The Catholic Church strongly encourages everyone to read the Bible every day for private devotion, to memorize it, love it, and to study it diligently. At every Sunday Mass the Holy Word of God is proclaimed, with readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Holy Gospel.
But remember, just because you can quote scripture, it doesn’t mean you are interpreting it correctly. Even the devil quoted scripture and used it to promote evil. Anyone can take words from scripture and justify just about anything today. Misinterpretation of Scripture can result in selective acceptance of the truths contained there. Without an authority (the Magisterium) to help us interpret scripture, scripture could be interpreted with having opposite meanings. God is a God of order, not disorder. Truth (God) does not contradict Himself.
Where did the Bible come from? It didn’t just fall out of the sky. And how do we know what books belong in the Bible?
It was the authority of the Catholic Church, in the fourth century, that determined which books were inspired and belonged in the Bible. Think about it. The Bible does not have an inspired table of contents. This list of inspired books is an essential religious truth not contained in the Bible. Therefore, at least one essential religious truth – the contents of the Bible – is found “outside” the Bible.
Jesus left us the Church, which came before the Bible. How did people learn about Jesus after he was crucified, but before the Bible was put together by Catholics in the fourth century? Oral tradition. We trust the Church, established by Jesus Christ, to tell us what books belong in the Bible, and assure us that everything in it is inspired.
Many people, including many protestant pastors, have converted to Catholicism on the issue of authority. Today there is one Catholic Church, yet over 30,000 different protestant denominations, which started breaking away from the church during the Reformation – hundreds of years after the Bible was compiled.
Among all the Christian churches, only the Catholic Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from unity with the pope in 1054. The Protestant churches were established during the Reformation, which began in 1517. Most of today’s Protestant churches are actually offshoots of the original Protestant offshoots, each with their own man made traditions.
Only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth century, in the fifth century, and in the first century, faithfully teaching the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles, omitting nothing. The line of popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to Peter himself. This is unequaled by any institution in history.
Even the oldest government is new compared to the papacy, and the churches to which door-to-door missionaries belong are young compared to the Catholic Church. Many of these churches began as recently as the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. None of them can claim to be the Church Jesus established.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus creates and builds His Church (not “churches”) on Peter, the Rock. Even hell can’t stop the everlasting existence of His Church. “And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. ”
Jesus left us a Church, giving our first Pope, Saint Peter, the “keys to His kingdom” to be the leader of His Church. In the following verse 19, Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom:
“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed, even in heaven.”
Despite humans messing things up at times, the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and will FOREVER be guided by the Holy Spirit until the end of time, as quoted in scripture:
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:12-13
Jesus would not have left His church without an authority to guide us in Truth. The Catholic Church existed long before the Bible. The Bible is the product of the Catholic Church. Catholic popes and bishops decided what books belonged in the Bible in the 4th century. This means that the Bible is not the sole rule of faith for Christians, but rather “the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth” as it says in I Timothy 3:15.
The deposit of faith given the Church by Jesus Christ includes both Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture. The Gospel is both God’s unwritten and written word, not, rather, simply the written word only. As Pope Benedict observed, “Ultimately, it is the living Tradition of the Church which makes us adequately understand sacred Scripture as the word of God” (Verbum Domini, 17-18).
To trust the Bible is to trust the authority of the Catholic Church.
And why does the Catholic Bible have 73 books, while Protestant Bibles only have 66 – and why does it even matter which Bible you use?
Some protestants believe that the Catholic Church added seven books, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Catholic Bible contains 46 Old Testament books while Protestant Bibles include 39. (Protestants and Catholics accept the same 27 books of the New Testament as inspired an…d canonical.) The Old Testament books found in Catholic Bibles, but omitted from Protestant Bibles, are the Books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), First and Second Maccabees, Baruch, and parts of Daniel and Esther. Catholics call these books deuterocanonical works; Protestants call them the Apocrypha.
But why the difference?
First of all, as stated above, the official canon of the Bible was authoritatively determined by the Catholic Church in the fourth century by Catholic councils and Catholic popes. It is from the Catholic Church that the Protestants have a Bible at all. (Even Martin Luther agrees with this.) To trust the Bible is to trust the authority of the Church which guarantees the Bible.
Prior to the 16th century, no Christian community in the world disputed these seven, so-called “disputed” i.e. “Apocrypha”) books, and the Christian Old Testament was a matter of uncontested faith. Each of the seven rejected books is quoted by early Church Fathers as “Scripture” or as “inspired right along with the undisputed books.
Then in the 16th century, Martin Luther, a former Catholic priest and the father of Protestantism, decided to remove 7 books from the Bible. (By what authority you should ask?) As a result they truncated the Old Testament down to 39 books, and deleted entire chapters from the Old Testament books of Daniel and Esther. These books were removed, even though these books had been regarded as canonical since the beginning of Church history.
Martin Luther also deleted four books from the New Testament (Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation), but his followers placed those books back in after his death. In 1534, he translated the Bible into German and grouped the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament under the title “Apocrypha,” declaring. “These are books which are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures and yet are useful and good for reading”. Some speculate he wanted to remove anything which he disagreed with, such as praying for the dead. (2 Maccabees 12:42-45)
Martin Luther said that he wanted to “throw Jimmy into the fire”, and that the book of James was “an epistle of straw. He added the word “alone” to Sacred Scripture in his German translation of Romans 3:28, implying that Christians are saved by faith alone. He took it upon himself to change the understanding of the Bible around to fit his own particular theology. The only time you actually do see the words faith and alone together in a sentence is in James 2:24, where James says, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”. (James 2:24)
A question to ask is this: By what authority did Martin Luther have to remove seven books from the Bible, – books that had been a part of the Bible since the beginning of Church history, and what would prevent someone else from doing the exact same thing today?
It’s interesting to note that when Jesus addressed the Diaspora Jews (who spoke Greek) he quoted from the Septuagint version of the scriptures, which includes these seven books that are not found in the Protestant Bible. Which Old Testament would you rather use – the Old Testament used by Jesus, the New Testament writers and the early Church, or the Old Testament used by later Jews who had rejected Christ and persecuted Christianity?
How do we know what books belong in the Bible? We trust the infallible Church established by Jesus Christ Himself. Remember, the Church came before the Bible. The Church tells us what belongs in the Bible and assures us that everything in it is inspired. So please be sure the Bibles in your homes are Catholic Bibles, and contain all of the 73 books.
Read your Bibles every day, take Bible classes, learn and love your Catholic faith – then share it with others. One of the greatest gifts we’ve been blessed with is our Catholic faith. Treasure it, be humble and grateful for this beautiful gift.