Letter to My Non-Catholic Friend (4)
The Majority of Christians Did Not Have the Bible Before the Fifteenth Century
Not only was the Bible not the Christian's written Rule of Faith during the first four centuries, but it was not during the next thousand years, for the simple reason that there was no widespread use of paper to print on until the 13th century, and the moveable-type printing press itself was not invented until the year 1450, more than one thousand years after the true canon of the Bible (the collection of books which were considered inspired) was determined. Without the printing presses, it was impossible to distribute Bibles by hundreds of thousands. It required several years of work, distributed over many hours of the day, to produce one copy of the Bible. Every page had to be handmade, with pen upon parchment. Who copied these Bibles by hand? In most monasteries, from the early centuries, the daily occupation of many thousands of monks consisted in copying the scriptures for the benefit of the world. Some excellent specimens exist, one of them now being displayed at the Congressional Library, in Washington, D.C. A copy of the manuscript-Bible was usually placed on a large table in church, where the people who could read might have the benefit of it. Some Protestant Churches spread the falsehood that the Catholic Church chained the Bible so that people might not learn anything from it. That is an anti-Catholic fable. The thick cover of the Bible was chained to the table (or podium) so that no one might steal the valuable work. In those days a Bible would have cost over $10,000.00. The Bible was displayed in the church, wide-open, precisely that it might be read. Not one in 50,000 had a Bible. Would our Divine Lord have left the world for 1500 years without that book, if it were necessary to man's salvation? Most assuredly not. But suppose everyone had Bibles? What good will that book be, even today, to the one-half of the people of the world who cannot read?
Our Lord Set Up a Supreme Court
When the Constitution of the United States was written, its writers did not leave it to the people to interpret as they saw fit. They knew better than that. They set up a Supreme Court for that purpose. And do you think that the all-wise God would be less careful in a matter of even greater importance, where the salvation of millions of immortal souls is at stake? Most assuredly not. He, too, set up a "Supreme Court," to guide and teach his people, and to interpret the law for them. In the Old Testament, God chose Moses to deliver His people, the Israelites, from the Egyptians, and to rule over them during their 40 years of wandering in the desert towards the promised land. In the Book of Numbers, Chap. 27, verses 12.23, as the time of his death approaches, Moses asks God to "provide a man that may be over this multitude and may lead them out, or bring them in: lest the people of the Lord be as sheep without a shepherd. And the Lord said to him: 'Take Josue, a man in whom is the Spirit, and put thy hand upon him, and thou shalt give him precepts in the sight of all, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may hear him, he and all the children of Israel with him, and the rest of the multitude shall go out and go in at his word." And in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses was repeating and expounding to the Israelites the ordinances given on Mt. Sinai, with other precepts not expressed before. In Chapter 17, verses 8-12, he states: "If you perceive that there be among you a hard and doubtful matter in judgment... and thou see that the words of the judges within thy gates to vary: arise, and go up to the place, which the Lord thy God shall choose. And thou shall come to the priests of the Levitical race, and to the judge that shall be at that time. And thou shalt ask of them. And they shall show thee the truth of the judgment. And thou shalt do whatsoever they shall say, that preside in the place, which the Lord shall choose, and what they shall teach thee, according to His law. And thou shalt follow their sentence: neither shalt thou decline to the right hand nor to the left hand. But he that will be proud, and refuse to obey the commandment of the priest, who ministereth at that time to the Lord thy God (i.e., the high priest), and the decree of the judge: that man shall die..." And the footnote, Douay Bible, to this ordinance states: "Here we see what authority God was pleased to give to the church guides of the Old Testament, in deciding without appeal, all controversies relating to the law, promising that they should not err therein; and surely he has not done less for the church guides of the New Testament."
Christ set up that teaching organism called "the Church," with St. Peter, and his successors as Chief Shepherd (that is, "high priest"), to be his official Custodian and interpreter under the New Law. And He promised to safeguard the Church from error. Read John 1:14; 14:6; 1 John 5:20; John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; John 8:32; 17:17; 2 John 1:3. To that Church alone, and not to any book or private individual did He say "Teach ye all nations... I will be with you." (Matt. 28:20). And "He who will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican." (Matt. 18:17).
The Catholic Church Urges Its Members to Read the Bible
"At a time when a great number of bad books... are circulated among the unlearned... the faithful should be excited to the reading of the Bible; for this is the most abundant source which ought to be left open to every one to draw from it purity of morals and of doctrine." (Pope Pius VI, 1778). And Pope Leo XIII, elected in 1878, did much to promote the reading of the Holy Scriptures. He founded a congregation for the advancement of biblical studies; he addressed a letter to the whole Church on the subject of the reading and study of Holy Writ; and he granted special blessings to those who devoutly read the Holy Scriptures daily.
The Church authorities at the Synod of Oxford, in 1408, forbade the laity to read unauthorized versions of the Scriptures. In other words, she forbade them to accept as Scripture what really was not Scripture. For example, the Albigensians of the 13th century made a translation of the Bible which would square with their erroneous teachings. (See Hallam, Middle Ages, Chapter IX). And Sir Thomas More says "Wycliffe took upon himself to translate the Bible anew. In this translation he purposely corrupted the holy text, maliciously planting in it such words as might, in the reader's ears, serve to prove such heresies as he 'went about to sow.'" (Eve of the Reformation, Gasquet, Chapter VIII). The Lollards changed the text still more, and made the Bible support the anarchy which they later preached throughout England.
History of the Protestant English Bible
"Tyndale's New Testament" was published under King Henry VIII; the "Bishop's Bible" in 1568; "The King James" or "Authorized Version" in 1611; "The Revised Version" in 1881. Each of these was brought out because the previous one was found to contain errors. (Read History of the Reformation of the Church in England, by J.H. Blunt, Ch. I). Zwingli, writing to Luther, in commenting on his translation of the Bible into German, says: "Thou dost corrupt the word of God; thou art seen to be a manifest and common corrupter and perverter of the Holy Scriptures; how much are we ashamed of thee!" (Vol. II, De Sacramentis, p. 412). Here are some of his typical corruptions: "Wherefore, brethren," St. Peter commands us, "labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your vocation and election." (2 Peter 1:10); But Luther omitted the words "By good works." "We account a man to be justified by faith." (Romans 3:28). Luther added the word "alone." Calvin's translations of the Scriptures were equally faulty. A Protestant authority says: "Calvin makes the text of the gospel to leap up and down; he uses violence to the letter of the gospel, and besides this, adds to the text." (see Molinaeus' Translation of the New Testament, Part XI, p. 110). In his Apology, Sec. 6, Mr. Burgess, a Protestant, says of the English Protestant version: "How shall I approve, under my hand, a translation which has many omissions, many additions; which sometimes obscureth, sometimes perverteth the sense, being sometimes senseless, sometimes contrary?"
So the prohibition of the Catholic Church against Bible-reading has reference to the reading of faulty translations of the Scriptures. Such faulty translations are not surprising, as the devil, too, quotes the Scriptures dishonestly: In Matthew 4:1-11, we read: "At that time, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil... Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down. For it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee..." This we read in the 90th Psalm; but there the prophecy was not spoken of Christ, but of the just man; so the devil has quoted the Scriptures dishonestly. As Satan changes himself into an angel of light, and even from the Holy Scriptures prepares snares for Christians, so now he uses the testimonies of Scripture itself not to instruct, but to deceive.
The Catholic Bible Contains More Books Than the Protestant Bible
Why? For the same reason that it contains any of the writings within its covers. As already explained, and no man in this world can refute it, the writings which the Protestants accept as inspired, they know to be so, only on the authority of the Catholic Church. The Protestant Bible omits the following seven books from the Old Testament: Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Tobias, Wisdom, and the two books of the Machabees. (Luther originally threw out 11 entire books!) These books are inspired Sacred Scripture, and for 20 centuries, from the compilation of the Old Testament canon by Esdras and Nehemias in 430 B.C., until the rebellion of the Protestants in the 16th century, they were accepted by the faithful as God's revelation to His people. They are still in the Catholic Bible.
Most of the Protestant and Catholic versions of the Bible have the same books in the New Testament. But the New Testament contains writings which were not written by the Apostles. Luke and Mark were not apostles at all, and even Paul was not one of the original twelve. How could it possibly be proved, outside the Catholic Church's authority, that Mark's and Luke's writings were inspired? And how could one, rejecting this Church's authority, account for the omission of gospels written by St. Bartholomew and St. Thomas, and the acts of St. Andrew, who were apostles? Of these, several were regarded by certain of the Fathers as part of Scripture, and were publicly read in local Churches, while others in the second and third centuries classed them as doubtfully inspired. Likewise, the Epistle to the Hebrews, Revelation, James, Jude, 2nd Peter, and 2nd and 3rd John were at first called into question in some parts of the Church.
How the Contents of the New Testament were Determined
So the collections of reputed inspired writings in different parts of Christendom in the second, third, and fourth centuries varied considerably, and it was at Church Councils at Hippo and Carthage (held between 393--419) that a list of authentic books was agreed upon. Pope Innocent I, and afterwards Pope Gelasius (A.D. 494), confirmed this list, and for the first time the New Testament was capable of being bound up into one book, as we have it now. How was this question settled after so long a dispute? Purely and simply by an appeal to the traditions existing in local churches, where each document had been preserved, and by the authoritative verdict of the Church, judging according to those traditions. Hence, the reliability of the Bible depends wholly on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church! Protestants, in accepting the New Testament as it stands, are acknowledging the authority of the Catholic Church in the fourth and fifth centuries, and some of them have candidly admitted this in writing. (See preface to Revised Version of Protestant Bible.)
How Old Are the Protestant Churches?
The Lutheran Church was founded in the year 1517 by Martin Luther, a former priest of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church of England (Anglicanism) was founded by King Henry VIII in 1534, when he threw off the authority of the Pope and proclaimed himself the head of the Church in England, because the Pope refused to declare invalid his marriage with Queen Catherine.
The Presbyterian denomination was begun in 1560 by John Knox, who was dissatisfied with Anglicanism.
The Episcopalian denomination was begun in 1784 by Samuel Seabury, who was dissatisfied with Presbyterianism.
The Baptist Church was launched by John Smyth in Amsterdam, Holland in the year 1606.
The Methodist church was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.
The Unitarians were founded by Theophilus Lindley in London, in 1774.
The Jehovah's Witness Church was developed in 1872 by Charles Russell.
The founder of the Salvation Army is William Booth, who quit the Anglicans, and then the Methodists, and set up his own version of Christianity in 1787. His own son, Ballinger, quit the Salvation Army and started his own church in 1896.
Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy began the Christian Scientist religion in 1879, basing it upon an outright denial of original sin and its effects.
The Mormon Church, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Christ, the Church of the Nazarene, or any of the various Pentecostal Churches, etc., are also among the hundreds of new churches founded by men within the past few generations.
The Roman Catholic Church was founded by God-made-man, Jesus Christ, in the year 33 A.D. He said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.... Feed my lambs; feed my sheep." (Matt. 16:18,19; John 21:15,17). He also said: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathers not with me scatters." (Matt. 12:30).