The Extra Catholic Books (IV)
Donald P. Ames
As we begin to draw our study of these extra books found in the Catholic Bible to a close, we might note the comment made concerning inspiration by Joseph Cook (1838-1901): "Inspiration is such a divine superintendence over the book of the Bible as makes them a trustworthy, infallible and safe guide concerning the way of salvation" (The New Dictionary of Thoughts, originally compiled by Tryon Edwards, p. 313). This test of trustworthiness, infallibility and safety is now being applied to these books.
The small book of Baruch was written about 605 B.C., as the children of Israel were being carried off into the Babylonian captivity. It briefly lists their sins and a plea for mercy from God, if they will repent. One rather interesting statement therein is:
"O Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel, and of their children, that have sinned before thee, and have not hearkened to the voice of the Lord their God, wherefore evils have cleaved fast to us. Remember not the iniquities of our fathers, but think upon thy hand, and upon thy name at this time: for thou art the Lord our God, and we will praise thee, 0 Lord: because for this end thou hast put thy fear in our hearts, to, the intent that we should call upon thy name" (3:4-7).
There are a couple of interesting points to be made from this one quote. First of all we see here a desire to ignore the sins. of the past and purely because God is the God of Israel, then God it is up to you to preserve your own name - regardless of what we may have done to deserve this punishment. The plain fact cannot be overlooked that once God had set them up as a nation in order to protect and preserve his name, he had promised captivity if they did not obey him - not just a threat of an enemy to scare them for the moment (Deut. 28).
Next we would like to call attention to the "prayer of the dead of Israel . . . that have sinned before thee" - and this does not mean the spiritually dead because of their sins, as the context plainly shows. Here is the idea of those who are already dead praying to God, and with hopes of their prayers being answered, and this because God, being God, ought to do something about it. Such certainly is not the same as the blood of Abel or the prayers of the saints in Rev. 6:9-11. Nor is it in harmony with the case of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, as this story was revealed by Christ. But, again, if this book is accepted, the way is opened for the Rosary and with a little stretching to come shortly, even the idea of Purgatory.
1 and 2 Maccabees
Before launching into the principal passage we want to study of these two books, written between the Testaments, let us first note a few miscellaneous points about them. The Catholics recognize they have problems with these two books also, and admit them thus admitting their lack of inspiration. Commenting on I Macc. 11:48 "And they slew in that day a hundred thousand men, and they set fire to the city, and got many spoils that day, and delivered the king," in the notes at the end of the book, they added, ,, Some of the numbers found in the two books of Maccabees seem to be exaggerated." In other words, they are unreliable and inaccurate! Going still further, in 2 Maccabees 8:20, we find the Jews that were loyal, being 6,000 slew 120,000 in battle, and again the comment on this passage at the end of this book: "Some of the numbers in 2 Mc seem to be exaggerated." To add still further to the lack of reliability of the books, in I Macc. 6:37 we find a reference to 32 men on beasts and the note at the end of the book, "the number is obviously erroneous; the Hebrew text probably (emphasis mine-DPA) had 'two' or 'three'."
But such trivial problems as unreliability are rather minor to the Catholic Church considering what is at stake in these two books. In fact, commenting on the parallel deaths in 1 Mace. 6: 1-17 and 2 Mace. 9, the notes add.
"If the account of the death of Antiochus in 2 Mc. 1:11-17 is also taken to refer to Antiochus IV, it will be noticed that the account given there differs from the present account and 1 Mc. 6:1-17. One solution of the difficulty then created would be to recall that 2 Mc. 1:11-17 is part of a letter quoted by the author and he cannot be considered to guarantee everything in the letter."
Makes a rather nice escape of the contradictions -- "one solution" says blame the letter, anti if this does not suffice, the Church can ay it was one solution. Give us time and well find another you might think more plausible if you do not accept that. Well, sorry, but we're still waiting:
Also, to excuse the plain chronological errors, they add at the end of 2 Mc, "the author does not always follow the chronological order of events; e.g., following his own principles of arrangement, he describes the death of Antiochus TV before the purification of the Temple." That is another way of trying to pass off the fact that chronological patterns were violated and wrong events placed out of order. Excuse it as merely his "own principles of arrangement," rather than admitting it is merely another of many errors.
But now let us direct our attention to the primary passage we want to note here, found in 2 Mc. 12:38-46. To give us the full context:
"So Judas having gathered together his army, came into the city Odollam: and when the seventh day came, they purified themselves according to the custom, and kept the Sabbath in the same place. 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, for as much 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 anti wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."
The notes at the end of the book add this comment to verse 46: "In the Greek - 'therefore he had an expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be absolved from their sins."' The doctrines used in the Catholic Church today have many bases in this passage, as is quite obvious. Not only are the ideas of Purgatory and praying for the dead to be gathered from this passage, but also the convenience of the money in payment for sins.
Let us first of all observe how he planned to free those whom God brought a "just judgment" against for their sins. Did he offer a sin offering as Moses did for the children of Israel when they sinned? Did he command burnt sacrifices? No, sent 12,000 drachmas of silver to Jerusalem "so that they might be absolved from their sin." In other words, regardless of how bad the sin, if enough money is given, there is always hope! Note how this ties in with the other books on giving alms to have sins removed. Not to be found in the Bible, the Catholic Church must have these books to preserve its practice here.
But next, to this sin of idolatry. How important is it? The wrath of God is called a "just judgment of the Lord," and he is praised for revealing the "things that were hidden." Even the Catholics do not believe the sin of idolatry is readily forgiven by God. It is classified as a mortal sin (as contrasted with a venial or everyday sin) and needs a special grace from God - sometimes even a miracle to obtain forgiveness (The Teaching of the Catholic Church, Vol. 1, p. 593, 608). In order to obtain forgiveness and even make it into the state of Purgatory, one must have the rites of Extreme Unction - Final Anointing - performed. Note the following:
"In the case of mortal sins the person must be at least in a state of "habitual" repentance, i. e. after his last mortal sin lie must at least once have elicited an act of contrition and never have revoked the same. If in such a state of unconsciousness and the danger of death should overtake him, Extreme Unction would remit his sin and open to him the gate of heaven. Should he previously to death regain consciousness and have the opportunity of confession, he is still bound to confess his sin, for such is the will of Christ; but his soul, having been cleansed from mortal stain, is safe for eternity and has escaped the doom of eternal loss. It is this wonderful efficacy of Last Anointing which creates its unique importance in the eyes of priests and faithful, especially in the case of careless Catholics, who may be suddenly overtaken by unconsciousness and the danger of death. In such cases it is of greater importance than priestly absolution, for the validity of absolution pronounced over those who are totally unconscious and thus unable to give any outward sign of acknowledgement of sin and repentance is a matter of doubt" (Ibid, Vol. 2, p. 1012).
Note that one needs extreme unction to get into heaven, but if unconscious, priestly absolution is pronounced, though the results are "a matter of doubt." But these men were guilty of mortal sins, and dead for 36-48 hours. They were beyond the reach even of "priestly absolution." It was a "just judgment of the Lord." Yet, in spite of ' the wasted efforts and no signs of repentance, they conclude two things: (1) Prayer for the dead will forgive their sins - a second chance after death, and (2) the money paid for their sins was because be fully expected them to obtain the forgiveness of this mortal sin, for which they must repent and receive a special grace. If he died with the mortal sin, the gates of heaven would not be opened for him. Without extreme unction, neither would the gates of Catholic-created Purgatory. This leaves one other destination, even according to Catholic dogma - and there is no escape from this place (Luke 16).
The truth of the matter is that their dogmas rest on the book - in spite of the errors involved, but the word of God disagrees with both. 2 Cor. 5: 10 says, "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deed in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." It is too late after death and too late for someone else to do what "he" should have done "in the body."
In conclusion, I would like to note and agree with the statement made by Merrill F. Unger in the Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, p. 109 - "Certainly a book that contains what is false in fact, erroneous in doctrine or unsound in morality, is unworthy of God and cannot have been inspired by Him. Tried under these criteria the Apocryphal books stand self-condemned."
Note: Books used in these articles, other than the Bibles were:
Paulist Correspondence Course, Lesson No. 2, based on Hurley's I Believe; 1935; Paulist Fathers, 21 E. Van Buren St., Chicago, Illinois.
The Teaching of the Catholic Church, Vol. 1-2; Edited by Canon George D. Smith; 1959; Macmillan Co., New York.
Revelation and the Bible, edited by Carl F. H. Henry, 1958; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The New Dictionary of Thoughts, compiled by Tryon Edwards, C. N. Catrevas, Jonathan Edwards and Ralph Emerson Browns: 1957 Standard Book Company. (Series Concluded)
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIII: 5, pp. 13-15