The Roman church had discovered
that the root of her troubles lay in the reading of the Bible by the
laity, an had opposed it with all the power at her command, But she
finally realized that her open war on the Scriptures he aroused suspicion
that her life and doctrines were out of harmony with God's word, and could
not endure the light of an open Bible. To allay such feelings she must
make it appear that she was not opposed to the Scriptures, but only to the
"erroneous Protestant Bible." But how could such an impression
be mad when that Bible was a faithful translation of the Hebrew and Greek
texts, in which the Scriptures were originally written Then, too, the
Protestants had, at that time, some of the more able Hebrew and Greek
scholars in all Christendom. Providence had brought the Reformers in
contact with sore of the best sources of Bible manuscripts: (1) When the
Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, many of the Greek scholars fled to
the West, bringing with them their valuable manuscripts from the East
where Christianity originated, and then Greek and Hebrew learning revived
in the West. *1
(2) With this influence from the East
came also the Syrian Bible, used by the earl church at Antioch in Syria
(Acts 11:26), which was translate directly from the Hebrew and Greek
manuscripts long before the Massoretic (O.T.) text, and is the oldest
known Bible mare script (unless it should be the one lately discovered by
Chester Beatty. *2
During their severe persecutions the
Waldensens, came into contact with the Reformers at Geneva, and thus the
Bible, which had been preserved in its purity from the days of the
apostles, was brought to the Reformers.
Translations direct from the
original languages in which the Holy Scriptures were written, and
comparisons with ancient sources, by men of high scholarly ability and
sterling integrity, gave the Protestants a perfectly reliable Bible. *3
In spite of these plain facts, the
Catholic authorities had to do something to turn the minds of their people
away from the Protestant Bible, so widely distributed. They therefore
advanced the claim that Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation was more
correct than any copy we now have of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.
We shall now examine this claim.
The Latin Vulgate Bible
At the Council of Trent
(1545-1563), in the fourth session, the second Decree, in 1546, they
decided that the Latin Vulgate should be the standard Bible for the Roman
church. But then they discovered a curious fact, that during the 1050
years from the time Jerome brought out his Latin Vulgate Bible in 405
A.D., until John Gutenberg printed it in 1455, it had been copied so many
times, mostly by monks, and so many errors had crept in, that no one knew
just what was the actual rendering of the original Vulgate.
The learned Roman Catholic
professor, Dr. Johann Jahn says of it:
"The universal admission of
this version throughout the vast extent of the Latin church multiplied the
copies of it, in the transcription of which it became corrupted with many
errors. · . . Cardinal Nicholas, about the middle of the twelfth century,
found 'tot exemplaria quot codices' (as many copies as
manuscripts)."–" Introduction to the Old Testament," Sec.
62, 63 (Quoted in "History of Romanism," Dr. John Dowling, ed.
1871 p. 486
The Catholic Encyclopedia says of
the Latin Vulgate:
"From an early day the text of the Vulgate began
to suffer corruptions, mostly through the copyists who introduced family
Jar readings of the Old Latin or inserted the marginal glosses c MSS.
which they were transcribing"–Vol. XV, p. 370, and
"Versions," "The Vulgate."
The Council of Trent having made
Jerome's Latin "Vulgate the standard text," *4
it must now determine which of the
hundreds of copies (all differing) was the correct "Vulgate." A
commission was therefore appointed to gather materials so as to
"restore St. Jerome's text," but its members were "not to
amend it by any new translations of their own from the original Hebrew and
They "were merely to collect
manuscripts and prepare the evidence for and against certain reading; in
the text, after which the Pope himself, by reason not of his scholarship,
but of his gift of infallibility, decided straight of which were the
genuine words!"–" The Old Documents and the New Bible,"
J. Paterson Smyth, B.D., LL.D., pp. 174, 175 London and New York: 1907.
Pope Sixtus V undertook this work
of revision, and to make sure of its being correct, he read the proofs
himself. This edition was printed at Rome in 1590, accompanied by a bull
forbidding the least alteration in this infallible text. "But alas! .
. . The book was full of mistakes. The scholarship of Sixtus was by no
means great, and his infallibility somehow failed to make up for this
defect"–Id., p. 175.
The Catholic Encyclopedia
"But Sixtus V, though
unskilled in this branch of criticism, had introduced alterations of his
own, all for the worse .... His immediate successors at once proceeded to
remove the blunders and call in the defective impression."–Vol. II,
All available copies of the Bible
of Pope Sixtus were called in and burnt as were the heretics. Pope Clement
VIII, in 1592, ordered a better edition to be made, accompanying it with a
similar bull. Dr. James, keeper of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, where
one of Pope Sixtus's Bibles remained, compared it with that of Pope
Clement, and found two thousand glaring variations in them. He published
his findings in a book called: "Bellum Papale, i.e. the Papal
War." ("History of Romanism," Dr. J. Dowling, p. 487. New
"Dr. Jahn candidly relates
the facts above named, and makes the following remarkable admission: The
more learned Catholics have never denied the existence of errors in the
Vulgate; on the contrary, Isidore Clarius collected eighty thousand. It is
amusing to notice the embarrassment caused to this learned Romanist, by
the decree of the Council of Trent establishing the authority of the
Vulgate. As a good Catholic he was bound to receive that decree, and yet
his learning forbade him to blind his eyes to the errors of that version,
elevated by the said decree to a higher stand than the original Hebrew and
Greek Text." –Id., pp. 487, 488.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says of
the latest revision of Pope Clement: "This revision is now the
officially recognized version of the Latin Rite and contains the only
authorized text of the Vulgate. That it has numerous defects has never
been denied."–Vol. X V, p. 370.
That the Roman church is not
satisfied with the present Vulgate text is seen by the fact that in 1907
Pope Pius X, according to the Forum, commissioned H. E. Francis Aidan
Cardinal Gasquet, with his Benedictine Order, to reproduce the true Latin
text of St. Jerome by a new revision. Cardinal Gasquet says of the former
attempt made by Pope Clement VIII, in 1592: "The commission labored
for some forty years, and strange to say, many of the changes proposed by
them were never inserted in the final revision. From the notes of this
commission it may be safely said that had they been accepted we should
have had a much better critical text than we now possess."
–"Forum," August, 1926, p. 203.
The Catholic Encyclopedia points
out a fact often overlooked by scholars today, that "the Hebrew text
used by St. Jerome was comparatively late, being practically that of the
Masoretes. For this reason his version, for textual criticism, has less
value than the Peshito and the Septuagint. As a translation it holds a
place between these two"–Vol. XV, p. 370.
E. S. Buchanan, M. A., B. Sc.,
says of Jerome's translation: "Jerome, to the great loss of
posterity, did not dig deep into the history of the text. He did not
revise on the Latin and Greek texts of the second century; but solely on
the Greek text of the fourth century, and that was a text too late and too
limited in range and attestation on which to base an enduring fabric ....
He was not bidden to search for the earliest MSS. He was not bidden to
bring together the versions of the East and the West. He was not bidden to
make inquiry 'for the lost autographs with a view to the reconstruction of
the Apostolic text. He was only bidden to prepare a suitable text for
ecclesiastical usage. And this he has done; but it is painful to think of
all he left undone, that with his position of vantage he might have
done." "The Records Unrolled," p. 20. London: John Ouseley,
From these considerations we see,
that, even if the original text of Jerome's translation could be
reconstructed, it would not be of as much textual value as is sometimes
supposed. We are not depreciating the Catholic Bible. We wish Catholics
would read it more than they do. All we are here aiming at is this: When
leading Catholic authorities admit that their Bible is of so little value
as a "Standard Text," then why do they so relentlessly oppose
the circulation of the authorized Protestant Bible, which is translated
from the best original sources? Henry Guppy, M. A., D. Ph. et Litt.,
Librarian of the John Rylands Library, England, says:
"The Church of Rome has
always bitterly opposed any attempt to circulate the Bible in the language
of the people, and license to read the Scriptures, even when truly and
catholicity translated, was but sparingly granted. "In spite,
however, of the denunciations uttered by the Roman Catholic priests
against what they were pleased to term the incorrect and untruthful
translations which were in circulation, the Bible continued to be read by
increasing numbers of people. Indeed, the attempts to suppress it created
a prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church; and, as time wore on, it
was felt by many Catholics that something more must be done than a mere
denunciation of the corrupt translations in the direction of providing a
new version which the Roman Church could warrant to be authentic and
genuine."–"A Brief Sketch of History of the Translation of the
Bible," p. 54. London: University Press, 1926. After the Jesuits had
been expelled from England in 1579, they settled at Rheims, France, where
they translated the New Testament from the Latin Vulgate into English.
This was printed in 1582. Later they moved to Douay, where they printed
the Old Testament in 1609. We have seen that the learned Catholic doctors,
Johann Jahn and Isidor Clarius, acknowledged that there were 8,000 errors
in the Vulgate Bible, and as a stream cannot be expected to rise higher
than its fountain, we must conclude that the errors are carried over into
the Douay Version. We shall take the space to mention only two of them:
1. The Douay Bible uses the word
"adore" where the Protestant Bible has "worship."
(Compare Matthew 4:10 in both Bibles.) While the Protestant Bible says
that Jacob "worshiped, leaning upon the top of his staff," the
Douay Version says that he "adored the top of his rod." Hebrews
11:21. "The Approved Holy Catholic Bible," with
"Annotations by the Rev. I)r. Challoner," and approved by Pius
VI, says: "Jacob . . . worshiped the top of his rod." Thus
Catholics have proof for worshiping relics.
2. Our Protestant Bible correctly
translates 2 Timothy 3:16 to read, "All Scripture is given by
inspiration of God," but the Douay Version reads: "All
scripture, inspired of God, is profitable." As can be readily seen,
this latter rendering gives no assurance that the Bible is inspired, but
simply makes the superfluous statement that what is inspired is
profitable. And so it is left with the church to say what is inspired.
In full view of all the foregoing
facts, how can Roman Catholic authors shut their eyes to it all, and
brazenly declare that their church alone has the true and correct Bible?
"She alone possesses the true Bible and the whole Bible,
and the copies of the Scriptures existing outside of her pale, are partly
incorrect and partly defective.
"This Bible was the celebrated
Vulgate, the official text in the Catholic Church, the value of which all
scholars admit to be simply inestimable .... The Council of Trent in 1546
issued a decree, stamping it as the only recognized and authoritative
Version allowed to Catholics .... It was revised under Pope Sixtus V in
1590, and again under Pope Clement VIII in 1593, who is responsible for
the present standard text. It is from the Vulgate that our English Douai
Version comes."–'' Where We Got the Bible," Right Rev. Henry
G. Graham, pp. 7, 16, 17. London: Eighth Impression, 1936.
Do these men actually believe
that Protestants have no access to the facts of history, but are dependent
on such misstatements! Or are they vainly hoping that the public will have
no opportunity to read the Protestant side of the story?
The interesting part of it all is
the fact that the Catholic Church, after proclaiming so loudly since 1546
that the Latin Vulgate is "the only recognized and authoritative
version," and crying out against the Protestant Bibles (translated
from the original Hebrew and Greek text) as "heretical," is
herself at last driven, by facts long known within her own circle, to
translate the Bible "from the original text," Hebrew and Greek.
What a complete somersault! This
late Catholic version is called "The Westminster Version"
(printed by Longmans, Green and Co., London). But, as the work is
intrusted mostly to the Jesuits, we can expect very little change from
their former Douay Version, except that it will be more carefully written
to conform to the Roman viewpoint (judging from the portions that have
already been published). For instance, the correct note under Revelation
13:18 is entirely changed, but Revelation 22:14 reads the same as in the
Douay Version: "Blessed are they that wash their robes." In our
Authorized Protestant Version (King James') it reads: "Blessed are
they that do His commandments."
P. P. Bliss, who assisted D. L.
Moody, and composed many beautiful hymns, inspired by Revelation 22:14,
wrote the hymn: "Hear the words our Saviour hath spoken, Words of
life unfailing and true: Careless one, prayerless one, hear and remember,
Jesus says, 'Blessed are they that do.' Blessed are they that do His
commandments, Blessed, blessed, blessed are they." Later Mr. Bliss
went to Rome, where he learned that "Blessed are they that wash their
robes," "must be the correct'' rendering. And "during his
last week in Rome," he told his brother-in-law that he was sorry he
had written that hymn. He declared: "I see so clearly its
contradiction of the gospel that I have no liberty in singing it."
Then he wrote the hymn: "Free from the law, oh, happy
condition"–" Memories of Philip P. Bliss," D. W. Whittle,
pp. 131,132. New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1877. It is deplorable that
this good Christian man should get such impressions at Rome. But, sad to
say, P. P. Bliss is not the only beloved Protestant that has been in touch
with Rome, and lost his desire and liberty to teach the good old truths of
the Protestant Bible.
Some follow the Roman Catholic
translation of Revelation 22:14, because the Vatican possesses one of the
three oldest Bible manuscripts (Codex Vaticanus). But that manuscript ends
with Hebrews 9:14, so that it could not give Catholics the proper
rendering of Revelation 22:14. *6