Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Where We Got the Bible

Where We Got the Bible... Our Debt to the Catholic ChurchWhere We Got the Bible... Our Debt to the Catholic Church by Henry G. Graham

In this book, written one hundred years ago, Rev. Graham provides a series of points to prove both that the Catholic Church has protected and shared the Bible since the time of Christ and that the Protestant versions of the Bible are deficient.

First of all, the text is not (as Kansas Dad would say) "ecumenically minded." Rev. Graham quotes a great many non-Catholic scholars favorably (mainly to show that even Protestant historians defend the Catholic position) but he does not show a great amount of respect for Protestants as a whole.

Secondly, there isn't the bulk of support I might expect from a more current book. Rev. Graham states a great many things that we are to accept at his word, without quotes or data from the past. I'm not saying he's wrong, just that I wasn't always convinced when he said I should be just because he said he had proven a point.

Those points aside, I found quite a bit of interest in the book. I had not thought through before how the books of the Bible were written or selected, how they were passed down through the centuries or how they were translated at various times. Among other things, Rev. Graham argues that the Catholic Church:
  • determined, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which books should be included in the canon;
  • translated the canon into Latin, which was the most commonly read language in the Middle Ages;
  • dutifully and meticulously copied the sacred texts by hand throughout the centuries;
  • provided for the teaching and dissemination of the faith to all those that could not read, particularly through homilies at masses;
  • and protected the original canon against inaccurate translations. These "inaccurate" translations would, of course, include all the Protestant ones that exclude seven entire books of the canon accepted at the time, as well as other additions or omissions. (Some would argue the translation currently used in English masses should also be deemed unworthy, but that's not really part of this discussion.)
Overall, I'd say I'm not sure a non-Catholic Christian would be convinced by this book that the Catholic Church is the one true Church and protector of the one true Scripture. I do think Rev. Graham makes some valid points on the benefits of complementing Scripture with the history of Tradition in interpreting meanings.
Individual interpretation of the Bible--the most sublime but also the most difficult Book ever penned--can never bring satisfaction, can never give infallible certainty, can never place a man in possession of that great objective body of truth which Our Blessed Lord taught, and which it is necessary to salvation that all should believe. The experience of many centuries proves it. It can not do so because it was never meant to do so. It produces not unity, but division; not peace, but strife. Only listening to those to whom Jesus Christ said, 'He that heareth you heareth Me,' only sinking his own fads and fancies and submitting with childlike confidence to those whom the Redeemer sent out to teach in His Name and with His authority--only this, I say, will satisfy a man, and give to his intellect repose, and to his soul a 'peace that surpasseth all understanding.' Then no longer will he be tormented with contentious disputings about this passage of the Bible and that, no longer racked and rent and 'tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine,' changing with the changing years.
Kansas Dad has a few other books that talk of the development of the canon and has promised to bring them home for me.

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