In Part I, I will go over the basic history of the Catholic Church and it's relation to the Bible, primarily on the "validity" of Church traditions as based on the Bible. I will also go over the books of the Bible to give a better understanding to why these works were chosen and why others are rejected by Protestant sects.
If there is one common claim used against the Catholic Church, it is "Your traditions are unbiblical, and therefore are wrong/sinful". This is mainly said in response to Catholic beliefs of practicing good works, the existence of purgatory, the intercession of the saints and of Mary, etc. Many Protestants, as well-versed as they are in the Bible, say this misconception because they either grew up with or accepted a Protestant interpretation of the Bible, and do not realize the intimate connection of the Church and the Holy Bible Many do not know that it was the Catholic Church who put together the books of the Bible, and without many of our traditions, the Bible would not even exist as we see it. Not to mention, all Catholic practices can be supported by the Bible either directly or indirectly.
There is also the difference among Catholic and Protestant Bibles, as Martin Luther during the Reformation had omitted some books from the Old Testament, believing them to not be canonical (he also omitted Revelation and other New Testament books!). Because of their differing views on what the Bible is and of it's purpose, Protestants make assumptions on the "added books" and say that they make the Bible contradict itself, and that they are not accurate to the rest of the Word of God. However, as I go over the Bible later, I will show how Catholics view the Bible and explain why Catholics have these "extra" books.
Firstly, let's go over the state of Christianity after Christ's resurrection. There was no Bible, no organized church (that we could recognize), and at that time, Christianity was not called Christianity at all: it was called "The Way", from when Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) The Way was mainly composed of women and slaves, the dregs of society who found hope in this messiah who loved them the way the world never could. It was seen, politically, as a dangerous cult, as many of Christ's teachings went against many pagan and common ways of life in the time period. This was especially true of laws that commanded citizens to pay sacrifices to their god-emperor, or other deities. Also, while it was common for various pagan beliefs to intermix, these early Christians were the first (aside from the Jews before them) to say "There is no god but the I AM." This would have caused cultural and religious unrest as well as political.
With that mess going on, it is easy to see why organization was so crucial, as loose and secret as it was in the beginning. The followers of The Way were being persecuted, they were forced to worship in secret, and there was no Bible to open up if there was a dispute.
Luckily, Jesus had assigned Peter to lead this new ministry after he would be crucified and resurrected. In Matthew 16:13-19:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Phillippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but to my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven." (emphasis added)
Here, Jesus saw that Peter knew exactly who he was (even though he would deny him three times before Jesus would be crucified). Jesus gave him authority to lead and construct his church. Peter's name literally means "rock", and when Jesus said "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church..." he not only renamed Peter, but put emphasis on his upcoming authority through that new name. This was said long before Matthew would write it down, and long before anyone would deem what is and isn't a biblical church authority.
How does this fit into the persecution and other issues faced by the early Church? Basically, before there was ready-to-read material available for the first Christians, they depended on authority and tradition. There were holy men and women along with prophets and leaders, and they were looked up to in times of much needed leadership. Letters were written by Paul in particular to various communities, advising them in traditions to uphold and practice as a way to imitate Christ.
Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:15: "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours."
Other related verses:
2 Thessalonians 3:6: "We entrust you, brothers, in the name of [our] Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us."
2 Timothy 1:13-14: "Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit that dwells within us."
2 Timothy 2:2: "And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well."
1 Corinthians 11:2: "I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you."
It is obvious throughout scripture that before the Word of God was put together, there were traditions used to keep up a godly, Christian life. Many traditions found in the Catholic Church today can be traced back to those times, and are even related to a lot of Jewish practices and ceremonies. Choosing to embrace these traditions does not separate one from God, nor does it go against the Bible. Later in the series, I plan on going into more details on specific traditions in particular that are condemned as "unbiblical" and show that it does, indeed, have godly and even biblical support.
Now, when did the Church finally put the holy scriptures into one collection that would be called the Bible? And why do Catholics have more books in the Bible than Protestants?
The books of the Bible were put together in 393 A.D., acknowledged to be inspired works of God by the Council of Hippo and subsequent councils. From this, they drew 46 books for the Old Testament, the works of which expand over a period of 1000 years. As Jewish Scriptures, they include the histories, codes of laws, orations, reflective literature and poetry.
The first five books are called the Torah, Pentateuch, and the "Five Books of Moses". Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy go over the beginning history of humanity, and later the Jews, up to the time of Moses, and lists the laws given to them by God. This includes the days of creation, the origins of Hebrews as a "Chosen People", the covenant made between the Jews and Yahweh after their flight from Egypt, etc. It also records speeches by Moses to the Hebrew people and changes in ordinances and laws.
The following 21 books are called "The Prophets", divided into six historical books (the "former prophets"), three "Major Prophets", and 12 "Minor Prophets". The Former Prophets span from the time Joshua, successor of Moses, to the division of Israel and the events leading up to captivity of both kingdoms (Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings). Major Prophets are records of speeches, prophecies, reproaches of Israel's sins, and other activities/predictions made by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (the books named after them accordingly). Then there are the twelve Minor Prophets that make up the end: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Each covers a variety of topics that includes: God loves all and not just the Jews, forgiveness for those who repented, sermons against ungodly practices, the record to attempt to rebuild the temple, etc.
Afterwards there are the 13 books of "The Writings", or Hagiographa, containing history, poetry, and philosophy. This includes Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon), Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. They include the lineage from Adam up to the Babylonian exile, stories of faithful Israelites/Jews and other people, and, of course, poetry of wisdom and love.
Next are the seven books that make up "The Second Canon", also called "Deuterocanonical Books" (or the "Apocrypha" by Protestants). These are books that are a part of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, omitted from Protestant Bibles for reasons I will explain later. These books include: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon (or simply Wisdom), Sirach, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees. The two first books are "novellas", stories written to showcase the validity of faith and the destiny of Israel's role for humanity respectively. The next two are praises of godly wisdom, and the rest are historical accounts of the Jewish exile and of their rebellion.
They also have additions to the books of Daniel (Song of Three Children and two stories that are loosely related to a common hero, Daniel) and Esther (Greek texts that show Esther's religiousness and otherwise "spiritualizes" the book's nonreligious tone).
For the New Testament, they acknowledged 27 books written in colloquial Greek. It is seen as the "missionary handbook", as it proclaims the birth, growth, and teachings of the Christian Church.
The first four books - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - are called the Gospels, meaning "Good News", as it tells of the good news of Jesus Christ; they were written roughly between 60-100 A.D., each at different times. Each book is the eyewitness account of Jesus, some focusing more on one aspect of his life than others. Matthew was believed to be written primarily for the Jews, as it focuses on the messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. Mark is the earliest written and the shortest, written most likely for Gentiles to show Jesus as a Messiah and Son of God. Luke is thought to be focused on the Greeks as it presents Jesus as a universal savior. John, lastly, was written for instruction for the early Church and presents Jesus as the eternal Word of God. Overall, they all speak of Christ's birth, infancy, teachings, death, and resurrection.
Then there is the book of Acts, focusing on the acts of the apostles Peter and Paul in their missions and works to build the early church. It covers how the new religion spread from Palestine to Rome, and was written 30 years after the the resurrection of Christ. It is also a sequel to Luke.
Following Acts are the Epistles, or letters, from Paul to churches and their people: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. They act as instructions to a community if they were arguing over an issue, or if they were behaving in an ungodly way. This included the order of the church, marriage, corrections on false assumptions and misconceptions, a call back to those who were backsliding to pagan ways, and much more. Some were written while Paul was in jail.
Then there are eight other letters, written by unknown authors (though they may have, due to references in other letters, been in Paul's circle, and one is believed to be written by a relative of Jesus). They cover a wide net of theological matters and were written between 60-100 A.D. In order: Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. They are called the "Catholic Letters", as the word Catholic means "universal", and the audience intended for these letters is believed to be all Christians of the "universal" church.
The last book, of course, is Revelation (of John), sometimes called a "vision". It is an account of the struggle between Jesus and his followers against Satan and his own followers. It ultimately ends with the defeat of Satan and the establish of the kingdom of God on a new earth. It also accounts for the judgement of the living and the dead. The author is unknown (as there were quite a few Johns and it is disputed which one it is), and was written around 96 A.D.
All of these books were chosen by the councils because, as I said earlier, they were believed to be inspired. They contained truth and inspiration from God and were to be revered as such and to be used to support our Christian faith.
Still, when the Protestants of the Reformation edited the Bible, they took out the Deuterocanonical Books for many reasons. One claim is that some books, like Tobit, are not consistent with the rest of the Bible. For instance, it is mentioned in Tobit that stoning is the punishment for those who do not marry their closest kinsmen when a brother is not available to inherit ancestral land, even though that is not mentioned at all in the other books. They also claim that since these books are not considered "canonical" by the Orthodox Jews, they shouldn't see it as such either (even though the Jews still read them with respect, and were at one point considered canonical). Another reason is that because no one in the New Testament quoted or referred to the Deuterocanonical Books.
So why do Catholics keep these books? What is our reasoning?
For Catholics, not everything in the Bible is literal. Not that certain texts are considered not-historical (though Catholics, like all Christians, dispute on the literal basis of Genesis), but that they recognize that the purpose of the Bible is to be a revelation of God's Word, not a history book or a scientific resource. Although many Christians, including Catholics, may study history and science through a creationist/biblical perspective (such as the Answers in Genesis ministry), and that many of the writings are a historical record of Jewish history, the Bible is first and foremost a "library" that teaches God and His works, how to live and act, to learn of the history and happenings that lead up to Jesus, etc.
It is not risky for a Catholic to view the fictional story like the book of Tobit as canonical, as we already know that it is a work of fiction and not as history. While it may make an inaccurate claim on a Jewish practice, that does not mean the lessons and morals taught are suddenly unworthy or "not inspired". It was not written as a historical record anyway! It was never a book of law! It was merely a historical fiction meant to portray the validity of faith, and it should be read as such. The point of the book was to learn something about God and our relationship with Him, and it should be read for that very purpose.
There is also the fact there are many references/similarities made to the Deuteroncanonical Books in the New Testament. A link to the list is listed in the artist's comments.
However, this is just one of many examples that defends the Deuteroncanonical Books. I have only read Tobit and Wisdom myself, and I am earnestly in the process of reading the rest to better familiarize myself with them. I highly recommend reading them yourself, especially when you learn about their literary basis and genre, and learn who the audience is supposed to be. There are also a few resources you can check out to hear the Catholic defense of these books which I will list in the artist's comments.
Again, the Bible is not viewed as "non-literal" because it is riddled with errors and is unreliable; we only say "non-literal" because some books were made to be simple stories and poetry to learn from, and not to take them as historical or scientific fact. There is also the fact that, yes, it is good to study science and history from a biblical perspective, but you are completely missing the point if you only read the Bible as a history or science book. As I said, the Bible is to be read as a revelation of God's Word first and foremost.
-The Catholic Church today has many practices that are not approved by Protestant denominations on the basis that they are "unbiblical". However, all church and Christian practices/beliefs were put together before the Bible was, and it was these same traditions of the early (and then Catholic) Church that the Bible even exists.
-Because of differing views on the Bible, some Protestants also assume that our Deuteroncanonical Books are unbiblical and not allowed to be a part of the Holy Scripture. However, Catholics view each book of the Bible as it should be, whether it is a poem, a historical account, a book of law, a story, etc. An inaccuracy in one book (especially a fiction one) does not automatically mean it is not inspired, because the point of reading the book is not to learn history or science; it has everything to do with discovering the wisdom and love of God.
I pray you all got something out of this!
Please tune in next time for Part II: Catholic View on Prayer and Intercession. *EDIT MARCH 4 2013* I have changed Part II-A and Part II-B to go over the sacraments. Derp.