You submitted questions this last week and our pastoral staff responded. We want to encourage you to keep sending in questions to firstname.lastname@example.org as we continue through our study on what the church believes.
My in-laws were Catholic and their Bible contains books that aren’t in mine. Can you help to clarify what those are?
The Catholic Church includes 11 (or 12 depending how they are divided) extra books in addition to the Old Testament. They are called the Apocrypha. There are several reasons they don’t appear in the Protestant Bible:
- The one who first included them in an Old Testament translation never intended for them to be seen as part of the actual biblical text but as commentary to that text. Jerome placed them in his 390 A.D. translation of the Old Testament (The Latin Vulgate) at the urging of St. Augustine. He did so with a preface before each book and section that reminded the reader that, “While this section is included it is not a true part of the Bible.” (For more information see notes from the ESV Study Bible.)
- The Apocrypha has different doctrines and practices than the Bible. For example, the book of Tobit 12:9 says that, “Almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin.” Baruch 3:4 says, “God hears the prayer of the dead.” Furthermore, he hears the prayers of people who pray for the dead and allows those prayers to atone for sin (2 Maccabees 12:41-45).
- The Apocrypha is never cited in the New Testament as Scripture.
- The books of the Apocrypha were never considered to be part of the Jewish scriptures (The Old Testament). The Jews of Jesus’ day never considered these works to be divinely inspired. Instead, they denied their authority.
- The early church never included them in the list of Old Testament books. The earliest existing list of OT books is from Melito, a bishop of Sardis. His list, complied in 170 A.D. does not include them.
- These extra books were not officially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church until 1546 at the Council of Trent.
Does the New Testament compliment or override the Old Testament?
One of the most common views of the Bible is that it is an ancient book with two disconnected testaments. Does the New Testament contradict the Old Testament or visa versa? The key here is understanding the big picture and context of the Bible. The Bible is one book, composed by one author, telling one grand story: God’s redemption and restoration of the world. This intervention climaxes in Jesus Christ who accomplished for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves: salvation. Every biblical text must be placed in this bigger story to be understood. Tremper Longman III provides strong support to this point: “We should never read scripture in isolation from the whole Bible. While many human authors contributed to the Bible, God is the ultimate author of the whole. While the Bible is an anthology of many books, it is also one book. While it has many stories to tell, they all contribute to a single story.”
We must ask every biblical text one question: “What does this tell me about the main story of the scriptures, which is the gospel?” This question is vital especially when we read the Old Testament. For the Old Testament in all of its parts was written with Jesus Christ in view.
Jesus affirms the Gospel-centered nature of scriptures in his discourse with the two men who were traveling to Emmaus. Shortly after his crucifixion, we see these words ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,’ (Luke 24:27 ESV). Josh Moody and Robin Weekes provide helpful commentary to Jesus’ message here: “Notice that according to Jesus, all the scriptures (which for Him was the Old Testament) are about him…we must see that Christ is at the heart of Scripture…in other words, Jesus Christ is the key, which unlocks every part of the Bible. He is the lens through which all scripture must be interpreted and lived.”
When you hold your Bible in your hand, you are holding: 66 books, 40+ authors, 1,5000+ years, 10 civilizations, 3 continents, 3 languages, and one unified Gospel Story of Jesus Christ.
What is the sin of grieving the Holy Spirit and is it unforgivable? How do you know you haven’t committed it?
This is a great question to a very confusing passage! Jesus’ words about grieving the Holy Spirit are found in both the Gospel of Matthew (12:22-23) and the Gospel of Mark (3:22-30). In this story, there is confusion about whose power cast out a demon from a man. The scribes and Pharisees attribute the power to the Devil, but Jesus states that the man was delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the sin of grieving the Holy Spirit was attributing to the Devil what the Spirit had done. The scribes and Pharisees certainly did not deny the existence of the supernatural, nor did they deny the reality of the miracle. But in a remarkable display of hardness of heart and spiritual blindness, they believed the Devil had enabled and empowered Jesus to perform this miracle, and this grieved the Holy Spirit.
Is this sin unforgivable? This is where it’s vital to remember that the root of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ sin, the actual unforgivable sin, was their unbelief in Christ. Their hearts were hardened and blinded to the divinity of Jesus. This was not a one-time mistake; it was a life-long commitment to rebellion from the truth. Jesus is saying that the sin in this passage is unforgivable because they couldn’t even see their need to repent from it.
When a person repents of their sin, that sin is forgivable because they understand their need for repentance and turning to Christ. And we know that without turning to Christ, we are without the forgiveness Jesus gives us for our sins. Therefore, if a person is concerned that they may have committed the unforgivable sin, they have not, because their own concern is evidence indicating that their heart is not hardened like the scribes and Pharisees. The sin that Jesus is speaking of in this passage is one where there is no concern, no conviction, and no repentance.