The Signature Of God: Part Two

by Dcn. Joseph Gleason

gartus-man-with-book-clip-artAt this point, you are convinced that there must have been some sort of enormous, unbelievable printing error. There must have been some massive, inexplicable computer error at the publishing company, and they must have released a defective Bible by sheer accident. Surely, all their Bibles could not have been printed the same way, or else everybody in the church would notice! The solution was obvious . . . just throw away this bad Bible, and use one of the others.

So, you pitch that bizarre Bible in the trash where it belongs, and you get a couple others. And this is where you really start scratching your head, because both of these Bibles match the first one! The Psalms and Proverbs are missing. So are the books of Ruth, Isaiah, the Gospel of John, Romans, Revelation, and two other books. Altogether, there are nine books that are missing from these Bibles, and there is no explanation that you can imagine. Why in the world were all these incomplete Bibles printed, and how in the world did they end up in this church?

Frustrated and confused, you find one of your new friends at the church, and you explain what you have discovered. You ask,

“Why are these Bibles incomplete? Scripture says that it is a sin to take away from God’s Word, so why are there 9 books missing from all these Bibles? What happened?”

Your friend smiles, laughs, and doesn’t act surprised at all. But you are shocked by what you hear. Your friend’s response is this: “We had those Bibles printed that way on purpose. At our church, we do not believe that those particular 9 books are Scripture at all. They are good books, but they are not the Word of God. We believe that there are only 57 books in the Bible. That’s why we left out those other books.”

At this point, you are reeling, and you almost feel dizzy. You feel warm blood rushing to your head, and you start to feel angry. How could anyone deny that the book of Isaiah is part of the Bible? It contains so many prophecies about Jesus! How could anyone leave out the book of Proverbs? What about John, Romans, and Revelation? How could you call a book “the Bible” if it is missing all these books? How could God possibly be pleased by this?

Now please think carefully for a minute. Imagine that all of this actually happened to you. Imagine that you had been faithfully attending a beautiful church with magnificent music, excellent preaching, and friendly people. Imagine that you enjoyed everything about the church, and that you had no complaints at all. As far as you can remember this is the most perfect church you have ever attended in your life. But then you discover these incomplete Bibles. After some investigation, you find out that all the Bibles in this church are missing 9 books. If you become a member of this church, you will have to agree that Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Ruth, John, Romans, Revelation, and two other books are not the Word of God. You will have to get rid of your old Bible, and you will have to get one of these new Bibles that only has 57 books in it.

If this happened to you, what would you do? Would you keep going to this church? Would you get one of these new Bibles? Would you be willing to lose 9 books of Scripture?

If you are like many people, you would leave this church quickly, and you would never return. No matter how beautiful the church building is, no matter how incredible the music sounds, no matter how much you enjoy the sermons, and no matter how friendly the people are, you would not be willing to sacrifice your Bible. No matter how much you love that church, you would not go there, if they forced you to tear 9 books out of your Bible. You cannot bear to pretend that these books are not Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit. No matter how good this church seems to be in other ways, you just cannot accept its incomplete Bible. It is just not worth it.

This may surprise you, but there are many churches which are just like the one described in this story. On the outside, they seem wonderful. The architecture is beautiful. The people are friendly. The music is excellent. The preaching is exciting. And even the food is good. But once you open up a Bible in one of these churches, you will find that many Scriptures have disappeared.

The Psalms and Proverbs are still there. So is Ruth, and so is the book of Isaiah. These Bibles are not missing the Gospel of John. The book of Acts is still in place, and nobody has forgotten about the book of Revelation. But other books are missing.

Remember the amazing Old Testament prophecy we read earlier? That prophecy was written in the century before Jesus was born, and it includes many specific details about His life. This prophecy tells us that Jesus would claim to be the Son of God, that Jesus would criticize the religious leaders for being hypocrites, and that they would condemn Him to a shameful death. An important part of the prophecy is a direct prediction of what the Pharisees said in the New Testament, in Matthew 27:43. This particular part of the prophecy is important, because it is the only prediction of Matthew 27:43 which can be found in the entire Old Testament.

But if you walk into most churches in America, and you check their Bibles, you will not find this prophecy anywhere. It has been erased.

This prophecy of Jesus can be found in the Old Testament, in the book of Wisdom, chapter 2, verses 12-20. For the first 1,500 years of the Church, it was easy to find this prophecy, because the book of Wisdom was widely accepted as Scripture throughout the worldwide Church. From the time of the apostles, until the 16th century, the book of Wisdom was understood to be a part of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit. When people considered the prophecy of Christ that is contained in the book of Wisdom, they recognized it as the signature of God . . . every bit as much as the prophecies of Christ which are contained in the book of Isaiah, or the Psalms.

But then something tragic happened during the Protestant Reformation. As Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and other early Protestants fought against the sins of the 16th century Catholic Church, they threw out the baby with the bathwater. Even though there were some abuses in the Catholic Church which needed to be corrected, the Protestant Reformers made the enormous mistake of removing several books from the Bible, which had been considered Scripture since the time of the apostles.

Over the next century, most Protestants still included these books of Scripture in their Bibles. Even the original 1611 King James Version of the Bible included the book of Wisdom, the book of Tobit, the book of Baruch, and several others.

The first Protestant Bible ever printed with 66 books was the 1599 Geneva Bible. For 1,598 years, the worldwide Church was content to recognize the signature which God had placed on books such as Wisdom, Tobit, and Sirach. But then in the year 1599, Protestants decided it was time to try something new. At the last minute, they instructed the publisher to leave several of the books unprinted. The result was the 1599 Geneva Bible, which included 66 books, and also included scores of blank pages, where the other books were originally intended to be printed. I wish that Protestant Bibles were still printed this way . . . at least the blank pages would serve as a reminder that something has been taken away from us.

Thankfully, not all churches have been willing to accept this shortened Bible. Even today, there are many churches you can attend where the Bibles are not missing all these books.

For example, consider the Old Testament book of Wisdom. If you walk into an Orthodox Church, or into a Catholic Church, you will find Bibles which still contain this book of Scripture. And on the Protestant side of the fence, you can also find a number of Anglicans who realize that the book of Wisdom bears the very signature of God. The prophecies of Christ contained therein cannot be the product of mere men.

If you want to know where your church stands, simply open up one of its Bibles. See whether it contains the following nine books:

  • Tobit (Tobias)
  • Judith
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • 3 Maccabees
  • Wisdom of Solomon (Wisdom)
  • Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
  • Baruch
  • Epistle of Jeremiah

If your Bible contains all of these books, then you can breathe a sigh of relief.

But if that Bible is missing some of its books, then run away. Run fast.

You need to own a Bible that contains all the books of Scripture.

You need a copy of the Bible which still bears the full signature of God.

 

Source: The Orthodox Life

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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