Saturday, April 11, 2009

On the Roman Catholic Apocrypha

Biblically literate Protestants might nod and say "a post on Tobit, Judith, the Books of Maccabees etc" to which I say, no not at all. These books, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Sirach, 1 & 2 Maccabees, might be termed deutero-canonical by Roman Catholics but they are, nevertheless, counted as part of the Old Testament. They are not considered Apocrypha. On the other hand, even biblically literate Roman Catholics might shake their heads and mutter "Roman Catholic Apocrypha? What's he on about?".

And I would probably have done the same as them not many years ago. And even when I stumbled across the Roman Catholic Apocrypha it took me a while to recognise just what they were. I first became aware of them when I was given a copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible. I was intrigued to discover that following the New Testament there was an appendix. In this appendix were the following texts/books: Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Ezra (1 Esdras), 4 Ezra (2 Esdras), Psalm 151, and the Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans (about which I plan to write at a later date). Apparently the books were placed here by Pope Clement VIII in 1592 "lest they utterly perish". By his time, of course, the Roman Catholic Old Testament canon had been set by the Council of Trent; the Council had made no space in the canon for these four books/texts.

What intrigued me further was that I had a copy of the Douay-Rheims Challoner English Bible, a translation from the Vulgate, that had been pretty much the normative English language Roman Catholic Bible from the 18th to 20th centuries. But this Bible did not include the Vulgate Appendix. More recent Roman Catholic English language bibles, translating from the Greek and Hebrew texts rather than the Vulgate, have likewise not bothered to reproduce the Vulgate Appendix.

However I very recently discovered that the original Douay-Rheims Bible did translate the Vulgate Appendix (with the exception of Laodiceans). It was printed as an Appendix in the 2 Volume Douay-Rheims Old Testement. The Appendix was in volume 2 following the Wisdom and Prophetical books. Curiously the Appendix stands in the same relationship to the Douay-Rheims Bible as a whole as the Apocrypha does in both the King James and Luther's German Bibles. And, of course, while much smaller than the Lutheran and Anglican Apocrypha, the same books are found in all 3 collections.

It set me wondering about the Bible of medieval Western Christendom but with a bit of searching I was able to ascertain that its Old Testament contained the deutero-canonicals of the modern Roman Catholic Old Testament but also these four texts of the Vulgate Appendix and Protestant Apocrypha. All these texts were part of the Old Testament of the Gutenberg Bible of 1452/3. So it would appear that the Bible of Western Christendom was 'pruned' by both Roman Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century.

Interesting, too, that, with the exception of 4 Ezra, all of these texts are in the Old Testament of the Greek Church and all of the texts are part of the Old Testament of other eastern churches. In other words then, medieval Christians of east and west were in greater biblical harmony or concordance than modern Christians. Why, I wonder, did Rome go to bat so strongly to preserve the canonical status of the deuterocanonicals but not these four texts? Did anyone speak up for any or all of these texts? I would dearly love to know.

So Roman Catholics, effectively, have Old Testament Apocrypha, except that they don't know about them and no Roman Catholic bibles bother to include them. Furthermore, and as I said I plan to write more on Laodiceans later, Clement VIII saw fit to also include Laodiceans in the Appendix to the Vulgate. Therefore, as well as an Old Testament Apocrypha collection, Roman Catholics have a New Testament Apocrypha as well, again never included in any Roman Catholic bible translation. Maybe it's about time that Roman Catholics become more biblically literate and rediscover their own Apocrypha and obviously for that to happen it's necessary for Roman Catholic bibles to include all the texts of the Roman Bible, canonical and apocryphal.

1 comment:

  1. 請你這一次不要再刪
    跨宗教 跨領域
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    *Weiss 前世今生來生緣



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