The Bible Is Not a Catholic Book!
The Bible. No book has had more loyal and ardent friends or more bitter enemies. Who deserves credit for it? And is it indispensable for salvation or expendable?
“THE Bible Is a Catholic Book.” “No . . . the Bible Is Not Our Sole Guide.” “The Church Came First, the Bible Followed.” The foregoing are typical headings of advertisements that appeared in the newspapers and magazines of the United States throughout 1954, placed in them by the Knights of Columbus Religious Information Bureau.
Among other things these advertisements state: “Catholics have a genuine love and respect for the Bible. It could not be otherwise, for the Catholic Church is the Mother of the Bible.” “Between the time of the Crucifixion and the time the Scriptures were gathered into a single Book, millions had received and accepted the teachings of Jesus Christ . . . and had died without ever seeing the complete Bible.” “It was 1400 years before printing was invented and the mass distribution of the Scriptures became possible. If Christ had intended the Bible to be the sole guide to His teaching, would he have allowed this delay—permitting millions of people to die in ignorance of the printed Word?”
Is the Catholic Church the “Mother of the Bible”? And what about Christians’ not having seen a complete Bible before the end of the fourth century? And about no mass distribution of the Bible being possible before Gutenberg invented printing? Let us calmly and soberly reason on this very controversial subject in the light of the Bible and the facts of history.
The Catholic Church claims to be the “Mother” of the Bible by reason of her Council of Carthage, 397, at which she set the canon of the Bible as far as she was concerned. In this canon she listed not only the sixty-six books generally accepted but also seven books of the pre-Christian Apocrypha, which “hidden” books had been rejected by the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. As to the merit of these apocryphal writings Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate used by the Roman Catholic Church for many centuries, says: “All apocryphal books should be avoided; . . . they are not the works of authors by whose names they are distinguished, . . . they contain much that is faulty, . . . it is a task requiring great prudence to find gold in the midst of clay.”
The claim is made that Jesus and his apostles used the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Scriptures and that it contained these apocryphal books. However, the Septuagint did not always contain these books, as they had not even been written at the time the Septuagint began to be translated, in 280 B.C. Therefore it is open to question as to whether the copies of the Septuagint that Jesus and his apostles used did contain these books or not. One thing is certain, however, not a single reference to or quotation from the Apocrypha is to be found in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The Bible, therefore, that the Roman Catholic Church “mothered” certainly was not in its entirety the Word of God.
Nor is that all. According to modern Bible scholars such as Goodspeed, collecting of the letters of Paul began before the year A.D. 100, and in a few more decades the four Gospels were also being circulated as a group. Six of the ten ancient catalogues dating long before A.D. 397 list the same canon as we have today, and early in the third century, or some 175 years before A.D. 397, Origen gave the same canon in his Hexapla (six Bible versions in one). So, in view of the fact that there was general agreement on what constituted the Bible canon long before the year A.D. 397, and in view of the Catholic Church’s adding seven apocryphal books thereto, it is clear that she cannot lay claim to being the “Mother” of the Bible.
THE COMPLETE BIBLE?
To say that millions died during the first four centuries who had accepted Christ Jesus without ever seeing a “complete” Bible is to make use of a jesuitism or dishonest argument. From the time of Moses onward the canon of the Bible kept growing until John wrote his gospel and letters about A.D. 98. Whatever had been produced under inspiration up to any certain time was all that was needed for God’s approval and constituted God’s complete Word up to that time. It therefore also follows that the Bible came before the church, because when Jesus, the head and first one of the true church, came to earth, the Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures, were in existence.
Although himself the Son of God, Jesus continually appealed to the authority of the Bible, repeatedly saying, “It is written.” He censured his opponents because they knew “neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” They had access to God’s Word. And Paul commended the Beroeans for checking with the Hebrew Scriptures on what he, an apostle, had told them.—Matt. 21:13; 22:29; Acts 17:11, NW.
Likewise Paul told Timothy—not regarding the “complete Bible” of the year 100—but regarding the Hebrew Scriptures: “From infancy you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” Note that God’s Word was able to equip the Christian completely for every good work, long before it became “complete” in the Catholic use of the term.—2 Tim. 3:15-17, NW.
NO “PRINTED” BIBLE?
The Knights of Columbus advertisements speak of no “printed” Bibles for more than a thousand years, as though it made any difference whether they were manuscript copies or printed ones. The fact, however, is that early Christians were great publishers of the Bible even though they lived a thousand years before printing was invented. They published, they produced multiple copies for circulation. While pagan religions made much of mysteries and the oriental holy books are purposely kept from the common people, such was not true of Christianity, for within fifty years of its birth it became a publishing faith, not only exhausting or using to the full the scroll but pioneering in the use of the codex, a manuscript in book form with pages and a cover. We are told that the early Christians were a book-buying and book-reading people as well as a book-translating and book-publishing people.
However, when apostate Christianity fused with pagan religion, worldly philosophy and religious traditions to form the Catholic Church, a change took place. Concerning this Goodspeed says: “In the Middle Ages publication as a business practically disappeared. The copying of manuscripts was still carried on to some extent in the Scriptoriums of some convents and palaces, but for the most part it was single copies that were made, and there seems to have been none of the old wholesale production; copies were not from dictation, as they had been in the ancient book factories.”—Christianity Goes to Press.
Yes, the much advertised copying credited to the monks was not for the benefit of the common people but for the rich and the clergy. They made highly ornamented copies and took their time in copying, often taking two years to complete one copy they could have completed in a month had they worked at it steadily. Some produced only one copy in a lifetime. Incidentally, so little were the monks interested in Bible distribution that they viewed the invention of printing as a threat to their Bible-copying monopoly!
Most censurable, however, was the fact that all this was done in Latin, not in the language of the common people. Wycliffe and his associates produced a Bible in English toward the end of the fourteenth century and it was the only Bible in English the common people had access to for 150 years. His followers made as many as they could, for the common man and in his tongue. So publishing of the Bible did not have to wait until printing was invented; common people were gaining access to manuscript copies.
And far from aiding in this work the self-proclaimed Bible’s “Mother” did all she could to hinder it, destroying all the copies she could lay hold on and imprisoning and burning at the stake Bible translators, copyists and readers, her destruction of Bibles continuing even to this twentieth century.
The advertisements of the Knights of Columbus also claim credit for the Catholic Church for having preserved the Bible. Is mankind today indebted to her for the Bible? No, it is not. In the first place, two of the most valuable Bible manuscripts in existence were found in non-Catholic lands, the Sinaiticus and the Alexandrine. She cannot claim to have preserved these. And secondly, the Catholic Church can no more be credited with preserving the Bible than the faithless Jews of Jesus’ day could have been credited with preserving the Hebrew Scriptures.
The great Author of the Bible has also been its great Preserver. Regardless of what its enemies have tried to do to destroy it, be such enemies deists, agnostics, atheists, pagans or professed Christians, Jehovah God saw to it that his promise would be fulfilled that stated: “The vegetation becomes withered, and the flower falls off, but the word spoken by Jehovah endures forever.” Yes, the Bible is NOT a Catholic book! It is God’s Book.—1 Pet. 1:24, 25, NW.
He that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. In everything you are being enriched for every kind of generosity, which produces through us an expression of thanks to God.—2 Cor. 9:6, 7, 11. NW.