Lane's World: BeautyPage CatholicPage DisclaimerPage HomePage PoetryPage SundriesPage
Truth for Catholics:  Previous (Vatican II and Indulgences) |  Main |  Next (Catholic Teachings Don't Change) |  Bottom (This Page)

Second Maccabees and the Rest of the Holy Bible

replying to the disinformation in Evangelical Outreach's "Information for Catholics"

Chapter 3 of Truth for Catholics

"It is through the Roman Catholic Church that Protestants have got their Bible; there is not (to paraphrase some words of Newman) a Protestant that vilifies and condemns the Catholic Church for her treatment of Holy Scripture, but owes it to that Church that he has the Scripture at all". (Henry G. Graham)

Evangelical Outreach (EO) tries to explain at its Information [sic] for Catholics website why Second Maccabees and the rest of the deuterocanonical books do not belong in the Holy Bible in its 2 Maccabees, an Apocryphal and Non-canonical Book webpage. (The deuterocanonical books are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach [also called Ecclesiasticus], Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees; some passages of Daniel and Esther are also deuterocanonical.)

A little misunderstanding

Evangelical Outreach first provides a correct account of the occasions on which the Catholic Church has recognized the divine inspiration of Second Maccabees and the rest of the deuterocanonical books, quoting from a Catholic biblical reference work:

"The Roman Church places these works in her canon of the Scriptures, pointing to an ancient tradition as she does so. First to cite them in antiquity is Clement of Alexandria. He is followed by Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Eusebius, Aphraates, Jerome, Augustine and Theodoret. The provincial councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397 and 419) recognized the sacred character of 1-2 Mc, and the general councils of Florence (1441), Trent (1546), and Vatican I (1870) declared them to be inspired by God." (Jerome Biblical Commentary, volume I, page 462; this would be the first page 462 in the two-volumes-in-one edition)

Evangelical Outreach then quotes from a Protestant source that would appear, from its title, to be a polemical work:

The deuterocanonical "writings were not officially declared to be divinely inspired, and included in the Catholic canon of Scripture as such, until 1546 at the Council of Trent. Previous to that time, these book [typographical error] were included in the Latin Vulgate and in the Greek version of the Old Testament, which is known as the Septuagint, but not officially decreed to be divinely inspired writings." ("The Other Side of Purgatory, Paul Juris, Nystrom Publishing Co., pp. 82, 83.")

Mr. Juris's implication is that the Catholic Church added the deuterocanonical books to the Holy Bible in AD 1546. He is mistaken, however, and should not write of what he does not know. The Church did not add books to the canon of the Sacred Scriptures in 1546. Here... I'll say that again, so there'll be no room for misunderstanding:

the Catholic Church did not add books to the Bible in 1546.

One might object, Even the Jerome Biblical Commentary (JBC) says that Florence, Trent, and Vatican I "declared them to be inspired by God". And so it does say. But, it also says that provincial synods more than 1,500 years ago "recognized the sacred character" of 1 & 2 Maccabees.

I don't know about Protestants, but the only books Catholics believe to be sacred are the divinely-inspired books of the Holy Bible.

(If you want to read more about the ancient Christian writers who quoted from the deuterocanonical books, see the Catholic Encyclopedia articles on St. Clement, St. Hippolytus, Origen, St. Cyprian, Aphraates, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome. Note that the Pope Eusebius about which the Encyclopedia has an article is not the Eusebius referred to above).

The historical reality of how books got into the Holy Bible

A little clarification

From the quotations above, both of which are used by Evangelical Outreach, one might be tempted to conclude that it was only the books of the deuterocanon that were decided upon as belonging in the Holy Bible at the "provincial councils" (also called synods) and "general councils" (also called ecumenical councils) listed. Fortunately, for Protestants and Catholics alike, all the books of the Old Testament and all the books of the New Testament were also decided upon or reaffirmed.

What's that? Books of the New Testament were "decided upon"? Oh, yes. The earliest Christians engaged in considerable, and sometimes fierce, debate over what books belonged in the New Testament right up until the bishops of the Catholic Church made the decision in the late fourth and early fifth centuries.

Yes. For more than three centuries, there was no agreement among Christians about what books belonged in the New Testament, let alone the Old. Catholic bishops decided what books belonged in the Christian Bible and what books didn't, and their decisions were approved by the pope to make them authoritative and definitive.

The first evidence (before AD 200)

Don't believe that the earliest Christians argued about which books belonged in the Bible and which books didn't? Here is the oldest known list, including books that were accepted, those that were disputed, and those that were rejected; the lists are those in the Muratorian Fragment, which was almost certainly written before AD 200:

(I have placed Matthew and Mark in brackets here, because the Muratorian Fragment is exactly that—a fragment: the text begins with mention of Luke, but notes that Luke is the third book.)

So, the first known list of New Testament books does not even mention Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter, and includes only two letters of John. (The Muratorian Fragment can be found in William A. Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, pages 107-108; Evangelical Outreach thinks well enough of Jurgens to quote from him, too, in Mary's Virginity.)

Much later evidence (before AD 325)

Here is another list of books of the New Testament, also including books that were accepted, those that were disputed, and those that were rejected; the lists are those in The History of the Church, by Eusebius Pamphilus, which was written sometime between AD 300 and 325:

This second list of New Testament books, too, does not include Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and two letters of John among the New Testament books—and it doesn't include Jude or Revelation, either.

And look at the books that are included among the rejected: the Acts of Paul, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the others. How many people nowadays have even heard of them? Yet it must be clear that, at some time, in some place, some Christians accepted them as divinely-inspired books of the New Testament. Else, there would have been no reason for Eusebius to include them in a list of books that had been rejected. (I have culled the lists above from the quotations from History of the Church that can be found in Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, page 293; as I mentioned above, Evangelical Outreach thinks well enough of Jurgens to quote from him (twice, in fact) in Mary's Virginity.)

But what about the Old Testament books?

After seeing that Christians debated for centuries what books belonged in the New Testament, it should come as no surprise to anybody that they also debated what books belonged in the Old Testament.

But, maybe, it does come as a surprise to some. What do you mean? one might say. The Old Testament was all written long before the time of Christ: how can you say that Christians debated what books belonged in the Old Testament?

But the earliest Christians did debate the Old Testament books. Because at the time of Christ there was no agreement among Jews about what books belonged in their Sacred Scriptures. The "Hebrew" Canon of books did not include the deuterocanonical books, like Tobit and Maccabees, which had been written (or, at least, preserved only) in Greek; the "Greek" or "Palestinian" Canon did contain those books. And it was the Greek canon, including books like Judith and Esther and Tobit and Maccabees, that the earliest Christians followed: we know this because most of the New Testament quotations from the Old Testament were quotations from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures that contained all 46 books. As time went on, and Christianity spread through the Mediterranean world, the faith came to areas in which Jewish tradition had accepted only the 39 books of the Hebrew Canon, and the Christians in those places tended to follow that Hebrew Canon. Christians elsewhere continued to accept all 46 books of the Greek Canon. This very brief account is not exactly precise, but it is accurate as a general sketch, and the lesson is clear: just as Christians debated about the books of the New Testament, so they debated about the books of the Old.

Here is a good summary of the situation, from a source (Jerome Biblical Commentary) that Evangelical Outreach regards highly enough to quote from on its own 2 Maccabees webpage:

Our conclusion that there was no rigidly fixed canon in Judaism in the 1st and early 2nd centuries AD means that when the Church was in its formative period and was using the sacred books of the Jews, there was no canon for the Church to adopt. This is exactly the situation in the New Testament. The NT writers cite the sacred books that ultimately found their way into the Hebrew canon, especially the Law, the Prophets, and Psalms. But they also echo some of the deuterocanonical books. If one studies the references in Nestle's Greek New Testament, one finds allusions to Sirach, Wisdom, 1-2 Maccabees, and Tobit. Furthermore, there are allusions to what would later be considered apocryphal works, for example Psalms of Solomon, 1-2 Esdras, 4 Maccabees, and Assumption of Moses. Jude 14 clearly cites Enoch; and while it is often stated that the author is not citing this apocryphal book as Scripture, we have no reason to suspect that Jude would have made such a distinction. Enoch was for him, as it was for some later Christian writers, a sacred book. Matthew 2:23 cites an unknown work from Old Testament times with the same emphasis that earlier passages in Matthew cite Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and Jeremiah.... (Jerome Biblical Commentary, volume II, page 523; this would be the second page 523 in the two-volumes-in-one edition; I have expanded some abbreviations here)

The completion of the canon of the Holy Bible

The debate continued well into the fourth century. Yes, that's right: Christians were still debating what books belonged in the Holy Bible in the fourth century. Three centuries and more after the time of Christ, Christians were still debating what books belonged in the Holy Bible. That statement is not Catholic theology: that statement is the historical reality (and the Protestants' nightmare).

The lists I quoted above, from the Muratorian Fragment and from Eusebius, are more a record of prevailing opinion rather than statements of authority. The first known list of the New Testament books that is precisely the same as the list of New Testament books in our own Bibles—27 books, no more, no less, no other than the books in our own New Testaments—is a list from an authority: St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt.

St. Athanasius listed the books of the Holy Bible in a pastoral letter written in AD 367. (Quotations from this Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter can be found in Jurgens, Volume 1, pages 342-343.)

(It might very well be of significance to you that the first list of New Testament books that agrees with our modern list dates from more than a half-century after Constantine's Edict of Milan, tolerating Christianity, in AD 313. If not, forget I mentioned it.)

Protestants may rejoice to find that St. Athanasius excluded the deuterocanonical books, like Second Maccabees, from the Sacred Scriptures—but they should not be hasty. St. Athanasius was only one bishop among many, and though he was an authority, his authority was not definitive. For instance, St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, writing about AD 350, agreed with St. Athanasius in excluding the deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament—but he disagreed with him, too, and also excluded Revelation from the New Testament. (Jurgens, Volume 1, page 352.) But St. Cyril, too, was one bishop among many.

The earliest known list of books in the Holy Bible that was issued by a council (or synod) of bishops is that of the Synod of Laodicea. The list excludes the deuterocanonical books, except Baruch, from the Old Testament, and it excludes Revelation from the New Testament. (See Jurgens, Volume 1, page 318.) We do not know, however, who participated in that synod, nor when exactly it was held (but it was likely to have been some time between AD 343 and 381).

The earliest known list of canonical books issued by a synod of bishops, containing exactly the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament that are nowadays in the Holy Bible (but not in the Protestant version), dates from—not 1546 nor 1442 nor even 419 or 397—but probably from the Synod of Rome in AD 382. (See Jurgens, Volume 1, page 406.) It is precisely the same list of books that was issued by the Synod of Hippo in AD 393, and by the Synods of Carthage in 397 and 419; it is the same list that St. Augustine of Hippo mentions in his Christian Instruction in AD 397 (see Jurgens, Volume 3, page 53), and the very same list that St. Pope Innocent I wrote to Bishop Exsuperius of Toulouse in AD 405 (see Jurgens, Volume 3, page 180).

So, as we can see, authorities of the Roman Catholic Church—an influential North African bishop (St. Augustine, whom Protestants have traditionally held in high regard), several synods of bishops, and a pope—reached a consensus around the turn of the fifth century that 46 books belong in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

The Holy Bible for a thousand years

Except for an occasional individual or community here and there—St. John Damascene, for instance, in AD 743 excluded the deuterocanonicals from a list of Old Testament books, and included the Canons of the Holy Apostles in the New Testament (Jurgens, Volume 3, pages 341-342)—there was no further dispute about the canon of the Sacred Scriptures. Not until the Protestant "Reformation", that is.

Oh, there is the list drawn up by the Council of Florence, in AD 1442, and issued by Pope Eugene IV; it is, of course, the very same list that dates from the Synod of Rome in AD 382, the same list from every other known source in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. It was needed because the Jacobite Church was being reconciled with the Catholic Church, and the Jacobites had included some apocryphal books in their New Testament.

Finally, after many many centuries—more than one thousand years, in fact, after the canon as we have it now had first been determined—the Council of Trent in AD 1546 issued a list of the books of the Holy Bible; it is, of course, the very same list that dates from the Synod of Rome in AD 382, the same list from every other known source in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and the same list from the Council of Florence in the previous century. It was needed because some Protestants had excluded canonical books from their Old Testament.

Clearly, it is simply false that the Catholic Church added books to the Holy Bible in AD 1546. The truth is this: Protestants removed books from the Holy Bible to make their own Bible in the sixteenth century.

(You may be interested in reading John Hellmann's Books of the Bible, or Wibisono Hartono's Canon of the Old Testament or of the New Testament. The Catholic Encyclopedia has lengthy articles on the canon of the Old Testament and on the canon of the New Testament. It also has articles on St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, Constantine, St. Cyril, St. John Damascene, Pope Eugene, and St. Pope Innocent I, and on the Councils of Florence and Trent.)

Some bogus reasons Protestants use to reject books from the Holy Bible

Evangelical Outreach lists four "reasons" why "non-Catholic authorities reject the Apocrypha":

1) "They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms"

There is nothing in the deuterocanonicals that obliges us to accept any of them as strictly historical accounts in the modern-day sense of history, so this "reason" is irrelevant. (Besides, this is the very same reason that unbelievers fling at the rest of the Sacred Scriptures, to deny that they are the inerrant Word of God. One prime target in the Old Testament is Jonah.)

2) "They teach doctrines which are false and foster practices which are at variance with inspired Scripture"

The deuterocanonicals do, indeed, teach doctrines that are false—but only according to Protestant theology; no Christians before the sixteenth century objected to any doctrines taught in the deuterocanonicals. Moreover, this "reason" contrasts the deuterocanonicals with "inspired Scripture"—but that is begging the question.

3) "They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture"

Again, the deuterocanonicals are being contrasted with "inspired Scripture"—but that begs the question.

4) "They lack the distinctive elements which give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as prophetic power and poetic and religious feeling"

I am at a great loss here. Catholics believe that what gives "genuine Scripture their divine character" is having been inspired by God; Protestants (at least, those at Evangelical Outreach) apparently believe otherwise.

Yet more bogus reasons

Apparently feeling the inadequacy of the "reasons" enumerated above, Evangelical Outreach attempts to give three more "reasons" to remove the deuterocanonical books from the Holy Bible:

"1) It [the 'Apocrypha'] is not included in the Hebrew canon of Scripture"

But what of that? The deuterocanonical books are included in the Greek canon. Evangelical Outreach makes no attempt to show why the Hebrew canon is to be preferred to the Greek.

"2) The Apocryphal writers sometimes disclaim divine inspiration"

Evangelical Outreach continues, "For example, in 2 Maccabees 15:38,39, we read, 'So these things being done with relation to Nicanor and from that time the city being possessed by the Hebrews, I also will here make an end of my narration. Which if I have done well and as it becometh the history, it is what I desired: but if not so perfectly, it must be pardoned me' [emphasis added by EO]."

If that is a "disclaimer" of divine inspiration, then what does Evangelical Outreach make of 1 Corinthians 1:16?

"I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)" (1 Corinthians 1:14-16, New International Version)

First, St. Paul says one thing—that he didn't baptize any Corinthians but Crispus and Gaius—then says another—that he did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Surely, Evangelical Outreach would not consider that to be a "disclaimer" of divine inspiration; neither, then, may we take 2 Maccabees 15:38,39 as such a "disclaimer".

But that's not all. Evangelical Outreach's quotation is from the Douay version of the Old Testament, published in AD 1609. Here is how the passage is rendered in a contemporary ecumenical translation:

"So I will here end my story. If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do". (2 Maccabees 15:37b-38, New Revised Standard Version)

Indeed, here is how it is rendered in the King James Version, AD 1611:

"And heere will I make an end. And if I haue done well, and as is fitting the story, it is that which I desired: but if slenderly, and meanly, it is that which I could attaine vnto". (2 Maccabees 15:37b-38, Authorized Version)

See? The author was not admitting that he may have made errors, but asserting that he told the story as best he could. And leaving it up, implicitly, to the reader to decide whether he had done a good job of it. In other words, he was expressing humility. How can that possibly be a "disclaimer" of divine inspiration? Especially when contrasted with 1 Corinthians 1:16, where St. Paul undeniably admits that the statement he had just made in the immediately previous verse was in error!

(In case you are wondering, the Douay version numbers the verses in 2 Maccabees 15 slightly differently than do most other versions.)

"3) In all of the New Testament there is not even one single reference or quotation, made by Christ or any of the Apostles, that would confirm all or any part of the Apocrypha as being divinely inspired"

Evangelical Outreach should have quit before it got this far, for the New Testament does, indeed, contain allusions and references to the deuterocanonical books:

Enough said. But if you would like to read more, check out James Akin's Deuterocanonical References in the New Testament. (Mr. Akin is a Catholic who used to be a Protestant.) Or look at James Hellmann's Allusions in the New Testament to the Deuterocanonical Books.

Had enough yet?

Evangelical Outreach continues—but I have already demonstrated that, so far, EO's "argument" against the deuterocanonical books is based on ignorance of, and distortion of, verifiable historical facts, involves a whole mess of question-begging passed off as reasoning, and displays considerable ignorance of Old Testament influences behind the New Testament Scriptures (especially considering that EO would like you to believe that they are "Bible" Christians). So, I shall spare you detailed analysis of the rest of EO's 2 Maccabees webpage.

(See, though, Mark Shea's Five Myths About Seven Books.)

I would be remiss, however, if I did not point out a certain irony. By a circuitous route, Evangelical Outreach judges that St. Augustine "was NOT a Christian but instead a minister and servant of Satan". Yet, it was the same St. Augustine of Hippo who played a crucial role in determining what books Evangelical Outreach has in its New Testament. What is the saying? About sawing off the branch you're standing on?....

But St. Augustine knew how to respond to the likes of Evangelical Outreach. Here is what he said to that kind of Christian:

"Tell us straight out that you do not believe in the Gospel of Christ; for you believe what you want in the Gospel and disbelieve what you want. You believe in yourself rather than in the Gospel". (Against Faustus the Manichean, AD 400, quoted in Jurgens, volume 3, page 58)

The Protestants' nightmare

The Church existed before the Bible, she made the Bible, she selected its books, and she preserved it. She handed it down; through her we know what is the Word of God and what the word of man, and hence to try at this time of day, as many do, to overthrow the Church by means of this very Bible, and to put it above the Church, and to revile her for destroying it and corrupting it—what is this but to strike the mother that reared them, to curse the hand that fed them, to turn against their best friend and benefactor, and to repay with ingratitude and slander the very guide and protector who has led them to drink of the water out of the Savior's fountains?

Henry G. Graham
Where We Got the Bible:
Our Debt to the Catholic Church,
conclusion of chapter IV

An examination of why the deuterocanonical books are in the Holy Bible demonstrates the absurdity of Protestantism. For one of the founding principles of Protestantism is that the Bible is the only rule of faith—and that the Church, at best, has no authority whatever and, at worst, is an instrument of Satan.

Yet every Protestant who picks up a Bible and reads from it, every Protestant who picks up a Bible and figuratively bashes it over the heads of Catholics, every Protestant who picks up a Bible and hunts for verses to support the preconceived notions he has gotten from his pastor or from his parents or from some poorly written, badly printed tract put out by some evangelical group that disputes essential doctrines held by other evangelical groups—every Protestant depends completely, utterly, and absolutely on the authority of the Catholic Church for having determined, chosen, decided, judged what books belong in the Holy Bible and what books don't. That is the lesson of history.

But that is not history's only lesson for us. Another is that the Protestant idea that the Holy Bible is the only rule of faith would have been incomprehensible to the earliest Christians. For it wasn't until the fourth century that the list of New Testament books first agreed with the list of books we have in the New Testament today.

If the likes of Evangelical Outreach had quoted from, say, Hebrews or Revelation to a third-century "Bible-only" Christian (though, of course, there wasn't any such thing before the sixteenth century), that fellow would have been quite likely to reply, "That book is apocryphal, and I don't have to believe anything in it". If Evangelical Outreach had insisted that Hebrews and Revelation are, indeed, divinely inspired, the fellow might have quickly replied, "Just who do you think you are, adding books to the Bible?"

(See Fr. Brian Harrison's Logic and the Foundations of Protestantism.)

St. Augustine of Hippo
(circa AD 354-430)

Indeed, I would not believe in the Gospel myself
if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.

Against the Letter of Mani
quoted in W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 2
(Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970), page 52

Truth for Catholics:  Previous (Vatican II and Indulgences) |  Main |  Next (Catholic Teachings Don't Change) |  Top (This Page)
Lane's World: BeautyPage CatholicPage DisclaimerPage HomePage PoetryPage SundriesPage


Webpage © 1998-2000 ELC The Webster Lane Core Jr.
(Created May 10, 1998; revised October 16, 2000)