Our Lord Jesus Christ has left us nothing in writing. He gave all his instructions
by word of mouth, preaching in public and in private to his apostles and to all the people, inculcating the truths of salvation
during the three years of his missionary career: but before he quitted them, he promised to give them an invisible and interior
master, who should teach them all things whatever he should say to them, and enable them to answer their opponents and to
carry the gospel truths to the utmost limits of the earth. (St. John chap. xiv. 26, and chap. xvi. 13.)
It was in the execution of these promises that the apostles received the
Holy Ghost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and, that animated with his fire, and illumined with his divine
light, they have left us the holy gospels, and the other books of the New Testament, which we consider with reason as the
work of Jesus Christ himself. Let us then no longer say, happy are they who have seen the Lord, and who have heard from his
mouth the words of life. Many of those have persecuted him, and have imbrued their hands in his blood; whilst many of those,
who have not seen him, have believed in him. Moreover, we read, we hear, we preserve in the sacred books the instructions
he gave to the people. Jesus Christ is in heaven, and he is still preaching on earth: etiam hic est veritas Dominus. (St.
The apostles were in no great hurry to write: they began, after the example
of their Master, to teach by word of mouth, and to practice the truths they had learned. They were no ways apprehensive of
forgetting what they had heard, nor of varying in what they taught; they had impressed too deeply the truths they had received
from his lips, both on their mind and heart, and they felt perfectly secure in the promises made to them, that his Holy Spirit
should never abandon them. --- After some years, the zeal and pious curiosity of the faithful engaged them to commit to writing
what they knew, for the consolation and instruction of their disciples. This was the motive of St. Matthew's writing. St.
Mark probably had the same motive in abridging what had been penned by St. Matthew, wishing at the same time to subjoin some
additional few facts and circumstances which he had learned elsewhere.
St. Luke informs us that he was determined to write, because accounts were
in circulation relative to the life and doctrines of Jesus Christ, differing from what they had received from the apostles;
and that he gave his account with all exactitude, from the mouth of those who had been witnesses, and who were charged to
deliver them to their disciples, thinking that he should do a service to the Church in writing faithfully, and in order, all
that had passed from the beginning. --- Lastly, the holy Fathers teach us that the heresy of Cerinthus, and that of the Nicolaites,
who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, gave rise to the Gospel of St. John.
The Acts of the Apostles are a continuation of the Gospel of St. Luke, a narrative of what happened to the infant church of Jerusalem, from
the ascension of Jesus Christ till the conversion of St. Paul; and of what happened to this great apostle, from his conversion
till his first journey to Rome. St. Luke gives scarce any thing here, of what himself was not eye-witness, as the inseparable
companion of the labours and preaching of the apostle. --- St. Paul penned his Epistles according to the wants and
occurrences of different churches, without any premeditated design of reducing to writing, or giving a body of the maxims
and truths which he preached; although, by an effect of divine Providence, he has drawn out for us very many excellent and
most important instructions therein, which serve as a supplement to the holy gospels. --- In the same manner, the other apostles
that have left us any instructions in writing, penned their epistles for the edification and instruction of those churches
exclusively, to which they were addressed. Well convinced, at the same time, that they would be communicated in process of
time to all the other churches, through respect for whatever came from that pure source, and through the eagerness of the
faithful to preserve such invaluable monuments. St. John wrote his Apocalypse, or Book of Revelations, by the express
order of Jesus Christ, who enjoined him to send the same to the seven churches of Asia Minor, whom he wished to make the depository
of the revelations contained therein; and which relate, in great measure, to events that were to befall his church militant
on earth, till its complete union with his church triumphant in heaven.
CANON OF THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Both in the Old and New Testament there are Books, the authenticity of
which has never been disputed. There are others which during a certain period, and in certain churches, have been questioned:
but at this day there is not one in the Canon, that has not been acknowledged authentic by the greatest part of the ancient
churches. In vain did the ancient heresiarchs attempt to corrupt the genuine text, or to forge false gospels; they have never
been able to corrupt the originals of the Catholic Churches: whilst the Books that have been corrupted, mutilated, changed,
or invented by them, have all been despised or forgotten; have all been suppressed, proscribed, and condemned by the Catholic
We cannot precisely tell the year in which the Canon of the New Testament
was formed; but we find it clearly marked as far back as the second age of the Church, though it was not universally received
in its present form till after the fourth century. Eusebius, in his 3d book and 24th chapter on Church History, informs
us, that the bishops of Asia presented to St. John the Gospels of the three Evangelists, who had written before him, and which
were then public and universally known. St. John approved of and received them; and to supply what was wanting in them, wrote
his own, in which he mentions what Jesus Christ had done at the commencement of his preaching, and what had been omitted by
the other Evangelists. The first three Gospels we find cited in St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians, written previously
to St. John's Gospel. St. Polycarp in his epistle to the Philippians, quotes five or six times the Gospels of St. Matthew
and St. Luke, without naming them. St. Barnabas in his Epistle frequently quotes the four Gospels. St. Ignatius repeatedly
cites them in his seven Epistles, and alludes to them, particularly to the Gospel of St. John.
St. Justin, the martyr, speaks expressly of the Commentaries of the
Apostles, the name he gives to the gospels, which, he says, were written by the apostles, or by their disciples. Tertullian
appeals to the gospel which from the beginning has been given by the apostles, and which is preserved as a sacred deposit
in the apostolic churches. "If it be evident," says this author, "that that is truest which is first, and that that is first
which was from the beginning; it is equally evident that that was delivered to us from the apostles, which has always been
holden as most sacred in the apostolic churches."
We have here then from the end of the first, and from the beginning of
the second age, and in the third, the canon of the four gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, and St. Paul usually
cites the gospel according to the text of St. Luke. This canon was made, not in a solemn assembly, not in a council, but by
the consent of the churches, and by the judgment of the bishops, the major part of whom had seen and known the apostles and
The epistles of the apostles are not less authentic, and they were collected
together about the same period as the four gospels. St. Polycarp distinctly cites the Epistles of St. Paul, and those of St.
Peter and St. John. He does not indeed quote the Epistle to the Hebrews, nor the second of St. Peter, nor the second and third
of St. John, because most probably they did not find a place in the earliest collections. St. Ignatius, in his Epistle to
the Philadelphians, clearly marks the gospels, the apostles and prophets, as composing the whole code of Scripture. "Let us
have recourse," says he, "to the gospel, as to the flesh of Jesus Christ, and to all his apostles, looking upon the epistles
of these holy men as the ecclesiastical senate; let us also love and esteem the prophets," or the books of the Old Testament.
Tertullian tells us, that in his time the originals of the epistles were preserved.
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE OF THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The original text of the books of the New Testament, if we except the Gospel
of St. Matthew, was Greek. The Gospel of St. Matthew was written originally in Hebrew or in Syriac, which was the vulgar language
at that period in Palestine, but was translated very early into Greek. The original text was in preservation at the time of
St. Epiphanius and St. Jerome; but since that time has been entirely lost. The Greek translation is very ancient, the Latin
version is scarcely less ancient, and very exact and faithful.
DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SCRIPTURES IN ENGLISH, WITH THE
DATES OF THE SAME.
It will perhaps be acceptable to many to see a list of the early translations,
with their dates. The first we find is by:
James Cloverdale, in the year of our Lord, 1535.
Thomas Matthew, 1538.
Richard Taverner, 1539.
Henry VIII.'s Bible, printed by Ed. Whitechurch and Rd. Grafton, 1539.
Ditto, second edition, revised and corrected by Cuthbert, bishop of Durham,
and Nicholas, bishop of Rochester; printed by Grafton, 1541.
Edmund Beche's Bible, printed by John Daye, 1549.
Ditto, second edition, by Ditto, 1551.
English Testament, printed at Geneva, by Conrad Badias, 1557.
Rheims Testament, by John Fogny; the fifth edition of this was given in
folio and with cuts, anno 1738, 1582.
Harrison's Bible, printed at London, 1562.
Rouen Bible, 1566.
Bishop's Bible, printed by Rd. Jugge, 1568.
Ditto, edition by Ditto, 1572-7-9.
Geneva Bible, by Christ. Barker, 1578.
Douay Bible printed at Douay, by Laurence Kellem, 1609.
King James's Bible, printed by Robt. Barker, 1610.
Ditto, second edition, same date (it is not know which was first printed).
It is certain that no printed book, with a date, existed previous
to the celebrated Psalter of 1457; the Bible by Fust and Guttenburg, but without date, was printed in 1450, a copy of which
is in the Imperial library at Paris, probably brought thither by the German librarian, who, for his knowledge of books, is
a second Magliabechi. He not only possesses a schedule of the Libri desiderati, but also knows the exact place in each
great library of Europe, where they are to be found.
 See Ward's Errata of Protestant bibles, ed. 1737; also defence of same,
by the Rev. J. L. 1811. --- The Bibles quoted by Ward, are: 1st, The translation begun by Tindal [Tyndale] in 1526, and finished
by Cloverdale in 1535, as altered by Cranmer and the Genevan editors, of which an edition was given 1562. 2ndly, The two editions
of 1577 and 1579, from the version called Bishop's Bible, which appeared in 1568; and lastly, the version now in use, called
King James's Bible, first published in 1610. In this several of the former errors are corrected, but several still remain
to be corrected. Ward very justly remarks, "the changes were made too late. The people were deceived by a vast number of corruptions
in the sacred texts, during the reigns of Henry VIII. Edward VI. and Elizabeth, till they had in general renounced the ancient
faith, and embraced the new system. And when this was effected, and the growing sect of Puritans began to turn these corruptions
against you, particularly at the famous conference of Hampton Court, in the beginning of the first James's reign, at last
you thought proper to correct them." See p. 17. --- To mention some of the many variations still existing, compare the differences
that are found in the Catholic and Protestant version with the Greek text and the Latin Vulgate.
In St. MATTHEW:
Chap. iii, ver. 2 and 8. chap. xix, ver. 11. In this latter text it is
certainly of moment, to prove the possibility of leading a continent life, whether we translate it according to the Vulgate
and Greek, all men take not this word, or mistranslate it thus, "all men cannot receive this saying;" again,
(1 Corinthians vii. 9.) if they do not contain; "if they cannot contain."
In St. LUKE:
Chap. i, ver. 6, and ver. 28, chap. iii, ver. 8, and chap. xviii, ver.
42. Thy faith hath made thee whole, is translated, "thy faith hath saved thee," in favour of faith only. It was on
the same ground, do penance, is every where rendered, "repent ye;" but the judicious Mr. Bois, prebend of Ely, in his
Veteris Interpretis cum Beza, commended by Walton in his Polyglot, declares he would not have this common translation of pœnitentiam
agite, changed; and brings the words of Melancthon, "Let us not be ashamed of our mother-tongue; the Church is our mother,
and so speaks the Church."
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES:
Chap. xiv. 22. And when they had ordained to them priests, is rendered,
"and when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting:" now it is evident that here are not
meant elders as to years and age; and if they look to the derivation, priest and the French word pretre are derived from presbyter.
See also chap. xv. and chap. xvi. --- Chap. xvii. 23. and seeing your idols, is rendered, "and behold your devotions."
--- Chap. xx. 28. Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you 'bishops' to
'rule' the church of God, is rendered, "overseers to feed the church."
S. PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
Chap. v, ver. 6. When as yet we were weak, is rendered, "when we
were yet without strength," taking away free-will. --- Chap. xi, ver. 4. For Baal, is given in italics, "the image"
of Baal. Frequently the words idols and idolaters, are changed into images and image-worshippers, to prove Catholics to be
idolaters; also Acts xix. 35.
FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
Chap. i, ver. 10. No schisms among you: Prot. "no divisions." ---
Chap. ix. 5. To carry about a woman, a sister: Protestant, "to lead about a woman, a wife;" to shew that St. Paul was
married. The contrary is clear from chap. vii, ver. 7 and 8. --- Chap. xi. 27. Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink,
&c. thus, "shall eat and drink." --- Chap. xv. 10. The grace of God with me: Protestant, "The grace of God
which was with me:" thus they would have it seem that the apostle did nothing at all, but was moved as a thing without life
or will, and taking away free co-operation with divine grace.
EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS.
Chap. ii. 25, and iv. 3. My sincere companion: Prot. "true yoke-fellow,"
as if St. Paul had written this to his wife.
EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS.
Chap. i. 12. Worthy to be partakers, thus, "meet to be partakers,"
against meritorious works.
TWO EPISTLES TO TIMOTHY.
1 Timothy iv. 14, and 2d Timothy i. 6. Stir up the grace of God which
is in thee by the imposition of my hands, thus, "the gift of God," lest holy orders should be proved a sacrament. ---
The word Catholic, at the head of the Epistles of St. James and of St. Peter, are converted into "general." Sir Thomas
More has a long dissertation against his contemporary, Tindal [Tyndale], for substituting Congregation for Church.
And here we must remark, that the Latin version was in general use long before any reform in the doctrines of the Church was
thought of; of course it is not open to the same objections with all subsequent translations.