Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles Compared, 1905 article

Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles Compared, article in the Literary Digest 1905

[The modern Catholic Bibles such as the excellent New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible rely mostly on the modern critical texts such as the Nestle-Aland text.)

A VERY general interest has been aroused in the subject of the difference between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant versions of the Bible by the publication of the essays successful in the competition instituted by Miss Helen Gould (see The Literary Digest, March 25) under the title "Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles Compared." The outstanding result of this contest, as is stated in a preface, will probably be to bring into bold relief the one great difference between and the otherwise practical unity of the Douay and revised versions of the Bible. The main point of difference lies in the presence in the Roman Catholic Bible of the Apocryphal group of books rejected by Protestants as uncanonical. A lucid statement of the differences is given by the Rev. R. W. Thompson in The Homiletic Review for March, 1905. This writer says:

"Perhaps the most obvious variation between these versions is in the names and number of the Old Testament books. The titles in the Douay version are taken from the Septuagint, being transferred with little change in their form. Our Zephaniah, Obadiah, and Haggai would scarcely be recognized in the Sophonias, Abdias. and Aggeus of the Anglo-Catholic version. We might search at length for 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles before discovering that they are respectively i, 2, 3. and 4 Kings and I and 2 Paralipomenon.

"The discovery that other books than those contained in our Bibles are found in the Douay demands more serious thought than the variety of names. Instead of thirty-nine Old Testament books it contains forty-six. The seven additional are those known generally as Apocryphal books. They are Tobias and Judith, preceding Esther; Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, preceding Isaiah; Baruch, following Lamentations; 1 and 2 Maccabees, closing the Old Testament volume. Besides the separate books there are added to Esther verses from chapter x. 4 to xvi. 24; to Daniel iii. 24 the 'Song of the Three Children'; to the book of Daniel, constituting the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters, the 'History of Susanna' and 'Bel and the Dragon.' Of the three general divisions of the Christian Church-the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic, and the Protestant-only the first admits these writings on an equality with the books of the Hebrew Bible. Those rejecting them claim that there is not sufficient evidence to show that they were a part of the Scriptures read and quoted as such by Christ and his apostles, and that they were not regarded by the early Christian Church generally as in the same class with the indisputable books of the Old Testament. Internal evidence, it is argued, contests their right to canonicity. The decree of the Council of Trent in 1546 decided the question of their unqualified adoption among the sacred writings, tho it was the desire of some members of that council to denominate them 'deutero-canonical.'"

The Apocryphal books are asserted on the highest Roman Catholic authority to be as valuable as the rest, but they do not come before English-speaking Roman Catholics with the authorization of the church. Upon this point the author of the second prize essay in the Gould competition, the Rev. Dr. Gerald Hamilton Beard, of New Haven, Conn., writes:

"Accurately speaking, the Catholic Church has given formal authorization to no English version of the Bible. Still less has it given approval to any one English version exclusively. The authority of the Douay version .... is that of certain Roman Catholic clergymen of the College of Douay, 'confirmed by the subsequent indirect recognition of English, Scotch, and Irish bishops,' and by its long use among English-speaking Catholics. Similarly, the several 'editions' of the Douay Bible, which have been so far revised through comparison with other English versions as to be very different from the original Douay, have received no expressed authorization from the Holy See. They come before us usually with the approval of some archbishop. Both the Douay Version proper, however, and those of the modern Catholic versions that are in general use, are based primarily on the Latin Vulgate."

It is the Latin Vulgate, containing the questionable books, that alone has received the authorization of the Roman Catholic Church. Dr. Beard thus gives a summary of the reasons entertained by the Protestant Church for its dissent from the decision of the Council of Trent:

"The Hebrew Bible excluded all these seven books and enlargements of two more. The New Testament writers, however familiar with these apocryphal works, never quote from them. The testimony of the church fathers to the Apocrypha is neither unanimous nor decisive; while their quotations from other writings admittedly apocryphal, as if they too were Scripture, show that an argument built on the fathers' reference to some of these seven as Scripture again proves nothing, or too much for the purpose."

In the books admitted as canonical by both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches the differences are not important, as the writer of the first prize essay, the Rev. William Thomas Whitley, M.A., of England, points out:

"The Catholic and Protestant versions concur in most points of importance. If they took their origin in suspicions of opposing parties, . . . the text and translation were dealt with honestly. Each has been repeatedly revised, and the modern editions are much nearer each other than those of the sixteenth century: but Catholic revisers may not avail themselves of their own scholarship to go behind the standard text of the Latin Vulgate of 1592 or 1861. Both editions are freely annotated, but the Catholic reader is generally given a little further guidance in faith and morals, while the Protestant reader is rather warned when the rendering or text is open to question."

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