PART 1: LETTER 25:
"WHO GAVE US THE BIBLE?"
Rev. Harold J. Ockenga, Pastor
Park Street Congregational Church
Sir:---Your sermon on "Who Gave Us Our Bible?", of which I received a printed copy, interested me very much as a study of a preacher who seems not to "know a hawk from a handsaw," when dealing with the history of the Bible. It prompted me to endeavor to enlighten your understanding of the origin of the Bible, the knowledge of which you fail to realize, largely on account of innate hostility towards the Catholic Church, the Church to which the world owes the existence of the Bible, and the preservation of the integrity of its contents.
"Who Gave Us Our Bible?" is a timely topic. It is of vital import, as the knowledge of its origin would go a long way towards the unity in Christendom, which is more needed today than ever before, as the enemy of the Word of God has been, and continues to be, extending his atheistic, liberty-denying domination over country after country.
In the beginning of your sermon, you present two violators of their solemn, God-given priestly vows, Wycliff and Tyndale, as "first translators of the entire Bible into the English language." This is unquestionably contrary to historic fact. Surely the declaration of Blessed Thomas More, to the contrary of your assertion, ought to convince you of the error of your judgment. Your unhistoric assertion was positively denied by this Lord Chancellor of England, whose sublime devotedness to the principles set forth in the Bible caused him to submit willingly to decapitation rather than accept the declaration of the House of Commons, that "the King, (Henry VIII) is head of the Church immediately under God"; and for taking this Father of this English Reformation to task for divorcing his wife, Catherine, and entering into Godless relations with Anne Boleyn. Blessed Thomas More said, "The whole Bible long before Wycliff's day (100 years before Tyndale lived) was translated into the English tongue, and by good and godly people with devotion and soberness well and reverently read" (Dialogues, 3).
There are many other historic declarations that prove the error of your assumption that the world had to wait until the two Benedict Arnolds in the religious world translated the Bible, before the people could read it in English. Sir Francis Palgrave said, in his History of England, that "From the Anglo-Saxon age down to Wycliffe, we in England can show such a succession of Biblical versions in meter and prose, as are not equaled amongst any other nation in Europe."
The Coverdale Bible based, as you rightly say, on Tyndale's translation, was "the forerunner of the Authorized Version (1611)." But you fail to realize that this "Authorized Version" contains evidence that positively refutes your assertion that the translation of the Bible into English is of Wycliff-Tyndale origin. After enumerating the many converted nations that had the Scriptures in their own language, the world was told in the preface of that Protestant Bible, that "much about the time (1360), even in King Richard the Second's days, John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen that divers translated ..., so that to have the Scriptures in the mother tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up and out in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation."
Your assumption that the Bible was circulated by The Catholic Church in Latin to keep it for an exclusive class, is a disregard of the fact that Latin was the language of all educated people in Europe; that English was a new language at the end of the 14th century. Why the very name, "the Vulgate," or "popular version," given St. Jerome's famous translation into Latin, in the 4th century, evidences the fact that the Catholic Church made the Scriptures available for the populace.
Surely you cannot logically say that the "church," always using a small c, kept the Bible from the common people; and then say, "In the early church men and women were urged to read the Scriptures and children were trained from their earliest years to read them." Also that "Great care was taken by the Fathers of the church to secure the speedy translation of the Scriptures into the different languages of the several nations as they were converted to Christianity. Eusebius, the historian, says 'they were translated into all languages throughout the world,' and Theodoret declares that 'Every nation under Heaven hath the Scriptures in its own tongue'."
You inadvertently pay honor to the Catholic Church in the above statement, despite your loquacious anti-Catholicity. The "early church" must have been the Catholic Church, the one and the only Christian Church that has the historic credentials to prove her to have existed during "the earliest years." Surely your Congregational church cannot claim to be "the early church," nor any part of it. Your sect owes its existence largely to Robert Browne, who organized the first Congregational church group, in Holland, 17 centuries after the Catholic Church began to function in Jerusalem.
Still further, your declaration that the Scriptures were translated for "the several nations as were converted" must refer to the Catholic Church, though you did not tell your congregation that historic truth. This declaration of mine is based upon the historic fact that every nation converted to Christianity was converted by the Catholic Church. To say, as you did in the above quote, that "the early church," assuming it not to be the Catholic Church, kept the Scriptures from the people, and then to name Eusebius and Theodoret as having declared the Scriptures to have been translated into the language "of every nation under Heaven" is a half truth. It kept your congregation from knowing the Eusebius was the Catholic Church Bishop of Caesarea; and Theodoret was the Catholic Church Bishop of Cyprus.
You also inadvertently paid honor to the Catholic Church, though the members of your congregation did not realize it, when you declared that Theophilus, Irenaeus, and Clement used "the Scripture writings that are in the Old and New Testaments during the Apostolic age," while refraining from naming the religious status of those historic personages. Perhaps this was due to fear lest the knowledge that they were members of the hierarchy of the Church you assume to have kept the Scriptures from the people, might obliterate the anti-Catholic animus you instill into the hearts of the members of your congregation. You surely know that Theophilus was Bishop of the Catholic Church in Antioch; Irenaeus was Bishop of the Catholic Church in Lyons; and that Clement was Bishop of Rome, occupant of the Chair of Peter, the third Pope.
Your topic, "Who Gave Us Our Bible?" necessitated an explanation of the canon of sacred Scripture, which you did, though inadequately. You declared that "the universal church called the Council of Carthage in the Year 397 under the influence of Augustine," whom you designated "the most Protestant bishop of pre-Reformation days; (which Council) settled the New Testament canon of 27 books." What, save your anti-Catholic mentality, prompted you to hide the identity of the Church that gave the Christian Bible to the world, by forming its canon of Scripture? Surely no Church could rightly be called "the universal church," even without the capitals U and C, during the days of the Council of Carthage, save the Church under the world jurisdiction of the occupant of the Chair of Peter. Remember, my Dear Sir, that a half-truth is not the truth.
Your oratorical legerdemain beats the pulling of a rabbit out of an empty hat. This was evidenced in conjuring up in your cranium the declaration that Augustine, who was canonized by the Catholic Church for his sublime Catholicity, was "the most Protestant bishop of pre-Reformation days." If the fathers of the so- called "Reformation" were as opposite to Protestantism in principle and religious affiliation as was St. Augustine, rest assured there would never have been a German or an English "Reformation," with the resultant echoing and re-echoing of false and contradictory Bible concepts.
St. Augustine was most competently and ardently Catholic in every sense of the term. Therefore he recognized the bishop of Rome, the Pope, as supreme in Christian religious authority by virtue of the "keys" given to Peter and his successors, along with the authority to "bind and loose" in matters of faith and morals (St. Mat. 16:17-20). Surely there was no Protestantism in the declaration of St. Augustine, that "For my part, I would not have believed the Gospel if I had not been influenced by the authority of the Catholic Church" (Contra Epist. Fund.).
Your acceptance of the New Testament Council of Carthage canon of 27 New Testament books, means the acceptance of the authority of the Catholic Church, deny it as vigorously as you are able. That Council, called by Bishop Aurelius of the Catholic See of Carthage, made up of 43 Catholic Church bishops, including St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, recognized the supreme authority of the occupant of the Chair of Peter, Pope St. Siricius, in determining the authenticity of its canon of Scripture. Therefore the Council of Carthage voted to "let the Church beyond the sea (Rome) be consulted before confirming the canon."
Misunderstanding or deliberate misrepresentation only can account for your failure to credit the origin of the Bible to the Catholic Church. Even one of her most bitter enemies, the Father of Protestanism, acknowledged that historic fact. Martin Luther said condescendingly and offensively in his Commentary on St. John, chapter XIV, that "We are compelled to concede to the papists that they have the Word of God; that we received it from them, and that without them we should have had no knowledge of it at all."
A Christian Bible must be made up of the books in the Old Testament, as well as the books in the New Testament. Hence the Council of Carthage included the Septuagint version of 46 Old Testament books in its canon of sacred Scripture. You hold, as do all Protestant ministers, that 7 of these 46 books are "apocrypha" (spurious). This was denied by St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, eleven centuries before Protestantism began to inflict the religious world with its counterfeit editions of the Bible.
The Septuagint translation was made during the third century before the Christian era, at "a time when the Jews were no longer able to understand Aramaic, nor, for that matter, read Hebrew. That is why the Hebrew Bible had to be translated into Greek, the well known Septuagint version," as was declared in "The Pictorial History of the Jewish People" (N. Y. 1953).
Theological Seminary of America says, "one of the most important translations ever made" (The Jews: Their History, Culture and Religion, vol. 3, p. 748).
The Septuagint version of Sacred Scripture, which the Jewish Encyclopedia declares to be "the most important of all versions made by the Jews" (vol. 3, p. 186), was made by 72 official translators, "six learned, wise and saintly scribes from each of the twelve tribes of Israel," selected by High Priest Eleazar of Jerusalem, the world's supreme religious authority of his time. Eleazar furnished the translators with his most precious manuscripts of 46 books of sacred Jewish Scripture for translation. That translation included the 7 books Protestantism rejects, the translation that Vallentine's Encyclopedia of Jewish knowledge says "was greeted with enthusiasm by the Jews everywhere upon its appearance" (p. 592).
Your cocksure declarations regarding the Bible, that are not so, are simply amazing. For instance, you set forth the Protestant used canon of 39 books, against the Catholic used Septuagint canon of 46 books, declaring that the Septuagint was rejected by the Palestine Jews, without designating which Palestine Jews. Surely it was not rejected by the Jews who were religiously under the jurisdiction of the High Priests during the years when Judaism functioned as the religion of Almighty God; when the Jews had a priesthood, and a Temple with the one Altar divinely permitted for the offering of the Mosaic sacrifices. It was the Jews in Jabneh, the port city of Palestine, who rejected the Septuagint, during the days after the Veil in the Temple was rent; when the Mosaic regulations were divinely a thing of the historic past; after Judaism had full-blossomed into Christianity. Vallentine's Encyclopedia of Jewish Knowledge says that the making of the 39 book canon "took place at the synod of Jabneh, in 90 A.D. (note the date), soon after the destruction of the Temple, at the instigation of Rabbi Akiba" (p. 94).
Evidently you know not Rabbi Akiba who instigated the 39 book canon, which you, and all other Protestant ministers, have embraced. In the first place, Rabbi Akiba had no legitimate authority to form a canon of Scripture, such as the Jews had during the days of High Priest Eleazar; and the Catholics in the Council of Carthage had during the days of Pope St. Siricius.
Secondly, Rabbi Akiba was a deadly enemy of our Messianic Lord. St. Justin (100-165 A.D.) said that Akiba "persecuted the Jewish Christians, and gave orders that if they would not deny Jesus and execrate His name, they would be tortured" (1st Apology XXXL). Akiba proclaimed a bold, fighting individual, named Simeon, the Messiah, giving him the name Bar Kochba, "Son of the Star." He led the futile revolt against the forces of Hadrian for the recapture of Jerusalem, at the cost of the lives of over half a million misled Jews.
You fail to realize that it was the anti-Christianism in Jewry that prompted the rejection of the Septuagint; and the making of the Akiba-instigated canon of Scripture which Protestantism embraced.
Vallentine's Encyclopedia of Jewish Knowledge says, that "the appearance of the Septuagint was greeted with enthusiasm by the Jews everywhere, but with the rise of the Christian sect and its adoption of this version of its Bible, the Jews began to denounce it vehemently, accusing the Christians of falsifying the Greek text here and there" (London, 1938, p. 592). This fact was echoed during last month, when Rabbi Samuel J. Fox said, in his "Matter of Fact" column, syndicated by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, that the rejection of the Septuagint" was partly due because it had become accepted as sacred by another faith."
You said so much that is not so in your "Who Gave Us Our Bible?" sermon, that is would take a book-sized reply to answer all of your assumptions. Let's look at just one more before ending this lengthy factual indictment. Here it is: "Jesus was a Palestinian Jew (which He was, hence) He acknowledged the authority of the Palestinian (Akiba) Scriptures." The facts are these: First, that spurious Protestant-accepted Old Testament canon of Scripture was non-existent during the years of our Lord's sojourn in Palestine; Secondly, about 270 quotations in the New Testament are from the Septuagint version of Old Testament Scripture, which was used by Jesus and the Apostles: Third, Peloubet's (Protestant) Bible Dictionary attests to the fact that the Septuagint "was the chief storehouse from which both Christ and the Apostles drew their proofs and precepts" (p. 604).
Who Gave Us Our Bible? meaning your Protestant Bible? The answer is given in this communication. The New Testament part of it came from the Catholic Church; the Old Testament part of it came from Rabbi Akiba.
PART 2: THE BIBLE AND THE SUPREME COURT OF CHRIST
The Protestant, in contrast to the Catholic standard of judgment, in matters of religious import, are as far from each other as is the Marxian standard of society in contrast to the American concept. Both Protestants and Marxists are one in their repudiation of legitimate authority in their respective fields of activity. This came to mind upon being confronted, for analysis, with a copy of Zions Herald, the New England Methodist weekly (Boston, Dec. 8, 1954), in which the following query was dealt with:---"What must I believe to be a member of the Methodist Church?" The answer given was as follows:---"(a) As all Christians, you must believe in the truths taught by Jesus and demonstrated by His life. (b) In matters of belief, you are guided by your own understanding of the New Testament, which is our only authority".
With "(a)" Methodists are in agreement with Catholics, as the basic principles of Christianity are belief in God and the teachings of Jesus, who is the Second Person of the Triune God. But what are those truths in the New Testament? Certitude, unity of proper judgment as to the meaning of New Testament teachings, depends, in the last analysis, on the judgment of a legitimately constituted authority that Christ instituted, which Methodists and all other Protestants repudiate.
That principle applies to the Constitution of our country as well as the contents of the New Testament, as we of the Catholic laity are taught by our Church. Therefore we Americans, Methodists included, submit to the judgment of our U.S. Supreme Court, whose interpretations of the Constitution are a primary factor in the maintenance of the integrity of the United States. The Supreme Court was instituted by the Fathers of our Republic to define the meaning of the articles in the Constitution; just as the Supreme Court of Christ, the Catholic Church, was instituted to teach and define "the truths taught by Jesus and demonstrated by his life".
Our Lord realized, what Protestants fail to realize, that a living, Divinely instituted authority, which would be safeguarded from error, was necessary, in order that the Church He established be an organic, efficient, cohesive, doctrinally unified, enduring Spiritual Society, as the Catholic Church has been throughout the Christian centuries, and will be until the end of time, thanks to it being the Supreme Court in which Christ Jesus abides. The doctrinal and organizational divisiveness in the Protestant world evidences the contrary. This is due, in great part, to each member of the hundreds of differing Protestant denominations being "guided by his own understanding of (the contents of) the New Testament".
It is simply amazing that Protestants do not realize the falsity of their standard of judgment in face of the fact that it caused the Baptists to differ with the Presbyterians on the question of Baptism; the Lutherans to admit the Real Presence, which all other Protestant sects deny; the Quakers to deny belief in the Trinity; the snake culturists in the Holiness Church to assume to have the "power to tread upon serpents and scorpions", told of in St. Luke 10:19; the East Aurora "Hook and Eye Baptists" to hold that "buttons are an innovation of the devil", which "primitive Christians never wore"; the Adventists to rally their congregations for the Second Coming of Christ, on dates when He failed to appear; the Christian Scientists to reject the use of physicians; and the brazenly assumed-to-be "Witnesses of Jehovah" to hold that all existing churches and civil governments are of Satan.
Surely the Christians of Apostolic times could not pattern their lives by the Protestant standard boasted of in Zions Herald, as there was no New Testament Bible during those days. The first book in the New Testament was not written until 20 years after the First Pentecost Day, when the Catholic Church began the public mission Christ instituted her to carryon until the end of time. In fact only one of the Twelve could possibly have seen the writings that made up the New Testament, as Eleven of the Twelve had gone to their eternal reward before St. John wrote the last Gospel.
A proper appreciation of the New Testament should lead to love of the Catholic Church, to which the world is indebted for its origin during the 4th century, and its existence since then. The Catholic Church it was that gathered the manuscripts used in the various Catholic churches; determined which were and were not inspired writings, translated, transcribed, and safeguarded the 27 manuscripts, which she declared to be the New Testament canon of Sacred Scripture. This took place a thousand years before the religious Benedict Arnold in Germany set up the Protestant rule of faith, proclaimed in Zion Herald; which is contrary to the standard set up by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thousands of Christians suffered Martyrdom for their Catholic Christian faith; and St. Paul could say that "the faith of Christ is proclaimed all over (the then known) world" (Rom. 1:8), when there was no New Testament to "guide" Christians in their understanding of things of a spiritual nature. Besides, the distribution of New Testaments was impossible until printing was invented in the 15th century; when the first Book produced was the Gutenberg Catholic Bible.
First things come first in the Catholic Church; hence the authority of the Church comes doctrinally and historically before the New Testament, which is a guide of the relationship of man to God, and to his fellowman. Our Lord commanded us to "hear the Church", the Church that has the power to "bind and loose" (St. Matt. 18:17); the Church that St. Paul called "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). That Church came into existence 15 centuries before Protestantism, with its unsound rule of faith, divided the Christian world. It is the Church that must have continued to have an unbroken existence since the first Christian century, as Christ said He would remain with it "all days even to the end of the world" (St. Matt. 28:20); that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (St. Matt. 28:20). Surely if the Methodists, and other Protestants as well, were properly "guided" in their understanding of the New Testament, they would realize that Christ abides in the Church where doctrinal and organizational unity exists, which is the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church only.