Errors in the Apocrypha?

The following is from another website (granted anti catholic) but just curious to know how catholics respond to these sorts of criticism etc regarding “errors” in the apocrypha:

Problems in the Apocrypha

When we look into the apocrypha itself, we find numerous problems. For example, we see it advocating magic where the smoke of a fish heart on a fire drives away devils.

Condones the use of magic

Tobit 6:5-7, “Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines. 6 And when he had done so, he roasted the flesh thereof, and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages the city of the Medes. 7 Then 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? 8 And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.”
Is it true that the smoke from a fish’s heart, when burned, drives away evil spirits? Of course not. Such a superstitious teaching has no place in the word of God.

Teaches that forgiveness of sins is by human effort.

Salvation by works:
Tobit 4:11, “For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.”
Tobit 12:9, “For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.”
We know from Scripture that alms (money or food given to the poor or needy as charity) does not purge our sins. The blood of Christ is what cleanses us–not money or food given to poor people. “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).

Money as an offering for the sins of the dead:
2 Maccabbees 12:43, “And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.”
Can anyone truly accept that money isn’t offering for the sins of dead people? Such a superstitious and unbiblical concept has no place in Scripture.

Historical Errors

Wrong historical facts:
Judith 1:5, “Now in the twelfth year of his reign, Nabuchodonosor, king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Ninive the great city, fought against Arphaxad and overcame him.”
Baruch 6:2, “And when you are come into Babylon, you shall be there many years, and for a long time, even to seven generations: and after that I will bring you away from thence with peace.”
The book of Judith incorrectly says that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians when he was the king of the Babylonians.1

Baruch 6:2 says the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations where Jer. 25:11 says it was for 70 years. “And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

The site lists five objections: [LIST=1]
*]It says Tobit 6:5-7 is about using magic to scare away the devil
*]It says Tobit 4:11 and Tobit 12:9 teach that our own human efforts can atone for our sins
*]It says 2 Maccabbees 12:43 teaches that money can atone for the sins of the dead
*]It says Judith 1:7 calls Nebuchadnezzar the king of the Assyrians when he was actually the king of the Babylonians
*]It says Baruch 6:2 foretells that the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations when it was actually 70 years[/LIST] The first objection is wrong because Tobit 6:5-7 doesn’t mention magic. It says that an angel told Tobias to burn the heart and liver of a fish to free a person from demonic oppression, because the demon would smell the smoke and flee. This is not because the fish was magic and the text does not say it was. Instead, the text indicates that the fish’s parts were a sacrifice offered as a prayer of deliverance. Tobit 6:16-17 and Tobit 8:2 make this clearer by specifying that the fire had to be produced by means of incense and/or an incense censor. In the Old Testament, sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people, and the fish has messianic significance. This offering of deliverance backed up by the power of the Messiah was what caused the oppressing demon to become fearful when he smelled the fish offering. The interpretation that the fish was magic has no support in the text; the interpretation that the fish was a sacrifice for sins does have support in the text. CARM is wrong on this one.

The second objection is faulty because it misunderstands what Tobit says about human effort atoning for sin. Proverbs 16:6, 1 Peter 4:8, James 5:20, and Luke 11:39-41 shed light on this because they also talk about human effort atoning for sin, and the key is that expiating or atoning for our sins requires the blood of Christ as the foundation. Human good works can only acquire merit before Jesus if we are in a state of grace and forgiveness already, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Bible reveals good works too and says that they really can help us spiritually to acquire forgiveness for sins committed after we are in the state of grace. Tobit 4:11, Tobit 12:9, Proverbs 16:6, 1 Peter 4:8, and James 5:20 all use the language of atonement to explain this.

The third objection is faulty for several reasons. First, the passage does not say money can atone for sins, and that is a terrible way to talk about almsgiving. The merit of almsgiving has nothing to do with its being money and everything to do with its being a form of prayer. When you give away your money as an act of charity, it is a sacrifice of something of material value for the sake of something spiritual. St. Paul says that money can be an offering in Philippians 4:18. He mentions that almsgiving has spiritual merit in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. Jesus says that if we give alms for what is in our hearts, everything will be clean – Luke 11:39-41. This is all because when you offer something of value, it is a form of prayer, and God can answer that prayer for our own salvation. This objection is really based on CARM’s rejection of prayers for the dead – but the Bible contains both prayers and suffrages for the dead in Psalms 35:13-14, 2 Timothy 1:16-18, 2 Samuel 1:12, and 1 Samuel 31:13. Almsgiving for them is just another form of that.

The fourth objection is wrong because Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Assyrians too. The Babylonian empire included the former capital of Assyria and its territory. Notice: Judith 1:7 does not say Nebuchadnezzar was king of Assyria but of the Assyrians, who were still around even though their country was no longer independent. 2 Kings 24:1-2 even says explicitly that God gave “bands of Syrians” to King Nebuchadnezzar and he sent them against Judah. So the rest of the Old Testament confirms what Judith says was happening here.

The fifth objection is wrong because it misunderstands the prophecy of Baruch 6:2-3. First of all, it does not say the Captivity would last for seven generations, but for “up to seven generations,” “for a long time,” “for many years.” Secondly, Baruch 6:2-3 and Daniel 9:3, 21-27 both give a greater number of years than the actual 70 mentioned in Jeremiah 25:11 – one reason is because the true, inner captivity would last until the Messiah came, and the prophet Daniel gives the amount of time (seventy times seven) that would bring them up to the time of the Messiah. Baruch says it will last “up to seven generations,” or 280 years, which brings them up to the time when the Maccabbean revolt reestablished Jewish independence.

Okay, so there’s all five objections. I hope that helps. Also, you can use logic to show that the Deuterocanonical books are Scripture. For example, the same Councils that determined the rest of the Bible also included the Deuterocanonical books. See the councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage at this page: If Protestants think they got it wrong about the Deuterocanonical books, why don’t they go the rest of the way and throw out the other books? If these councils got the Deuterocanonical books wrong, then they weren’t telling the truth, and the Canon of Scripture goes out the window. Protestants can’t have it both ways: if they want a Bible at all, they ought to take the whole thing as decided by the early Church. If they cut out parts they don’t like, then they clearly don’t trust the early Church, and have no reason to accept their judgment about the books they do accept.

“Granted” indeed. The web site is CARM. Here is the page in question.

Matt Slick is as (Edited) disingenuous as one can get when it come to Catholicism.

(1) It’s not just the evil, vile, Whore of Babylon, Romish Catholic Church that accepts the deuterocanonical books. It is also the Eastern Church in union with Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Councils and ECFs as well. The conspiracy–at least if one buys into Slick’s paranoid delusions about the RCC–reaches far and wide.

(2) You’ll note that he mentions only 4 of the 7 deuterocanonical books. Somehow he generalizes to all of them. Almost half passages are from Tobit. What basis does he have to lump all of them together as if they were one work?

(3) His objections also apply to events in NT books that he does accept.
(a) Re Tobit quotes on alms and Maccabees
Jesus to the Pharisees: “But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.” (Lk 11:41)

(b) Re angel’s instructions to Tobit:
(i) It’s angel Raphael sent from God. By definition it can’t be magic.
(ii) Washing in the Jordan River cannot cure leprosy, yet Elijah, not an angel, said to do it in the case of Naaman. (2 K 5)
(iii) Making a mud paste out of saliva and washing in a pool as per Jesus’ instructions cannot cure blindness, yet He told the blind man to do it. (Jn 9:6-7; cf. Mk 8:23)

© As to errors in historical facts
(i) Mk 2:26 - Abiathar is said to be high priest; 1 Sm 21:2 - Ahimelech is high priest
(ii) Mt 23:35 - Zechariah, son of Barachiah; 2 Chr 24:20-22 - son of Jehoida
(iii) Jn 7:38 - no such exact quote in the OT
(iv) Inscriptions on the Cross differ - Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; Lk 23:38; Jn 19:19

So I guess Slick has to eliminate all the books from the NT mentioned above too.

Woo! I have the perfect quote to describe this. “For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe: though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy.” (Galadriel to Sam in Lord of the Rings)

To the naïve eye, it looks like Tobit’s using magic. But, as others have pointed out, it’s just another sacrifice, as seen PLENTY of other times in the OT.

You’ve had outstanding answers so I am just going to say I fully agree with the previous posters.

I wanted to add, that the fish thing in Tobit is no more “Magic” than gazing upon a bronze serpent, or turning water to blood, or sacrificing animals, or the virgin birth.

Also Matt Slick is extremely erroneous. Avoid him at all costs.

Oh well. They are still trying to discredit Biblical sources for all things Catholic. Vanity of Vanities. Nothing new under the Sun.

Actually at first when I saw the title I thought it meant the things we as Catholics consider Apocryphal and if that was the case I’d say “So…that’s why they’re Apocrypha.” Silly me.

But I see it is about the diatribe against the Scriptures that some engage in to their own detriment. Good job defending on the part of some in this thread though. Keep up the good works! Go Team!


Thanks all for the replies! Helpful as always :slight_smile:

I purchased a New American Bible a couple weeks ago since I am new to Catholicism and I just read Tobit this morning for the first time since taking a college old testament class.

The Bible I purchased has footnotes and commentary, and it says that Tobit, Judith and Esther, while they may contain some historical fact, are really novellas told primarily to illustrate truths that transcend history. I didn’t see any magic in the book, but the angel Raphael did instruct Tobiah to use the smell of the smoke of burning fish heart and liver to drive a demon away, and to pray. I don’t think that’s magic, or if it is, there’s a whole lot of magic in the Bible. I prefer to think of them as miracles showing the power of God.

Question for those who are experienced Catholics - is Tobit commonly believed to be “true” or is it considered a novel useful for teaching and edification? I’ve always thought Esther to be historical fact, but the commentators in this new Bible say not.

I agree think you hit the nail on the head.

First and foremost, what is their authority for making these judgments?

Being guided by the Holy Spirit, of course. Sheesh!

(I’m in a bit of a tizzy because on a Protestant End-Times board I frequent one of the posters recently made a comment about how we all are lead by the same Spirit [Baptist, Four-Square Gospel, etc.] yet we all have such different conclusions. I’m feeling very proud of myself for not replying or being as triumphalist as I wanted to be.

But, somehow, not so proud that I gave myself that extra scoop of ice cream I wanted. :nope: )

First of all, welcome to this side of the Tiber! The NAB (and now the NABRE – NAB Revised Edition) isn’t the best Catholic translation, but I think it’s a “good enough” translation. I like the footnotes in the NAB; some of them I like better than the equivalent in the new NABRE. I’m trying to see if my church can provide both an NAB bible and a decent rosary (i.e., not plastic) to each freshman going off to college.

Keep in mind that Catholics don’t believe the Bible is the Literal Word of God, which is what most of the Fundamentalist and Evangelical churches teach. We believe it is the Inspired Word of God, where G_D inspired the writer. As such, there are all different styles in Scripture, both literary and artistic, depending on how G_D inspired that particular writer. There is poetry, allegory, etc. All of these are true, but they may not be “literally” or “historically” true (which is what the aforementioned Protestant churches teach.) To borrow from Stephen Colbert, they all have different values of “truthiness” – all of them completely true, but not all literally true.

As an example: if I say “It’s raining cats and dogs” and you go to the window and see nothing on the ground but water, am I lying? Or does that idiom (“raining cats and dogs”) express a different value of “truthiness”, one that is more evocative than just saying “The rain is very heavy.”

Getting back to Tobit, the story is true. The question of being 100% historically true is irrelevant – it’s purpose is to express a different value of truth regarding our relationship with G_D. As with the Book of Esther, its truth lies in showing the lengths G_D will go to protect His people.

(I found it very interesting – I didn’t see the film “One Night With The King” in the theater because I didn’t see any advertising about it and didn’t bother to check it out on IMDB. It was only later when I got the DVD that I found out it was the story of Esther. I had to laugh, because I couldn’t help but compare the portrayal of Xerxes in “One Night” with his portrayal in “The 300”!)

First, the burden of proof is upon them, as they are the contentious ones. They seem to assume that they are superior in intellect and inspiration to 2,000 years of both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians? Really…

As to “magic”, they are apparently smoking crack. What about aprons, cloths and even shadows healing of sickness? That certainly sounds like magic. Where have we seen that? Oh, yeah!
Acts 5:15, Acts 19:12

As to Tobit, did no one on that site notice that the pre-Christian Jews were under the Old Testament - that sacrifice (such as alms) was made in atonement for sins? That site loses major amounts of credibility right there.

Tobit has the most advanced angelology in the entire Old Testament. It teaches that seven angels appear before the throne of God. Where else have we heard that? Oh yeah!
Revelation 8:2

Judith teaches the story of Israel being delivered from bondage by the action of a single woman. Where else have hear heard that lesson? Oh yeah!
Matthew 1, Luke 1 and 2.

2 Maccabees teaches of the resurrection from the dead. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah!
Jesus Christ.

2 Maccabees also teaches of hope for eternal life. Where is that? Oh yeah!
Jesus in the Gospels.

2 Maccabees teaches that sins of the dead can be loosed in the world to come. Where have we seen that? Oh yeah!
**Matthew 12:32, 1 Coritnhians 3:10-15 **

Read Wisdom 2:12-20. Written about 50 years before Christ was born. Who was the just man who claimed to be a son of God, who condemned his contemporaries, was put to a shameful death and whom God should save if he was His son?
I think we can guess this one.

If God did not inspire the foregoing scriptures, then just who did?

Neither Judith nor Baruch is a historical book. Don’t those goofballs realize that? The historical facts are scrambled, as you would expect from an exiled people in a constant state of suffering. As well, they completely gloss over the fact that there was historically no actual prodigal son. It was a parable. By their own standards, they condemn the words of Christ, do they not?

The bottom line is that no one in any authoritative capacity has ever declared the Deuterocanonical books to be uninspired. That was a suspicion put forward during the 16th century European rebellion and has since defaulted to protestant dogma.

I want to lend my agreement on your post. Particularly on Tobit and Raphael, it seems a strange accusation, that of magic, unless one wants to claim that there was magic involved in the Angel’s visitation to the Blessed Virgin, or any number of other Biblical events regarding angels.


I am in total agreement with your post!

Finally! This forum can beat one up sometimes.

Yet, no “authority” in the protestant realm has even declared the Deuterocanon to be uninspired, as no such authority exists. Luther had his doubts, but made no such declaration and left those books in his bible. Similar, but not identical situation with Calvin. In any event it would only have been their personal opinions. In recent times, the books have been excluded from virtually all modern protestant bibles, leading to much confusion and division. This is the devil’s work, if you ask me.

The historian Josephus states in “The Antiquities of the Jews” Book 10, Chapter 6 that Nebuchadnezzar did rule over Syria! He won all of Syria in a battle with Neco, King of Egypt; and also exacted tribute from the Jewish nation. Judith was right. :wink:

Truth to tell there are errors in the apocrypha. Just not in the Deuterocanon. Morally or doctrinally, that is.

Wow. Some really posts here (already too many to name).

I am going to throw a proverbial “marker buoy” on this thread and will come back later.

This was not my thread but thanks anyway for all the work that you have put into this issue.

God bless.



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