Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the Dec. 3, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. Would you please explain how the various books in our Bible were decided, by whom and in what language? I keep thinking if it’s the Word of God among us God should have preserved it from all dispute. So why don’t the Catholic and Protestant Bibles agree?
A. Every time we touch something we leave our fingerprints. The selection, arrangement and translation of 72 or 66 or 65 books that we call the Bible is a fertile field made to order for human controversy. Is there a book anywhere that has been more disputatious than this Bible we call the Word of God?\
The New Testament was written entirely in Greek, the language of literature and commerce. And quickly, too. Every book, from Matthew to Revelation, was finished and collected in about 50 years.
The Hebrew Scriptures, with 24 segments, took longer than 1,000 years to assemble. The so-called “Old” Testament might better be called the Hebrew or the Previous Testament. Some sections were in Hebrew, some in Aramaic and centuries later entirely in Greek. Then Latin.
That Greek edition, in the language of commerce and letters, was commissioned by Greek-speaking Jews who had settled in Egypt and wanted their own Scriptures. They called it the Septuagini, or LXX, the Roman numerals for 70, the number of translators, so they said.
The Jewish Council of Jamnia, A.D. 90, declared the first authentic canon of Hebrew Scriptures which included the LXX books. During the Reformation the new Protestants accepted the Hebrew Scriptures, minus a few LXX books, while Catholic and Orthodox people accepted all the LXX books. At present there is some movement towards unity.
Q. If we consider the latest archaeologist digs showing human skeletons more than a million years old, how can fundamentalists count the number of generations in the Bible and tell us the human race is 6,000 years old? Two people came to my door and argued with me until they left. I know I’m right but how could I have answered them?
A. You could have answered them easily but you would not have persuaded them.
A fervent fundamentalist will respond that when God, in his wondrously mysterious plan, created the Earth, he also scattered predated fossils and artifacts we are now finding. He salted his creation with human and animal relics, even complete skeletons, to confuse us just as he left a complex trail to baffle us in outer space.
That’s an easy way out. Any time we get too close to the perimeter of God we get stone-walled.
First, do not argue about literal interpretation anywhere in the Bible, especially if your visitors are using the New World translation. Be nice. Do not argue. The issue is much larger than scoring points.
Secondly, consider their fundamental premise, namely, the Bible is the sum total of all religious faith, the ultimate source of everything they must believe so it had better be literally factual and totally inerrant. That’s the inner core of their religious faith and we should appreciate it.
However, that core belief contradicts itself. If the Bible is the sole source of faith we should expect the Bible to make that statement at least once in every hundred pages. Not so. Nowhere does the Bible even mildly suggest it might be the only source of faith. The Bible doesn’t say that. People say that.
Q. He’s a serious convert in another creed who said I had to belong to his religion to be saved. As strange as it sounds is it at least partly true?
A. Who can we believe anymore? A fundamentalist Bible believer came to my house to inform me Catholics will not be saved because we are too many that would overload those 144,000 destined for salvation. The real issue is this: Who, besides God, has the right to decide the eternal disposition of anyone? Jesus replied, “Who appointed me your judge?” (Luke 12:14) God is not asking for our opinions.