Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How We Got the Protestant Bible

In my first post ever in this blog I said the purpose of this blog is for me to share where I am spiritually and allow myself the freedom to question what is commonly taught among evangelical Christians. I retain my faith in Christ and am very serious about following His teachings but I cannot blindly follow everything that has been traditionally taught because there seems to be so many issues with some of it.

One of the areas where I have been recently challenged regarding my beliefs is the Bible. I was taught, as are many other Protestants, especially those of the Southern Baptist persuasion (which is what I was raised as), that the Bible is the inerrant inspired word of God. 

Several areas of this belief has come under scrutiny by myself so I will take these one at a time in separate blog posts. I thought I would devote this particular blog post to talking about how we even got the Protestant Bible. 

Have you really given that any thought?  It didn't occur like it did with the 10 commandments with God dictating the commandments and Moses inscribing them on tablets. Each book that we have was written at a different time by a different author or author(s). I'll revisit some of this in a later post.  

I went to college as an adult and was surprised to learn when taking a religion class that the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible differ in the books they contain. The Catholic Bible contains more books than the Protestant Bible and these additional books include Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, 

I can't recall if I have read all of these additional books but I do recall reading Tobit and Judith. I remember thinking how out of sync the book of Tobit seemed with the books in the Bible I am familiar with. The book of Judith, however, (I think I have the right book) seemed like it would dovetail well with other books in Protestant Bible. 

How did the Protestants and the Catholics end up with such different Bibles? Bear with me as I explain. I know this information can be rather dull, but I think it's important to talk about it.

The answer is canonization. The term “canon” is used to describe the books that are  considered divinely inspired and belong in the Bible. Canonization is the process these books went through by Church council to be voted into inclusion in the Bible.

The books of the Old Testament were written probably between 1000 and 100 B. C.  Books of the New Testament were written between the time of Jesus' death and the first century.  

The Septuagint, Jewish scripture  translated into Greek was revised around 100 A.D. by a group of Jewish Rabbis who excluded some sections of the Greek Septuagint  and canonized it .(15 Jewish books which were written later, between 170 B.C. to 70 A.D., and not found in Hebrew versions of the Jewish Scripture were omitted). Christians didn't adopt this revised version but continued to use the earlier, longer version. 

With so many different manuscripts floating about, canonization assured that manuscripts included would be valid and not heretical.

The first canon was the Muratorian Canon, 170 A.D. All New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John were included.

The Council of Laodicea in 363, A.D. determined that only the Old Testament (along with the Apocrypha) and the 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) also affirmed the same 27 books were valid.

Guidelines for screening what was accepted included: 1) Whether the author of the manuscript was an apostle or was closely connected with an apostle 2) If the writing was well accepted by Christ followers of the time 3) If the doctrine seemed consistent with and followed orthodox teaching. 4) If it exhibited high moral and spiritual standards and it seemed that the Holy Spirit had inspired it.

It wasn't until the Reformation that Protestants decided the additional books should not be included in the Bible. The argument was that if they weren't in the Hebrew Bible then they shouldn't be in the Christian Bible. You will find them in early editions of the King James Bible. Catholics decided at the Council of Trent  in 1546 to keep the "deutero-canonical" books.

Some books that are included in the Protestant Bible which have continued to be debated as to whether they should have been included are James, Hebrews, and Revelation.

Questions or debate that arises within me because I know these facts. While doing research for this post I found some writers who assured me that without a doubt, the Bible is inspired by God and His stamp of approval is on it. They seem to feel that those who sat in on these canonization councils were at the time divinely influenced to make the choices they did. Others didn't mention that.

I have toured the Mediterranean including Florence, Italy and have seen great works of art. Some of what I have seen depicted in the religious realm was rather disturbing theologically. And much of this art was commissioned by religious leaders or people who were revered by the Church because of political and financial status. How can I be sure that those who sat on these councils to validate these religious writings were stellar Christians and not politically hungry men with their own agendas?  Some of the worst corruption I have seen has come from ancient Church leaders.  

My conclusion in this part is that I will accept what we have been handed down as valid as coming direct from God, but I do so with some skepticism because of this past history.Human imperfection and ability to sin is even evident with the most respected patriarchs in the Bible, Moses (murderer)  and David (murderer and adulterer) to name a few.

Is skepticism bad showing a lack of faith? Some Christians would tell me so and that it is coming from a dark source but  I don’t believe that is true..I think it is good and wise to keep a guarded stance. 

For further reading pleasure:

1. Protestant and Catholic Bibles, Father William Saunders,  https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/PCBIB.HTM

2. How and When Was the Canon of the Bible Put Together.  http://www.gotquestions.org/canon-Bible.html

3.  Why are Protestant and Catholic Bibles Different?  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/jun01.html

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