Read Part 1 here.
In this series we intend to show Catholics how to refute Protestants succinctly with Holy Scripture. Before all else, it is necessary to have charity for the souls of Protestants and desire that they may be saved by converting to the true faith of Jesus Christ: Roman Catholicism.
In the first part we made the claim that if a Protestant reads the entire Scripture in context, he will become a Roman Catholic. We further discussed how the Word of God says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. We then asked how can the Church be the pillar of truth without the 66 book Bible?
The Church predates the New Testament, but not the Old. Let’s review the context:
1. ~250-150 BC: Septuagint Old Testament is translated and used by Jews across the Roman Empire
2. 33 AD: The Church is founded. Uses the Septuagint as its Scripture and Apostles as authority (Acts xv)
3. ~33-100 AD: Church writes New Testament, quoting Septuagint as Scripture
4. ~90 AD: Pharisees and Rabbis who rejected our Lord Jesus create Rabbinic Judaism, start the Masoretic Old Testament (later Protestant Scripture)
Refutation #2: The Scripture
Most Protestants think like Muhammadans: they think that Christians are a “people of the book.” For a Muhammadan, their “scripture” is claimed to have fallen from the heavens into the mouth of their “prophet” and was written immediately. Protestants don’t generally realize that their 66 book Bible didn’t exist until about the 16th century. How could Christianity exist for so long without its foundation?
Let’s look at one of the common verses they cite in support of their man-made tradition, Sola Scriptura (“The Bible is the Only Authority”). This is their foundational doctrine. In their minds, the Holy Bible is the only authority from which we can take doctrine. As we saw in part one, the Sacred Scriptures themselves declare that the Church is the “pillar and foundation of truth.” But Protestants will usually cite this verse to support their man-made tradition:
All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work (II Tim. iii. 16).
Omnis Scriptura divinitus inspirata utilis est ad docendum, ad arguendum, ad corripiendum, et erudiendum in justitia: ut perfectus sit homo Dei, ad omne opus bonum instructus.
πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγμόν, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, ἵνα ἄρτιος ᾖ ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος, πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐξηρτισμένος.
Out of context, this verse appears to support the Protestant tradition that the Bible is the only authority. But consider the context: as in our first part, St. Paul is writing to St. Timothy in the first century. When he speaks of “Scripture,” he cannot be referring to his own letter, or the New Testament—which did not exist at that time. What was considered the Scripture at that time? The Greek Septuagint.
Why is the Septuagint the Christian Scripture?
The word “Septuagint” is given to a Greek translation of the Old Testament completed by Jews in Alexandria starting around 250 BC. It was translated from Hebrew manuscripts that are now lost. The word “Septuagint” is the Greek word “Seventy” (hence it is sometimes referred to as “LXX”). This refers to the story that seventy different Jews went to seventy different rooms and translated the text separately. When they came out and compared their translations, they found that they had all translated the Scriptures exactly the same, word for word.
Whether or not this is true, it illustrates the reception of this text by Jews before the time of our Lord: they revered this text as Scripture. Greek was the common language across the Roman Empire, and Jews used this text as Scripture which was then received by the Church. This Scripture includes the so-called Deutero-Canonical books (Maccabees, etc.) that were later removed by Protestants. The original Christian Scripture at the time of St. Paul’s writing to St. Timothy is the Septuagint. Moreover, the New Testament quotes the Septuagint as Scripture.
Numerous Protestant scholars are willing to admit this. Mogens Müller, a Danish Lutheran theologian, writes in his The First Bible of the Church: A Plea for the Septuagint (1996), concerning the Septuagint Greek used by the early Church and the Masoretic Hebrew used by non-Christian Jews:
It is unreasonable to say that the “true” text actually differs from what the early church believed it to be. …The quotation from Isa. 7.14 in Mt. 1.23 makes this absolutely clear. Matthew says “virgin” in accordance with the Greek translation, whereas the Hebrew text uses the word “young woman.” It would be pointless to rebuke the evangelist for using the “wrong” text. On the contrary, the “wrong” text gains a significance of its own by being used.
Again the Protestant biblical scholar Brevard Childs writes:
Why should the Christian Church be committed in any way to the authority of the Masoretic text when its development extended long after the inception of the Church and was carried on within a rabbinic tradition?
Another excellent scholar, this time a Methodist, comes to the same conclusion: William J. Abraham in Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology (Oxford, 1998).
In Context, This Text Argues Against Sola Scriptura
It is abundantly clear that the Greek Septuagint was the normal Christian Scripture at the time when St. Paul wrote the words above. St. Timothy was half Greek from Asia Minor where the common language was Greek, and St. Paul’s letter was written in Greek. He says to Timothy in the verse before this you have been taught the Scriptures from your youth. This would have been the Greek Septuagint. St. Paul might as well have said All the Septuagint, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice. It is completely out of context to use this text to support Sola Scriptura, since the 66 book Protestant Bible did not exist for another 1500 years. The Hebrew manuscript tradition had not even been started at this time. So how did this discrepancy come about?
After the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. (on the same calendar day when the First Temple was destroyed, Tisha B’Av), the Jewish community was shattered. The Saduccees, whose power base was the Roman alliance and the temple, were scattered. The Zealots were defeated by the Romans. The Essenes were self-exiled. Who was left to lead the Jews? The Pharisees.
The Pharisees took over the Jewish community and reinterpreted the Torah in a new way, creating a new religion: Rabbinic Judaism. This Judaism was radically different from the Judaism of Moses, David, and the Apostles. This Judaism had no priesthood, no temple, and no sacrifice. Instead, the Pharisees said that their own man-made traditions were authoritative. These were eventually written down in the Talmudic texts. It was these Pharisees who started the Hebrew manuscript Tradition. Centuries later in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformers arbitrarily stopped using the Christian Old Testament in favor of the Pharisees’ Hebrew Scriptures. This is when the 66 book Protestant Bible was born.
The Pharisees’ Old Testament still holds great value however (being the original tongue, albeit transmitted by the Jews). Thus St. Jerome utilized such Hebrew manuscripts (now lost) with the Septuagint in the 4th century when he made the Latin Vulgate translation. But the oldest Masoretic manuscripts we have now date to the 10th or 11th centuries AD. Whereas the Greek Septuagint manuscripts date from the 4th century AD. The Dead Sea Scrolls, moreover, vindicate the Septuagint in places against the Masoretic (the Dead Sea Scrolls were transmitted by a group of schismatic Jews).
In addition, when one digs deeper into the manuscript traditions, not only in Greek and Hebrew and Latin, but Coptic and Syriac and other languages, one finds that there really is no definitive, whole original text of the Holy Bible. Certain verses continue to remain obscure. Even the oldest Septuagint is a copy of prior copies, which itself is a translation of ancient Hebrew manuscripts now lost. This is why Christians are not a “people of the book.”
Even though St. Paul referred to the Greek Septuagint when he wrote to St. Timothy, there was also another source of revelation and authority which was tied in with the Septuagint. And unlike the Pharisees who did not even claim that a prophet gave them the authority to create Rabbinic Judaism, the authority that St. Paul writes about was of divine authority. This was the authority that founded the Church and guided her before the New Testament was written. This authority will be the subject of the next installment. Stay tuned.
For further reading on this subject, I recommend the classic text The Catholic Controversy by St. Francis de Sales.
Timothy S. Flanders
Mogens Müller, The First Bible of the Church: A Plea for the Septuagint (Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), p. 23. I am indebted to Dom Benedict Anderson for his excellent article which includes some of these references: “Fulfilled is All that David Told: Recovering the Christian Psalter,” Sacred Music Winter 2017 Vol. 144 No. 4. This article is recorded in a lecture here.
Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), p. 89.
 Raymond Brown, D.W. Johnson and Kevin O’Connell: “Texts and Versions” (in Brown et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1986) pp 1083-1112. In the Qumran Manuscripts “many alternative readings and expansions for which medieval Hebrew manuscripts in the [Masoretic tradition] have no counterpart, but which were often already known Greek or Samaritan sources, are here found” (1086). This insight comes from the Essay “The Vulgate and Gallican Psalter” by Una Voce