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Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory, part 2—The Apocrypha | True Freethinker

General Comments:
The books that are accepted in the Roman Catholic Bible, as opposed to, generally speaking, the Jewish or the Protestant, are: Baruch, Judith, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, Sirach a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), Tobit a.k.a. Tobias, Wisdom of Solomon, as well as small additions to Daniel and Esther. Roman Catholicism generally refers to these as deuterocanonical (secondary canon) rather than apocryphal.

Jewish author David Gross explains:

What is the Apocrypha? Popular works of the time that were excluded by the Rabbis because they felt that they contained an excess of non-Jewish influence. Among the works found in the Apocrypha are the two volume Books of the Maccabees, which recount the Hanukkah story.
The rabbis, it is explained, opposed their inclusion in the Bible because they glorified war and the descendants of the Hasmoneans, who after their glorious cleansing of the Temple set out on a path of conquest and succumbed to non-Jewish influence. 1

The Encyclopedia Judaica 3:181-186 states:

Apart from Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Ben Sira), there are no references to these books in talmudic literature…The Talmud includes both Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha under the name Sefarim Hizonim (‘extraneous books’)….according to talmudic tradition (BB 14b) the canon was already fixed at the end of the Persian period. This tradition is clearly repeated by Josephus (Apion, 1:40-41): ‘From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes…the prophets wrote the events of their time. From Artaxerxes to our own time [i.e., the first century C.E.] 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.’ Indeed, as far as is known, apart from the final Hebrew chapters of the Book of Daniel…all the scriptural books antedate the Hellenistic period. Furthermore, from the prologue of Ben Sira’s grandson to his Greek translation of his grandfather’s work, it is clear that the Scriptures had already been translated into Greek in the first generation of the Hasmoneans and that by then the traditional division into three sections—Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa—was accepted. Although Sira’s grandson does indeed speak of ‘the other books,’ scholars failed to recognize this term as an alternate name for the Hagiographa. Philo too was acquainted with this division (Cont. 25) as was Luke (24:44) after him.

The testimony of Ben Sira’s grandson, and that , in particular, of Philo and Josephus (who mentions a fixed number of 22 books, Apion 1:38), who used the Septuagint, shows (1) That the Greek-reading Jews knew no division of the Bible, and (2) that the canon of that time is identical with the present canon. Philo also draws a clear distinction between the Holy Scriptures and the books written by the Therapeutae and peculiar to them. It follows that the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha were always Sefarim Hizonim, i.e., extraneous to the accepted books (βιβλία), i.e., the Scriptures. It should be added that the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls wrote a Pesher (‘interpretation’) only on the works comprised in the known canon….the Apocrypha deal mainly with the struggle against idolatry, believing prophecy to have come to an end (cf. Judith 11:17)…

Jerome, who explicitly differentiates between the Holy Scriptures—those in the Hebrew

canon—and Apocrypha, translated both…From the first century to the sixth, Hebrew literature (Talmudic and midrashic) developed as if the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha did not exist…Only in the Middle Ages did the revival of the apocrypha and pseudepigraphical literature begin within the body of Hebrew literature.


As noted in the above cited quote Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote about the cannon of the Jewish Scriptures and stated that they “are justly believed to be divine” he then refers to the chronology of their writings in stating that the “interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times.”

He then states “It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time.”

Artaxerxes reigned from circa 464-424 BC which means that according to Josephus when all of the apocrypha was written they were historical books without then same authority of the Scripture and at a time when for all practical purposes there were no prophets.

It is also important to note that in the 9th century AD at the Jewish, so called, Council of Jamnia the cannon of the Jewish Bible was reiterated and it is exactly the same as the Protestant Bible. It is important to understand that this council is not to be likened to, for instance, a Roman Catholic council whose decisions are binding upon all Roman Catholics. “The Council of Jamnia was the confirming of public opinion, not the forming of it.”2
If the apocrypha was accepted by Judaism before the time of Christ and by the church in its early years why did the Roman Catholic Church not officially canonized it until the 16th century? Why do we not find these books in modern day Jewish Bibles?

Judaism treats these books as we would treat a commentary on the Bible. They are viewed as useful but not inspired, or simply as a book that records history. For example the story of Hanukkah comes from the apocrypha and is accepted as a historical document but nothing else. Claiming that the apocrypha is Scripture because it is found in some versions of the Septuagint-LXX is tantamount to claiming that the footnotes, maps and charts in our modern day Bibles are inspired.
Consider that in the New Testament Paul quotes from Greek philosophers but that in no way declares divine approval of Greek philosophy (see Acts 17:28). Also, note that Jude quotes one verse from The Book of Enoch but yet again there is no reason to think that the entire text of Enoch is to be considered as divinely inspired (see Jude 14-15).

In 170 AD, Melito, the bishop of Sardis, made a list of the books of the Old Testament and while he does not mention Esther, he also makes no mention of any of the apocryphal books. 3

F.F. Bruce notes,

ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus excluded the Apocrypha. And Philo, a Jewish teacher who lived in the first century, quoted from virtually every Old Testament canonical book, but never once quoted from the Apocrypha. 4

“Professor G.T. Manley notes: ‘[These books] do not appear to have been included at first in the LXX [3rd/2nd centuries B.C.], but they found their way gradually into later copies, being inserted in places that seemed appropriate…’” 5

The apocryphal books are not in those most ancient works which allude to the Old Testament Scriptures. For example:
(a) Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (20 B.C. – A.D. 50), wrote prolifically and frequently quoted the Old Testament, yet he never cited the Apocrypha, nor did he even mention these documents.
(b) Josephus (A.D. 37-95) rejected them. He wrote: ‘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…’ By combining several Old Testament narratives into a ‘book,’ the thirty-nine of our current editions become the twenty-two alluded to by Josephus.
(c) The most ancient list of Old Testament books is that which was made by Melito of Sardis (cf. A.D. 170); none of the apocryphal books is included.
(d) In the early 3rd century A.D., neither Origin nor his contemporary, Tertullian, recognized the books of the Apocrypha as being canonical.
(e) Though some of the apocryphal books were being used in the church services by the 5th century A.D., they were read only by those who held inferior offices in the church.” 6

Referring to Rabbi Shlomo (or Solomon) ben Yitzhaki (or Isaac) aka simply as Rashi, “He wrote commentaries upon the Bible almost in its entirety, besides frequently referring to it in his Talmudic commentaries…He was entirely ignorant of the Apocryphal books.” 7

Regarding the Jewish Cannon The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia states:

Only those books were admitted which were held to have been written before the time of Ezra when, according to tradition, the Holy Spirit ceased in Israel…Another probably term for apocrypha is sefarim hitzonim, ‘books outside (of the cannon),’ which, according to Sanh. 10:1, were not to be read aloud in the synagogue as a Scriptural portion, under penalty of loss of one’s share in the world to come…On the whole, the books of the Apocrypha do not reach the high spiritual level of the Bible, although they contain some important Jewish conceptions. 8

The Book of Jewish Knowledge states:

…the latter-day editors of the Biblical cannon, which was fixed with finality by Rabbinical Synod in Galilee as taking place twenty-five years after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 C.E….early in the second century C.E., the illustrious Tanna (Sage) of the Mishnah, Akiba ben Joseph, who was one of the chief architects of the Oral Tradition, had declared with unconcealed scorn that the Jew who read any other than the twenty-four canonical writings included in the Bible would have no share in the bliss of the righteous World-to-Come. It was also strictly forbidden to read from the extra-Biblical writings in the synagogue or House of Study to avoid endowing then through such readings with the same sanctity and prestige that were reserved for the canonical writings….
Certainly, from about 200 B.C.E. to the end of the first century of the Common Era, religious writings, which were keyed to the lofty mood and sonorous rhetoric of similarly patterned works in the Hebrew Scriptures…Some books were suppressed, according to testimony in the Talmud, because they were written by such religiously ‘outlawed’ sectaries (minim) as the Samaritans, Gnostics, and Christians. (They had been branded by the Rabbinical Sages as heretical). 9

The Encyclopedia of Judaism defines “apocrypha” as follows:

Collections of Jewish writings that date from the Second Temple period and shortly thereafter, which were not included in the Jewish Bible canon…The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha were rejected by the sages, and are referred to in the Talmud as the Sefarim Hitsonim (‘external books’)
The apocryphal books were not accepted by the rabbis…The one exception is Ben Sira, which is quoted in the Talmud. It appears that the sages were mainly averse to apocalyptic literature, as may be seen from their warnings against reading ‘external books’ or searching for hidden meanings (Sanh. 10:1). 10

The Jewish Religion—A Companion Book defines “apocrypha” as follows:

The books produced by Jewish writers during the period of the Second Temple but not included in the Bible as part of sacred Scripture, as they are in Catholicism but not in the Protestant Church. The statement in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) that one who reads ‘external books’ has no share in the World to Come probably refers to the books of the Apocrypha and ‘reading’ means reading them in public as a liturgical act, which might make them appear to enjoy the status of the biblical books…
None of these books is quoted in the Talmud or the Midrash with the exception of Ben Sira, from which there are occasional quotations with approval…the Apocrypha, were unknown in Jewish literature until the Renaissance period…these works are largely ignored entirely by Jews today…they were excluded from the Bible. 11

The Dictionary of Judaism states that the apocryphal books:

…were included in major manuscripts of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, but excluded from the rabbinic cannon…There is some indication that the Apocrypha continued to circulate in Jewish circles even after they had been excluded from the rabbinic canon… The development of the Apocrypha as a collection was the work of Jerome, the fourth-century Christian translator, exegete, and theologian, who included them in his new Latin translation (the Vulgate), but gathered them separately at the end, emphasizing that the Jewish community did not consider them canonical…

Thanks to the renewed study of Judaism in the past decades, the Apocrypha are regularly included in editions of the Bible, where they provide a valuable resource for the study of early Christianity and its Jewish context.” 12

F.F. Bruce states that there “is no evidence that these books were ever regarded as canonical by any Jews, whether inside or outside Palestine, whether they read the Bible in Hebrew or in Greek.” 13

Professor William Green notes, “The books of Tobit and Judith abound in geographical, chronological, and historical mistakes.” 14

“The Councils of Hippo and Carthage in the late-4th century were the first real attempts by the Church to end the confusion over the OT canon. The OT canon which they proclaimed is still found in Catholic Bibles today. The controversy continued but in 1441 the Council of Florence upheld this larger canon. In response to the Protestants, the Council of Trent definitively upheld the larger OT canon.” 15

Tobit contains certain historical and geographical errors such as the assumption that Sennacherib was the son of Shalmaneser (1:15) instead of Sargon II, and that Nineveh was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus (14:5) instead of by Nabopolassar and Cyaxares….Judith cannot possibly be historical because of the glaring errors it contains….[in 2nd Maccabees] there are also numerous disagreements and discrepancies in chronological, historical, and numerical matters in the book, reflecting ignorance or confusion.” 16

A Roman Catholic organization called A Catholic Response has stated:

Some Christians attempt to discredit these Books by pointing out apparent historical errors contained in them. It is common knowledge among scholars that Tobit and Judith contain obvious historical inaccuracies; however, these Books are recognized as didactic17 parables, like Jonah. It is also common knowledge among scholars that Daniel suffers from similar glaring historical inaccuracies, e.g. Daniel 1:1.” 18

Notice that in zealousness to lend credibility to the apocrypha the writer of the above quoted statement discredits the accepted canon. This quote comes from an article that was approved as Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur which means that a Roman Catholic-Vatican approved censor has approved the work as containing nothing that will hinder or go against the Roman Catholic faith. It is inconceivable how it does not hinder the Roman Catholic faith to believe that the Bible contains glaring historical inaccuracies.

A Catholic Response also stated, “The Catholic OT Canon (also the numbering of the Psalms) came from the ancient Greek Septuagint Bible. Protestants, following the tradition of the Pharisaic Jews, accept the shorter Hebrew Canon, even though the Jews also reject the NT Books.” 19

The point here is that Protestants were foolish to follow the Old Testament cannon as dictated by Pharasaic Jews because after all they rejected the New Testament books. The problem for the above argument is that it was Jews who translated the Greek Septuagint and so the point is null and void.

Specific Examples:
The Torah (five books of Moses) is quoted in Joshua 1:7; 1st Kings 2:3; 2nd Kings 14:6; 2nd Chronicles 17:9; Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 13:1; Jeremiah 8:8; Malachi 4:4; as well as various New Testament texts.

The latter prophets are quoted in Jeremiah 26:18; Ezekiel 14:14, 20; Daniel 9:2; Jonah 2:2-9; Micah 4:1-3. Luke is quoted in 1st Timothy 5:18 (compare with Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7). Paul is quoted in 2nd Peter 3:15-16. Peter is quoted in Jude 4-12.

A Roman Catholic author has written:

The Book of Judith does not exist in the Hebrew Bible…St. Jerome, while rejecting in theory those books which he did not find in his Hebrew manuscript, yet consented to translate Judith because ‘the Synod of Nicaea is said to have accounted it as Sacred Scripture’ (Praef. in Lib.).
It is true that no such declaration is to be found in the Canons of Nicaea, and it is uncertain whether St. Jerome is referring to the use made of the book in the discussions of the council, or whether he was misled by some spurious canons attributed to that council, but it is certain that the Fathers of the earliest times have reckoned Judith among the canonical books.” 20

Judith 1:1, 7 states that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Assyrians in Nineveh when, in fact, he was the king of Babylon.

Tobit / Tobias:
A Roman Catholic author wrote:

Certain historical difficulties are due to the very imperfect condition in which the text has reached us. (i) It was Theglathphalasar III who led Nephthali (IV Kings, xv, 29) into captivity (734 B.C.), and not, as Tobias says (i, 2), Salmanasar…Sennacherib is said to have been the son of Salmanasar (i, 18), whereas he was the son of the usurper Sargon…(iii) In B, xiv, 15, Ninive is said to have been captured by Ahasuerus (Asoueros) and Nabuchodonosor. This is a mistake of the scribe…(iv) Rages is a Seleucid town and hence an anachronism. Not at all; it is an ancient Median town, which the Seleucids restored.” 21

Salvation by alms:

Tobit 12:8-9, “It is better to give alms than to store up gold. For almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin.”

Magic: Tobit 6:7-8, 19, “Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish? And the angel, answering, said to him:

If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kinds of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them…lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away.”

The text is referring to a piece of the heart of a “monstrous fish” v. 2.

Sirach / Ecclesiasticus:

In defense of the apocrypha one Roman Catholic author wrote, “it would be obviously unfair to require that the contents of this Sapiential book should come full up to the high moral standards of Christian ethics, or should equal in clearness and precision the dogmatic teachings embodied in the sacred writings of the New Testament…it shall set forth substantially good, not perfect, doctrinal and ethical teaching
The following are the principal dogmatic doctrines of Jesus, the son of Sirach…almsgiving is a means to obtain forgiveness of sin (iii, 33, 34; vii, 10, 36)…favourable sayings about the dead (vii, 37; xxxviii, 16-24).” 22

The Roman Catholic Bible Douay Version-translated for the Latin Vulgate; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 25:33, “From the woman came the beginning of sin, and by her we all die.”

The Roman Catholic Bible The New American Bible; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 25:23, “In a woman was sin’s beginning, and because of her we all die.”

Works and alms equal forgiveness:
3:3 “Respect for a father atones for sins.”

3:30 “almsgiving atones for sin.”

17:18 “The alms of a man is as a signet with him, and shall preserve the grave of a man as the apple of the eye.”

20:28> “He that tilleth his land shall increase his heap: and he that pleaseth great men shall get pardon for iniquity.”

35:2 “to give alms is a praise-offering.”

Cruelty to slaves:
33:26,28 “The ox is tamed by yoke and harness, the bad servant by racks and tortures…and if he disobeys you, load him with fetters.”

Hatred of sinners:
12:4-7, “Give to the merciful and uphold not the sinner: God will repay vengeance to the ungodly and to sinners, and keep them against the day of vengeance. Give to the good, and receive not a sinner. Do good to the humble, and give not to the ungodly: hold back thy bread, and give it not to him, lest thereby he overmaster thee.
For thou shalt receive twice as much evil for all the good thou shalt have done to him: for the Highest also hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance to the ungodly.”

First and Second Maccabees:
Admits lack of prophets:
1st Maccabees 4:46, “And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to shew what should be done with them. “

1st Maccabees 9:27, “Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.”

1st Maccabees 14:41, “The Jewish people and their priest have, therefore, made the following decisions. Simon shall be their permanent leader and high priest until a true prophet arises.”

Prayers for the dead and alms giving for the forgiveness of the dead:
2nd Maccabees 12:38-46,

Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jew to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain.
They all therefore praised the ways of the LORD, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deeds might be blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among the soldiers, amounting to 2000 silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice.
In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to raise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who have gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

Wisdom of Solomon:

A Roman Catholic author admits that the book contains “Christian interpolations (ii, 24; iii, 13; iv, 1; xiv, 7).” Also attempts to explain away two difficulties. One which states that the world was “created out of ‘formless matter’ [xi, 18 (17)], a Platonic expression which in no way affirms the eternity of matter, but points back to the chaotic condition described in Gen., i, 2…to justify their rejection of the Book of Wisdom from the Canon, many Protestants have claimed that in viii, 19-20, its author admits the error of the pre-existence of the human soul. But this incriminated passage, when viewed in the light of its context, yields a perfectly orthodox sense.” 23

Wisdom of Solomon 11:17 (or, 18, depending on the edition);
Douay Version-translated for the Latin Vulgate v. 18, “For not without means was your almighty hand, that had fashioned the universe from formless matter.”

The New American Bible v. 17, “For not without means was your almighty hand, that had fashioned the universe from formless matter.”

Sinless birth and the pre-existence of the soul (since this person claims to have been good or noble and afterwards to have come into or received a body): Wisdom of Solomon 8.19-20,

Douay Version-translated for the Latin Vulgate, “I was a witty child, and had received a good soul. And whereas I was more good, I came into a body undefiled.”

The New American Bible, “Now, I was a well-favored child, and I came by a noble nature; or rather, being noble, I attained an unsullied body.”

A Roman Catholic writes states, “In the Catholic Bible ‘the Prophecy of Baruch’ is made up of six chapters, the last of which bears the special title of an ‘epistle of Jeremiah’, and does not belong to the book proper.” 24

Baruch 3:4,
Douay Version-translated for the Latin Vulgate, “O Lord Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead of Israel, and of their children.”

The Modern Roman Catholic New American Bible has radically changed this verse to read, “Lord Almighty, God of Israel, hear the prayer of Israel’s few, the sons of those who sinned against you.”


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