The Erosion of Scripture


Over the past generation or two, Biblical scholars have cast doubt on numerous words, phrases, and sometimes whole verses in the Bible, with the result that many modern translations drop these parts of Scripture into footnotes or omit them altogether.

I don’t believe that the authenticity of any part of the Bible should be subject to the decision of scholars. The Council of Florence defined the Canon of Scripture. The Council of Trent specified that all the books of the Bible (the same as enumerated by Florence) are inspired and canonical “with all their parts”. And the old Latin Vulgate edition was the basis for determining what constitutes a part of each book:

“But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.”

So scholars do not have the authority to determine that a part of the Bible, found in the old Latin Vulgate, is not an authentic or inspired part of God’s Word.




If you are reading Protestant scholars, be aware that they are protesting (being protestants) that the Catholic Church has no authority to define doctrine nor Scripture.

If you are reading Catholic scholars, chances are that they are so infatuated with the “science” of their historical critical and textual critical methods that they do not remember their allegiance to knowing that the interpretation and content of Scripture that are the correct interpretation and content are those that are posited by the Living Magisterium of Apostolic Succession.

The goal is not to understand independently with a method, but the goal is to understand how and where the Church’s interpretations are to be recognized in the Scripture, and also why and how other interpretations (though they may seem to be supported by reason) are, in fact, incorrect. For instance, the words of Elihu are often ignored as a “later addition” to the book of Job. And as such, his words are rarely studied as important. But our Church, Tradition, has called his portion of Job to be part of the Canon of Scripture, therefore inspired and profitable. A true scholar would then seek to find the absolute necessity that Elihu’s discourse to Job is vital. [and I submit that Elihu is the mediator of God’s discourse at the end of Job - God’s speech at the end of Job is a kind of echo to Elihu, so one might say that Job finally heard God speak when he paid attention to Elihu’s words. And this would make the inclusion of this “later addition” vital to a theological expression of how people come to hear God speak.]


It’s still useful to know if there are variant readings of a passage or if a particular element is not found in some manuscripts. I agree, though, that devaluing those parts when they are recognized as inspired Scripture would be wrong.

In other words, to follow on from the previous post, it is possible to recognize that Elihu’s speech may have been added after the book of Job was originally written AND that God inspired its addition for an important reason.


Catholics have the assurance that:
“Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach (that) the truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.” [CCC #107, and found in Vatican II’s *Dei Verbum #11].


Much of this erosion of Scripture is coming from Protestant scholars, and has been adopted by Catholic scholars without taking into account the infallible pronouncements at Trent and Vatican I on the definition of the canon.

The teaching of Trent that the Canon is determined by the Latin scriptural tradition has been deliberately rejected by most modern Biblical scholars, and has been replaced with scholarship - as if scholars determine the Canon, but the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition do not.

Worse still, the majority opinion of scholars, esp. concerning the NT, has coalesced around one particular text, the United Bible Societies text, with critical apparatus, of the Greek NT. This text is mostly the work of Protestant scholars, and their methodology seems to have a strong tendency to drop words, phrases, and verses from the Bible, on scholarly grounds. This is a relatively new approach, since older Greek texts (Textus Receptus, and Majority Text) as well as the Latin texts do not use this approach. They prefer to retain, so that nothing is lost; whereas the newer approach prefers to omit.

One result of this has been a transfer of practical control over the Canon from the Magisterium and the Living Tradition to a relatively small subset of scholars, mostly Protestants, at the United Bible Societies. Another result is the erosion of the Canon of Scripture, so that hundreds of words and phrases, and more than a few entire verses, are relegated to footnotes or omitted altogether.


Can you give examples of verses that have been deleted from Catholic translations?


I hope my bible is a good one.:blush:


Even if you don’t think that scholars should comment on scripture, shouldn’t Catholics trust the Church on this issue? The Church has approved many of the comments you are complaining of, hasn’t it?


I’m not referring to footnotes, annotations, or commentary. I’m referring to the decision of Biblical scholars to drop words, phrases, and verses from the text of the Bible.

Trust the infallible teaching of the Council of Trent, reiterated by the First Vatican Council.

A decision of the Church to approve of a Bible translation does not constitute an act of the Magisterium; it is an act of the temporal authority, not the spiritual authority. Also, such an approval does not imply approval for every decision made by the translators and editors.


Well, I disagree. In the first instance, I don’t agree with your interpretation of the scope of prior Councils of the Church – that they mandated each and every precise word of scripture. The fact that the Church has approved versions of the bible with some minor variations seems to support that view. Why would the Church approve versions that, according to you, are in conflict with Church teaching?


Don’t worry, if it has an Imprimatur or other Church approval, its good.



The council of Trent approved the Latin Vulgate (a translation) in it’s non-existent ideal form. IOW, the Council of Trent did not actually say such and such’s printing of the Vulgate is the official translation of the Church. It carefully AVOIDED making this kind of statement. Especially considering how there was a new corrected Vulgate in the works at the time.

Even the Nova Vulgata that is promulgated on the Vatican’s website today (which has been corrected using the original languages rather than searching for the “true Vulgate as translated by St. Jerome.”) continues to be in the same tradition as advanced by the Council of Trent. IOW, the Latin Vulgate, as it has come down through the centuries in physical copies, is always considered to have faults. Therefore the Church can continue to correct those faults based on the current scholarly standards.

However, despite all of this, IMHO, it is perfectly ok to prefer the Clementine Vulgate over the Nova Vulgata. According to the Council of Trent, that which is handed down over the centuries, quoted by Saints and Martyrs, and used in ancient Liturgies, should not be deprecated, at least not officially. It may fall into desuetude however. So for example nowadays, no one speaks of the Virgin Mary crushing the head of the serpent. Yet we have all of that ancient tradition that relies on this translation of the Vulgate. The Church is NOT saying this translation is erroneous, but rather it is letting it fall into desuetude.

Someday, scholarship and Biblical discoveries may actually reinstate some of what is being dropped from today’s Bibles. Who knows? That is why the Bible can not be ANYONE’s sole authority. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and it is the Church that teaches and guides us.


There’s some integrity that can be found in some editions of scripture. For example, the King James Bible uses italics when the translators are inserting a word that seems necessary for understanding the original.

The Jewish Publication Society 1985 translation of the Jewish Bible has more informative footnotes, that tells (quite often) that some phrase is difficult to translate.

We should not overlook the obvious difficulties of translating hebrew and aramaic. Hebrew has not lower case/upper case, its characters represent numbers as well as letters, there’s no punctuation, no footnotes, no dictionary of Hebrew words, no parenthetical remarks, and no vowels (in pre-Masoretic texts).

so, in Hebrew, you can run across b g … In english, we can translate as bag, big, beg, bog, or bug, by putting in vowels we commonly use. What a tedious and almost experimental process this is, to figure out what the words are, just for starters.

And, erosion, depending on what examples we use, may also result from the limitations of copyright law, which forbids plagiarism. so, each new translation has to be tested against all previous ones, and there’s a lot of pencil-whipping to make the text come out to be different from others, just from a legal standpoint.

There’s the issue of making too-literal translations, which flatten out Hebrew idioms – the sense of the hebrew is lost in just such an overzealous attempt. the opposite or at least an alternative approach is to paraphrase the verse, which can lose the sharpness of the original.

A Baptist acquaintance was looking at a text in Genesis, after the fall, when God says “where are you” to Adam. Well, he says the more appropriate translation is, Where are you? and I don’t expect you to answer as you might have done so before.

and, we need updated translations into English, because our language changes, too. There must be some new equivalence set up as times go by, and younger people have no clue as to the former meanings of words.

so, to a significant extent, we have to live with and accept change – and I can’t believe I’m actually saying that.


Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII and the Vat Council II threw open the doors to modern scripture study.


desuetude – not being used anymore – a word that should collapse on itself, perhaps.

“Desuetude” has largely fallen into desuetude.


I’m reading some excerpts from (Titus Flavius) Josephus, Jewish historian, and he takes wild liberties in translating the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. He was writing in the first century AD. Before him, Philo of Alexandria (Jewish philosopher) also took wild liberties with interpreting the Torah.

The Qumran book of Jubilees, ditto.

There were several traditions of scriptures uncovered at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) and there have been a lot of tweaks of scripture

Look at The New American Bible authorized by USCCB. I purchased a Bible recently which uses the THIRD revision of the original 1970 NAB.

as simply as it can be said, the Catholic Church has “moved beyond” the Vulgate in so many ways. We don’t hear about this too much, but the Church MUST have translated the Bible into many languages and something is always lost in translation. The intended audience may simply not understand the idioms that are used.

My niece vacationed in Peru and came back with a refrigerator magnet for me, a depiction of the Last Supper (not a term used in scripture) and it shows the apostles eating guinea pigs (or some small animal indigenous to Peru). Things get interpreted, not just translated.

Jerome, who is credited for beginning the Vulgate, rejected using the Septuagint, in favor of original Hebrew and Aramaic texts – not good enough, though. OTHERS completed the Vulgate with selections from the septuagint. (the septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, started off initially as a translation of the Torah; it took a century and a half to complete because it took that long to translate other important Hebrew writings).

With the kind of homilies I get in my parish, this conversation is like “post-graduate” level compared to the elementary school level homilies. I’m 66 and I’ve never heard a priest in the pulpit step into any of these controversies.


Can you actually give some examples from these translations that demonstrate what you’re talking about (and mention which translation it is)? I’ve never seen any translations that have dropped parts of scripture or omitted them, although certain difficult passages might have an explanation in a footnote.


I also have a cheap paperback version of the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, 24 books based on the Masoretic text DEVELOPED IN ABOUT THE 8TH AND 9TH CENTURIES.

They are dedicated to the best scholarship in translating the Hebrew and there are MANY, MANY uncertain words and phrases in the Old Testament.

the old Hebrew doesn’t uses spaces between words and there are no vowels in the original tests. The Masoretic text ADDED the vowels because the knowledge of Hebrew was in danger of being lost. But, what did that do?

Look at BG

Now, what word is that? is it bAg, bEg, bIg, bOg, or bUg? The whole Old Testament is one puzzle after another. And, focusing on one translation, the Vulgate, is simply over-confidence in the accuracy of its translation. now, beg is a verb. big is an adjective, and bag, bog, and bug are nouns. We should never close our minds to new insights, even into the translation, although we certainly think we are very close to what the text says, but we will NEVER be 100% certain of everything.

And, the Old Testament shows many signs of tampering, edits, additions, subtractions, misspelling, etc. It is rather fundamentalist to try to put the holy writ in concrete.

and, this is just regarding the words. That council of florence referred to in one of the op’s above, cancelled out the commandment in act 15 about not eating blood. That is no longer a commandment binding Catholics – we can eat blood (if we want to). That was penci-whipped away by stating that that commandment applied at the time,due to pagan worship at the time. So, things are still written on paper for a reason.


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