Today, we continue our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist ends his five-part section on Scripture and Tradition with this chapter countering Protestants’ arguments against Catholicism’s “Sacred Traditions” by which Protestants refer to the warning of Revelation 22:18-19, “Don’t Add to God’s Word”.
In this chapter, Broussard examines the Bible passage below, which Protestants often use to warn against the elevation of any man-made doctrine or tradition, including Catholicism’s spurious “Sacred Traditions,” to the same level as divinely inspired and authorized Scripture:
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” – Revelation 22:18-19
Broussard argues that the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 is intended specifically for the Book of Revelation itself and not for the entire canon of Scripture. He states that if the warning was in fact intended for the entire Biblical canon, then Protestants are guilty of removing the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books from the Bible.
As surprising as it might be to some, I actually agree with Broussard that the passage that’s cited refers specifically to the Book of Revelation. However, along with the warnings in Deuteronomy 4:1-2 and Proverbs 30:5-6, there is also a general principle implied in Revelation 22:18-19 that God’s Word is not to be tampered with or subordinated to any other authority.
The status of the seven deuterocanonical/apocryphal books* have been debated for centuries. They are generally thought to have been written between 200 BC and 50 AD and were NEVER considered as Scriptural by Palestinian Rabbinic Judaism. Diasporic Helenistic Judaism (centered in Alexandria and Antioch) syncretically combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture and added the spurious apocryphal books into the Septuagint (Latin – “translation of the seventy interpreters”), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. When Jerome set about translating the Bible into the Latin Vulgate in the early-5th century, he used the Hebrew Bible as his source and rejected the apocryphal books of the Septuagint. Later editions of the Vulgate would include the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books, but the debate continued over their canonicity until the Council of Trent settled the matter for the RCC in 1546. Contrary to the claims of overzealous Catholic apologists, Catholic Bible scholar, priest John Echert, concedes that it cannot be demonstrated that Jesus or His apostles ever quoted directly from any of the apocryphal books.
“The (religious) themes (alluded to in the New Testament as quotes from the Apocrypha by overzealous Catholics) are so prevalent in Judaism that our Lord may not have intended these works (i.e., the Apocrypha) specifically.” – John Echert
Roman Catholics continue to defend the canonicity of the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books. That’s a given. But Broussard has attempted to use that debate as a smokescreen to divert the reader’s attention from the original argument, that the Roman Catholic church has subordinated God’s Word by claiming divine authority for its Magisterium (the teaching office of the pope and his bishops) and for its “Sacred Tradition,” a label it conveniently ascribes to every man-made doctrine it concocts.
Does the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 apply to the entire Bible or just the Book of Revelation?
What are the Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books?
The Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical Books (excellent article from Ligonier Ministries)
*The Apocrypha includes the seven books of Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and Wisdom of Solomon, and additions to Esther and Daniel
Next up: Broussard kicks off a new section on the topic of Salvation with the chapter, “We Are Justified All At Once.”