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Was Martin Luther’s revision of the Bible a return to the “true Bible” of the early Church?

Full Question

A non-Catholic co-worker claims there were early Christian councils that upheld the 66 books of the Old Testament, but the Catholic Church suppressed them, and it was Martin Luther who finally stood up to the Church and reclaimed the true Bible for Christians. Is there any truth to his statement?

Answer

No. There were no early councils that endorsed the 66 books Protestants honor (check the facts in your local library). The current canon of Scripture was affirmed at the Council of Rome in 382 under Pope Damasus, which included all and only the seventy-three books Catholics honor today. This canon was repeated at Hippo and at Carthage (A.D. 393 and 397, respectively) and has been repeated ever since.

It was Martin Luther who tossed out the seven books considered canonical since the beginning of Church history. He also rejected the epistle to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation. He also called the epistle of James “an epistle of straw” because James 2:14–26 conflicted with his personal theology on good works. He also added the word (in his German translation) only in Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:15, and he inserted the word alone in Romans 3:28.










23 comments

  1. Jim Lesperance Reply

    Martin Luther did nothing but divide Christendom with lies and distortions. Read the messages at Medjugorje.or and all the scientific studies and experimentation, theological studies and doctors’ examinations and psychological tests that arrive at one conclusion. “The world should accept these events as supernatural (from God)!

    1. thelittlefloweroflisieux Reply

      Sorry, Medjugorje has not been approved. Please just go by Church History for Truth. Amen

    2. gigi Reply

      Medjugororie has not been approved. The church tells us to be careful here.

  2. Advent Reply

    Did Jesus Married as the lost gospel claimed?

  3. gigi Reply

    Jesus did not marry. Period. He was dedicated to God alone and having a wife would have conflicted with His plan

  4. Concerned Lutheran Reply

    Martin Luther didn’t remove anything from the Bible. He translated the Apocrypha into German. He preached from Hebrews, James, and Revelation. All he said was that one must interpret the less clear books of the Bible in light of those that are more clear. Also, you’re taking his quote about James out of context. You know how you hate it when Protestants tell lies about the Catholic Church, and quote your doctrines in such a way as to construct mean-spirited straw-men? Think about that the next time you go to tell half-truths about Lutherans and others.

    1. Bob Reply

      Let’s be accurate. Martin Luther did not physically remove these books from the Bible but he did remove them from the canon. While they were printed with the rest of the Bible and bound within the same covers, they were treated as if they were simply additional reading, not on the same level as the others. He basically demoted them and moved them to the end, after Revelation and called them Apocrypha. When someone says he tossed them out, this is what they mean. Honestly to remove them from the canon is removing them from the Bible even if they were bound with the other books. Maybe not physically removing them, but canonically removing them and physically moving them to the end of the Bible after Revelation. He was making it clear that they didn’t belong. Eventually protestants warmed up to the idea that it was OK to “toss” them and they were removed altogether.

      1. Bob Reply

        Correction, moved them to the end of the OT. I need my coffee.

  5. Kay Reply

    So, Bob, you are saying that you have 1st and 2nd Maccabees and Tobit, Sirach, and the 3 others, that Catholucs have? I have never seen them in a Protestant bible. I think you need to check your facts again.

    1. Bob Reply

      There are many early versions of protestant Bibles that have those books bound within the covers. They refer to them as the apocrypha and do not consider them part of the canon. I really don’t need to check the “facts”, I only need to open one of the dozens of old Bibles I own. Please check your facts. Fact is, the books were not initially removed by Luther they were just moved to the end. They were later removed by other splintering protestant sects.

      1. Kay Reply

        So, I did check into the facts. Here is what I found. The Deutocanonical books were accepted by the early church as stated by Origen in 245. In 393 the list of 46 books of the O.T. and 26 books of the N.T was affirmed as the official can and reaffirmed in 397, 419, and again in 1442. In 1534, Luther translated books into German and grouped the 7 deuterocanonical books,( Tobit, Judith, Wisdom,Sirach,Baruch, and l, ll Maccabees) under the title,”Apocrypha”, declaring, “These books which are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures, yet are useful and good for reading”. He also had problems with Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelations and grouped them as non canonical. His action had the permanent consequence of removing the 7 books. Finally in 1647, it was decreed that these books, since Luther had decreed were not equal to Sacred Scripture, were to be removed.
        So even though the canon of Scripture had been set back in 393, to include these books, because of Luther the Protestant Bible does not contain them, or if it does, does not hold them of equal value. That is a shame. In the book of Maccabees it talks about praying for the dead as being a holy thing to do.

        1. Bob Reply

          Now you got it. You say Luther had a problem with James. That is an understatement. Luther was all about justification by faith alone. Read James 2:24 and you’ll see why he called James an epistle of straw. He wanted to remove James from the NT but met so much resistance from some of his followers that thought he was going a bit too far.
          By the way, not all protestant Bibles removed the apocrypha in 1647. I own several from the 1700s and 1800s that still contain them but like I said, they are moved to the end and labled as apocrypha and like you said, they are not considered of equal value.

          1. Arc

            Is this what you mean? Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only? For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:24,26) Douay-Rheims Bible

          2. Alejandra

            And who did he think he was to do something like that? Not even Jesus dare to do something like that.

  6. Eunice Reply

    Learning a lot day by day….

  7. Kay Reply

    Just a note about why Church Authority is so important. When left to interpret the Bible on our own, we can come up with all kinds of different things. That is why Jesus left us with a teaching authority, and why we should listen to them. Jesus said they would be guided by the Holy Spirit, not each individual person. The Holy Spirit keeps the Catholuc Church from teaching error in faith and morals. I’m talking official church now, not an individual priest.

    1. Bob Reply

      Exactly. That’s what Luther was protesting against and look what is happening 30,000 – 40,000 “churches” later.

  8. Theodore Reply

    Luther did *not* add “only” in Romans, it had been used in several previous Catholic translations. He explained at length this choice.
    Concerning James, his famous statement, read into context, says that it is an epistle of straw *in comparison with* other books, regarding how it teaches justification by faith ; he is building up a quite personal (and with no effect on the canon) hierarchy between the different epistles on this subject, Hebrew being at the top of the list. He does not say that James *is* a valueless epistle.

    1. aymamibrockway Reply

      Since you are so fond of quoting Luther, let’s try this one.
      “You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word alone in not in the text of Paul…say right out to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,’…I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word ‘alone’ is not in the Latin or the Greek text” (Stoddard J. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp. 101-102; see also Luther M. Amic. Discussion, 1, 127).
      You say he did not add the word “alone”? You say it was in the Catholic Bible? Well Luther disagrees with you, he says he did add it and that he was fully aware that it was not in the Greek or Latin. Luther saw himself and not Gods word as the ultimate authority. The Bible says to not add or take away from the Bible. Luther did both.

  9. Joe Mwangi Reply

    It is so amazing how the Roman Catholic Church manipulates Church History to fit their own position .Below is a comment made by Athanasius Bishop of Alexandria who first used the term Canon as we now know it.

    “But for the sake of greater accuracy I must needs, as I write, add
    this: there are other books outside these, which are not indeed
    included in the canon, but have been appointed from the time of
    the fathers to be read to those who are recent converts to our
    company and wish to be instructed in the word of true religion.
    These are the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach,
    Esther, Judith and Tobit. . . But while the former are included
    in the canon and the latter are read [in church], no mention is to
    be made of the apocryphal works. They are the invention of
    heretics, who write according to their own will, and gratuitously
    assign and add to them dates so that, offering them as
    ancient writings, they may have an excuse for leading the simple
    astray.”

    1. aymamibrockway Reply

      Joe, what is your point? How does this demonstrate the Church is manipulating history? This quote you pasted is from the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius (367 CE). The early Church accepted all these books as stated by Origen in 245. Not everyone agreed with this or with Origen, especially Athanasius. The canon was established by the Church in 393. Many leaders of the Church had different opinions as to what should be the canon including Athanasius. Not everyone was in agreement. That is why the Church met and established the canon in 393, 26 years after this letter and reaffirmed in 397, 30 years after this letter. And yet again in 419, 52 years after this letter. All this letter proves is that leaders disagreed and that was the reason a canon had to be set. All the reaffirmations just shows that there was disagreement even after it was set. But regardless, it was set, by the Catholic Church under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit.

      1. aymamibrockway Reply

        Oops. Make that…The canon was established in 382 and reaffirmed in 393…etc.
        So many dates!

  10. John T Reply

    The problem with protestants is that they reverted back and removed the books that were remove from the Talmud (Old Testament) by a group of Rabbis in the 1st century after Christ.

    When Christ was here on Earth the books were part of the Talmud or Old Testament. The reason why the Rabbis removed the books was because they were originally written in Greek or Aramaic instead of Hebrew.

    And for that reason the books were removed. Basically what protestants did was to adhere to the revision of the Talmud made by the same people that killed Christ.

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