THE FIRST ENGLISH BIBLE, 1539: The Byble in Englyshe : that is to saye, the content of all the holy scrypture, bothe of ye olde and newe testament, truly translated after the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke textes, by ye dylygent studye of dyverse excellent learned men, expert in the forsayde tonges. [London] : prynted by Rychard Grafton & Edward Whitchurch, 1539.
In 1539, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hired Myles Coverdale at the behest of Henry VIII to publish the “Great Bible” – so-called because of its impressive physical size. It was the first Bible in English to be authorised for public use, being distributed to every church and chained to the pulpit.(By Fr. Abe)
Where did you get the Bible anyway?
When you have no time to defend the Catholic Church in detail, what should you say?
Carlos Antonio Palad
You have a friend who is a Born-Again Christian; well, not yet, perhaps, but she is attending Bible studies and services in a Born-Again or “nondenominational” church and is beginning to question your Catholic faith.
“Where is it in the Bible that we should pray to Mary?”
“Where is it in the Bible that we should have statues? Don’t these violate the Second Commandment?”
Ideally, any Catholic should know enough of the Bible in order to answer these basic questions. As St. Jerome said, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” and the Bible itself says “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Hopefully, you would be able to say that we pray to Mary because she is the Mother of all who follow Christ (cf. John 19:26-27 and Revelations 12, esp. 12:17) – and can we not talk to our mother? You could also say that we have statues because having statues is not actually forbidden by the Ten Commandments. What the Lord forbids is the worship of statues as if these are real gods in addition to Him, the one true God. The Lord Himself ordered statues that represent His power and presence to be made (Exodus 37:7-9, Numbers 21:8-9). Catholic statues of the Virgin Mary, of angels and saints, and of the Lord Himself, are not gods, but are reminders of God’s presence.
However, there will come a time when answering these questions will become very repetitive and tiring. Before even coming to that point, it would be better to stop the vicious cycle by challenging the very basis of all these questions.
So, next time your friend asks you another question that begins: “Where is that in the Bible…”, respond with your own questions: “Why do you believe in the Bible anyway? Where did you get the Bible, and how do you know that the Bible is God’s Word?”
Look at your friend’s eyes widen in shock and surprise when you answer: “The only reason why you and I consider the Bible to be the Word of God is because the Catholic Church says so!”
That’s right! The Bible didn’t just fall from heaven, while a thundering voice from out of nowhere proclaimed “THIS IS GOD’S WORD!” The Bible as we know it – with 27 books in the New Testament and 46 (for Protestants, 39) books in the Old Testament – did not even exist in the time of Christ and of the Apostles.
What we now call the Bible came into its final form only in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., when Church authorities sought to stop the proliferation of fake “Gospels” and “Epistles” and of the errors contained in these, by compiling a definite collection of books that can be considered as truly inspired by God and as containing the authentic teaching of Our Lord Jesus and His Apostles.
The complete story would take volumes to relate, but in a nutshell, here is how it went:
In 367, St. Athanasius of Alexandria – a great defender of the Divinity of Christ – wrote his “39th Festal Letter” in which he identified what books rightfully belong to the “New Testament.” He did this to protect his followers in Alexandria from believing in the various heresies and errors contained in bogus “holy books”. This was the first time that the “canon” or official list of books of the New Testament was identified. It gained immediate acceptance with most believers.
In the years 393, the Council of Hippo made the first enumeration of all the 73 books (both Old and New Testament) that we Catholics now consider as comprising the Bible. This same list was affirmed 4 years later, in 397, in the Council of Carthage. A few years later, Saint Exuperius of Toulouse wrote to Pope St. Innocent I in a formal letter requesting the list of canonical books. The Pope replied in 405 A.D. with a letter confirming and reaffirming the canon given at Hippo and Carthage. Yet another Council in Carthage, in the year 419, reaffirmed the canon of the Bible given in previous Councils in Hippo and Carthage.
Now, some Born-Again Christians might complain: “But the Catholic Bible has a different Old Testament from the Old Testament that we use!” They’re right: the Catholic Old Testament has 46 books while the Protestant Old Testament has only 39 books.
There is an easy answer to this: the Catholic Old Testament is based upon the Greek Old Testament actually used in the time of Jesus Christ and accepted by all Christians for 1,500 years. The version of the Old Testament used by Protestants (including the “Born Again”), on the other hand, is based on a Hebrew version compiled several decades after Jesus lived and walked on the Earth. It was not accepted as the real Old Testament by any Christian until the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, did so in 1521. The differences between the Protestant and Catholic Old Testament also do not change the fact that Born Again Christians accept – without question – the Catholic New Testament.
So, next time someone tries to weaken your Catholic faith by using the Bible, remember: the Bible is a Catholic book.
Carlos Antonio Palad is an Associate of the Defensores Fidei Foundation, a group dedicated to teaching Catholics how to defend their faith. He is also part of the team behind the blog “Rorate Caeli” (http://rorate- caeli.blogspot. com)