Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why Didn't They Rewrite the Bible?

Sometimes, when discussing with people, I see some really great questions asked. The problem, though, is that often the person asking the question has already ruled out one or some of the answers, and sometimes they do this without even realizing it.

Among the flurry of recent Catholic related threads on the Preacher's Files, there was one question that made me want to shout for joy and pull my hair out at the same time. The question was a good one, but the refusal to acknowledge the most obvious answer was, to say the least, infuriating. The question was this:

IF what Adam is saying is based on actual fact about the Catholic organization representing God's ultimate intentions to the rest of the world AFTER the perversion by certain un-named individuals from an earlier time, then why didn't the Catholics re-write the Bible to coincide with their teachings and beliefs? They, the Catholic hiearchy dominated the world for over a thousand years during the Dark Ages in which they wouldn't let anyone but Catholic priests read and understand the Bible because they kept it written and taught in the ancient language of Latin.

This thousand year period would have been the perfect time frame to have re-written God's Word and thus appear to the world as consistent with God. They could have written in whole chapters (indeed whole books) illustrating indulgencies, priests with robes, special collars and forbiding them to marry, instrumental music and all the other major differences with their "style of Christianity" and true Christianity as God describes it in His Word.

This statement is so full of false assumptions and misconceptions that it makes my head spin. But the thing that stuck out most to me was the part in bold (emphasis mine). This is a very good question! Why didn't they rewrite the Bible? What is the most obvious answer??? Because there was no need to, because nothing in the Bible is contrary to Catholic teaching! It's amazing to me that this idea is SO FOREIGN to the person who asked the question, that he doesn't even take time to consider the possibility, and in fact it seems even expects Catholics themselves to agree that Catholic teaching is contrary to the scriptures!

But see, in attempts to show that they have misconceptions about Catholic teaching, any use of the catechism or other non-biblical text is shot down as "teaching of men." Remember, at this point no one (on the Catholic side of things) is trying to prove anyone right or wrong, we're simply trying to show that Catholics do not teach what they say Catholics teach.

Now, what if I use their logic and say, "Show me in the Bible where it says Catholics teach XYZ?" If anyone were nonsensical enough to even take up this challenge, they might provide the many typical scriptures used such as, "Call no man father" and the whole "doctrine of demons" stuff and the verses about if anyone else teaches another gospel they are false prophets, etc. I would ask, "Yes, I see those verses and I agree with them, but where does it say anything about Catholics teaching those things?" They might try to argue that it's obvious it's talking about Catholics, because the Catholic Church teaches them. If I ask where does it say that the Catholic Church teaches them, I would probably get redirected back to the same verses. And this, my friends, is what we call circular reasoning.

If, however, someone was a bit more aloof, and actually attempted to use the catechism or other document to show where Catholics teach XYZ, it would be a complete double standard to disallow a Catholic to use the same catechism or document to show him where Catholics don't teach XYZ. And yet, this happens all the time. In fact, there's a good example of a similar double standard in that very thread.

The poster mentions that they are using an extra-biblical text in bible class, and someone (a non-CoC member, as far as I can tell) asks him why not just use the Bible, since non-CoC members are told over and over again that nothing but the bible is useful or necessary.

I see no problem in supplementing our Bible study with such books as long as they don't add anything or take away anything but present God's Word in an organized manner and draw solid, Biblically based conclusions.

Hmm...seems to me that if a Catholic (or other kind of Christian) ever dares to use a text besides the bible (which also backs the things up it says with scripture and comes to biblically based conclusions, for instance the catechism), he is told that anything other than the bible is adding to God's Word. So...I guess that only applies to non-CoC members?

Usually the biggest benefit I see from studying such books is that they sometimes help "fleshing out" the details in the background or history behind some of the scenes and/or the decisions made in the Bible.

And again, if a Catholic appeals to history he is often told the only history he needs is in the bible, and it doesn't matter what history says or what the background was if it's not in the Bible. But again, I guess this only applies to non-CoC members.

The sad part is, most of the time CoC members don't even realize the circular arguments they are making and the double standards they hold. They are caught in a vicious circle inside their heads, unable to break free unless they commit the horrible sin of actually considering someone else's viewpoint. And this is why it is so hard to discuss with them, because in their world, showing respect and consideration for another viewpoint is nearly as bad as agreeing with it.


Martin said...

Back when I was heavily involved in online apologetics, the question "Why didn't they just rewrite the Bible?" was a lot like the question I would pose .... "If the Catholic beliefs of the early Church fathers, including several of the very fathers who helped chose and translate the books of the Bible, was in opposition to the Bible, why did they choose to include the books that they did?"

I never did get a very good answer.

Cheryl said...

I was gonna make a huuuuge lengthy post, but heck, you're not the one I disagree with!

(I can still post it if ya want, though...hee!)

Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

Cheryl said...


They'd probably say that they purged those books (ones that the Catholic church should not have had in there) when they tossed them following the Reformation. Which then leads to the question of who the heck the Reformists thought they were, violating the "If anyone adds to or takes away from..." and "All scripture is profitable.." passages that today's Sola Scriptura followers hold so dear. And if they (today) claimed that they (those who did it) had divine guidance in doing so, what makes them so confident that someone else couldn't come along and throw out Paul's writings on the role of women, or James's writings on the need of works that demonstrate faith, or any number of other passages that people take issue with today? What would make that person wrong where the other was correct?

If you can start shaking their hold on the Protestant canon as being The Ultimate And Only Truth, they can get uneasy reeeeeally quickly.

(Note: I am in no way saying scripture isn't important, or is equivalent to any other book in a library, etc.)

Stephanie said...

Cheryl, feel free to post whatever you want, I always enjoy reading your thoughts! =)

Cheryl said...

Okay, bearing in mind my argument is with the guy who was arguing with you (who probably doesn't read this blog):

Like the population at large would hve been able to afford and read the Bible if they HAD it then?

Not to mention how unreliable translations (once the printing press would have made them more available) may have been. I have one of the New Testament with commentary included (as footnotes) that really pushes Calvinistic interpretation (it's from very late 1800s, if I remember correctly). The days of fairly reliably accurate (and impartial) translations have been *very* recent indeed.

"This thousand year period would have been the perfect time frame to have re-written God's Word and thus appear to the world as consistent with God..."

But they obviously didn't. If they had, such passages as "call no man father" and the like would probably have been omitted. For people with opportunity, they sure didn't use it very well, KWIM?

"They could have written in whole chapters (indeed whole books) illustrating indulgencies, priests with robes,"

Umm...a whole lotta folks wore robes historically. Churches were not small warm cozy spaces. Same origin as the academic robes - and you still see the academic robes at graduation ceremonies. Gonna jump on them too?

"special collars"
Almost any institution of any kind needs a way to mark those who are more experienced or have authority. In a small 30 member church, yes, everyone knows who the deacons and elders are to go to them with the appropriate issues. In a large body, there had to be other ways - see also those distinctions on academic robes. Got a question for one of the instructors? Find a guy with a hood...We use clothing to distinguish male from female (well, clothing has traditionally done so, anyhow), we use it for identifying chain of command in the military (listen to the guy with the stripes - no time to inquire about who's in charge in the midst of battle), and even for such things as identifying the bride and groom in a wedding, for crying out loud. Does it mean that the general is looking to exalt himself? No, it means he needs to be easily distinguishable. Is this still necessary in the Catholic church? Perhaps not, but there's nothing wrong with it - it's traditional in the same sense as the above, and it also meshes with historical precedent of the priests in the OT.

"forbiding them to marry"
Roman Rite, yes - but if they thought that was a doctrinal requirement, they wouldn't allow Eastern Rite priests who are married to convert and remain priests. Paul himself thought remaining unmarried was a good idea, and said so. The same reasons still apply.

"instrumental music"
Show me where it's forbidden. Chapter and verse. The NT church, starting as it did, would not have had instruments for private worship - and they certainly weren't meeting in their own dedicated buildings at the time (at least not that we're told). Historically, Judaism supported instruments, and Revelations includes it as well. That wouldn't be the case if there were something intrinsically wrong about their use.

"and all the other major differences with their "style of Christianity" and true Christianity as God describes it in His Word."
Yep, tons of differences. Let's see...NT Christians are described as meeting for communion, singing, prayer, and exhortation (and perhaps collection as well, though some dispute whether that was actually done during the service). Sounds like mass to me. In fact, the mention many times is that they met "for the breaking of the bread", which would seem to me that communion was THE FOCUS of their worship. What's our focus? (Lengthy) Preaching, which is mostly shown in the NT as being a separate thing altogether - meetings teaching NON-CHRISTIANS about Jesus. Gospel meetings, if you will. Makes sense, since non-Christians wouldn't be taking communion - the focus isn't worship, it's teaching. And that looks all too much like what we now do for worship. Do we need to hear the Bible? Sure we do. And there's nothing wrong with exhortation (a homily). But when that's the focus, just what do we SEEM to be worshipping?

Stephanie said...

Amen and amen, preach it sister! ;-D

Thomas J. said...

well, one of the things that you fail to accept in any of these discussions, and I, to be quite honest, am somewhat confused as to why you even pursue them:

There is no logic involved in Protestant Fundamentalism. Protestant Fundamentalism is, at it's core, dependent upon the authority of the Bible, but that Authority must be addressed and accepted without examining the ORIGINS of said Bible.

The more you try to address this sort of Doublethink with logic, the more you get these absolutely absurd non-answers. It is just like little kids sitting around listening to a apologetics from J.M. Barrie, clapping their hands a Tinkerbell nears death and saying "I DO believe in the Authority of the Bible I DO, I DO!"

You and I, being individuals who have left the c of C, and who know what sort of grief and loss that entails, should be able to understand their inability to reject the circular reasoning they use. . .for many, it is just too high of a price to pay.

As a skeptic and a non-Christian, I DO respect the Catholic church for at least that much. . .the emphasis being on the authority of the CHURCH completely negates the Protestant claims.

Cheryl said...

Discussion with my FIL about canon (this evening, coming home from a Bible study):

Me: Given verses like "All scripture is useful...", and the fact that that was in there *before* the Reformation, what grounds did the Reformists have to dump some books that could not be similarly claimed today to dump other scripture?

FIL: We have what we need to know how to obtain salvation.

Me: Admittedly. But why couldn't someone today go and trash several books of the Bible on the same authority claimed by the Reformists?

FIL: They threw out what didn't seem to "fit". Have you read some of those books?

Me: Yep. But does it not seem to "fit" to us because it truly doesn't, or just because we're not used to seeing it in there? Let's face it, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Job are kinda bizarre - I mean, Job starts out with God and Satan talking and seemingly making a bet (okay, not exactly) over what Job will do. Wouldn't those sound weird if we weren't used to seeing them as part of the Protestant canon?

FIL: If they weren't in there, they probably would. But God would make sure what we need for salvation is preserved...if you mean can we know that there aren't other inspired works left out of the Bible...we can't. But we have what is essential for salvation - we trust that God preserved that part.

Stephanie said...

Thomas, you sound like my husband ;-) He's always asking me, "Why do you waste your time?" (I mean, he supports me in anything that I have a passion for, he just doesn't always understand why I do it!)

I honestly don't expect people (especially PFers) to change their mind. But, I am a hopeless and eternal optimist, always hoping against hope that someone out there (possibly lurkers?) may get something out of what I say, or at least see the inconsistencies in what they say. And honestly, one of the reasons that I still am baffled by some of the attitudes, even though I grew up in the CoC, is because as far as I can tell, I was only that way until it was pointed out to soon as I saw the inconsistencies in my beliefs for the first time, I felt I had no choice but to admit them, even considering the price I knew would come with it. I mean, it was never an option in my head not to go with truth. So, I am admittedly baffled by those who would rather cling to obvious untruths than admit they might be mistaken. It pretty much always catches me by surprise, no matter how many times I see it!

But mostly, I just need to get my thoughts out of my head to be able to reflect on them, to try and understand myself and others better. It's just how my brain works! =)

Stephanie said...

So Cheryl, how do you keep from pounding your head against a wall? lol

Cheryl said...

I consider myself to have gotten my point across, as he did admit that 1. There may well be inspired writings that are not in canon and 2. Sounding weird may just be a matter of our not being used to it being in there - that some accepted Protestant canon would sound weird also if it had been booted back during the Reformation and we were to run into it today.

I wasn't trying to get him to admit that Catholic canon is The Authoritative Scripture - just that we can't really know for certain that what we have Is It, and that the Reformists may have been on shaky ground.

Little steps.

Stephanie said...

Good strategy!!

Thomas J. said...

I sound like your husband? Actually, i do. . .i wrote the entire post with a French accent. ..didn't you hear it?

Actually, no, I understand, and as someone who has had a share of conversations and on line dialogue with Protestant Fudnamentalists, i know where you are coming from.

I just want to make sure that you realize that where you are coming from is relatively sound and reasonable (as far as religious thought goes, the skeptic in me needs to add), and from a logical standpoint, makes much more sense that the old c of C diatribe. However, remember that said diatribe is an ideology, and ideologies frequently defy reason and logic. The frustrating thing about it is that they won't play by their own rules. they invoke Logic and Reason as their credo, but then it escapes them when put to the test, and they must rely on the very blind faith that they criticize others for.

For me, it is not the lack of reason that annoys me (although it is why I reject their doctrine), it is this very hypocrisy. . .to demand logic, reason, and "proof" from others, while relying on blind faith for themselves.

Stephanie said...

Yes, that's exactly it, Thomas! And I do realize that, which is why I don't stick around for too long, I know no amount of arguing is going to convince them unless they're actually willing to listen and consider other viewpoints.

kate said...

"And again, if a Catholic appeals to history he is often told the only history he needs is in the bible, and it doesn't matter what history says or what the background was if it's not in the Bible. But again, I guess this only applies to non-CoC members."

Yep. And it is totally, totally illogical.

I am glad you are posting occasionally over there. We are glad for the help.

Wonder when I will be told (again) that I am going to hell?

Stephanie said...

Hehe...don't you love those comments? "Repent before it is everlastingly too late!!!!! - In Christian Love" lol.

Doug said...

Well...I'm pretty late getting in on this but I can only say this has been a wonderful post and comments. I, also, read the PF statement about, "Why didn't the Catholics just re-write the bible during the 1,000 years after the early, 'true' church?"

When I read that, I thought, "Gee, you PF guys ought to just pin a large, red, bullseye target on your heart and say, 'I'll hold VERY still while you take your shots!' ". about asking for it!

Anyway Stephanie, it was a great post and great comments from everyone helping amplify it.

This is a tid bit that should not be forgotten for any future discussions with PF or others of similar bent.

Doug said...

OK. I have to comment on this. I think Cheryl said something about it earlier , as well.

"...the Catholic hierarchy dominated the world for over a thousand years during the dark ages in which they wouldn't let anyone but Catholic priests read and understand the bible because they kept it written and taught in the ancient language of Latin."

This is absolute Church of Christ vintage arguement....and it makes me laugh and get lividly angry at the same time.

(1) Almost NO ONE could read the bible or anything else during this difficult period of history.

(2) Books (i.e. Bible) were very, VERY expensive. Each produced by uncounted hours of hand labor...not to mention the tens of thousands of lambs and calves slaughtered to provide vellum. The books simply were not available (and could not have been read if they were!).
I visited the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA several days ago and talked to a docent about the beautiful illuminated manuscripts I was viewing in awe. I was stunned by the effort involved in making just one of them. Your average farmer in 600 c.e. would work a lifetime to afford one book. The bible was protected...of course!

(3) So the priests spoke in Latin...and the CoC point is...???
OK. I'm on shaky ground here and would like a little scholarly help. I suspect the people during the first thousand years in question did, in fact, understand Latin quite well. Perhaps the CoC folks do not understand that Latin was the vernacular language of the Roman empire and only drifted slowly into the Romance languages we know today.

Are there any true scholars in the CoC?

Stephanie said...

Exactly, Doug, it wasn't about keeping people from reading the bible, books in general were a luxury!

And about the Latin, people always assume that no one could understand Latin, but that's just silly. When you are exposed to it week after week, you just pick it up! (I know I have!) And even more so in times past when it was so widely used and taught. A lot of times, I think people don't give enough credit to those who lived before us, and think they were poor ignorant fools, when really we're probably worse off (as far as knowing Latin) than they were, lol!

mochadog said...

I have seen WAY too many people make assumptions with no basis in all! in the CoC comment above. I will do some research on the decay of Latin and how it affected the common people. I have traveled through Europe a number of times and the differences of langage. It is not as much as people think. My younger son speaks spanish and was quite able to converse (simply, of course) with people in problem. is hard for me to believe that people in 600 c.e. (or pick your pre-1000 were suddenly and completely unable to comprehend anything the priest said in Latin. I mean.....come on already....Jeez!

AND....let us not forget that Latin was the absolute language used in all of European academia until well into the second millenia. The Latin Quarter of Paris does NOT have reference to South America!!! The Sorbonne is in the absolute center of it. I have walked through it three times over the years. Latin did not suddenly die when the Roman empire collapsed.

I think the CoC had better get some real scholastic help before they make such assertions....or just read a little bit of European history!

OK...Soap box OFF.

Off subject: I am having trouble posting a comment to Kate. I wil keep trying.

mochadog said...

I'm having a little computer trouble here.

mochadog and Doug are the same.

mochadog said...

OK...last comment and I'm gone.

Stephanie said-
"A lot of times, I think people don't give enough credit to those who lived before us, and think they were poor ignorant fools."

I cannot pass this up. We, in the 21st century are very smug about our high tech. "stuff." I suggest wandering through Europe (or other places throughout the world) and actually person...what was done 1,000 years ago. I have.. and it blows my mind away. These people had every bit the smarts of a "Bill Gates" within the limitations of knowledge at that time. Walk along the "Pont du Gard" in Provence, France or wander through the Colliseum in Rome and it hits you with a sledge hammer....well it did to me anyway.

21st century folks need to take a careful look at their long-ago, ancestors.

Stephanie said...

I totally agree, Doug, and while I do think the smugness is worldwide, I think it is especially prevalent in America (where it just so happens that Protestantism thrives).

Cheryl said...

Incidentally, Doug, one of the things they forget is that Latin was a univerrsal language of the empire, and that by sticking with Latin, anyone traveling anywhere would recognize what was going on (as the local vernacular in any area changed). So the fact that they were using Latin was a unifying thing that was to help PROMOTE understanding, not keep the poor misled masses in the dark.

If they wanted to keep things elitist, they could've used the original languages of the scriptures.

mochadog said...

Well...not incidentally at all.

"....Latin was a unifying thing that was to help PROMOTE understanding."

From what you say....Did the early church fathers DELIBERATELY use language the common folks would all understand so they could better conprehend the New Testament teachings?

I've never seen this viewpoint. I've only seen the sinister viewpoint....i.e. Catholic fathers were coniving to absolutely control the people.

Very interesting.

I really would like to see a CoC person with a solid academic background in history discuss these issues....and do so without a shrill, defensive debate attitude.

I'm not holding my breath.

Cheryl said...

Until the change from the Latin mass, wasn't this still the reason for having mass in Latin (aside from tradition, of course) - that anyone visiting anywhere around the world would know what was happening? Yes, it would be easier for the *locals* to understand mass in the vernacular, but the Roman empire had a fair amount of trade and travel (and thus the growing church), so using Latin would have been more for the sake of unification than elitism. In my uneducated opinion, anyhow. :)

I don't claim to be educated in church history, nor in western history in general, really. Those are just my thoughts.

Peter said...

Hi there Stephanie

I've really enjoyed reading my way through your blog. I lecture in Scripture down here in Australia so this post caught my eye and I just had to respond. :)

Our friend with the question why didn't the Catholics re-write the Bible to coincide with their teachings and beliefs? won't have to look too far to find some academics who have carefully constructed arguments which they suggest prove that Catholics did re-write (or at least add to) the Scriptures to suit their beliefs. Article after article in professional journals of Scripture scholars cross my desk, each claiming to 'prove' that Catholic ideas about same sex acts, contraception, abortion, divorce and so on are later Catholic additions/interpretations of earlier Scripture. Our friend posing the question is unlikely to seek out these sources however, since the majority of them are Catholic Scripture scholars.

Try and publish an article supporting the Church's teaching, however, and all sorts of hell breaks loose.

Peter Holmes

Stephanie said...

So true!