews or Christians. Since none of these books contained law or prophecy, they all properly belonged to the Writings.
This situation was not considered a serious problem, however, since Jewish teaching relied heavily on oral tradition. Even the Torah was read according to oral tradition. Prior to about the ninth century A.D., the Torah was written as one long word, a string of consonants without spaces, punctuation, or vowels - it was literally the word of God. Students learned how to read the text by listening to their elders read it over and over again. Although targums existed, the rabbis disliked them - these encouraged private interpretation of Scripture and undermined the Divinely authorized oral teaching authority of the Levitical priests (cf. Mt 23:2-3. Christ commands the people to respect their teaching authority, but not their lived example). What we today call the Talmud had not yet been committed to writing. The Talmud (which means "learnt by heart"), the rabbis' oral tradition of civil and religious law, is made up of two parts, the Mishna (the text of the oral law itself) and the Gemara (commentary). The Mishna was not written down until about the end of the second century A.D., while the Gemara was only written down during the 3rd to the 6th centuries A.D. Oral interpretive tradition was the rule of faith for the Jews.
How did Jesus handle this situation? He acted like the Jewish teacher He was. Nothing indicates Christ authorized either His Apostles or disciples to write anything down. He only authorized them to preach orally, in the ancient Judaic teaching tradition. Of approximately 350 references made to Old Testament Scripture by the inspired writers of the New Testament, over 300 (85%) refer to the Septuagint, not the Hebrew version of Scripture. Jesus, for instance, when discussing "human traditions" (Mark 7:6-8), quotes a version of a passage in Isaiah found only in the Septuagint.
By 70 A.D., when the temple in Jerusalem was razed by the Romans and the Levitical priesthood was wiped out, the Jewish faith was hemorrhaging followers to the rapidly spreading belief that Jewish prophecy had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. These new "Christians" were as likely to be Gentile as they were Jew, and if they were Jewish, they were quite a bit more likely to be Hellenistic Jews than Palestinian Jews. That is, these Jewish and Gentile "Christians" didn't read or speak Hebrew, they spoke "koine" Greek. Because the Jews of the Diaspora and the Gentiles of eastern Mediterrenean were the first converts, the Greek Septuagint was not only in wide use among Jews, but it was virtually the only text used by Christians.
Jewish Christian oral teaching competed successfully against Jewish oral teaching, and it used Jewish Scripture to do it. This sparked two movements within non-Christian Judaism. First, Jewish scholars began debating whether or not the Christians' "Greek Scripture" was really Scripture. Second, around the year 200, the rabbis began writing down Jewish religious and civil law and their commentaries on it, creating what would eventually become the Talmud six centuries later. Non-Christian Jews ultimately refused the deuterocanonical Old Testament books, probably because of theology (e.g., 1 and 2 Maccabees teaches resurrection of the dead, while Wisdom chapters 1-5 contains an unsettlingly prophetic description of Christ's Passion and Death) and because they were written in Greek, not Hebrew.
Meanwhile the Christians had their own problems. Not only were Jewish brethren arguing that some of the Septuagint wasn't really Scripture, Gentile and Jewish Christians were writing numerous works about the life of Christ and Christian practice/belief, and no one was certain which of those writings should be considered sacred. During the first two centuries of the Church's existence, Christians simply couldn't be sure of the sacredness of many of the books in either their Jewish or their new "Christian" tradition. Even Jude, verse 9, alludes to the Assumption of Moses, a book which was not in the Hebrew canon or the Septuagint and is not now considered part of Sacred Scripture. The arguments led early Christians to distinguish between the homologoumenoi (the "accepted" books) and the antilegomenoi (the "contested" books), sometimes also called the amphiballomenoi (the "contradicted" books).
As the language of the western Church switched from Greek to Latin in the first and second centuries, Latin Scripture translations were made. These were always made from the Greek Septuagint, since few Gentile or Jewish Christians knew Hebrew. Over time, 3 and 4 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, Enoch, and 1 Esdras, were all dropped from the Latin translation, while the Greek-speaking eastern Church, who didn't need to translate the books, retained everything but 4 Maccabees. The Coptic and Ethiopian churches followed the eastern Church, but also kept the Book of Enoch, a book which was never translated into Latin, and therefore never had common usage in the western Church. Enoch was soon also dropped by the eastern Church due to heretical misuse, though it was widely used and considered inspired by the Church Fathers up to the fourth century - in fact, Jude 14 refers to it. By the time Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome to write a new Latin translation of the Gospels and the Psalms, the Old Latin version already had long usage in the western Church. This laid the groundwork for the four major variations in the canon of the Old Testament we have today: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, and Judaic/Protestant/Evangelical.
While Old Testament arguments revolved around Jewish acceptance of the books as sacred, New Testament difficulties related mostly to authorship. If the book was not clearly apostolic in origin, the Church tended to dispute or reject it. For instance, the western church was not convinced Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul, while the eastern church was. Meanwhile, the eastern church doubted the Apostle John wrote the Apocalypse, while the western church knew he had.
Several dozen books claimed apostolic origin, and their theological quality varied widely. Some works ultimately deemed apocryphal were and are recognized as essentially good to excellent theological works, e.g., the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, but uncertain authorship prevented their acceptance as inspired. Other apocryphal books were not only of uncertain or flagrantly false authorship, but also had serious error mixed in with otherwise acceptable theology, e.g., the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Pontius Pilate, and the Gospel of Mary. Many orthodox Christians fought to include theologically sound works like the Didache in the canon of the New Testament, arguing for their apostolic origin. However, the typical early Christian was illiterate. He could make no judgements himself about matters of canonicity, inspiration, or the fine points of theology in a written work. Even the literate Christians faced raging disputes. No one could tell the canonical books without a scorecard and nobody had one.
Councils and papal decrees which defined or re-iterated the list of Sacred books
- 382 - Pope Damasus convoked a synod which produced the Roman Code. The Roman Code identified a list of holy Scripture identical to the Council of Trent's formally defined canon.
- 393 - Council of Hippo
- 397 - First Council of Carthage
- 405 - Innocent I wrote a letter to the Gallican bishop Exsuperius of Toulouse which listed the books of Scripture.
- 419 - Second Council of Carthage
Thus, the Christian canon was settled as the non-Christian Jews were still in the process of committing the Talmud to writing. By the early Middle Ages, the Jewish transition to written tradition was made complete with the production of the "Masoretic" text. As noted above, the Hebrew Scripture was difficult to read without intensive oral instruction, being literally one long word. Between 800 and 925 A.D., the Jewish family Masorete added punctuation, vowels, and spacing to the Hebrew Scripture. The Masoretic version functionally replaced the original Hebrew text. Indeed, until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940's, the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Palestinian canon into modern times was the Masoretic text known as the Leningrad codex, dated to 1009 A.D. This meant the Septuagint version of the Old Testament available during the Middle Ages was actually older and had undergone less extensive revision than the available Hebrew text. The Septuagint would continue to be the oldest, and therefore most reliable, version of Holy Writ available into this century, despite Luther's claim to be "going back to the original" when he reverted to the Hebrew canon.
By the 16th century, the Latin words "protocanonical" (meaning "first canon") and "deuterocanonical" (meaning "second canon") had replaced the Greek terms for "accepted" and "contested." The Septuagint books rejected by the Church and all non-Septuagint ancient texts are called "Apocrypha", which means "hidden", a shorthand for "these books are to be hidden from all but the wise," since they tended to be misunderstood by those not well-formed in the mysteries of faith. Around this time, the canonical status of the Christian Old Testament was called into question by Elias Levita, a Jewish contemporary of Luther. He theorized that Ezra presided over "the men of the Great Synagogue" and closed the canon in the 5th century B.C. His "proof" was Nehemiah 8 and 9, the great assembly of the people for the oral reading of the Law after they returned from Exile. Though no historical evidence of a "Great Synagogue" exists, Luther popularized this idea since it supported his bid to discard the Old Testament deuterocanonical books and thereby strengthened his dubious theology. Shortly after the Reformation began, Protestants began jeering the deuterocanonical books as "apocrypha" in order to disparage the inspired quality of that part of Scripture. The Rationalists of the 17th and 18th centuries would also support Levita's theory, since it undermined the authority of the Church.
Today, sola scriptura Christians present several arguments against the history and nature of the books. They argue that no ecumenical council defined the canon prior to Trent, and assert Trent arbitrarily added the Old Testament deuterocanonical books to Scripture. However, this ignores the Second Council of Niceae's (787 AD) formal ratification of the African Code, which contained the canon, and the Council of Florence's (1441 AD) defined list of inspired books. While Florence did not use the words "canon" or "canonical, its list was identical with all previous lists of Scripture. Thus, The Council of Trent's Sacrosancta decree of April 8, 1546 AD, while the first formal canonical definition of Old and New Testament Scripture to the Church Universal, was the third formal affirmation of their inspiration in ecumenical council, and at least the eighth affirmation overall. Vatican I (1869) also confirmed Trent's list.
In fact, since 382 A.D., there is only one documented instance of a council or pope denying the canonicity of an Old Testament deuterocanonical book. Pope St. Gregory the Great, writing in his Morals on the Book of Job around the year 600 A.D., said of 1 Maccabees "...we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus, Eleazar, in the battle smote and brought down the elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed (1 Macc 6:46)" (A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Oxford, J. Parker, 1848, Morals on the Book of Job, Vol II, parts III & IV, Book XIX.34, p. 424). However, he was not making a formal universal teaching for the faithful, rather, he was writing a commentary on the book of Job as a private theologian. In other words, it wasn't a Magisterial teaching.
Unlike Zwingli, Luther did not entirely discard the deuterocanonical books from his translation of Scripture, rather, he relegated them to an appendix situated between the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, Luther wasn't happy with the deuterocanonical New Testament books either; he disliked the Apocolypse, Hebrews, and Jude, and seriously considered "throwing Jimmy [the epistle of James] into the fire" because it contradicted his faith-alone theology. Standing in judgement of Scripture, he called James "an epistle full of straw," while regarding all four books as quasi-canonical. However, the Old Testament deuterocanonical books stayed in the appendix of many Protestant translations for 300 years because they were recognized as useful for moral instruction. Indeed, the Protestant kings of England imposed the death penalty on anyone who omitted the deuterocanonical appendix. The books were only completely discarded in 1827, after the British and Foreign Bible Society finally removed them.
This history creates several problems for Protestants and sola scriptura Christians in general. For instance, the version of Scripture they use is not only incomplete by Catholic standards, it is incomplete when compared to three hundred years of common Protestant usage. Today's sola scriptura Christians are using a collection of Scripture which has only been in common existence for roughly 150 years.
Furthermore, if Trent's Sacrasancta decree incorrectly added Old Testament deuterocanonical books, how do we know the New Testament is correct? After all, the arguments against the New Testament deuterocanonical books and passages are as valid as those against the Old, i.e., Jewish scholars rejected New Testament writings and Trent erroneously added them to Scripture. Luther's willingness to question the New Testament canon shows he accepted this line of reasoning.
Some argue that Jewish scholars would know nothing about the New Testament because they did not recognize Christ, while they know the Old Testament because they lived it. However, this introduces a false division between the two Testaments of Scripture. Since the New Testament lies hidden in the Old, while the Old is fulfilled in the New, the Old Testament is just as permeated with Christ as the New. Simply put, Jewish scholars who rejected Christ would be unable to properly recognize Old Testament Scripture, since they would not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Luther supposedly accepted the Hebrew canon only because the Jews would know better than anyone what books were in Scripture. Yet Luther's sermons showed little respect for Jewish theological opinion in other areas or for Jews in general. He put no stock in Old Testament Midrash commentaries or targums. He rejected Purgatory, claiming his newly-defined canon had no prayers for the dead, despite the well-known Jewish tradition prefiguring Purgatory, the praying of Q'addish, the prayer for the purification of the recently deceased. Q'addish is prayed for eleven months following the death of a relative, since it is an insult to think the dead so unclean s/he would need a full year of purification. He ignored the fact that all the first-century Jews who were Christian accepted the Septuagint. He ignored the fact that the non-Christian Jews upon whose opinion he relied for canonicity rejected not only the deuterocanonical Old Testament books, but the entirety of the New Testament. If he accepted Jewish authority to define the canon of the Old Testament, upon what authority did he depend to define the canon of the New? All Christians deny Luther's infallibility. Therefore, we may reasonably ask upon what authority sola scriptura Christians base their definition of either canon of Scripture. Remember, Trent was the first formal definition in all Christendom of eithercanon, New or Old, of Scripture.
These are the historical arguments. But what of the arguments against the books themselves? Five arguments are directed against the books themselves: (1) Tobit presents magic as if it were acceptable in the episode of the demon driven away by the immolation of a fish, (2) Judith and Tobit both have erroneous geography and history, (3) Judith and the angel Raphael provide sinful examples by giving false information (Tob 5:5, 5:13, Jud 9:10, 13), (4) Sirach and 2 Maccabees both deny they are inspired Scripture, since both contain prefaces in which the authors apologize for any possible errors, and (5) none of the books are quoted in the New Testament.
Far from presenting an exercise in magic, Tobit presents the ancient Christological symbol of the fish (who is, in Tob 6:3, literally a catcher of men) salted and roasted on coals (as Christ was scourged and roasted on the Cross) in order to defeat a murderous demon and drive him away from a virginal bride. The fish is also used to heal a blind man (cf. Jn 9) by making things like scales fall from his eyes (cf. Acts 10:18).
Apparent errors are not restricted to Tobit and Judith. The book of Daniel says the Medes were a world power in the eras between the neo-Babylonians and the Persians (cf. Dan 2:31-45, 7:1-7), but no historical evidence confirms it. Belshazzar was never titled a king, despite Daniel's assertions otherwise, and he was the son of Nabonidus (556-539 B.C), not of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.) (cf 5:1-30, 7:1-7, 17, 8:1-27). Only Daniel records a Darius the Mede. Darius I was really king of Persia (522-486 B.C).
Many books of Scripture record dubious acts. The Hebrew midwives lie to Pharoah (Ex 1:19), while Judges, in addition to presenting a situation similar to Judith (Judg 4:17-22), also shows a man who offers his own daughter as a holocaust (Judg 11:29-40), and another who gives his wife to a crowd to be raped to death in place of himself (Judg 19:22-30), while Genesis shows Jacob being rewarded for stealing Esau's birthright (Gen 25 and 27).
Likewise, other books show dubious statements by the inspired authors. 1 Cor 1:15, for example, shows Paul forgetting whom he baptized, while 1 Cor 7:12 and 1 Cor 7:40 both are explicitly asserted to be Paul's personal opinion, not God's word. Is this letter, these passages, or these books therefore also to be denied canonical status?
Finally, the lack of quotes in the New Testament applies equally well to Esther, Nehemiah, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Ruth, while the extra-canonical books of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses are referred to in the epistle of Jude. To be consistent, sola scriptura Christians should discard the former books and add the latter two to the canon of the Old Testament. The earliest Christians would probably have been amazed at this judgement: while the catacombs have frescoes depicting scenes from the deuterocanonical books, such as Judith holding the head of Holofernes, Tobias and Raphael, Judas Maccabeus, the mother of Maccabees with her seven martyred sons, Daniel in the lion's den, and the three boys in the fiery furnace, there are no such frescoes from the apocryphal books. Besides, the New Testament does reference the books: Mt 22:25-26, Mk 12:20-27, and Lk 20:29-38 are all nothing but a synopsis of the book of Tobit, even echoing a specific verse, Tob 7:11, 1 Pet 1:6-7 is reminiscent of Wis 3:5-6, while Heb 1:3 recalls Wis 7:26-27. The same lessons are taught in 1 Cor 10:9-10 and Jud 8:24-25, and similar valorous martyrs are provided in Heb 11 and 2 Mac 6 and 7. (see sections on New and Old Testament deuterocanonical books below).
1100 years after the Second Council of Carthage, Martin Luther would pretend to rely on the authority of Jewish Scripture scholars, the same Jews upon whom he poured verbal vitriol from the pulpit, in order to subvert the authority of the Body of Christ; claiming the former knew what parts of the Old Testament were Holy Scripture while the Church didn't. He would adopt the Palestinian canon, today's Protestant canon, in contravention to over a millenia of Septuagint use by all Christians. 23,000 individual "Bible-only" Christian denominations have resulted from his refusal to accept authority.
Early Christians' comments on the Old Testament Canon
Many Christians do not realize that some of their favorite passages in the New Testament Gospels are deuterocanonical - their inspiration was in doubt and contested for significant periods of Church history:
Mk 16:9-20 Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.
Lk 22:43-44 43 (And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. 44 He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)
Jn 5:4 For from time to time an angel of the Lord used to come down into the pool, and the water was stirred up, so that the first one to get in (after the stirring of the water) was healed of whatever disease afflicted him.
Jn 8:1-11 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."
How many people are willing to throw out the story of the adulterous woman, the story that Jesus' sweat was like blood during the Agony in the Garden, the story of the angel stirring the pool, or Christ's appearance to Mary Magdelene? Yet, why whould one accept deuterocanonical New Testament passages and accounts while rejecting deuterocanonical Old Testament passages and accounts? If the Popes and the Church Councils got it wrong with the Old Testament, why would they get it right with the New Testament? If bishops who could trace their consecration back to Peter and the Apostles were not infallible in their definitions, why should today's Christians be so certain that THEY have the true canon of Scripture? One could argue that Christians couldn't be wrong on something so basic, and yet, historically speaking, if sola scriptura Christians are correct, the whole of Christendom MUST have been wrong for some period of time prior to Trent, for the whole Church admitted the deuterocanonical Old Testament books; everyone used them in liturgical worship during the several centuries leading up to Trent. How do we know we aren't still all wrong today, just as they were all wrong in that era? Without an infallible teaching authority, there is simply no way to tell.
Sola scriptura Christians often say that the deutero-canonical books contain flaws which prevent them from being considered canonical. The books of Judith and Tobit are asserted to show that lying pays off, and both books are known to contain geographical and historical errors (see below). Further, the deuterocanonical books are claimed not to have a sufficiently inspired or prophetic nature. Read through these excerpts from the first five chapters of Wisdom, particularly chapters two and five, and decide for yourself how closely it seems to prophesy the events of the New Testament.
The Wisdom of Solomon
1 Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth, think of the Lord with uprightness, and seek him with sincerity of heart; 2 because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. 3 For perverse thoughts separate men from God, and when his power is tested, it convicts the foolish; 4 because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin. 5 For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will rise and depart from foolish thoughts, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness. 6 For wisdom is a kindly spirit and will not free a blasphemer from the guilt of his words; because God is witness of his inmost feelings, and a true observer of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue. 7 Because the Spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said; 8 therefore no one who utters unrighteous things will escape notice, and justice, when it punishes, will not pass him by. 9 For inquiry will be made into the counsels of an ungodly man, and a report of his words will come to the Lord, to convict him of his lawless deeds; 10 because a jealous ear hears all things, and the sound of murmurings does not go unheard. 11 Beware then of useless murmuring, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul. 12 Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; 13 because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. 14 For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. 15 For righteousness is immortal. 16 But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, "Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. 2 Because we were born by mere chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been; because the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts. 3 When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes, and the spirit will dissolve like empty air. 4 Our name will be forgotten in time and no one will remember our works; our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and be scattered like mist that is chased by the rays of the sun and overcome by its heat. 5 For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and there is no return from our death, because it is sealed up and no one turns back. 6 "Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth. 7 Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass by us. 8 Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. 9 Let none of us fail to share in our revelry, everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion, and this our lot. 10 Let us oppress the righteous poor man; let us not spare the widow nor regard the gray hairs of the aged. 11 But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless. 12 "Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. 14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. 16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. 17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18 for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected." 21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, 22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls; 23 for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, 24 but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. 7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever. 9 Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones. 10 But the ungodly will be punished as their reasoning deserves, who disregarded the righteous man and rebelled against the Lord; 11 for whoever despises wisdom and instruction is miserable. Their hope is vain, their labors are unprofitable, and their works are useless. 12 Their wives are foolish, and their children evil; 13 their offspring are accursed. For blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union; she will have fruit when God examines souls. 14 Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, and who has not devised wicked things against the Lord; for special favor will be shown him for his faithfulness, and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord. 15 For the fruit of good labors is renowned, and the root of understanding does not fail. 16 But children of adulterers will not come to maturity, and the offspring of an unlawful union will perish. 17 Even if they live long they will be held of no account, and finally their old age will be without honor. 18 If they die young, they will have no hope and no consolation in the day of decision. 19 For the end of an unrighteous generation is grievous.
Better than this is childlessness with virtue, for in the memory of virtue is immortality, because it is known both by God and by men. 2 When it is present, men imitate it, and they long for it when it has gone; and throughout all time it marches crowned in triumph, victor in the contest for prizes that are undefiled. 3 But the prolific brood of the ungodly will be of no use, and none of their illegitimate seedlings will strike a deep root or take a firm hold. 4 For even if they put forth boughs for a while, standing insecurely they will be shaken by the wind, and by the violence of the winds they will be uprooted. 5 The branches will be broken off before they come to maturity, and their fruit will be useless, not ripe enough to eat, and good for nothing. 6 For children born of unlawful unions are witnesses of evil against their parents when God examines them. 7 But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. 8 For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; 9 but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age. 10 There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up. 11 He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. 12 For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. 13 Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; 14 for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. 15 Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones. 16 The righteous man who had died will condemn the ungodly who are living, and youth that is quickly perfected will condemn the prolonged old age of the unrighteous man. 17 For they will see the end of the wise man, and will not understand what the Lord purposed for him, and for what he kept him safe. 18 They will see, and will have contempt for him, but the Lord will laugh them to scorn. After this they will become dishonored corpses, and an outrage among the dead for ever; 19 because he will dash them speechless to the ground, and shake them from the foundations; they will be left utterly dry and barren, and they will suffer anguish, and the memory of them will perish. 20 They will come with dread when their sins are reckoned up, and their lawless deeds will convict them to their face.
Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him, and those who make light of his labors. 2 When they see him, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at his unexpected salvation. 3 They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, 4 "This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproachwe fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honor. 5 Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? And why is his lot among the saints? 6 So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise upon us. 7 We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction, and we journeyed through trackless deserts, but the way of the Lord we have not known. 8 What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us? 9 "All those things have vanished like a shadow, and like a rumor that passes by; 10 like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found, nor track of its keel in the waves; 11 or as, when a bird flies through the air, no evidence of its passage is found; the light air, lashed by the beat of its pinions and pierced by the force of its rushing flight, is traversed by the movement of its wings, and afterward no sign of its coming is found there; 12 or as, when an arrow is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway. 13 So we also, as soon as we were born, ceased to be, and we had no sign of virtue to show, but were consumed in our wickedness." 14 Because the hope of the ungodly man is like chaff carried by the wind, and like a light hoarfrost driven away by a storm; it is dispersed like smoke before the wind, and it passes like the remembrance of a guest who stays but a day. 15 But the righteous live for ever, and their reward is with the Lord; the Most High takes care of them. 16 Therefore they will receive a glorious crown and a beautiful diadem from the hand of the Lord, because with his right hand he will cover them, and with his arm he will shield them. 17 The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; 18 he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; 19 he will take holiness as an invincible shield, 20 and sharpen stern wrath for a sword, and creation will join with him to fight against the madmen. 21 Shafts of lightning will fly with true aim, and will leap to the target as from a well-drawn bow of clouds, 22 and hailstones full of wrath will be hurled as from a catapult; the water of the sea will rage against them, and rivers will relentlessly overwhelm them; 23 a mighty wind will rise against them, and like a tempest it will winnow them away. Lawlessness will lay waste the whole earth, and evil-doing will overturn the thrones of rulers.
There are definite similarities between certain passages in the epistles and in the deuterocanonical books:
Mt 22:25-26 Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh.
Mk 12:20-22 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no children; 21 and the second took her, and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22 and the seven left no children.
Lk 20:29-31 Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; 30 and the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died.
Tob 7:11 "I have given my daughter to seven husbands, and when each came to her he died in the night. But for the present be merry." And Tobias said, "I will eat nothing here until you make a binding agreement with me."
Christ accepted the reference to Tobit, and the Apostles knew of the books:
1 Pet 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Wis 3:5-6 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
Both Peter, above, and Paul, below, seem to have echoed passages from the book of Wisdom.
Heb 1:3 He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Wis 7:26-27 For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. 27 Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets...
Paul also teaches the same lessons on setting the example of faithfulness during difficulty, even unto martyrdom;
1 Cor 10:9-10 We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
Jud 8:24-25 "Now therefore, brethren, let us set an example to our brethren, for their lives depend upon us, and the sanctuary and the temple and the altar rest upon us. 25 In spite of everything let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who is putting us to the test as he did our forefathers.
Heb 11 and 2 Mac 6 and 7 both recount the valorous deaths of martyrs.
What about Baruch? Baruch 6 is an extended commentary on the uselessness of idols - a theme rather common to Scripture. An excerpt is presented here:
Bar 6:35-40,44 Likewise they are not able to give either wealth or money; if one makes a vow to them and does not keep it, they will not require it. 36 They cannot save a man from death or rescue the weak from the strong. 37 They cannot restore sight to a blind man; they cannot rescue a man who is in distress. 38 They cannot take pity on a widow or do good to an orphan. 39 These things that are made of wood and overlaid with gold and silver are like stones from the mountain, and those who serve them will be put to shame. 40 Why then must any one think that they are gods, or call them gods?:... Whatever is done for them is false. Why then must any one think that they are gods, or call them gods?
The book of Tobit is failed on three counts: the first is that the hero, Tobit, seems to undertake ritual magic, a direct contravention to Scripture.
When reading Tobit, as when reading any book of Scripture, it is important to remember that the Old Testament contains typology which prophesies or foreshadows what will happen in the New Testament. "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old Testament, while the Old Testament is revealed in the New", as Augustine said. One of the most ancient symbols for Christ is a fish. Note what the fish in this story does, and how it is used:
Tob 6:2-8, 16-17, 8:2-3, 11:8 Then the young man went down to wash himself. A fish leaped up from the river and would have swallowed the young man; 3 and the angel said to him, "Catch the fish." So the young man seized the fish and threw it up on the land. 4 Then the angel said to him, "Cut open the fish and take the heart and liver and gall and put them away safely." 5 So the young man did as the angel told him; and they roasted and ate the fish. And they both continued on their way until they came near to Ecbatana. 6 Then the young man said to the angel, "Brother Azarias, of what use is the liver and heart and gall of the fish?" 7 He replied, "As for the heart and liver, if a demon or evil spirit gives trouble to any one, you make a smoke from these before the man or woman, and that person will never be troubled again. 8 And as for the gall, anoint with it a man who has white films in his eyes, and he will be cured."... When you enter the bridal chamber, you shall take live ashes of incense and lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish so as to make a smoke. 17 Then the demon will smell it and flee away, and will never again return. And when you approach her, rise up, both of you, and cry out to the merciful God, and he will save you and have mercy on you.... As he went he remembered the words of Raphael, and he took the live ashes of incense and put the heart and liver of the fish upon them and made a smoke. 3 And when the demon smelled the odor he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him.... You therefore must anoint his eyes with the gall; and when they smart he will rub them, and will cause the white films to fall away, and he will see you."
The fish is a fisher of men; it tries to swallow Tobit whole. Tobit cuts out the heart, liver, and gall and salts the fish (see the exegesis on holy water for an explanation of the Scriptural use of salt as a representation of suffering). The heart and liver are the organs of life in a living creature. So, the book of Tobit portrays a Christ-symbol sown with suffering and roasted, as Christ roasted on the cross in the sun, as an immolation to God. This oblation caused the complete defeat of the demon, who had caused the death of many men in the story. In this defeat, a virginal maiden was rescued in order to be married to the bridegroom who had offered the sacrifice, and who had the legal right to marry her - the Bridegroom marrying the Bride without spot or blemish. Following the marriage, the gall from the fish made the cataracts fall from Tobiah's eyes, healing his blindness, prefiguring Christ's healing of the blind man (Jn 9) and the scales which would fall from Saul's eyes. (Acts 10:18)
Second, some claim Tobit contains inaccuracies, something the Word of God could not possibly have. What is often overlooked is that apparent inaccuracies occur in other books as well. For instance, the book of Daniel asserts that the Medes were a world power in the eras between the neo-Babylonians and the Persians (cf Dan 2:31-45, 7:1-7), something completely unknown to ancient history. Belshazzar was never titled a king, despite Daniel's assertions otherwise, and he was the son of Nabonidus (556-539 B.C), not of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.) (cf Dan 5:1-30, 7:1-7, 17, 8:1-27). Only Daniel records a Darius the Mede. Darius I was king of Persia (522-486 B.C). Does this mean the Book of Daniel is not Scriptural? No - it means that some "Biblical literalist" Christians don't fully understand the way in which God speaks through the literary forms of Scripture.
Third, it is claimed for both Judith and Tobit that the heroes of the book lied (Jud 9:10,13, Tob 5:5,13), which presents a poor example the word of God would never provide. Yet the Hebrew midwives lie to Pharoah (Ex 1:19), and Judges, in addition to presenting a situation similar to Judith (Judg 4:17-22), also shows a man who offers his own daughter as a holocaust (Judg 11:29-40), and another who gives his wife to a crowd to be raped to death in place of himself and cuts her body into pieces in order to provoke a war (Judg 19:22-30), while Genesis shows Jacob stealing Esau's birthright (Gen 25 and 27) and profiting greatly from this deception. Thus, if we were to say that the name "Yahweh helps" is a lie (the meaning of the name Raphael gives, and certainly a true name given the story), we must discard several other Old Testament books along with Tobit and Judith.
Finally, it is sometimes claimed that Sirach and 2 Maccabees both deny that they are inspired Scripture, since both open with a preface in which the respective authors apologize for any possible errors. However, 1 Cor 1:15 shows Paul forgetting whom he baptized, while 1 Cor 7:12 and 1 Cor 7:40 both are explicitly asserted to be Paul's personal opinion, not God's word. Does this mean 1 Corinthians, or at least the relevant passages named, are not canonical Scripture?
Mt 12:6, 41,42 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here...The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Christ is greater than the Law (temple), the Prophets (Jonah) and the Writings (Solomon). But notice the example Christ uses for the Writings: "The Wisdom of Solomon." It is, concidentally, the traditional title of the deuterocanonical book which describes both His killers and His death.