I have a reason for addressing this question right now. It specifically deals with the defense many die-hard Pope defenders are giving for his recent words that seem to be saying that atheists can still go to heaven. They claim, though the Pope never made such a claim, that the Pope was referencing ‘purgatory’ when he said those explosive words. Therefore, to understand the issue when talking to Catholics, you must understand the differences between their bible and our bible and WHY they are different.
‘Purgatory’, for those who don’t know, is a place between heaven and earth- a soul must go there before they go to heaven. In order to go out, they need the prayers of family members & friends. Most especially, they need Mary or the saints to talk to God about them and say that they do deserve heaven. The reason non-Catholics have never heard of Purgatory is because the Catholic bible includes writings called the Apocrypha- which include books like the Maccabees. It is within these books and writings that the concept of ‘purgatory’, among others, lay. After the Protestant Reformation began, the Catholic Church changed the official cannon that had been set for over a thousand years to include these writings. My belief is that they did this because of the Protestant outcry over ‘indulgences’. As the Catholic church began to become impoverished, they decided to sell ‘indulgences’ which would provide a speedy, one way ticket out of Purgatory and straight to heaven. As Luther and the Movement was questioning this tactic, the Church changed the bible to defend Purgatory and ‘indulgences’ as the inspired Word of God. Ironically, Pope Francis has brought this concept of ‘indulgences’ to the modern era by offering time off from Purgatory as a reward to those willing to ‘like’ the pope on social media.
When Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, he took the original form of the bible (which we have today) from the Catholic Church and moved forward. It was after this break that the Catholic church decided to add the Apocrypha to the bible. Let us examine the reasons Protestants don’t include the Apocrypha in our bibles. While these writings are of historical value, they themselves never claim to be inspired by God. Here are the reasons we do not include a body of books, letters and writings called the ‘Apocrypha’ in normal bibles:
1) The Roman Catholic Church did not officially canonize the Apocrypha until the Council of Trent (1546 AD). This was in part because the Apocrypha contained material which supported certain Catholic doctrines, such as purgatory, praying for the dead, and the treasury of merit.
2) Not one of them is in the Hebrew language, which was alone used by the inspired historians and poets of the Old Testament.
3) Not one of the writers lays any claim to inspiration.
4) These books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, and therefore were never sanctioned by our Lord.
5) They were not allowed a place among the sacred books, during the first four centuries of the Christian Church.
6) They contain fabulous statements, and statements which contradict not only the canonical Scriptures, but themselves; as when, in the two Books of Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in as many different places.
7) The Apocrypha inculcates doctrines at variance with the Bible, such as prayers for the dead and sinless perfection.
” And the day following Judas came with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchers of their fathers. And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Maccabees 12:39-46) ”
The apocrypha contains offensive materials unbecoming of God’s authorship.
Ecclesiasticus 25:19 Any iniquity is insignificant compared to a wife’s iniquity.
Ecclesiasticus 25:24 From a woman sin had its beginning. Because of her we all die.
Ecclesiasticus 22:3 It is a disgrace to be the father of an undisciplined, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.
9) It teaches immoral practices, such as lying, suicide, assassination and magical incantation.
10) The apocryphal books themselves make reference to what we call the Silent 400 years, where there was no prophets of God to write inspired materials.
“And they laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, till there should come a prophet, and give answer concerning them. (1 Maccabees 4:46)
And there was a great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no prophet seen in Israel. (1 Maccabees 9:27)
And that the Jews, and their priests, had consented that he should be their prince, and high priest for ever, till there should arise a faithful prophet. (1 Maccabees 14:41) ”
11) Josephus rejected the apocryphal books as inspired and this reflected Jewish thought at the time of Jesus
“From Artexerxes to our own time the complete history has been written but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets.” … “We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine…”(Flavius Josephus, Against Apion 1:8)
12) The Manual of Discipline in the Dead Sea Scrolls rejected the apocrypha as inspired.
The Council of Jamnia held the same view rejected the apocrypha as inspired.
13) They debated the canonicity of a few books (e.g., Ecclesiastes), but they changed nothing and never proclaimed themselves to be authoritative determiners of the Old Testament canon. “The books which they decided to acknowledge as canonical were already generally accepted, although questions had been raised about them. Those which they refused to admit had never been included. They did not expel from the canon any book which had previously been admitted. ‘The Council of Jamnia was the confirming of public opinion, not the forming of it.'” (F. F. Bruce, The Books and Parchments [Old Tappan, NJ.: Fleming H. Revell, 1963], p. 98])
14) Although it was occasionally quoted in early church writings, it was nowhere accepted in a canon. Melito (AD 170) and Origen rejected the Apocrypha, (Eccl. Hist. VI. 25, Eusebius) as does the Muratorian Canon.
15) Jerome vigorously resisted including the Apocrypha in his Latin Vulgate Version (400 AD), but was overruled. As a result, the standard Roman Catholic Bible throughout the medieval period contained it. Thus, it gradually came to be revered by the average clergyman. Still, many medieval Catholic scholars realized that it was not inspired.
16) The terms “protocanonical” and “deuterocanonical” are used by Catholics to signify respectively those books of Scripture that were received by the entire Church from the beginning as inspired, and those whose inspiration came to be recognized later, after the matter had been disputed by certain Fathers and local churches.
17) Pope Damasus (366-384) authorized Jerome to translate the Latin Vulgate. The Council of Carthage declared this translation as “the infallible and authentic Bible.” Jerome was the first to describe the extra 7 Old Testament books as the “Apocrypha” (doubtful authenticity). Needless to say, Jerome’s Latin Vulgate did not include the Apocrypha.
18) Cyril (born about A.D. 315) – “Read the divine Scriptures – namely, the 22 books of the Old Testament which the 72 interpreters translated” (the Septuagint)
19) The apocrypha wasn’t included at first in the Septuagint, but was appended by the Alexandrian Jews, and was not listed in any of the catalogues of the inspired books till the 4th century
20) Hilary (bishop of Poictiers, 350 A.D.) rejected the apocrypha (Prologue to the Psalms, Sec. 15)
21) Epiphanius (the great opposer of heresy, 360 A.D.) rejected them all. Referring to Wisdom of Solomon & book of Jesus Sirach, he said “These indeed are useful books & profitable, but they are not placed in the number of the canonical.”