I used to get quite squeamish when sitting in Mass with JP’s family, especially when one of the readings would come from one of the books in the Old Testament that wasn’t in the Protestant Bible. The Books of Wisdom, Sirach, and others were foreign to me.
I was uncomfortable because I was convinced those books did not belong in the Biblical Canon. But, looking back, it surprises me how I assumed the Protestant position on the Canon of the Old Testament, adamently protesting those seven books, but having absolutely no idea why I protested them. I didn’t even think it was something I needed to look into. The Catholics were clearly wrong.
Had someone asked me why I didn’t consider the seven books that make the difference between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles to belong in Scripture, I wouldn’t have been able to give a single reason. Other than to say I grew up with the Protestant Bible. I had simply no justification for my stance on the matter.
Well… all that started to change when JP and I began attending RCIA class at our local Parish.
Due to my vague understanding that the Catholic Bible was different, I brought it up during one of my first classes. If the Catholics had the wrong Bible, it would be an easy way for me to stay Protestant. And though I definitely wanted Truth, I didn’t particularly like the idea of how becoming Catholic could affect my relationships with the people at our Protestant Church. No one at the time even knew we were attending those classes. If I could quickly dismiss one of the main Catholic claims, I could go comfortably back to life as I knew it, and no one would know of my brief foray into Catholic territory.
However, this question was one of the earliest ones to be answered above and beyond to my satisfaction due to Church history and sound logic. And therefore it was one of my first major objections to the Catholic faith that turned out to be unfounded.
The Books In Question
The actual difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bible consists of seven books: Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, and additions to Esther and Daniel.
And, in the end, it all ended up being pretty simple for me.
The Reformers decided to utilize the Hebrew version of the Old Testament when they determined Canon during the Reformation. And, simply put, the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament, which excluded those seven books, was determined by the Jewish people approximately 100 years after Jesus walked the earth.
So the question really became… did Jewish people, over 100 years after Christ, have the Authority to correctly determine the Christian Canon? Did they have the Holy Spirit? 100 years after Christ, those who remained Jewish certainly didn’t even accept Jesus as the Messiah. So, on the issue of their authority to correctly decide Canon, I had to realize the answer was no. And if the answer is no, then the Protestant church, in utilizing that Canon, had to be the ones in error.
Jesus Used It
A better approach, I discovered, when thinking about what books belong in the Old Testament, was to figure out what Jesus used, as well as the Early Christian Church, and go from there.
It turns out, when Jesus quotes the Old Testament in Scripture, a vast majority of the time, he is quoting the Septuagint, or Greek translation. An example would be Mark 7:6-7. It also turns out that the Greek translation was very commonly used during the time of Jesus by the Jewish people.
And if Jesus is okay quoting the Septuagint, which contains those seven books… then why would I refuse to do the same?
The Early Church’s Old Testament overwhelmingly included those seven books right up until the time of the Reformation. So the idea of excluding those books in the Old Testament Canon is only as old as the Reformation itself. And if Wisdom, Maccabees, Sirach, and others don’t belong in the Bible, then Christians had it wrong for the first 3/4ths of Christianity’s existence as a religion on this earth. And that just doesn’t make sense.
Understanding the history of how the Canon was developed, along with the other historical evidence of what Old Testament Jesus used, as well as what the Early Church used, I found very quickly I could longer justify my previous conclusion.
It’s interesting now… before I would have described the Catholic Bible as having seven “extra” books. Now, I describe the Protestant Bible as missing Canonical texts. Understanding the solid foundation of the Catholic Canon of Scripture was one of the first of many puzzle pieces that fell into place on my journey to the Catholic Church.
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