Old Testament [120-123, 138] i
The Roman Catholic Old Testament is about 20%
larger than that of non-Catholic Bibles. The additions, over 4,000
verses, come from a group of fifteen writings known since antiquity as
the Apocrypha, meaning hidden or hard to understand.
The Apocrypha contains valuable historical
information of the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. Early
Christian writers quote the Apocrypha; and some, such as Augustine,
considered portions of it to be inspired Scripture. Fourth century A.D.
manuscripts of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament
made in the third century before Christ, also include the Apocrypha.
When the Apocrypha was appended to this translation is unknown.
In 1546, the Roman Catholic Church officially
declared that God had inspired twelve of the fifteen writings of the
Apocrypha, specifically, seven books:
The Roman Catholic Church’s
claim that these writings of the Apocrypha are inspired must be rejected
for the following reasons:
• The Apocrypha does not present itself as inspired. The
author of 2 Maccabees says that his book is the abridgement of another
man’s work (2 Maccabees 2:23). He concludes the book, saying, "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" (2 Maccabees
15:38). Mediocre is a good description of the Apocrypha. Despite its
historical value, it promotes questionable ethics, fanciful legends, and
doctrine that contradicts Scripture.
• The Jews of Palestine never accepted the Apocrypha as part
of sacred Scripture. Neither was there a Jewish prophet living during
the time in which the Apocrypha was written (300-30 B.C.).
• Jesus and the New Testament writers did not treat the
Apocrypha as inspired. Though the New Testament quotes virtually every
book of the Old Testament, there is not a single quotation from the
• The early church as a whole never accepted the Apocrypha
as inspired. Moreover, many Christian leaders spoke against the
Apocrypha, including: Jerome, Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril of
• Even the Roman Catholic Church did not dogmatically
declare the Apocrypha to be inspired until the Council of Trent in the
sixteenth century. Roman Catholic priest Father. H. J. Schroeder, a
translator of the decrees of the Council of Trent writes, "The
Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually
promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures." ii
The purpose of the Council of Trent was to counteract the Protestant
Reformation. Protestants had rejected the Apocrypha. Rome reacted by
dogmatically declaring most of the Apocrypha to be inspired. The
Apocrypha also included teachings that could help Rome defend its
doctrine against growing Protestant criticism. For instance, Martin
Luther had forcefully argued against Rome’s practice of selling
pardons from purgatory. Tobit 12:9 supports the practice, stating,
"…almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin."
Even some Catholic writers acknowledge that Trent’s decision to accept
the Apocrypha as inspired is problematic. iii
New Testament [120, 124-127, 138-139]
The books of the Roman Catholic New Testament
are the same as those of the Protestant Bible and the translations are
generally reliable. However, some verses are translated with a noticeably
Catholic slant. For example, the Catholic New American Bible
translates a warning of Jesus to the Jews as saying: "But I tell you,
you will all come to the same end unless you reform" (Luke 13:5,
NAB). Here the Greek word metanoeo, meaning to change one’s
mind or to repent, is translated to "reform," meaning
to change into a new and improved form. Making matters worse, the
chapter title to Luke 13 added by the editors of the Catholic New
American Bible reads: "Providential Calls to Penance."
Adapted from The Gospel According to Rome by James G.
McCarthy, Harvest House Publishers, © 1995.
i. This article is indexed to the numbered paragraphs of the Catechism
of the Catholic Church. The paragraph numbers are in brackets.
ii. H. J. Schroeder, translator, Canons and Decrees of the
Council of Trent (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 178) p. 17,
iii. For a candid discussion of the Apocrypha by Roman Catholic
Scholars, see Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Roland E.
Murphy, O. Carm., editors, The Jerome Biblical Commentary
(Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1968), vol. 2, pp. 523-524.
Mr. Mike Gendron
Mr. Greg Durel
Carlos Tomas Knott