2. Forging New Weapons


THE Roman church had discovered that the root of her troubles lay in the reading of the Bible by the laity, and had opposed it with all the power at her command. But she finally realized that her open war on the Scriptures had aroused suspicion that her life and doctrines were out of harmony with God’s word, and could not endure the light of an open Bible.

To allay such feelings she must make it appear that she was not opposed to the Scriptures, but only to the “erroneous Protestant Bible.” But how could such an impression be made, when that Bible was a faithful translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts, in which the Scriptures were originally written? Then, too, the Protestants had, at that time, some of the most able Hebrew and Greek scholars in all Christendom.

Providence had brought the Reformers in contact with some of the best sources of Bible manuscripts: (1) When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, many of the Greek scholars fled to the West, bringing with them their valuable manuscripts from the East where Christianity originated, and then Greek and Hebrew learning revived in the West. (See “History of the English Bible,” by W. F. Moulton. pp. 34-36). (2) With this influx from the East came also the Syrian Bible, used by the early church at Antioch in Syria (Acts 11: 26), which was translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts long before the Massoretic (O.T.) text, and is the oldest known Bible manuscript (unless it should be the one lately discovered by Chester Beatty. (Copies of the Syriac Bible were later found among the Syrian Christians at Malabar. South India, with all the earmarks of the old Syrian manuscripts. See “The Old Documents and the New Bible.” by J. P. Smyth, pp. 166, 167; “Indian Church History.--by Thomas Yates, p. 167, “Christian Researches in Asia,” by Claudius Buchannan, pp. 80, 143). (3) During their severe persecutions the Waldenses came into contact with the Reformers at Geneva, and thus their Bible, which had been preserved in its apostolic purity, was brought to the Reformers. (An illustration of how some learned Roman Catholics have estimated the Protestant Greek New Testament can be seen when we read of the Catholic legislation on forbidden books. A commentator says: “In diocesan seminaries the textbook prescribed in Greek was very often some portion of the original text of the New Testament, and Protestant editions were selected as they contained a more ample vocabulary, and, perhaps, better grammatical annotations than Catholic editions. Such an act would appear quite pardonable and excusable as the text was entire and pure. . . . But according to the present rule . . . bishops have no power to select such works.’ “A Commentary an the Present Index Legislation,- Rev. T. Hurley. D. D.. p. 70. New York: Benziger Brothers. 1908. With their feelings against Protestant books, such permits could not have been given, unless the superiority of the book demanded it). 

Translations direct from the original languages in which the Holy Scriptures were written, and comparisons with ancient sources, by men of high scholarly ability and sterling integrity, gave the Protestants a perfectly reliable Bible. In spite of these plain facts, the Catholic authorities had to do something to turn the minds of their people away from the Protestant Bible, so widely distributed. They therefore advanced the claim that Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation was more correct than any copy we now have of the original Hebrew and Greek texts. We shall now examine this claim.


The Latin Vulgate Bible


At the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in the fourth session, the second Decree, in 1546, they decided that the Latin Vulgate should be the standard Bible for the Roman church. But then they discovered a curious fact, that during the 1050 years from the time Jerome brought out his Latin Vulgate Bible in

405 A.D., until John Gutenberg printed it in 1455, it had been copied so many times, mostly by monks, and so many errors had crept in, that no one knew just what was the actual rendering of the original Vulgate. The learned Roman Catholic professor, Dr. Johann Jahn says of it:

“The universal admission of this version throughout the vast extent of the Latin church multiplied the copies of it, in the transcription of which it became corrupted with many errors. . . . Cardinal Nicholas, about the middle of the twelfth century, found ‘tot exemplaria quot codices’ (as many copies as manuscripts).” “introduction to the 0ld Testament.” Sec. 62,63. (Quoted in “History of Romanism,” Dr. John Dowling, ed. of 1871, P. 486.)

The Catholic Encyclopedia says of the Latin Vulgate:

“From an early day the text of the Vulgate began to suffer corruptions, mostly through the copyists who introduced familiar readings of the Old Latin or inserted the marginal glosses of MSS. which they were transcribing.” - Vol. XV, p. 370, art. “Versions” “The Vulgate.”

The Council of Trent having made Jerome’s Latin “Vulgate the standard text,” (See Cardinal Gasquet’s article in the Forum for August, 1926, p. 203), it must now determine which of the hundreds of copies (all differing) was the correct “Vulgate.” A commission was therefore appointed to gather materials so as to “restore St. Jerome’s text,” but its members were “not to amend it by any new translations of their own from the original Hebrew and Greek.” (“History of the Council of Trent,- T. A. Buckley, Part II. chap. 16, p. 127). They “were merely to collect manuscripts and prepare the evidence for and against certain readings in the text, after which the Pope himself, by reason not of his scholarship, but of his gift of infallibility, decided straight off which were the genuine words!” - “The Old Documents and the New Bible,” J. Paterson S7nyth, B.D., LLA, pp. 17-1f, 175. London and New York: 1907.

Pope Sixtus V undertook this work of revision, and to make sure of its being correct, he read the proofs himself. This edition was printed at Rome in 1590, accompanied by a bull forbidding the least alteration in this infallible text. “But alas! . . . The book was full of mistakes. The scholarship of Sixtus was by no means great, and his infallibility somehow failed to make up for this defect.” - Id., p. 175.

The Catholic Encyclopedia comments:

“But Sixtus V, though unskilled in this branch of criticism, had introduced alterations of his own, all for the worse. . . . His immediate successors at once proceeded to remove the blunders and call ill the defective impression.” - Vol. II, p. 412.

All available copies of the Bible of Pope Sixtus were called in and burnt as were the heretics. Pope Clement VIII, in 1592, ordered a better edition to be made, accompanying it with a similar bull. Dr. James, keeper of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, where one of Pope Sixtus’s Bibles remained, compared it with that of Pope Clement, and found two thousand glaring variations in them. He published his findings in a book called: “Bellum Papale, i.e. the Papal War.” (“History of Romanism,” Dr. J. Dowling, p. 487. New York: 1871).

Dr. Thomas James, in the following statement, gives valuable information on the Vulgate Bible:

“Isidorus Clarius hath noted eight thousand places erroneous in the vulgar bible, the divines of Louvaine, and Joannes Benedictus have observed above twice as many differences, from the original Hebrew and Greek fountains. If Paulus V., the now pope, will take the pains to reform these also; in my judgment, he shall do a work very acceptable unto the whole Christian world, both Protestant and papist.” - “A Treatise of the Corruptions of Scripture, Councils, and Fathers,” p. 208. London: 1843.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says of the latest revision of the Vulgate by Pope Clement:

“This revision is now the officially recognised version of the Latin Rite and contains the only authorised text of the Vulgate. That it has numerous defects has never been denied.” - Vol. XV, p. 370.

That the Roman church is not satisfied with the present Vulgate text is seen by the fact that in 1907 Pope Pius X, according to the Forum, commissioned H. E. Francis Aidan Cardinal Gasquet, with his Benedictine Order, to reproduce the true Latin text of St. Jerome by a new revision. Cardinal Gasquet says of the former attempt made by Pope Clement VIII, in 1592:

“The commission laboured for some forty years, and strange to say, many of the changes proposed by them were never inserted in the final revision. From the notes of this commission it may be safely said that had they been accepted we should have had a much better critical text than we now possess.” - “Forum,” August, 1926, p. 203.

The Catholic Encyclopedia points out a fact often overlooked by scholars today, that “the Hebrew text used by St. Jerome was comparatively late, being practically that of the Masoretes. For this reason his version, for textual criticism, has less value than the Peshito and the Septuagint. As a translation it holds a place between these two.” - Vol. XV, p. 370.

E. S. Buchanan, M. A., B. Sc., says of Jerome’s translation:

“Jerome, to the great loss of posterity, did not dig deep into the history of the text. He did not revise on the Latin and Greek texts of the second century but solely on the Greek text of the fourth century, and that was a text too late and too limited in range and attestation on which to base an enduring fabric. . . . He was not bidden to search for the earliest MSS. He was not bidden to bring together the versions of the East and the West. He was not bidden to make inquiry for the lost autographs with a view to the reconstruction of the Apostolic text. He was only bidden to prepare a suitable text for ecclesiastical usage. And this he has done; but it is painful to think of all he left undone, that with his position of vantage he might have done.” - “The Records Unrolled,” p. 20. London: John Ouseley, Ltd.

From these considerations we see, that, even if the original text of Jerome’s translation could be reconstructed, it would not be of as much textual value as is sometimes supposed. We are not depreciating the Catholic Bible. We wish Catholics would read it more than they do. All we are here aiming at is this: When leading Catholic authorities admit that their Bible is of so little value as a “Standard Text,” then why do they so relentlessly oppose the circulation of the authorised Protestant Bible, which is translated from the best original sources? Henry Guppy, M. A., D. Ph. et Litt., Librarian of the John Rylands Library, England, says:

“The Church of Rome has always bitterly opposed any attempt to circulate the Bible in the language of the people, and license to read the Scriptures, even when truly and catholicly translated, was but sparingly granted. “In spite, however, of the denunciations uttered by the Roman Catholic priests against what they were pleased to term the incorrect and untruthful translations which were in circulation, the Bible continued to be read by increasing numbers of people. Indeed, the attempts to suppress it created a prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church; and, as time wore on, it was felt by many Catholics that something more must be done than a mere denunciation of the corrupt translations in the direction of providing a new version which the Roman Church could warrant to be authentic and genuine. “A Brief Sketch of History of the Translation of the Bible,” p. 54. London: University Press, 1926.

After the Jesuits had been expelled from England in 1579, they settled at Rheims, France, where they translated the New Testament from the Latin Vulgate into English. This was printed in 1582. Later they moved to Douay, where they printed the Old Testament in 1609. We have seen that the learned Catholic doctors, Johann Jahn and Isidor Clarius, acknowledged that there were 8,000 errors in the Vulgate Bible, and as a stream cannot be expected to rise higher than its fountain, we must conclude that the errors are carried over into the Douay Version. We shall take the space to mention only two of them:

1. The Douay Bible uses the word “adore” where the Protestant Bible has “worship.” (Compare Matthew 4: 10 in both Bibles.) While the Protestant Bible says that Jacob “worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff,” the Douay Version says that he “adored the top of his rod.” Hebrews 11: 21. “The Approved Holy Catholic Bible,” with “Annotations by the Rev. Dr. Challoner,” and approved by Pius VI, says: “Jacob . . . worshipped the top of his rod.” Thus Catholics have proof for worshipping relics.

2. Our Protestant Bible more correctly translates 2 Timothy 3: 16 to read, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” but the Douay version reads: “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable.” As can he readily seen, this latter rendering gives no assurance that the Bible is inspired, but simply makes the superfluous statement that what is inspired is profitable. And so it is left with the church to say what is inspired (The new Catholic version of 1941 renders it: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God’).

In full view of all the foregoing facts, how can Roman Catholic authors shut their eyes to it all, and brazenly declare that their church alone has the true and correct Bible? They say:

“She alone possesses the true Bible and the whole Bible, and the copies of the Scriptures existing outside of her pale, are partly incorrect and partly defective.”

“This Bible was the celebrated Vulgate, the official text in the Catholic Church, the value of which all scholars admit to be simply inestimable. . . . The Council of Trent in 1546 issued a decree, stamping it as the only recognized and authoritative Version allowed to Catholics. . . . It was revised under Pope Sixtus V in 1590, and again under Pope Clement VIII in 1593, who is responsible for the present standard text. It is from the Vulgate that our English Douai Version comes.” “Where We Got the Bible,” Right Rev. Henry G. Graham, pp. 7, 16, 17. London: Eighth Impression, 1936.

Do these men actually believe that Protestants have no access to the facts of history, but are dependent on such misstatements! Or are they vainly hoping that the public will have no opportunity to read the Protestant side of the story?

The interesting part of it all is the fact that the Catholic Church, after proclaiming so loudly since 1546 that the Latin Vulgate is “the only recognized and authoritative version,” and crying out against the Protestant Bibles (translated from the original Hebrew and Greek text) as “heretical,” is herself at last driven, by facts long known within her own circle, to translate the Bible “from the original text,” Hebrew and Greek. What a complete somersault! This late Catholic version is called “The Westminster Version” (printed by Longmans, Green and Co., London). But, as the work is entrusted mostly to the Jesuits, we can expect very little change from their former Douay Version, except that it will be more carefully written to conform to the Roman viewpoint judging from the portions that have already been published). For instance, the correct note under Revelation 13: 18 is entirely changed, but Revelation 22: 14 reads the same as in the Douay Version: “Blessed are they that wash their robes.” In our Authorized Protestant Version (King James) it reads: “Blessed are they that do His commandments.”

Inspired by Revelation 22: 14, P. P. Bliss, musician assisting D. L. Moody, wrote the hymn:

“Hear the words our Saviour hath spoken,

Words of life unfailing and true:

Careless one, prayerless one, hear and remember,

Jesus says, ‘Blessed are they that do.’

Blessed are they that do His commandments,

Blessed, blessed, blessed are they.”

Later Mr. Bliss went to Rome, where he learned that “Blessed are they that wash their robes,” “must be the correct” rendering. And “during his last week in Rome,” he told his brother-in-law that he was sorry he had written that hymn. He declared: “I see so clearly its contradiction of the gospel that I have no liberty in singing it.” Then he wrote the hymn: “Free from the law, oh, happy condition.” - “Memories of Philip P. Bliss,” D. W. Whittle, pp. 131, 132. New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1877. It is deplorable that this good Christian man should get such impressions at Rome. But, sad to say, P. P. Bliss is not the only beloved Protestant that has been in touch with Rome, and lost his desire and liberty to teach the good old truths of the Protestant Bible.

Some follow the Roman Catholic translation of Revelation 22: 14, because the Vatican possesses one of the three oldest Bible manuscripts (Codex Vaticanus). But that manuscript ends with Hebrews 9: 14, so that it could not give Catholics the proper rendering of Revelation 22: 14 (For further light on this point see “A Brief Sketch of the History of the Translation of the Bible,” H. Guppy, p. 7, and “The Records Unrolled” by E. S. Buchanan, p. 50). 


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