Questions and Answers on the Bible

[The following questions and answers are from Questions Asked by Protestants Briefly Answered by Father M. Philipps, Rector of St. Joseph’s Church, Buffalo, NY.; Cabinet of Catholic Information, 1903; Imprimatur: Archbishop Farley.]

Is not the Bible sufficient to teach us what we have to believe in order to be saved?

No, because in the Bible are many words and sentences of essential truths, which can be explained in different ways, and many things in the Bible are hard to understand, especially for those not versed in history, philology, theology, etc.

Can Protestants be certain that they have the right and complete Bible?

No, one cannot be certain of the exact canon or set of the 72 books that constitute the Bible. One does not know whether the translation of the Bible used is the correct one; and there is no certainty of the true interpretation of the Bible.

Why can Protestants not have a certainty of the exact set of books that constitute the Bible?

Because Protestants were not present when the original copies of the Bible were collected, and it is impossible now to find the exact number of original copies.

Why can Protestants not be certain of the true sense of the Bible?

The very fact that Protestants today divided in so many sects, contradicting each other in essential things, and each claiming to draw the true sense out of the Bible, is proof that they have not the true sense of the Bible.

Can Protestants have a certainty of the true sense of the Bible by translating it now from the original languages?

They cannot, on account of the impossibility of finding all the original copies, and the impossibility of finding Hebrew and Greek scholars well versed in the languages, dialects, expressions and circumstances of those early people.

Did God appoint a judge on earth to preserve and explain with certainty the true sense of the Bible?

Yes, God appointed St. Peter and his successors to be the teachers of the Church, whose faith shall not fail, and with whom the spirit of truth shall abide forever.

Does not the Holy Ghost inspire every individual to understand the true meaning in reading the Bible?

If the Holy Ghost had inspired the two hundred leaders of the different protestant denominations of today they would all believe alike, and there would be but one Church. The Holy Ghost does not inspire contradictions.

What benefit is derived from the fact that Christ provided an infallible teacher to explain the Bible?

The benefit of such a teacher is that doubts are cleared up about certain texts and portions of the Bible, that all disputes which cause sects and divisions are finally settled and the truth and one Church are maintained. Without this infallible teacher there would be as many religions as there are opinions, life-long doubts, rejection of some parts of the Bible and an uncertainty about everything, and finally rationalism and unbelief.

Do Catholics encourage reading of the Bible?

Catholic priests are bound to read daily a portion of it; in convents the Bible is daily read in public, every Sunday and Holy Day in church a part of the Bible is read to the people, in Catholic schools children are daily to learn and narrate the essence of certain chapters of the Bible history, and in every Catholic house is found either an extract of the Bible or the Bible itself, or a prayer book taken from the Bible.

Are the teachings of the Catholic Church founded on the Bible?

Nearly all of the truths of the Catholic Church are founded on the Bible. Some are founded on divine tradition, which are truths revealed by God to man but not contained in the Bible.

Who explained the Bible to the Jews in the Old Testament?

The High Priest and the Sanhedrin, which was a council consisting of 72 civil and ecclesiastical judges. In the book Deuteronomy 17:8 we read that the Jews were commanded under pain of death to obey the decision of the Church in doubtful matters.

When was the Bible gathered and published in its present canon or set of books?

The first 300 years after Christ the New Testament existed only in scattered fragments spread over different parts of Christendom. Meanwhile many not genuine books under the name of scripture were circulated, as the spurious gospel of St. Peter, and the gospels of St. James and St. Mathias. In the year 397, in a council of Carthage, the Church separated the chaff from the wheat, and declared which books were genuine, canonical and inspired.

How do you know the Catholic canon of the Bible is the correct one?

The present Catholic canon of books is the same as the canon approved by Pope Eugene in the year 1546 at the Council of Trent, and the canon approved by Pope Eugene is the same as the canon approved and published by Pope Gelasius in the year 494, and the canon of Pope Gelasius is the same as the canon of the Vulgate or Latin edition compiled and translated by St. Jerome and approved by the Council of Carthage in 397.

How did St. Jerome and the Council of Carthage collect and approve the canon of the Bible?

St. Jerome was one of the most learned scholars of Hebrew, Greek, Latin and the languages then living. He visited the localities where the genuine letters and writings of the apostles were still existing. With the greatest care he collected all the copies he could find, examined and translated them as truly, and as correctly as human science can do. (This Latin translation is still existing and is called the Vulgate edition.) Then the Catholic Church examined the Vulgate edition, and finding it correct, followed for future ages.

What benefit was it to follow the Vulgate edition for future ages?

Modern languages continually undergo changes in the meaning of words, so that certain words mean a different object now from what they meant some years ago. The Latin language does not undergo such changes, but retains the same meaning of words; therefore, it was wise to follow the Vulgate edition for future ages. This will help partly to preserve the Bible from faulty translations and from wrong interpretations.

Is not everyone allowed to put his own private interpretation upon the Bible?

No, this is a false principle, and this principle has given us more than two hundred different, conflicting Christian sects, all claiming to be the religion of Jesus Christ. The true meaning of the Bible must be given by the living voice of the Catholic Church, who received the authority to explain it. As Christ said: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:18.

Can a man be saved without reading the Bible?

Yes, in the first 300 years after Christ there was no complete set of the Bible of the New Testament, and in the 1500 years before printing was invented Bibles had to be copied with the pen and few people could have one. Many could not read, many could not be supplied with Bibles. This cannot be done even now where printing is in progress. Jesus did not tell us to read the Bible, but He told us to hear the Church.

But we are told to “search the Bible.”

Jesus said this to the Jews when they asked Him if He was the true Messiah. He told them to search the Bible, and see what the prophecies said of Him. Christ never told us to read the Bible, but He strictly commanded us to hear His Church, and to obey its teachings.

In what language was the first Bible written?

Some books were written in Hebrew or Chaldaean, some in Greek and some in Latin.

Who guarded the integrity of the Bible during the 1500 years before the reformation?

The Catholic Church was the sole guardian and depository of the Bible during all that time until the reformation, and since then.

Was Luther’s Bible the first Bible ever printed?

No, before Luther’s Bible appeared no less than fifty-six editions of the Bible had appeared on the continent of Europe, of these twenty-one editions were published in Germany, one edition in Spanish, four editions in French, twenty-one editions in Italian, five editions in Flemish and four in Bohemian.

When was the Bible translated into English?

In the eighth century the Venerable Bede translated the Bible in the Saxon, which was then the language of England. Archbishop Arundle of Canterbury (1394) says that Queen Anne diligently read the four gospels in English. Sir Thomas More speaks of an English version of the Bible in his time.