“It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter and I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father (“As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…” (Jn. 15:10) I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.
I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries – and yes, I know all your sins, but I tell you again that I love you. Not for what you have or haven’t done. I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.
I know what is in your heart. I know your loneliness and all your hurts. The rejections, the judgments, the humiliations. I carried it all before you and I carried it all for you so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love, how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished, but how often have you thirsted in vain by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures, with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? (“Come to Me all you who thirst…” Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.
I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation and give you peace. Even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world that matters not at all. For Me there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.
Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.
Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul.
No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU.”
He, the creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures.
He thirst for our love. These words: ‘I Thirst’ – Do they echo in our souls?”
– Mother Teresa
An excerpt of a meditation on the example of the humanity of Paul and how his humanity can show us how to be saints.
“What kind of man did God choose in Paul?
One day riding his horse on the way to Damascus, with only one thing in mind, ‘crush these Christians,’ a bolt of light comes along. God says, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me’ (Acts 9:4). It was such a powerful moment he fell off his horse, and he goes into Damascus blind. It takes Ananias to come and cure him of his blindness and baptize him.
Now we have this concept of Paul at that moment: rising up, getting back on his horse, going to Jerusalem, and beginning to preach.
Well, he didn’t.
He went into the desert for three years to pray (Gal 1:17). It’s about ten years before he begins a missionary journey to preach the word of God. Just imagine, it took time even after he was knocked off his horse; it took time for this egotistical intellectual to become a humble servant of the servants of God. In our lives we have the impression that after I have said, “Jesus my Lord,” I’ve got it made. I just walk off and shine my halo every morning before breakfast – off I go being the most patient, kind, loving person this world has ever known. Boy, are we kidding ourselves? You know the world is full of potential saints. We’re all potential saints. If we just understood that we’re potential saints and will be until we die, we’d never say (as some do), ‘I’ve made it.’
Until you reach heaven you haven’t made anything.
Do you really want to love God or do you want people to think you love God?
Somewhere, somehow, somebody is under the impression that you are NOT God’s give to humanity… this is life. Instead of thinking about how much you’re suffering and how much so-and-so is bugging you, why don’t you start to think: this is life. How am I going to become a saint with all of this? Because these things are never going to leave you, and you will battle your faults until you die. You can go to Timbuktu or Bangladesh and you’d still be there with yourself. You are your biggest problem.
In the Scripture you’ll find hope to transform your life. Don’t despair and don’t think holiness is not for you or that God doesn’t love you. Though you fall a million times a day, our Father will reach down and lift you up and teach you humility… That’s what holiness is. It’s about falling and rising with God.
If you reject God, it is you who reject Him. He never rejects you.
God’s hand is the last one to let go.
That’s the message of Paul and that’s the message of Christ.
[Paul] is supposed to be this towering figure, this great holy man, like that statue in Rome.
Well what about II Corinthians 12:7?… He might have had epilepsy. Can you imagine Saint Paul an epileptic? He might have had dysentery. ‘Oh, no saint would have dysentery!’ some will say. The saints had dysentery and that had a lot of other things.
This is life!
They lived it with God, and so must we.”
Excerpt from Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures Introduced and Edited by Raymond Arroyo.
Mother Angelica Literary Properties © 2008 by Mother Mary Angelica, P.C.P.A and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, Inc. All other text copyright © 2008 by Raymond Arroyo.
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The fourth in our series of questions deals with Catholics getting into Heaven and what they actually believe they have to do in order to get there.
Q: How do Catholics believe they get into Heaven?
A: By the Grace of the Holy Spirit which moves on our hearts thus leading us to commit to follow Christ and all He commanded us to do and to “hold fast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14, CCC 154, 155). By believing that Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God, that he was born of a Virgin, suffered death for our sakes by Crucifixion, and was raised bodily from the dead to eternal life. Through Him alone can we be saved.¹ (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 9:15, Acts 4:12).
Okay, but what about Mary, and praying to Saints, the Rosary, lighting candles, believing in Confession, doing what the Pope says and all that other “extra” stuff? Don’t Catholics believe all that other stuff is necessary too in order to be saved? Most importantly, don’t Catholics believe that they have to do “works” in order to be saved? Isn’t it really a “works based Salvation?”
If all Christ ever told people to do in order to obtain Salvation was to ask Him “into our hearts as our personal Lord and Savior” and from that moment into eternity we were considered “saved” then Catholicism would truly be “Christianity plus”.
The question really becomes, “what must I do in order to be saved?” Our answer can be given utilizing what Scripture tells us to do:
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9 cf – Acts 16:31).
But that is not the only thing Scriptures tell us to do in order to obtain Salvation.
Along with that Scripture also says, “Whoever believes and is Baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16). Peter writes in his letter, “Baptism… now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:21) [“The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience.” MSG]
Once people confess Jesus as Lord the first thing we’re called to is Baptism which cleanses us from sin, gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and thus presents us as Holy before the Lord. (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26, Hebrews 10:22)
Explicitly we’re told several times that in order to remain steadfast in this life we are also called to do the works of the Lord. We are told “by their fruit you shall know them” and that if anyone does not actually produce good fruit they shall be cut off and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:10; 7:19, Luke 3:9) Also we’re told, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV) We’re told explicitly in Romans 2:6 that God rewards us for our good works, that by them we are justified and righteous like Abraham and Rahab (James 2:21.23.25) and also that we cannot abide in the doctrine of “faith alone” without works (James 2:14-17) because it has no merit. Good works then have merit since they sanctify a soul drawing them closer to God. Through these “works” we live out our Christian faith or maintain in our Christian faith and we do this in a number of different ways which are mentioned in the Bible. This includes turning away from vices and living in a virtuous way consistent with the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. (Galatians 5:16-24, Ephesians 4:17-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) It includes participating in the things Christ commanded us to participate in like Baptism (referenced above), the Eucharist (John 6:51,53-56; Matt. 26:26-28; Mark. 14:22,24; Luke 22;19,20; 1 Cor. 10:16), Reconciliation (John 20:21-23; Matt. 18:18; James 5:15,16), Confirmation (Acts 8:14-16, 19:4-6; Hebrews 6:2), and Anointing the Sick (Mark 6:13; James 5:14). [Holy Orders (Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 3:1-13, 4:14, 5:17; 1 Peter 5:1; Titus 1:5) and Marriage (Matt. 5:32; Mark 10:6-9; ; Hebrews 13:4) are also considered Sacraments in the Catholic Church but are rather signs of being sealed into a chosen vocation in life and not mandatory for Christians who do not chose them.]
Not only are we told to remain steadfast in this lifestyle but that by falling into sin we can be cut off from God. (John 15:1-6, Matthew 10:22 & 24:13, Mark 13:13, 1 John 5:16,17, 2 Peter 2:20,21)
For many Protestants good “deeds” follow naturally from the initial belief in Christ and that if one is truly in Christ as a Christian one will naturally be lead to Christian actions and successfully avoid sinful actions because a true Christian would not be overcome by any sin in a way that would undermine his Salvation. Although, the good actions performed as a Christian have no merit at all in this regard and performing them is simple more a function of following the “new nature”. They are merely a byproduct of being a believer. All the good things one does after being a believer is a natural effect of Salvation. For many Protestant denominations, Salvation has become a process of reduction to the most simplified bottom line. Anything considered ‘non-essential’ is not required and interpretation lends a lot of varied degrees about what requirements are necessary in order to obtain Salvation.
Catholics believe in an “active participation” in their faith and all that has been asked of them by Christ. We believe He established a Church with leadership to guide us and instituted Sacraments in order for us to be joined more perfectly with Him. We believe that God, through no work or action on our part, gives us the initial grace of the Holy Spirit as a free gift to respond to His call to become followers of Christ. (CCC 1966) Once we are Baptised we are buried with Christ in Baptism, washed clean of our sins, and joined with Him in the Resurrection of a new life. (CCC 1967) We believe that we must maintain this walk actively in a battle to die to our old ways, to sin, and to temptation, and that there are many ways which we have been given in order to actively receive God’s Graces. Because of our human nature, we are still capable to freely chose at any time to walk away from God or separate ourselves from Him because of our choice to sin. (CCC 162) When we have separated ourselves because of deadly sin or what we call mortal sin (1 John 5:16,17) we must reconcile ourselves to God in order to return our souls to a state of Grace suitable for obtaining Salvation in Him. This is why St. John calls it deadly sin. Only by actively maintaining in our faith by being obedient to God and fighting the good fight and running the good race all the way to the finish line can we accomplish the goal of winning the eternal crown. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit in Christ to do God’s Will and we cannot accomplish anything without it. As Christ Himself says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” As St. Paul tells us we cannot do religious acts for their own sake in order to obtain righteousness because that’s what the Jews were trying to do by performing the works of the Law. That is what the book of Romans is all about. Only through Christ and with His help can we obtain Salvation. (cf CCC 162)
1. This belief is recited by Catholics each Sunday in the Nicene Creed and privately with the Apostle’s Creed. Many Protestants also recite the Apostle’s Creed and some even profess their own created creed derived or based, in some way, off the Apostolic Creed.
CCC ref. the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each paragraph is numbered accordingly
154. Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. 155. In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace. 161. Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. 162. Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:18-19) To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. (cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32; Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; Jas 2:14-26.)
1966. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. 1967. Grace… introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ… As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church. 1999. The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism.
The third question in our series deals with why Catholics believe that Mary didn’t have any other children except Jesus and why she, in fact, remained a virgin.
Q: Why do Catholics think Mary had no other children and remained a virgin?
A: Because it is an ancient Christian teaching. Early Christians taught that Mary was a virgin her whole life and had no other children besides Jesus. This is implicit in the Bible – meaning there are passages that point to this doctrine and it is explicit in Christian tradition – meaning there are doctrines that were taught and written about in early Christian writings which show that this is what early Christians believed. It is, therefore, the total sum of all the many different aspects of Christian faith concerning Mary that form these beliefs.
These ancient Christian beliefs, taught from the beginning, said that Mary, by virtue of the fact that she gave birth to God Incarnate, had to be an extremely holy person. From the beginning Christians taught and believed that because she was a very holy person, God maintained her in holiness and a part of doing that was to maintain her virginity intact because it was a sign of her holy consecration to God. (a non-scriptural writing on the childhood of the Virgin Mary stated that she had been consecrated to God as a holy virgin¹.) From ancient Christianity Mary has been considered the New Testament version of the Ark of the Covenant (the Holy Spirit overshadowed them both and they both contained within them the Word of God) and thus considered Holy and consecrated to God with her virginity.
Early Christians taught that she remained that way throughout her entire life and that she never gave birth to any other children. They taught that anyone mentioned in the Bible as being a “brother” or “sister” of Christ was either a half-sibling from a previous marriage of Joseph’s (a common early Christian belief) or that they were related kinsmen of Mary and Joseph’s who were not born from either of them. The idea that she was not a virgin forever and that she had other children was not taught in Christianity for over 1,500 years. Historically the Reformers believed in her everlasting virginity including John Calvin and John Wesley. The belief that she was not a virgin forever and that she had other children besides Jesus is a very modern belief of Christian teaching less than a few hundred years old.
So why use the term “brother” when it didn’t mean actual brother?
You can read more about this topic and the “brothers of Jesus” in minute detail in my blog entry discussing the term “brother” and it’s Aramaic and Greek heritage. Generally speaking, there wasn’t a specific word in Jesus’ original language of Aramaic to define the proper or exact relationship these “brothers” had to Jesus, so when New Testament writers like Luke wrote the story down they didn’t use a specific Greek word for these kinsmen but instead used the more general term in Greek which meant ‘close kin’ so that it encompassed a wider range of relationships. What this means is that when the term used in the Greek manuscript for a ‘brotherly relationship’, translated into English it was translated as “brothers”. The Greek word itself used the term “brethren” as in either close family – like cousins, brothers by bond (think of ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘Brothers in Arms’), as tribal relations, or as blood brothers. So the way it was originally written the Greek word used there was used as a very wide open term to describe the relationship.
Also, if we look at the men specifically mentioned in the Bible as being “brothers” of Christ like James and Joseph (or Joses depending on the manuscript), Simon, and Jude (or Judas, not Iscariot [cf. Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3]) we can identify who they were exactly and who their parents were or at least where they came from.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)
Well who is Mary, the wife of Clopas (or Cleophas)?
- She is mentioned in Matthew 15:40 as being the mother of James and Josas (or Joseph).
- In Mark she’s called the mother of James the Less and Joses (Mk 15:40).
James is also described as the son of Alphaeus in the synoptic Gospels’ listing of the Apostles (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15).
- Alphaeus and Cleophas is often thought to be the Roman and Hebrew name of the same man. (Much like Saul was the Jewish name and Paul was his Roman name.)
- Therefore, we can deduce that Cleophas/Alphaeus is the father of James and Josas/Joseph.
- We can also deduce that it is highly unlikely that Mary wife of Cleophas is a blood sister of the Virgin Mary since they bear the same name. More likely they were probably close kinsmen or cousins. This parallels the use of “brother” in relating James to Jesus.
- Acts 1:13 says that Jude (Judas) was a brother of James who is identified in this verse as James, the son of Alphaeus. Jude himself says in his own epistle that he is a brother of James (cf. Jude 1:1).
- Simon, called the Zealot, is identified as coming from Cana, not Nazareth as were Joseph, Mary and Christ. (Mark 3:18)
Therefore, the “brothers” mentioned by name in Scripture as being brothers of Christ are clearly shown to have different lineage than that of Mary and Joseph.
Mary being a virgin and having no other children is a difficult concept for Protestants to believe since they do not often consider or know the early historic traditions of Christianity and thus don’t believe them sturdy enough to base their doctrines upon. Instead they prefer to rely on what is explicitly or basically clear in Scripture alone as the only reliable platform with which to base doctrinal beliefs. (Ironically the Bible itself is based on Catholic Tradition.)
Catholics on the other hand do not use the Bible alone as a sole base for their doctrinal beliefs. They primarily use Scripture but they also believe what was historically always taught in Christianity as a basis for belief. Commonly called Tradition in the three-fold basis of Catholic Authority. Catholics pull from the entire picture of what makes up Christianity in order to determine what matters of faith are. When taken together from all valid sources (Scripture, Tradition, Teaching Authority) all the pieces of the puzzle, from these different places, come together to form a whole and complete picture.
A clear example of the fact that Christianity held the universal opinion that Mary was a virgin forever and had no other children is found in a letter St. Jerome (who translated the Bible, Latin Vulgate) wrote and blew his top at a man called Helvidius for even suggesting in writing and teaching that Mary did have children and was not a virgin forever. Helvidius’ argument (which is the stance of most Protestant denominations today) wasn’t even preserved in history because it was considered so outrageous and unsound. St. Jerome’s response to Helvidius has been preserved. He writes, in part:
“I must call upon the Holy Spirit to express His meaning by my mouth and defend the virginity of Blessed Mary. And I must also entreat God the Father to show that the mother of His Son, who was a mother before she was a bride, continued a virgin after her son was born.”
(Scripture tells us Joseph was told in a dream by an angel not to fear making Mary his wife [Matthew 1:20] but even though he did make her his wife by marrying her, we’re told that he didn’t have sexual intercourse with Mary before the birth of Jesus. [Matthew 1:25] This verse of Scripture is written to verify that that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus.)
“Excellent! We are to believe then that the same man who gave so much credit to a dream that he did not dare to touch his wife, yet afterwards, when he had learnt from the shepherds that the angel of the Lord had come from heaven and when the heavenly host had joined with [the angel] in the chorus, and when he had seen just Simeon embrace the infant, and when he had seen Anna the prophetess, the Magi, the Star, Herod, the angels; Helvidius would have us believe that Joseph, though well acquainted with such surprising wonders, dared to touch the temple of God, the abode of the Holy Spirit, the mother of his Lord!“
“We believe that God was born of the Virgin, because we read it. That Mary was [carnally] married after she brought forth, we do not believe, because we do not read it.”
“There are things which, in your extreme ignorance, you had never read, and therefore you neglected the whole range of Scripture and employed your madness in outraging the Virgin… You have set on fire the temple of the Lord’s body, you have defiled the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit from which you are determined to make a team of four brethren and a heap of sisters come forth… Pray tell me, who, before you appeared, was acquainted with this blasphemy? Who thought the theory worth two-pence?”² [emphasis’ mine]
This is simply one excerpt which Jerome wrote as a common belief (notice he says “we” throughout) at the time and was one that was held even by the founders of Protestantism. All of this taken together is why Catholics hold that Mary didn’t have other children and remained a virgin throughout her life.
1. Protoevangelium of James which first appeared in the 2nd century AD. – Although the authorship was disputed by Origen (3rd century AD) he never disputed the validity of its content about Mary.
2. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, St. Jerome (383 AD)
The second topic in our question and answer series has to do with the additional books in the Catholic Bible and why we have those books to begin with.
Q: Why do Catholics have more books in their Bible?
A: The short answer is because the Catholic Church – following the historic Christian position – bases it’s Old Testament Scripture off of the Greek Septuagint which includes books that are not in Protestant versions of the Bible. They are not in Protestant Bibles because Martin Luther did not follow the historic Christian position of using the Greek Septuagint as his basis for the Old Testament, but rather the Jewish Council of Jamnia’s decision in 90 AD on Old Testament Scripture.
So what is the Greek Septuagint and why did the Early Church use it?
The date of the Greek Septuagint is the late 2nd century BC and it is a Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures. The translation was done so that Alexandrian Jews, who were no longer fluent in Hebrew, could read the Scriptures in the language they did speak: Koine (or common) Greek. This was also the translation that was quoted by the New Testament authors, particularly Paul, as well as the Church leaders who came right after the Apostles (Apostolic Fathers) and the other Early Church Fathers.
This is important because the Greek Septuagint contains the books of the Bible that Catholics have and Protestants do not. Since the Early Church used the Greek Septuagint most of those books came to be included in the Bible. The books are:
- Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon)
- Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (or Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira)
- including the Letter of Jeremiah
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Additions to Daniel:
- Prayer of Azariah (or The Song of the Three Holy Children¹)
- Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13, Septuagint prologue)
- Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14, Septuagint epilogue)
- Additions to Esther
These are the additional books and passages which are included in the Catholic Old Testament since they were determined to be inspired by the Church leaders at the Council of Hippo in 393 AD. This was the first time the Church pronounced definitively which books were to be considered inspired and which were not. This decision also included which Christian writings – and there were a lot of them – (including ones that were not Christian but claimed to be) belonged in the New Testament. This is what is called “The Canon of Scripture” and inspired books are called “Canonical” meaning they are included in the canon – or list – of inspired writings.
Martin Luther did not want to take the historic position of determining which books ought to be in the Bible and determined for himself which books were inspired and which were not. Therefore, he followed the decision made by the Jewish council of Jamnia to determine what belonged in the Old Testament. Their decision was based on anti-Greek language and anti-Christian sentiments which is why the parts of Esther and Daniel are not in Protestant Bibles because there was no known Hebrew original manuscript available at the time so those parts were discounted.²
It must also be mentioned that not every Church Father believed the books to be inspired. Most notably St. Jerome who did not feel they were inspired and should not be included in the Bible, however he did defer to the decision made by the Church which ruled they were inspired and thus he did include them.
Why do so many people feel the Catholic Church “added” the books to the “original” format of the Bible?
First and foremost it is because they are following an anti-Catholic teaching whether they know it or not which states the Church “added” the books to the Bible most people have. This is historically incorrect. I believe it is also because Protestantism has a much stronger presence here in the United States and in the multitude of denominations here not one of them includes these books in their Bibles. Therefore, I believe, that since the majority of the populace in the US is Protestant and, historically speaking, only goes back 500 years, then any variable contrary to the belief of what the majority has ever known is going to be looked at as suspect. The Protestant Bible version is the norm in the US and the Catholic one is not, therefore it is not the most commonly accepted version of the Bible here. Although, contrary to belief, the Catholic Church is not the only church to use the Greek Septuagint. The Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and the Church of the East recognize the books listed above as canonical.
*As a side note, the additional books are called Deuterocanonical by the Catholic Church and by the misnomer “Apocrypha” by Protestants.³
1. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah or by their more commonly known Chaldaean names: Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego.
2. Ironically, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls revealed that these books did exist in Hebrew. In fact, Martin Luther wanted to remove Revelation, Hebrews, James, and Jude but refrained from doing so only because of a threatened fallout from fellow reformers.
3. The term is used in contrast to the Protocanonical books, which are contained in the Hebrew Bible as it is known today. The word deuterocanonical comes from Greek which means ‘belonging to the second canon’. The term has been in use since the 16th Century. The term apocrypha meaning “hidden” to describe these books came from Luther’s 1534 Bible where he placed them at the end of the book to make a point that they were not canonical.
This is the start of a series of entries that deal with questions about Catholicism in as straightforward and as simple a way as possible in a question and answer format I hope will be helpful to all who wish to learn more about the Catholic faith. Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting point. From there I’ll address them or any others as best I can in order to bring clarity to Catholicism with as little to complicate the answer as possible. Hopefully, it will provide an answer to anyone seeking to know.