I attended a church service yesterday that was wrought with inaccuracies and confusion over where the Bible came from. I wanted to confront the pastor about it but it was a lengthy list to put straight so I had to ask the Lord to put his arm around me and his hand over my mouth. I have spoken with two Baptist pastors that were very knowledgeable about the origins of the Bible. But since have spoken with several including ministers that are hanging on to half-truths or just really bad information. So although that particular pastor probably won’t read this, I hope to help shed some light on the history of our Bible.
The pastor said that the biblical canon was decided at the Council of Nicea. The Council of Nicea was attended by more than 300 bishops. They condemned the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. They set the date for Easter. They also declared that God the Father and God the Son were of the same substance. The Bible was actually discussed and listed at the Council of Hippo (393) and the Council of Carthage (397).
He also said that it was decided by “head priests” and “high priests”. This gave the impression that it was established by Jews. It was bishops that attended councils. Catholic bishops that were responsible for a certain geographical area. There may have been Jewish Christians but it was not the Jewish priesthood that was involved in this. The Jews would not have listed the New Testament books since they had rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
There were a lot of letters by Paul and Apostles among others. The Catholic church established which ones they believed were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Catholic New Testament and the Protestant New Testament are exactly the same. However, if Martin Luther had been able to have his way, we would not have Hebrews, James and Revelation.
The Septuagint was a version of the Old Testament translated by 70 Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt sometime between 250 B.C. and 100 B.C. It was warmly welcomed by Jews outside Palestine. These were the sacred writings adopted by the early Greek-speaking Christians. There are more than 300 direct quotations or paraphrases in the New Testament from the Septuagint Bible. So there is no doubt that the Catholic Christian writers of the Apostolic Era had adopted the Septuagint as their own.
The Septuagint includes all the books of the Protestant Old Testament as well as what the Protestants call the Apocrypha (Judith, Tobit, 1st Maccabees, 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch). Because the Christians took the Septuagint over so completely, the Jews decided to adopt their own version. Part of the reasoning behind removing these books was that it had to be written in Hebrew. However, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, parts of these books were found in the original Hebrew manuscripts. The Protestant Old Testament is also missing parts of Esther and Daniel.
So how did they get removed? Martin Luther put them in the back of the Bible declaring them useful to read but not the inspired word of God. Even the 1611 King James Version included them. They were removed completely in the 1800’s by English and Scottish Bible Societies that refused funding to printers that chose to include them. Many Bibles are beginning to include them again in the back. Some seminaries require that you use a Bible including the 7 books for your studies.
Some will say that the Catholic Church added them back in the sixteenth century at the Council of Trent. This is another myth. The Latin Vulgate was translated from the oldest available Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts including the Septuagint and the New Testament by St. Jerome (382-404) at the request of Pope Damasus I. This was the text used for mass. It was declared official in light of Martin Luther’s actions. But nothing was added or taken away by the Catholic Church. They have stood in defense of the Sacred Scriptures for centuries.
So why did Martin Luther and others remove parts of the Bible and attempt to remove even more? And why are there such errors in how we got the Bible? Well, if you believe that the Bible is your only authority, it would be hard to follow the teachings of a man (Martin Luther) who really butchered it. He removed and attempted to remove parts that didn’t jive with what he believed.
We have to be careful, lest we attempt to do the same thing. If we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, we don’t get to pick and choose what we want to follow. This is why I am Catholic. I have found that their teachings are so closely tied to exactly what Jesus told us to do. And they can show so many correlations with what we do today to what Jesus told us to do and all the way back to how it was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. If you ever get really into studying it, it will give you goosebumps. The Bible comes ALIVE! Living and breathing God’s truths into us.