Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Catholics Adding Stuff to the Bible: Since 367AD

St. Athanasius holds THE BIBLE!
One of the things Protestants claim Catholics have done is to "add books to the Bible". Ironically, they also say Catholics don't read the Bible. So we add books to something we already don't read. Sounds about right.

There probably isn't enough bandwidth to explain the development of Scripture or the "Canon"  (collection) of Scripture we call "the Bible" but since today is St. Athanasius' Day, here's a bit about his contribution to collecting Scripture:
"Continuing, I must without hesitation mention the scriptures of the New Testament; they are the following: the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, after them the Acts of the Apostles and the seven so-called catholic epistles of the apostles -- namely, one of James, two of Peter, then three of John and after these one of Jude. In addition there are fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul written in the following order: the first to the Romans, then two to the Corinthians and then after these the one to the Galatians, following it the one to the Ephesians, thereafter the one to the Philippians and the one to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and the epistle to the Hebrews and then immediately two to Timothy , one to Titus and lastly the one to Philemon. Yet further the Revelation of John
These are the springs of salvation, in order that he who is thirsty may fully refresh himself with the words contained in them. In them alone is the doctrine of piety proclaimed. Let no one add anything to them or take anything away from them...

But for the sake of greater accuracy I add, being constrained to write, that there are also other books besides these, which have not indeed been put in the canon, but have been appointed by the Fathers as reading-matter for those who have just come forward and which to be instructed in the doctrine of piety: the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobias...."

As time went on, the apocrypha (Solomon, Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobias, and the two books of Maccabees) was later added to the canon about 20 years later.

In essence, Catholics did "add" things to the Bible. That is, we added the New Testament.

This just in from Brad:

Brad: I knew he'd show up on this post.
BUT, one squabble: I don't think it's accurate to say that the apocrypha were "added" to the canon. As you know, the development of the canon was much more murky than that and, despite Athanasius' opinion, there was long-standing tradition (like, from the first century) in many other parts of the Church (notably Rome) of treating these books as part of the O.T. since they were in the Septuagint, long before the 4th century. 

For example, St. Jerome also questioned their inclusion when he took the task of translating all of the Scriptures into Latin in the 380s. He appealed the question to Rome and was told to include them in his translation because they had "always" been considered Scripture in Rome. 

Soo... I guess I'm just sensitive about the subject considering that this letter from Athanasius is often used as ammunition by Protestants/Evangelicals who argue that the Catholic Church is wrong when it says that the Apocrypha belong in the Bible. Plus, you can't really accurately pinpoint an exact time (with any of the canon - Old or New Testament) and say that on that day, the Church "added" this or that book to the canon. 

My 2 cents...

Well, alrighty then. What he said!