5 Myths about 7 Books


5 Myths about 7 Books

MARK SHEA

Here are the answers to five common arguments Protestants give for rejecting the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.

People  don’t talk much about the deuterocanon these days. The folks who do are mostly  Christians, and they usually fall into two general groupings: Catholics—who usually don’t know their Bibles very well and, therefore, don’t know much  about the deuterocanonical books, and Protestants—who may know their Bibles  a bit better, though their Bibles don’t have the deuterocanonical books in them  anyway, so they don’t know anything about them either. With the stage thus set  for informed ecumenical dialogue, it’s no wonder most people think the deuterocanon  is some sort of particle weapon recently perfected by the Pentagon.

The deuterocanon  (ie. “second canon”) is a set of seven books—Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith,  1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as longer versions of Daniel and Esther—that are found in the Old Testament canon used by Catholics, but are not  in the Old Testament canon used by Protestants, who typically refer to them by  the mildly pejorative term “apocrypha.” This group of books is called “deuterocanonical”  not (as some imagine) because they are a “second rate” or inferior canon, but  because their status as being part of the canon of Scripture was settled later  in time than certain books that always and everywhere were regarded as Scripture,  such as Genesis, Isaiah, and Psalms.

Why are Protestant Bibles missing these  books? Protestants offer various explanations to explain why they reject the deuterocanonical  books as Scripture. I call these explanations “myths” because they are either  incorrect or simply inadequate reasons for rejecting these books of Scripture.  Let’s explore the five most common of these myths and see how to respond to them.

 


Myth 1

The deuterocanonical books are not found in the Hebrew Bible.  They were added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent after Luther rejected  it.

The background to this theory goes like this: Jesus and the Apostles,  being Jews, used the same Bible Jews use today. However, after they passed from  the scene, muddled hierarchs started adding books to the Bible either out of ignorance  or because such books helped back up various wacky Catholic traditions that were  added to the gospel. In the 16th century, when the Reformation came along, the  first Protestants, finally able to read their Bibles without ecclesial propaganda  from Rome, noticed that the Jewish and Catholic Old Testaments differed, recognized  this medieval addition for what it was and scraped it off the Word of God like  so many barnacles off a diamond. Rome, ever ornery, reacted by officially adding  the deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent (15645-1564) and started telling  Catholics “they had always been there.”

This is a fine theory. The problem  is that its basis in history is gossamer thin. As we’ll see in a moment, accepting  this myth leads to some remarkable dilemmas a little further on.

The problems  with this theory are first, it relies on the incorrect notion that the modern  Jewish Bible is identical to the Bible used by Jesus and the Apostles. This is  false. In fact, the Old Testament was still very much in flux in the time of Christ  and there was no fixed canon of Scripture in the apostolic period. Some people  will tell you that there must have been since, they say, Jesus held people accountable  to obey the Scriptures. But this is also untrue. For in fact, Jesus held people  accountable to obey their conscience and therefore, to obey Scripture insofar  as they were able to grasp what constituted “Scripture.”

Consider the Sadducees.  They only regarded the first five books of the Old Testament as inspired and canonical.  The rest of the Old Testament was regarded by them in much the same way the deuterocanon  is regarded by Protestant Christians today: nice, but not the inspired Word of  God. This was precisely why the Sadducees argued with Jesus against the reality  of the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33: they couldn’t see it in the five books  of Moses and they did not regard the later books of Scripture which spoke of it  explicitly (such as Isaiah and 2 Maccabees) to be inspired and canonical. Does  Jesus say to them “You do greatly err, not knowing Isaiah and 2 Maccabees”? Does  He bind them to acknowledge these books as canonical? No. He doesn’t try to drag  the Sadducees kicking and screaming into an expanded Old Testament. He simply  holds the Sadducees accountable to take seriously the portion of Scripture they  do acknowledge: that is, He argues for the resurrection based on the five books  of the Law. But of course, this doesn’t mean Jesus commits Himself to the Sadducees’  whittled-down canon.

When addressing the Pharisees, another Jewish faction  of the time, Jesus does the same thing. These Jews seem to have held to a canon  resembling the modern Jewish canon, one far larger than that of the Sadducees  but not as large as other Jewish collections of Scripture. That’s why Christ and  the Apostles didn’t hesitate to argue with them from the books they acknowledged  as Scripture. But as with the Sadducees, this doesn’t imply that Christ or the  Apostles limited the canon of Scripture only to what the Pharisees acknowledged.

When the Lord and His Apostles addressed Greek-speaking Diaspora Jews, they  made use of an even bigger collection of Scripture—the Septuagint, a translation  of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek—which many Jews (the vast majority,  in fact) regarded as inspired Scripture. In fact, we find that the New Testament  is filled with references to the Septuagint (and its particular translation of  various Old Testament passages) as Scripture. It’s a strange irony that one of  the favorite passages used in anti-Catholic polemics over the years is Mark 7:6-8.  In this passage Christ condemns “teaching as doctrines human traditions.” This  verse has formed the basis for countless complaints against the Catholic Church  for supposedly “adding” to Scripture man-made traditions, such as the “merely  human works” of the deuterocanononical books. But few realize that in Mark 7:6-8  the Lord was quoting the version of Isaiah that is found only in the Septuagint  version of the Old Testament.

But there’s the rub: The Septuagint version of  Scripture, from which Christ quoted, includes the Deuterocanonical books, books  that were supposedly “added” by Rome in the 16th century. And this is by no means  the only citation of the Septuagint in the New Testament. In fact, fully two thirds  of the Old Testament passages that are quoted in the New Testament are from the  Septuagint. So why aren’t the deuterocanonical books in today’s Jewish Bible,  anyway? Because the Jews who formulated the modern Jewish canon were a) not interested  in apostolic teaching and, b) driven by a very different set of concerns from  those motivating the apostolic community.

In fact, it wasn’t until the very  end of the apostolic age that the Jews, seeking a new focal point for their religious  practice in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, zeroed in with white hot  intensity on Scripture and fixed their canon at the rabbinical gathering, known  as the “Council of Javneh” (sometimes called “Jamnia”), about A.D. 90. Prior to  this point in time there had never been any formal effort among the Jews to “define  the canon” of Scripture. In fact, Scripture nowhere indicates that the Jews even  had a conscious idea that the canon should be closed at some point.

The canon  arrived at by the rabbis at Javneh was essentially the mid-sized canon of the  Palestinian Pharisees, not the shorter one used by the Sadducees, who had been  practically annihilated during the Jewish war with Rome. Nor was this new canon  consistent with the Greek Septuagint version, which the rabbis regarded rather  xenophobically as “too Gentile-tainted.” Remember, these Palestinian rabbis were  not in much of a mood for multiculturalism after the catastrophe they had suffered  at the hands of Rome. Their people had been slaughtered by foreign invaders, the  Temple defiled and destroyed, and the Jewish religion in Palestine was in shambles.  So for these rabbis, the Greek Septuagint went by the board and the mid-sized  Pharisaic canon was adopted. Eventually this version was adopted by the vast majority  of Jews—though not all. Even today Ethiopian Jews still use the Septuagint  version, not the shorter Palestinian canon settled upon by the rabbis at Javneh.  In other words, the Old Testament canon recognized by Ethiopian Jews is identical  to the Catholic Old Testament, including the seven deuterocanonical books (cf.  Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1147).

But remember that by the time the Jewish  council of Javneh rolled around, the Catholic Church had been in existence and  using the Septuagint Scriptures in its teaching, preaching, and worship for nearly  60 years, just as the Apostles themselves had done. So the Church hardly felt  the obligation to conform to the wishes of the rabbis in excluding the deuterocanonical  books any more than they felt obliged to follow the rabbis in rejecting the New  Testament writings. The fact is that after the birth of the Church on the day  of Pentecost, the rabbis no longer had authority from God to settle such issues.  That authority, including the authority to define the canon of Scripture, had  been given to Christ’s Church.

Thus, Church and synagogue went their separate  ways, not in the Middle Ages or the 16th century, but in the 1st century. The  Septuagint, complete with the deuterocanononical books, was first embraced, not  by the Council of Trent, but by Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles.

 


Myth  2

Christ and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Scripture  as their authority, but they never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, nor  did they even mention them. Clearly, if these books were part of Scripture, the  Lord would have cited them.

This myth rests on two fallacies. The first  is the “Quotation Equals Canonicity” myth. It assumes that if a book is quoted  or alluded to by the Apostles or Christ, it is ipso facto shown to be part of  the Old Testament. Conversely, if a given book is not quoted, it must not be canonical.

This argument fails for two reasons. First, numerous non-canonical books are  quoted in the New Testament. These include the Book of Enoch and the Assumption  of Moses (quoted by St. Jude), the Ascension of Isaiah (alluded to in Hebrews  11:37), and the writings of the pagan poets Epimenides, Aratus, and Menander (quoted  by St. Paul in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus). If quotation equals canonicity,  then why aren’t these writings in the canon of the Old Testament?

Second, if  quotation equals canonicity, then there are numerous books of the protocanonical  Old Testament which would have to be excluded. This would include the Song of  Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah,  Lamentations and Nahum. Not one of these Old Testament books is ever quoted or  alluded to by Christ or the Apostles in the New Testament.

The other fallacy  behind Myth #2 is that, far from being ignored in the New Testament (like Ecclesiastes,  Esther, and 1 Chronicles) the deuterocanonical books are indeed quoted and alluded  to in the New Testament. For instance, Wisdom 2:12-20, reads in part, “For if  the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand  of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may  have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful  death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

This passage  was clearly in the minds of the Synoptic Gospel writers in their accounts of the  Crucifixion: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel!  Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in  God; let Him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ÔI am the Son of God'”  (cf. Matthew 27:42-43).

Similarly, St. Paul alludes clearly to Wisdom chapters  12 and 13 in Romans 1:19-25. Hebrews 11:35 refers unmistakably to 2 Maccabees  7. And more than once, Christ Himself drew on the text of Sirach 27:6, which reads:  “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does a man’s speech disclose  the bent of his mind.” Notice too that the Lord and His Apostles observed the  Jewish feast of Hanukkah (cf. John 10:22-36). But the divine establishment of  this key feast day is recorded only in the deuterocanonical books of 1 and 2 Maccabees.  It is nowhere discussed in any other book of the Old Testament. In light of this,  consider the importance of Christ’s words on the occasion of this feast: “Is it  not written in your Law, ÔI have said you are gods’? If he called them Ôgods,’  to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—what about the One Whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the  world?” Jesus, standing near the Temple during the feast of Hanukkah, speaks of  His being “set apart,” just as Judas Maccabeus “set apart” (ie. consecrated) the  Temple in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59 and 2 Maccabees 10:1-8. In other words, our Lord  made a connection that was unmistakable to His Jewish hearers by treating the  Feast of Hanukkah and the account of it in the books of the Maccabees as an image  or type of His own consecration by the Father. That is, He treats the Feast of  Hanukkah from the so-called “apocryphal” books of 1 and 2 Maccabees exactly as  He treats accounts of the manna (John 6:32-33; Exodus 16:4), the Bronze Serpent  (John 3:14; Numbers 21:4-9), and Jacob’s Ladder (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12)—as inspired, prophetic, scriptural images of Himself. We see this pattern throughout  the New Testament. There is no distinction made by Christ or the Apostles between  the deuterocanonical books and the rest of the Old Testament.

 


Myth  3

The deuterocanonical books contain historical, geographical,  and moral errors, so they can’t be inspired Scripture.

This myth might  be raised when it becomes clear that the allegation that the deuterocanonical  books were “added” by the Catholic Church is fallacious. This myth is built on  another attempt to distinguish between the deuterocanonical books and “true Scripture.”  Let’s examine it.

First, from a certain perspective, there are “errors” in  the deuterocanonical books. The book of Judith, for example, gets several points  of history and geography wrong. Similarly Judith, that glorious daughter of Israel,  lies her head off (well, actually, it’s wicked King Holofernes’ head that comes  off). And the Angel Raphael appears under a false name to Tobit. How can Catholics  explain that such “divinely inspired” books would endorse lying and get their  facts wrong? The same way we deal with other incidents in Scripture where similar  incidents of lying or “errors” happen.

Let’s take the problem of alleged “factual  errors” first. The Church teaches that to have an authentic understanding of Scripture  we must have in mind what the author was actually trying to assert, the way he  was trying to assert it, and what is incidental to that assertion.

For example,  when Jesus begins the parable of the Prodigal Son saying, “There was once a man  with two sons,” He is not shown to be a bad historian when it is proven that the  man with two sons He describes didn’t actually exist. So too, when the prophet  Nathan tells King David the story of the “rich man” who stole a “poor man’s” ewe  lamb and slaughtered it, Nathan is not a liar if he cannot produce the carcass  or identify the two men in his story. In strict fact, there was no ewe lamb, no  theft, and no rich and poor men. These details were used in a metaphor to rebuke  King David for his adultery with Bathsheba. We know what Nathan was trying to  say and the way he was trying to say it. Likewise, when the Gospels say the women  came to the tomb at sunrise, there is no scientific error here. This is not the  assertion of the Ptolemiac theory that the sun revolves around the earth. These  and other examples which could be given are not “errors” because they’re not truth  claims about astronomy or historical events.

Similarly, both Judith and Tobit  have a number of historical and geographical errors, not because they’re presenting  bad history and erroneous geography, but because they’re first-rate pious stories  that don’t pretend to be remotely interested with teaching history or geography,  any more than the Resurrection narratives in the Gospels are interested in astronomy.  Indeed, the author of Tobit goes out of his way to make clear that his hero is  fictional. He makes Tobit the uncle of Ahiqar, a figure in ancient Semitic folklore  like “Jack the Giant Killer” or “Aladdin.” Just as one wouldn’t wave a medieval  history textbook around and complain about a tale that begins “once upon a time  when King Arthur ruled the land,” so Catholics are not reading Tobit and Judith  to get a history lesson.

Very well then, but what of the moral and theological  “errors”? Judith lies. Raphael gives a false name. So they do. In the case of  Judith lying to King Holofernes in order to save her people, we must recall that  she was acting in light of Jewish understanding as it had developed until that  time. This meant that she saw her deception as acceptable, even laudable, because  she was eliminating a deadly foe of her people. By deceiving Holofernes as to  her intentions and by asking the Lord to bless this tactic, she was not doing  something alien to Jewish Scripture or Old Testament morality. Another biblical  example of this type of lying is when the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh about  the birth of Moses. They lied and were justified in lying because Pharaoh did  not have a right to the truth—if they told the truth, he would have killed  Moses. If the book of Judith is to be excluded from the canon on this basis, so  must Exodus.

With respect to Raphael, it’s much more dubious that the author  intended, or that his audience understood him to mean, “Angels lie. So should  you.” On the contrary, Tobit is a classic example of an “entertaining angels unaware”  story (cf. Heb. 13:2). We know who Raphael is all along. When Tobit cried out  to God for help, God immediately answered him by sending Raphael. But, as is often  the case, God’s deliverance was not noticed at first. Raphael introduced himself  as “Azariah,” which means “Yahweh helps,” and then rattles off a string of supposed  mutual relations, all with names meaning things like “Yahweh is merciful,” “Yahweh  gives,” and “Yahweh hears.” By this device, the author is saying (with a nudge  and a wink), “Psst, audience. Get it?” And we, of course, do get it, particularly  if we’re reading the story in the original Hebrew. Indeed, by using the name “Yahweh  helps,” Raphael isn’t so much “lying” about his real name as he is revealing the  deepest truth about who God is and why God sent him to Tobit. It’s that truth  and not any fluff about history or geography or the fun using an alias that the  author of Tobit aims to tell.

 


Myth 4

The deuterocanonical books themselves deny that they are inspired  Scripture.

Correction: Two of the deuterocanonical books seem to disclaim  inspiration, and even that is a dicey proposition. The two in question are Sirach  and 2 Maccabees. Sirach opens with a brief preface by the author’s grandson saying,  in part, that he is translating grandpa’s book, that he thinks the book important  and that, “You therefore are now invited to read it in a spirit of attentive good  will, with indulgence for any apparent failure on our part, despite earnest efforts,  in the interpretation of particular passages.” Likewise, the editor of 2 Maccabees  opens with comments about how tough it was to compose the book and closes with  a sort of shrug saying, “I will bring my own story to an end here too. If it is  well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and  mediocre, that is the best I could do.”

That, and that alone, is the basis  for the myth that the deuterocanon (all seven books and not just these two) “denies  that it is inspired Scripture.” Several things can be said in response to this  argument.

First, is it reasonable to think that these typically oriental expressions  of humility really constitute anything besides a sort of gesture of politeness  and the customary downplaying of one’s own talents, something common among ancient  writers in Middle Eastern cultures? No. For example, one may as well say that  St. Paul’s declaration of himself as “one born abnormally” or as being the “chief  of sinners” (he mentions this in the present, not past tense) necessarily makes  his writings worthless.

Second, speaking of St. Paul, we are confronted by  even stronger and explicit examples of disclaimers regarding inspired status of  his writings, yet no Protestant would feel compelled to exclude these Pauline  writings from the New Testament canon. Consider his statement in 1 Corinthians  1:16 that he can’t remember whom he baptized. Using the “It oughtta sound more  like the Holy Spirit talking” criterion of biblical inspiration Protestants apply  to the deuterocanonical books, St. Paul would fail the test here. Given this amazing  criterion, are we to believe the Holy Spirit “forgot” whom St. Paul baptized,  or did He inspire St. Paul to forget (1 Cor. 1:15)?

1 Corinthians 7:40 provides  an ambiguous statement that could, according to the principles of this myth, be  understood to mean that St. Paul wasn’t sure that his teaching was inspired or  not. Elsewhere St. Paul makes it clear that certain teachings he’s passing along  are “not I, but the Lord” speaking (1 Cor. 7:10), whereas in other cases, “I,  not the Lord” am speaking (cf. 1 Cor. 7:12). This is a vastly more direct “disclaimer  of inspiration” than the oblique deuterocanonical passages cited above, yet nobody  argues that St. Paul’s writings should be excluded from Scripture, as some say  the whole of the deuterocanon should be excluded from the Old Testament, simply  on the strength of these modest passages from Sirach and 2 Maccabees.

Why not?  Because in St. Paul’s case people recognize that a writer can be writing under  inspiration even when he doesn’t realize it and doesn’t claim it, and that inspiration  is not such a flat-footed affair as “direct dictation” by the Holy Spirit to the  author. Indeed, we even recognize that the Spirit can inspire the writers to make  true statements about themselves, such as when St. Paul tells the Corinthians  he couldn’t remember whom he had baptized.

To tweak the old proverb, “What’s  sauce for the apostolic goose is sauce for the deuterocanonical gander.” The writers  of the deuterocanonical books can tell the truth about themselves—that  they think writing is tough, translating is hard, and that they are not sure they’ve  done a terrific job—without such admissions calling into question the inspired  status of what they wrote. This myth proves nothing other than the Catholic doctrine  that the books of Sacred Scripture really were composed by human beings who remained  fully human and free, even as they wrote under the direct inspiration of God.

 


Myth 5

The early Church Fathers, such as St. Athanasius and St. Jerome  (who translated the official Bible of the Catholic Church), rejected the deuterocanonical  books as Scripture, and the Catholic Church added these books to the canon at  the Council of Trent.

First, no Church Father is infallible. That charism  is reserved uniquely to the pope, in an extraordinary sense and, in an ordinary  sense, corporately to all the lawful bishops of the Catholic Church who are in  full communion with the pope and are teaching definitively in an ecumenical council.  Second, our understanding of doctrine develops. This means that doctrines which  may not have been clearly defined sometimes get defined. A classic example of  this is the doctrine of the Trinity, which wasn’t defined until A.D. 325 at the  Council of Nicaea, nearly 300 years after Christ’s earthly ministry. In the intervening  time, we can find a few Fathers writing before Nicaea who, in good faith, expressed  theories about the nature of the Godhead that were rendered inadequate after Nicaea’s  definition. This doesn’t make them heretics. It just means that Michael Jordan  misses layups once in awhile. Likewise, the canon of Scripture, though it more  or less assumed its present shape—which included the deuterocanonical books — by about A.D. 380, nonetheless wasn’t dogmatically defined by the Church  for another thousand years. In that thousand years, it was quite on the cards  for believers to have some flexibility in how they regarded the canon. And this  applies to the handful of Church Fathers and theologians who expressed reservations  about the deuterocanon. Their private opinions about the deuterocanon were just  that: private opinions.

And finally, this myth begins to disintegrate when  you point out that the overwhelming majority of Church Fathers and other early  Christian writers regarded the deuterocanonical books as having exactly the same  inspired, scriptural status as the other Old Testament books. Just a few examples  of this acceptance can be found in the Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas, the Council  of Rome, the Council of Hippo, the Third Council of Carthage, the African Code,  the Apostolic Constitutions, and the writings of Pope St. Clement I (Epistle to  the Corinthians), St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Hippolytus,  St. Cyprian of Carthage, , Pope St. Damasus I, the , St. Augustine, and Pope St.  Innocent I.

But last and most interesting of all in this stellar lineup is  a certain Father already mentioned: St. Jerome. In his later years St. Jerome  did indeed accept the Deuter-ocanonical books of the Bible. In fact, he wound  up strenuously defending their status as inspired Scripture, writing, “What sin  have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings  charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise  against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of  Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume (ie. canon), proves  that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn’t relating my own personal views,  but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us” (Against  Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]). In earlier correspondence with Pope Damasus, Jerome  did not call the deuterocanonical books unscriptural, he simply said that Jews  he knew did not regard them as canonical. But for himself, he acknowledged the  authority of the Church in defining the canon. When Pope Damasus and the Councils  of Carthage and Hippo included the deuterocanon in Scripture, that was good enough  for St. Jerome. He “followed the judgment of the churches.”

Martin Luther,  however, did not. And this brings us to the “remarkable dilemmas” I referred to  at the start of this article of trusting the Protestant Reformers’ private opinions  about the deuterocanon. The fact is, if we follow Luther in throwing out the deuterocanonical  books despite the overwhelming evidence from history showing that we shouldn’t  (ie. the unbroken tradition of the Church and the teachings of councils and popes),  we get much more than we bargained for.

For Luther also threw out a goodly  chunk of the New Testament. Of James, for example, he said, “I do not regard it  as the writing of an Apostle,” because he believed it “is flatly against St. Paul  and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works” (Preface to  James’ Epistle). Likewise, in other writings he underscores this rejection of  James from the New Testament, calling it “an epistle full of straw . . . for it  has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it” (Preface to the New Testament).

But the Epistle of James wasn’t the only casualty on Luther’s hit list. He  also axed from the canon Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation, consigning them to a quasi-canonical  status. It was only by an accident of history that these books were not expelled  by Protestantism from the New Testament as Sirach, Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees and  the rest were expelled from the Old. In the same way, it is largely the ignorance  of this sad history that drives many to reject the deuterocanonical books.

Unless,  of course, we reject the myths and come to an awareness of what the canon of Scripture,  including the deuterocanonical books, is really based on. The only basis we have  for determining the canon of the Scripture is the authority of the Church Christ  established, through whom the Scriptures came. As St. Jerome said, it is upon  the basis of “the judgment of the churches” and no other that the canon of Scripture  is known, since the Scriptures are simply the written portion of the Church’s  apostolic tradition. And the judgment of the churches is rendered throughout history  as it was rendered in Acts 15 by means of a council of bishops in union with St.  Peter. The books we have in our Bibles were accepted according to whether they  did or did not measure up to standards based entirely on Sacred Tradition and  the divinely delegated authority of the Body of Christ in council and in union  with Peter.

The fact of the matter is that neither the Council of Trent nor  the Council of Florence added a thing to the Old Testament canon. Rather, they  simply accepted and formally ratified the ancient practice of the Apostles and  early Christians by dogmatically defining a collection of Old Testament Scripture  (including the deuterocanon) that had been there since before the time of Christ,  used by our Lord and his apostles, inherited and assumed by the Fathers, formulated  and reiterated by various councils and popes for centuries and read in the liturgy  and prayer for 1500 years.

When certain people decided to snip some of this  canon out in order to suit their theological opinions, the Church moved to prevent  it by defining (both at Florence and Trent) that this very same canon was, in  fact, the canon of the Church’s Old Testament and always had been.

Far from  adding the books to the authentic canon of Scripture, the Catholic Church simply  did its best to keep people from subtracting books that belong there. That’s no  myth. That’s history.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Mark P. Shea “5 Myths about 7 Books.” Envoy 2001.

This  article is reprinted with permission from Envoy  Magazine.

Envoy is a bi-monthly journal of Catholic apologetics  and evangelization. While there are a few other periodicals that deal, at least  ostensibly, with this subject area, Envoy magazine is distinct from them in every  way—graphically, editorially, and in content. It presents the truths of  the Catholic Faith in a fresh, contemporary style, featuring today’s top Catholic  writers, full-color graphics, and an upbeat, innovative format. To subscribe to Envoy call 800-55-Envoy.

THE  AUTHOR

Mark  Shea is Senior Content Editor for Catholic Exchange. You may visit his website  at www.mark-shea.com or check out his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!. Mark  is the author of Making Senses  Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did (Basilica), By What Authority?: An Evangelical  Discovers Catholic Tradition (Our Sunday Visitor), and This  Is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence (Christendom).

Copyright © 2001 Mark P. Shea

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