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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Columnist: Apostle Kwamena Ahinful

Who are using the True Bible? Catholics or Protestants?

Last two weeks, I was dashing into a shop for the purchase of some goods when I went up to three men seriously engaged in a hot debate. I passed by, went a-shopping and returned to the entrance where these men were still controverting loudly.

I halted for a few minutes to listen to the two sides who were arguing for or against the belief that Roman Catholics are not using the true or the right Bible, since their version consists of 15 other books which are called “Apocrypha” added to the generally accepted 66 books of the Bible. The two Catholics were seriously holding the position that their Bible consisting of 81 books is the correct version from which the Protestants had willfully taken away those 15 apocrypha books, thus making the commonly –used Bible predisposed to the plague curses prescribed by St. John in Revelation 22:18(b) to 19.

The quotation under review reads: “I warn everybody who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if any one takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life, and in the holy city (heaven), which are described in this book”.

In other words, since the Bible is a spiritual book meant to regulate the social, moral and spiritual livelihood of humanity, it is placed under the spiritual fiat or command of God which prescribe punishment to those who will add non- divine or humanly constructed prophecies or instructions to it, and punishment to those who will detract from it certain portions that will distort its whole divine tenor.

From the argument, it was clear that the whole basis of their preoccupation then was the ‘accretion and detraction’ principle enunciated above, which made the Protestant accuse the two Catholics of punishment due to some additional books, whilst the Catholics were bent where on castigating the Protestants for detracting from the Bible some precious spiritual and instructive 15 books. All was interesting!

I have come across the Catholic Bible, the “Douay Version” which indeed contains 81 books, 15 of which are known as the Apocrypha. This may also be true of the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, a copy of which I am yet to see. The Bible of the Eastern Orthodox Church which is more pro-Catholic has two additionals, namely: “The Third Book of Maccabees” and “The Fourth Book of Maccabees” making all a total of 83 books. Scripturally, the aggregate of the Apocrypha books is 17.

But why were these books codenamed ‘Apocrypha’? The simple answer is that they were books written between the time of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Catholic standpoint is that these books were written by some men who were not familiar prophets; hence, their writings known only by a few people and thus not familiar with many followers of God, were adjudged to be hidden, hence the Greek description “apokruphos” or the Latin version, ‘apocrypha.’

The Greek ‘apokruphos’ means ‘hidden away’ whilst its Latin ‘apocrypha’ means ‘hidden’.

The position of the Catholic Church in respect of the 15 Apocrypha books acknowledged as holy books worthy to be included in the Old Testament was openly declared in 1546, after the Council of Trent meeting. Long before this Council of Trent declaration, Jerome, a Bible scholar, had come to the conclusion that the Apocrypha books “needed not be considered as the word of God”, thereby rejecting them and had not included them in the Vulgate Bible he had compiled in 388 AD. The Vulgate consisted of 66 books, which fact was later endorsed by Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation zealots from the 16th century onwards: In point of fact, the Catholic position was pronounced in 1546 as a forthright reaction to Martin Luther’s audacious rejection of the Apocrypha books as non – sacred.

Martin Luther himself was a Catholic scholar who broke away from the Catholic Church on grounds of doctrinal differences. With the pronouncement endorsing the Apocrypha as sacred books, the Catholic Church thenceforward included the Apocrypha in the compilation of the Bible; and that accounts for why the Catholic DouayVersion has 81 books, instead of the Jerome-Luther 66 books which are commonly used in several societies and churches.

The 15 Apocrypha books in question are: (1) First Esdras (2) Second Esdras (3) The Wisdom of Solomon (4) Ecclesiasticus (5)The Letter of Jeremiah (6)The story of Suzanna and (7) The prayers of Manasseh. The others are (8) The first book of Maccabees (9) The second book of Maccabees (10)Tobit (11)Judith (12)The rest of the book of Esther (13)Baruch, the Prophet (14)The song of the three children and (15)Bel and the Dragon.

The question as to whether the Bible of the Catholics consisting of 81 books, or that of the Protestants consisting of 66 books can be considered as the “true version” remains very open still. To me, it should be left to one’s own deductions from scholarly research and theological evaluations as to what constitute a canon or criteria of sacredness. And opinions differ from man to man or from group to group or from church to church.

For instance, whilst Martin Luther brands the Catholic Apocrypha as merely “historical” write-ups whilst “some are even legendary” or fables, another Bible scholar, Wilbur O’Donovan considers them as sacred. O’Donovan argues “it should be understood that the books of the Apocrypha do have historical and spiritual value” (page 37 of “Biblical Christianity in African Perspective”). I share this view. My analytical studies of most of the Apocrypha books reveal some rich aspects of Israeli culture and history, as well as provide some instructions concerning moral uprightness and spiritual growth. The best way to make an objective assessment of the sacredness or otherwise of the Apocrypha books is to get a copy of the Catholic Douay Version and study it carefully.

My point of view is that it is a question of faith whether the authors of the Apocrypha were holy men who produced sacred scriptures. But I think the Apocrypha books are sacred, and not secular. They are spiritual and worthy to be included in the whole array of Christian scriptures. I am not a Catholic, but I dare say that the Catholics are using the TRUE BIBLE. What do you say?

CPP MANIFESTO

I am appealing to the General Secretary of the CPP (Mr. Greenstreet) or any CPP official to send me a copy of the CPP Manifesto for an analytical write-up in this column. They should send it to the Chief Accountant of the Daily Guide, (Mr. Eric) who will forward it to me at Tema.

I am also appealing for the Manifestos of other political parties to be sent to me through the same channel.

By Apostle Kwamena Ahinful