I’m currently reading the book Where We Got the Bible by Bishop Henry G. Graham. Graham is a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism. The book was first published in 1911 and reprinted many times since then. The point of the book is that the Bible is a product of the Catholic Church. So here is a summary of the what and when of the Bible as we currently have it through the eyes of someone who is eminently unqualified … me … but derived from someone who is eminently qualified … Bishop Graham.
Of course, the books of the Bible were written long before the printing press was invented by Johann Gutenberg in about 1450 AD. The original texts were hand-written on papyrus parchment in Greek and Hebrew languages. This is true of the New Testament documents written by the sacred authors, St. Paul, St. John, and the others. I understand that papyrus parchment is extremely perishable, brittle, and delicate and does not last long. The original documents were also plundered and destroyed by persecutors of the Church in those early years. No documents written in the original authors’ handwriting survive. However, thousands of copies were made. For Catholics, the fact that we don’t have the original documents to fall back on is not an issue, because our authority is not the “Scripture alone,” but the Church founded by Jesus Christ himself. Church officials made copies of the originals down through the centuries and the originals were allowed to perish.
Catholic monks living in monasteries were subsequently charged with making the copies in their own handwriting and translating them into Latin. This was a painstaking task and, it is thought, not without the possibility of error or the introduction of heretical words. However, as time passes, we are assured that the Catholic Church, which was promised to be guided by the Holy Spirit, got it right. Of course, all Bibles in existence today, both Catholic and Protestant, came through this period in history, the so-called “dark ages.” Any changes that were made during the Reformation and later by non-Catholic individuals and groups, cannot have the assurance of accuracy since they are not from the Church that is guided by the Holy Spirit. Examples of errors are the addition of the words “alone” or “only” that were added to the word “faith” and the removal of six books of the Bible by Protestant leaders – books that had been approved to be the inspired word of God by the Catholic leaders centuries earlier.
Today we have many different translations and versions. The Catholic Church has its approved versions and, of course, uses these approved versions, especially the New American Bible as it is called, in the Bible readings used at Holy Mass.
I am so happy to be Catholic and to be able to confidently read the version of Sacred Scripture that is the product of the Church that preserved the meaning and intent of the words of Jesus Christ, St. Paul, and others through history. Thanks be to God! Amen.