A little over two weeks ago, I posted a response to Matt Slick on how the Catholic Church has viewed the Apocrypha. Protestant Apologist Sam Shamoun posted it on his Facebook page and asked how his followers would respond to the three questions that I posed to Matt Slick.
A young lady named Brittany Gefroh responded in the following way:
I’m not sure how to answer his questions, but my question is if the Apocrypha are inspired, what’s up with its theological and historical errors?
I didn’t want to respond to them in the comments because my post was on how the Church regarded the books, and not their integrity. However, I will respond to them now.
A while ago, I had a long drive from Estevan, Saskatchewan to Calgary, Alberta where I live. During this journey across the Canadian Prairies, I listened to ten hours worth of lectures on the Apocrypha. It was about as exciting as the flat bland countryside that I was driving through. Regardless, I learnt a lot. It’s a topic that I think is important so I’ll give some answers.
I hope you enjoy them Brittany.
Let’s take some examples, starting with the book of Sirach which teaches that almsgiving makes atonement for sin. “Whoso honoureth his father maketh an atonement for his sins…Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sin” (Sirach 3:3, 30).
Now it is the constant teaching of the Law that atonement is made by a blood sacrifice. For example Leviticus 17:11 states: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
But Sirach teaches that honouring parents and giving alms atones for sin. Sirach teaches that a person can be justified by another method apart from substitutionary sacrifice.
We need to be careful how we look at Leviticus 17:11. As a Protestant, you believe that you need faith. If you don’t have faith in God, the blood sacrifice is pointless. In other words the sacrifice won’t make atonement unless you believe in it and accept it. As a Catholic, we believe similar things though since we deny Sola Fide, we believe that faith without works is dead and any mortal sins will disqualify one from this atonement. Simply put, the blood of Christ won’t be applied to you. I’m guessing that you believe in the doctrine of Sola Fide. More on this later.
Sirach teaches justification by the works of the law (honouring parents, etc.) which is directly refuted by the Bible: “A man is not justified by the works of the law” (Galatians 2:16). In fact, the apostle Paul goes as far as saying that “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (verse 21). If we could obtain righteousness by such things as obeying the commandment and doing charity, there would have been no need for Christ dying on the cross.
As a Protestant, you probably believe in Sola Fide. As a Catholic I condemn that doctrine. Whatever we believe determines if this is an error or not. When the Bible talks about Faith, it talks about different kinds of faith and different kinds of works. The works of the law spoken of in Galatians are not the ones spoken of in Romans 2:4-13. They are works not done in the grace of God and therefore will not benefit ones justification or sanctification.
Similarly Tobit 12:9 states that “alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin.” But the Bible states that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Being assured by the Word of God that Christ’s blood really cleanses from all sin, we cannot accept that alms-giving is an a different way of purging sin. In fact the Bible makes it clear that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:14). Tobit proposes an alternative way for purging sin apart from the shedding of blood.
What Tobit is saying is no different than what St. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8 which reads: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
What St. Peter and Tobit are saying is that charity, alms and good works help get rid of the temporal punishments for sin. We see a similar thing with King David in the Old Testament. He was forgiven for his sin but also punished.
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
Wisdom 8:19,20 is another contradiction between the apocrypha and Scripture. “For I was a witty child, and had a good spirit. Yea rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled.” However, the Bible teaches that all are born with original sin. “Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men… by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:18, 19). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). The author of Wisdom believes he was an exception.
If man was composed of body only, this text would contradict the doctrine of Original Sin but the Christian faith says that man is both body and soul and the soul is where Original Sin is transmitted.
Sirach 12:4-7 advices, “Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner. Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly; hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him… give unto the good, and help not the sinner.” This sound more like pagan philosophy rather than the teaching of God, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back” (Luke 6:27,30). “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink;” (Romans 12:20, Proverbs 25:21).
This is Old Covenant advice. The way people of the Old Covenant acted changed throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 23:19-20 we read the following:
Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
In the Torah, usury was permitted to neighbouring nations. However, in Ezekiel 18, all usury was banned. In verse 13 we read:
Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
The commands in Sirach changing is not different than the commands regarding usury. Many more examples could be given.
There are also historical errors in the apocrypha. For example, Tobit claims to have been alive when Jeroboam revolted (931 B.C.) and when Assyria conquered Israel (722 B.C.). These two events were separated by over 200 years and yet the total lifespan of Tobit was 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11)! Judith mistakenly identifies Nebuchadnezzar as king of the Assyrians (1:1, 7) when in fact he was the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:1).
Surely the doctrinal and historical errors in the apocrypha are clear evidence against the divine inspiration of these books.
Regarding the split, we have to realize that splits and schisms like these are not simply clean breaks. There is always a long period of ambiguity. For example, the East-West Schism is traditionally dated to 1054 AD. However, at the same time, we know that things were happening before then since Photios in the late ninth century. Also, communion continued in many places between East and West until the the fourth crusade in 1204 AD. This is a three hundred year gap. Trying to put a date on every schism or break in communion in geographical areas is a modern Western way of thinking and can’t be applied to any history whether Biblical or post-Biblical. Also, if we read verse 5 carefully, there is no concrete evidence that this occurred during the lifetime of Tobit.
Regarding the King of the Assyrians, let me just quote the great 18th Century Catholic Bishop Richard Challoner. Commenting on this verse, he says:
Not the king of Babylon, who took and destroyed Jerusalem, but another of the same name, who reigned in Ninive: and is called by profane historians Saosduchin. He succeeded Asarhaddan in the kingdom of the Assyrians, and was contemporary with Manasses king of Juda.
Longer answers could be given but this is already the longest post I’ve ever done on this blog. I hope this helps Brittany. God Bless.
If anyone wants to know how one could stay awake listening to hours of lectures on the Apocrypha on a road trip while in South East Saskatchewan, just watch this video….