Category: Catholicism


Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Catholic Bible is different from the Bible used by Protestants. While all 66 books found in Protestant Bibles are also found in the Catholic Bible, the Catholic Bible also contains other books, and additions to books. The Catholic Bible contains a total of 73 books, 46 in the Old Testament (Protestant Bibles have 39) and 27 in the New Testament (the same as Protestant Bibles).

The additional books in the Catholic Bible are known as the deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. They are Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (Ecclesiasticus), Sirach, and Baruch. The Catholic Bible also includes additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. Should the Apocrypha be included in the Bible? There was significant debate in the early Christian church, with a majority of the early church fathers rejecting the idea that the Apocrypha belonged in the Bible.

However, under tremendous pressure from Rome, Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, included the Apocrypha, despite Jerome’s insistence that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Bible. The Latin Vulgate became the dominant and officially sanctioned Catholic Bible, and remained that way for around 1200 years. Thus, the Apocrypha became a part of the Catholic Bible.

The Apocrypha was not formally/officially made a part of the Catholic Bible, though, until the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation. The early Protestant Reformers, in agreement with Judaism, determined that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Bible, and therefore removed the Apocrypha from Protestant Bibles.

The most popular English translations of the Catholic Bible today are the New American Bible, the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, and the New Jerusalem Bible. Aside from the inclusion of the Apocrypha, each of these Bible translations is reasonably good and accurate in how it renders the biblical text into English.

In summary, the Catholic Bible is the version of the Bible promoted by the Roman Catholic Church and used by the majority of the world’s Catholics. Aside from the inclusion of the Apocrypha, the Catholic Bible is identical to Protestant Bibles in terms of the canon (the books belonging in the Bible).

Jerusalem Bible – History
The Jerusalem Bible (JB or TJB) is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible which first was introduced to the English-speaking public in 1966. As a Roman Catholic Bible, it includes not only the deuterocanonical books, but numerous notes and introductions, although for the most part they appear to be only marginally influenced by RCC doctrine. In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter on biblical studies in which he gave permission for an English version to be done by Roman Catholics on the basis of the Greek and Hebrew texts rather than upon the Latin Vulgate, as was traditional up to that time. The Jerusalem Bible derives its name and its character from an earlier French version, called La Bible de Jérusalem. This French version, published in 1956 and revised 1961, was prepared by the faculty of the Dominican Biblical School in Jerusalem, on the basis of the Hebrew and Greek. The Jerusalem Bible was translated from the French version. In 1985, the English translation was completely updated. This new translation—known as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)—was freshly translated from the original languages and not tied to any French translation (except indirectly, as it maintained many of the stylistic and interpretive choices of La Bible de Jérusalem).

Jerusalem Bible – Translation method
The translation from the Hebrew and Greek is literal with the notes and introductions reflecting the “higher criticism” approach. This method led the translators to come to some unfortunate conclusions, notably that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (a theory discredited by Jesus Himself in Mark 12:26). The translators adopted a “mid-Atlantic” method of translating syntax in order for it to sound neither overwhelmingly British nor particularly American in nature. The famous author of the “Lord of the Rings” series, J.R.R. Tolkien, contributed the translation of the book of Jonah. Tolkien also consulted on one or two points of style and criticized some contributions of others.

Jerusalem Bible – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are good English translations of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the translation. The “higher critical” approach the translators took is troubling, but actually makes very little impact on the translation itself. With Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism as the foundation, though, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible should not be used as a primary Bible translation.

Jerusalem Bible – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, before Abraham ever was, I am.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.”

Titus 2:13 – “waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus.”

The issue concerning any church and its practices should be “Is this biblical?” If a teaching is Biblical (taken in context), it should be embraced. If it is not, it should be rejected. God is more interested in whether a church is doing His will and obeying His Word than whether it can trace a line of succession back to Jesus’ apostles. Jesus was very concerned about abandoning the Word of God to follow the traditions of men (Mark 7:7). Traditions are not inherently invalid…there are some good and valuable traditions. Again, the issue must be whether a doctrine, practice, or tradition is Biblical. How then does the Roman Catholic Church compare with the teachings of the Word of God?

Salvation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is by baptismal regeneration and is maintained through the Catholic sacraments unless a willful act of sin is committed that breaks the state of sanctifying grace. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace which is received through simple faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that good works are the result of a change of the heart wrought in salvation (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17) and the fruit of that new life in Christ (John 15).

Assurance of salvation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation cannot be guaranteed or assured. 1 John 5:13 states that the letter of 1 John was written for the purpose of assuring believers of the CERTAINTY of their salvation.

Good Works: The Roman Catholic Church states that Christians are saved by meritorious works (beginning with baptism) and that salvation is maintained by good works (receiving the sacraments, confession of sin to a priest, etc.) The Bible states that Christians are saved by grace through faith, totally apart from works (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 3:10-11; Romans 3:19-24).

Baptism: In the New Testament baptism is ALWAYS practiced AFTER saving faith in Christ. Baptism is not the means of salvation; it is faith in the Gospel that saves (1 Corinthians 1:14-18; Romans 10:13-17). The Roman Catholic Church teaches baptismal regeneration of infants, a practice never found in Scripture. The only possible hint of infant baptism in the Bible that the Roman Catholic Church can point to is that the whole household of the Philippian jailer was baptized in Acts 16:33. However, the context nowhere mentions infants. Acts 16:31 declares that salvation is by faith. Paul spoke to all of the household in verse 32, and the whole household believed (verse 34). This passage only supports the baptism of those who have already believed, not of infants.

Prayer: The Roman Catholic Church teaches Catholics to not only pray to God, but also to petition Mary and the saints for their prayers. Contrary to this, we are taught in Scripture to only pray to God (Matthew 6:9; Luke 18:1-7).

Priesthood: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there is a distinction between the clergy and the “lay people,” whereas the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9).

Sacraments: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a believer is infused with grace upon reception of the sacraments. Such teaching is nowhere found in Scripture.

Confession: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that unless a believer is hindered, the only way to receive the forgiveness of sins is by confessing them to a priest. Contrary to this, Scripture teaches that confession of sins is to be made to God (1 John 1:9).

Mary: The Roman Catholic Church teaches, among other things, that Mary is the Queen of Heaven, a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven. In Scripture, she is portrayed as an obedient, believing servant of God, who became the mother of Jesus. None of the other attributes mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church have any basis in the Bible. The idea of Mary being the co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man is not only extra-biblical (found only outside of Scripture), but is also unbiblical (contrary to Scripture). Acts 4:12 declares that Jesus is the only redeemer. 1 Timothy 2:5 proclaims that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men.

Many other examples could be given. These issues alone clearly identify the Catholic Church as being unbiblical. Every Christian denomination has traditions and practices that are not explicitly based on Scripture. That is why Scripture must be the standard of Christian faith and practice. The Word of God is always true and reliable. The same cannot be said of church tradition. Our guideline is to be: “What does Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 4:30; Acts 17:11). 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

New Revised Standard Version – History
The NRSV was translated by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical Christian group. It is called the New Revised Standard Version because it is a revision of, and meant to replace, the Revised Standard Version of 1952. Released in 1989, the NRSV has three versions: the NRSV, containing the Old and New Testaments, the NRSV Common Bible, which includes the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books, and the NRSV Catholic Edition containing the Old Testament books in the order of the Latin Vulgate. There are also anglicized editions of the NRSV, which modify the text slightly to be consistent with British spelling and grammar.

New Revised Standard Version – Translation Method
The NRSV was intended to take advantage of manuscript discoveries made since the printing of the Revised Standard Version and to reflect advances in scholarship since the RSV had been released. The NRSV translators chose to eliminate archaic language, especially the pronouns “thee” and “thou.”  However, they chose to keep them when the pronouns refer to the deity, a somewhat controversial decision. Also controversial was the decision to translate some gender-specific words using more gender-neutral wording in places where gender was not seen to be an issue, e.g., “people” in place of “mankind.” The goal of the translators was to be “sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender” (Preface to the NRSV from the National Council of Churches website). The NRSV also sought to expand gender-specific phrases such as “brothers” into “brothers and sisters.”

New Revised Standard Version – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the New Revised Standard Version is a good English Bible translation. The fact that the NRSV has a Catholic version (including the Apocrypha), and the fact that it is “gender-inclusive” in some of its renderings, prevented it from being adopted by most conservative and evangelical Christians. Also, many consider the NRSV to not be as free-flowing and natural-sounding English as it could be.

New Revised Standard Version – Sample Verses
John 1:1,14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

New American Bible – History
Not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible, the New American Bible (NAB) is a Catholic Bible translation first published in 1970. It was specifically translated into English by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine under the liturgical principles and reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) after a long and confused history of translation, re-translation, revision and re-revision beginning in 1943 with Pope Pius XII’s encyclical letter. Shortly after the publication of the complete Bible, American bishops decided that the 1970 NAB New Testament leaned too much on paraphrasing rather than translation for general use, and so the New Testament was “revised” and published in 1986, employing dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) translation in places for the sake of inclusive, gender-neutral language. Pope John Paul II and other Vatican officials were not happy with this version, mainly because of the inclusive language, which was mandated by liturgical guidelines issued by a committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference in 1990. Richard John Neuhaus described the confused state of affairs surrounding Roman Catholic Bible versions in 2001: “At present, three translations are approved for Catholic liturgical use: the New Jerusalem Bible, the RSV, and the New American Bible (NAB). The lectionaries and the several publishers of Mass guides, however, use only the NAB. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a wretched translation. It succeeds in being, at the same time, loose, stilted, breezy, vulgar, opaque, and relentlessly averse to literary grace.”

New American Bible – Translation method
Like all Catholic Bibles, the NAB includes the deuterocanonical (apocryphal) books. The NAB was translated from original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls for the NT and OT, with some influence from the Vulgate in the Apocrypha. As stated above, there are several versions of the NAB, some using dynamic (thought-for-thought) equivalence and some using formal (word-for-word) equivalence.

New American Bible – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the New American Bible is a relatively good English translation of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the renderings the translation makes. The inclusion of the Apocrypha, the “higher critical” background of the translators, and the inconsistency of the translation method, though, prevent us for recommending the New American Bible as a primary Bible translation.

New American Bible – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ,”

After the separation of the Eastern and Western churches in 1054, the holding of councils by the pope became a way to give guidance to the church, both locally and ecumenically (for the entire church), on varying ecclesiastical matters. One of the most significant of these was the Council of Trent, held in the mid-1500s, which considered such weighty matters as the Lutheran Protestant Reformation and how to counter it, disciplinary reforms in the church, the definition of dogma, and ways to establish key tenets of Roman Catholicism. In fact, the growing complexities of the issues at stake grew so voluminous that it took 18 years, spanning the reigns of five popes, for the Council of Trent to actually convene.

During the Council of Trent, both Scripture and tradition were declared authoritative for the Roman Catholic Church, with tradition just as authoritative as Scripture. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone, one of the Reformers’ rallying cries, was dumped overboard in favor of “sacramental” and “works” righteousness.

There are seven sacraments instituted by Christ, according to the council: baptism, confirmation, communion, penance, unction, orders and marriage. The council condemned anyone who said sacraments were not necessary for salvation, or that through faith alone without any sacrament man can be justified. “Works” righteousness is the belief that one can win God’s favor by doing good things.

The council also confirmed the belief in transubstantiation, that the substance of bread and wine given during communion (the “Eucharist”) is changed into the actual body and blood of Christ, while the appearance of bread and wine remains.

Trent attendees stressed man’s incapacity to save himself, yet confirmed the necessity for the cooperation of his free will, including his resolve to receive baptism and begin a new life. They denied that predestination to salvation can be known with certainty (one rebuttal to this belief is found in Romans 8:28-30). Modern Roman Catholicism, in general, continues to hold to the beliefs put forward and accepted at Trent.

“The Vulgate” is the popular name given to the Latin version of the Bible, a translation usually attributed to Jerome. Before Jerome’s time, as the number of Latin-speaking Christians grew, the Bible was translated into Latin so that the Christians of the time could understand it. It is believed that the first Latin translation was completed around A.D. 200, although no manuscripts of this era exist today. The first Latin manuscripts were surely created in North Africa, for it seems that the church in North Africa was Latin-speaking from the start as compared to the predominantly Greek-speaking churches in Asia and Europe.

Two centuries later Pope Damasus I commissioned a scholar by the name Jerome to produce one standard Latin text of the Bible; there were as many different Latin versions of the Bible as there were different forms of the text, and Damasus wanted the church to have a standard version to promote universal doctrine. Jerome completed the translation in A.D. 400, and his version was known as the editio vulgate (the current text of Holy Scripture), because he used the common (or vulgar) language of early medieval times.

Jerome started by revising the Gospels, using the Greek manuscripts available. This he did because of the vast differences he found in the various Latin texts that were available. About the same time, he started revising the Old Testament by using the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Old Testament). Jerome also translated the Old Testament into Latin by using the Hebrew text, a task he did without ecclesiastical sanction. The present Vulgate contains elements which belong to every period of its development, including

(1) an unrevised Old Latin text of the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch;
(2) an Old Latin form of the Psalter, which Jerome corrected from the Septuagint;
(3) Jerome’s free translation of the books of Job and Judith;
(4) Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew Old Testament excluding the Psalter;
(5) an Old Latin revision of the Gospels from Greek manuscripts;
(6) an Old Latin New Testament, revised.

Some of the books mentioned belong to a division known as the “Apocrypha,” normally considered books of Jewish origin which lie outside the canon of the Old Testament.

The Roman Catholic Church contends that its origin is the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ in approximately A.D. 30. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the church that Jesus Christ died for, the church that was established and built by the apostles. Is that the true origin of the Catholic Church? On the contrary. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus or His apostles (Compare with “Origins of Christianity“). In the New Testament, there is no mention of the papacy, worship/adoration of Mary (or the immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, or Mary as co-redemptrix and mediatrix), petitioning saints in heaven for their prayers, apostolic succession, the ordinances of the church functioning as sacraments, infant baptism, confession of sin to a priest, purgatory, indulgences, or the equal authority of church tradition and Scripture. So, if the origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, what is the true origin of the Catholic Church?

For the first 280 years of Christian history, Christianity was banned by the Roman Empire, and Christians were terribly persecuted. This changed after the “conversion” of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine “legalized” Christianity with the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Later, in A.D. 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea in an attempt to unify Christianity. Constantine envisioned Christianity as a religion that could unite the Roman Empire, which at that time was beginning to fragment and divide. While this may have seemed to be a positive development for the Christian church, the results were anything but positive. Just as Constantine refused to fully embrace the Christian faith, but continued many of his pagan beliefs and practices, so the Christian church that Constantine promoted was a mixture of true Christianity and Roman paganism.

Constantine found that with the Roman Empire being so vast, expansive, and diverse, not everyone would agree to forsake his or her religious beliefs to embrace Christianity. So, Constantine allowed, and even promoted, the “Christianization” of pagan beliefs. Completely pagan and utterly unbiblical beliefs were given new “Christian” identities. Some clear examples of this are as follows:

(1) The Cult of Isis, an Egyptian mother-goddess religion, was absorbed into Christianity by replacing Isis with Mary. Many of the titles that were used for Isis, such as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God,” and theotokos (“God-bearer”) were attached to Mary. Mary was given an exalted role in the Christian faith, far beyond what the Bible ascribes to her, in order to attract Isis worshippers to a faith they would not otherwise embrace. Many temples to Isis were, in fact, converted into temples dedicated to Mary. The first clear hints of Catholic Mariology occur in the writings of Origen, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which happened to be the focal point of Isis worship.

(2) Mithraism was a religion in the Roman Empire in the 1st through 5th centuries A.D. It was very popular among the Romans, especially among Roman soldiers, and was possibly the religion of several Roman emperors. While Mithraism was never given “official” status in the Roman Empire, it was the de facto official religion until Constantine and succeeding Roman emperors replaced Mithraism with Christianity. One of the key features of Mithraism was a sacrificial meal, which involved eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a bull. Mithras, the god of Mithraism, was “present” in the flesh and blood of the bull, and when consumed, granted salvation to those who partook of the sacrificial meal (this is known as theophagy, the eating of one’s god). Mithraism also had seven “sacraments,” making the similarities between Mithraism and Roman Catholicism too many to ignore. Constantine and his successors found an easy substitute for the sacrificial meal of Mithraism in the concept of the Lord’s Supper/Christian communion. Sadly, some early Christians had already begun to attach mysticism to the Lord’s Supper, rejecting the biblical concept of a simple and worshipful remembrance of Christ’s death and shed blood. The Romanization of the Lord’s Supper made the transition to a sacrificial consumption of Jesus Christ, now known as the Catholic Mass/Eucharist, complete.

(3) Most Roman emperors (and citizens) were henotheists. A henotheist is one who believes in the existence of many gods, but focuses primarily on one particular god or considers one particular god supreme over the other gods. For example, the Roman god Jupiter was supreme over the Roman pantheon of gods. Roman sailors were often worshippers of Neptune, the god of the oceans. When the Catholic Church absorbed Roman paganism, it simply replaced the pantheon of gods with the saints. Just as the Roman pantheon of gods had a god of love, a god of peace, a god of war, a god of strength, a god of wisdom, etc., so the Catholic Church has a saint who is “in charge” over each of these, and many other categories. Just as many Roman cities had a god specific to the city, so the Catholic Church provided “patron saints” for the cities.

(4) The supremacy of the Roman bishop (the papacy) was created with the support of the Roman emperors. With the city of Rome being the center of government for the Roman Empire, and with the Roman emperors living in Rome, the city of Rome rose to prominence in all facets of life. Constantine and his successors gave their support to the bishop of Rome as the supreme ruler of the church. Of course, it is best for the unity of the Roman Empire that the government and state religion be centered in the same location. While most other bishops (and Christians) resisted the idea of the Roman bishop being supreme, the Roman bishop eventually rose to supremacy, due to the power and influence of the Roman emperors. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the popes took on the title that had previously belonged to the Roman emperors – Pontificus Maximus.

Many more examples could be given. These four should suffice in demonstrating the true origin of the Catholic Church. Of course the Roman Catholic Church denies the pagan origin of its beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church disguises its pagan beliefs under layers of complicated theology. The Catholic Church excuses and denies its pagan origin beneath the mask of “church tradition.” Recognizing that many of its beliefs and practices are utterly foreign to Scripture, the Catholic Church is forced to deny the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

The origin of the Catholic Church is the tragic compromise of Christianity with the pagan religions that surrounded it. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and converting the pagans, the Catholic Church “Christianized” the pagan religions, and “paganized” Christianity. By blurring the differences and erasing the distinctions, yes, the Catholic Church made itself attractive to the people of the Roman Empire. One result was the Catholic Church becoming the supreme religion in the “Roman world” for centuries. However, another result was the most dominant form of Christianity apostatizing from the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true proclamation of God’s Word.

Second Timothy 4:3-4 declares, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (emphasis added:)

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are early Jewish writings detailing the history of the Jews in the first century BC. Both books are part of the canon of Scripture in the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, and Russian Orthodox churches, but they are not recognized as canon by Protestants and Jews. The books outline the history of the Maccabees, Jewish leaders who led a rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucid Dynasty from 175 BC to 134 BC. The first book portrays the effort by the Jews to regain their cultural and religious independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes after his desecration of the Jewish temple.

The book of 2 Maccabees consists of a Greek synopsis of a five-volume history of the Maccabean Revolt written by Jason of Cyrene. The authors of both books are unknown. The first book, although written from a biased perspective, does not directly mention God or divine intervention. The second book has a more theological slant, advancing several doctrines followed by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The book of 1 Maccabees was written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. Scholars believe that the author was a Palestinian Jew who was intimately familiar with the events described. The author opposed the Hellenization of the Jews and clearly supported and admired the Jewish revolutionaries led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers.

In the second century BC, Judea existed between the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Syrian Seleucid Empire, kingdoms formed after the death of Alexander the Great. Judea fell under the control of the Seleucids in approximately 200 BC. During this time, many Jews began to adopt a Greek lifestyle and culture in order to gain economic and political influence. They avoided circumcision and advocated abolishing Jewish religious laws.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the ruler of the Seleucid Empire in 175 BC. He was inconsiderate of the views of the religious, traditional Jews in Palestine. To Antiochus, the office of high priest was merely a local appointee within his realm, while to orthodox Jews the high priest was divinely appointed. Antiochus appointed a high priest named Jason, a Hellenized Jew, who promptly abolished the Jewish theocracy, followed by Menelaus, who had the rightful high priest, Onias, murdered. After Menelaus’ brother stole sacred articles from the temple, a civil war ensued between the Hellenized Jews and the religious Jews. Antiochus subsequently attacked Jerusalem, pillaged the temple, and killed or captured many of the women and children. He banned traditional Jewish religious practice, outlawing Jewish sacrifices, Sabbaths, feasts, and circumcision. He established altars to Greek gods upon which “unclean” animals were sacrificed. He desecrated the Jewish temple. Possession of Jewish Scriptures became a capital offence.

In a small, rural village called Modein, an elderly priest named Mattathias lived with his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazer, and Jonathan. Sometimes referred to as the Hasmoneans (a designation derived from Asmoneus, the name of one of their ancestors), this family more frequently has been called the Maccabeans (a nickname meaning “hammerer”). In 167 BC Antiochus sent some of his soldiers to Modein to compel the Jewish inhabitants to make sacrifices to the pagan gods. Mattathias, as a leader in the city, was commanded by the officers to be the first person to offer a sacrifice as an example to the rest of the people. He refused with a powerful speech (see 1 Maccabees 2:15–22).

Fearing violence against the people for Mattathias’ refusal, another Jew volunteered to offer the sacrifices to the pagan gods in the place of Mattathias, but Mattathias killed this Jewish man, as well as the soldiers of the king. He then destroyed the altar to the pagan gods, after which he, his sons, and a number of followers fled to the mountainous wilderness. These men formed a large, guerrilla warfare army and soon began to launch raids against the towns of the land, tearing down the pagan altars, killing the officials of Antiochus, and also executing those Jews who were worshipping the pagan gods.

Mattathias died in 166 BC, just as the revolt was gaining momentum, leaving his son Judas in charge of the rebel forces. Even though greatly outnumbered, Judas and his rebels defeated general after general in battle, winning decisive victories against overwhelming odds. The rebels even won a tremendous victory south of Mizpah against a combined army of 50,000 troops. The people of Israel gave Judas the nickname “Maccabeus” because of his success in “hammering” the enemy forces into the ground.

Antiochus, who had underestimated the scope of the revolt, now realized the serious nature of the rebellion in Palestine. He dispatched Lysias, the commander-in-chief of the Seleucid army, along with 60,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalry, to utterly destroy the Jews. This vast army was additionally commanded by two generals serving under Lysias—Nicanor and Gorgias. This powerful army came against Judas, who fought with a force of only 10,000 poorly equipped rebels, in the town of Emmaus. He prayed to God for strength and deliverance (1 Maccabees 4:30–33), and God answered and they won a huge victory over the Seleucid army.

Subsequently, the Maccabees marched into Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, and resumed traditional Jewish religious practices. The festival of Hanukkah commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Jewish temple. Judah’s brother Jonathan became the new high priest after the rededication of the temple and ultimately succeeded Judah as commander of the army. His brother Simon assumed control from 142 to 135 BC, followed by Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus. With the death of Simon, the last son of Mattathias, the Maccabean Revolt came to an end. The author concludes his narrative in 1 Maccabees with these events.

The Second Book of Maccabees was written in Koine Greek, most likely around 100 BC. This work coheres with 1 Maccabees, but it is written as a theological interpretation of the Maccabean Revolt. In addition to outlining the historical events, 2 Maccabees discusses several doctrinal issues, including prayers and sacrifices for the dead, intercession of the saints, and resurrection on Judgment Day. The Catholic Church has based the doctrines of purgatory and masses for the dead on this work. On the other hand, an important tenet of the Protestant Reformation (1517) was that scriptural translations should be derived from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament, rather than upon the Septuagint and Jerome’s Vulgate. Statements were included in the Protestant Bibles indicating that the Apocrypha was not to be placed on the same level as the other documents.

For Catholics, the Holy Eucharist / Catholic Mass is considered the most important and highest form of prayer. In fact, attending Mass is an obligation, under penalty of mortal sin, each Sunday and on certain other Holy Days of Obligation. The Mass is divided into two sections, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word consists of two readings (one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament), the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel reading, the homily (or sermon), and general intercessions (also called petitions).

The center of the Mass is its second part, the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. During this time, Catholics share in the body and blood of Jesus in the form of the bread and wine passed out to the congregation. According to the Bible, this is done in remembrance of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; cf. Luke 22:18-20 and Matthew 26:26-28). However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1366, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit.” The catechism continues in paragraph 1367:

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

In the book of Malachi, the prophet predicts elimination of the old sacrificial system and the institution of a new sacrifice: “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:10-11). This means that God will one day be glorified among the Gentiles, who will make pure offerings to Him in all places. The Catholics see this as the Eucharist. However, the apostle Paul seems to have a different slant on it: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). The Eucharist can only be offered in select places: churches consecrated and blessed according to Catholic canon law. The idea of offering our bodies as living sacrifices fits better with the language of the prediction, which says that the sacrifices will be offered “in every place.”

The Roman Catholic Church believes that the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist become the actual body and blood of Jesus. They attempt to support their system of thought with passages such as John 6:32-58; Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:17-23; and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. In A.D. 1551, the Counsel of Trent officially stated, “By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation” (Session XIII, chapter IV; cf. canon II). By sharing in the Eucharistic meal, the Church teaches that Catholics are fulfilling John 6:53: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

What does that really mean? Jesus goes on to say that “it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63-64). So, if “the flesh is of no avail,” why would we have to eat Jesus’ flesh in order to have eternal life? It does not make sense, until Jesus tells us that the words He speaks are “spirit.” Jesus is saying that this is not a literal teaching, but a spiritual one. The language ties in perfectly with the aforementioned statement of the apostle Paul: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

In Jewish thought, bread was equated with the Torah, and “eating of it” was reading and understanding the covenant of God (cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). For example, the apocryphal book of Sirach states, “‘He who eats of me will hunger still, he who drinks of me will thirst for more; he who obeys me will not be put to shame, he who serves me will never fail.’ All this is true of the book of Most High’s covenant, the law which Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the community of Jacob” (Sirach 24:20-22). Quoting from Sirach here is not endorsing it as Scripture; it only serves to illustrate how the Jewish people thought of Mosaic Law. It is important to understand the equating of bread with the Torah to appreciate Jesus’ real point.

In John 6, Jesus is actually telling the crowd that He is superior to the Torah (cf. John 6:49-51) and the entire Mosaic system of Law. The passage from Sirach states that those who eat of the Law will “hunger still” and “thirst for more”; this language is mirrored by Jesus when He says, “He who comes to Me will never be hungry, he who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Jesus is not commanding people to literally eat His flesh and drink His blood, He is telling them the core of all Christian doctrine: belief in Jesus Himself (“The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent,” John 6:29, emphasis added). Therefore, the Catholic interpretation of John 6 is unbiblical.

Second, there is a very clear analogy in John 6 to the days of Moses and the eating of manna. In the days of Moses, manna was God’s provision for food for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. In John 6, however, Jesus claimed to be the true manna, the bread of heaven. With this statement Jesus claimed to be God’s full provision for salvation. Manna was God’s provision of deliverance from starvation. Jesus is God’s provision of deliverance from damnation. Just as the manna had to be consumed to preserve the lives of the Israelites, so Jesus has to be consumed (fully received by faith) for salvation to be received.

It is very clear that Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life and encouraged His followers to eat of His flesh in John 6. But we do not need to conclude that Jesus was teaching what the Catholics have referred to as transubstantiation. The Lord’s Supper / Christian communion / Holy Eucharist had not been instituted yet. Jesus did not institute the Holy Eucharist / Mass / Lord’s Supper until John chapter 13. Therefore, to read the Lord’s Supper into John 6 is unwarranted. As suggested above, it is best to understand this passage in light of coming to Jesus, in faith, for salvation. When we receive Him as Savior, placing our full trust in Him, we are “consuming His flesh” and “drinking His blood.” His body was broken (at His death) and His blood was shed to provide for our salvation. 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

Whether the Catholic definition of Holy Eucharist is a “re-sacrifice” of Christ or a “re-offering” of Christ’s sacrifice, the concept is unbiblical. Christ does not need to be re-sacrificed. Christ’s sacrifice does not need to be re-offered. Hebrews 7:27 declares, “Unlike the other high priests, He (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins ONCE for all when He offered Himself.” Similarly, 1 Peter 3:18 exclaims, “For Christ died for sins ONCE for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…” Christ’s once-for-all death on the cross was sufficient to atone for all of our sins (1 John 2:2). Therefore, Christ’s sacrifice does not need to be re-offered. Instead, Christ’s sacrifice is to be received by faith (John 1:12; 3:16). Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood are symbols of fully receiving His sacrifice on our behalf, by grace through faith.