Glimpsing Words, Practices, or Beliefs Unique to Catholicism

Question: Are there specific Catholic beliefs in the books (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, the last six chapters of Esther and three passages of Daniel 3:24-90; 13; 14) that Protestant Bibles don't contain? Maybe that's why non-Catholics ask "where is that in the Bible?" because it's not in theirs?

Discussion: Yes, deuterocanonical books in the Old Testament of Catholic Bibles contain some passages that influence various practices or beliefs. However, early Christians and Jews (including Jesus and His family) initially regarded the books as divinely inspired, so it's not that the Church arbitrarily added books no one else had ever accepted.

For more information about the deuterocanonical books, see the Bible Talk article, "Do Catholics Have Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical Books?"

For an example of a Catholic practice testified to within a deuterocanonical book, read 2 Maccabees 12:38-46. Those verses, which discuss praying for the dead and offering sacrifices on their behalf, also support a Catholic concept of purgatory.

 Question: Sometimes my family or I come across a word or phrase in the Bible that we don't understand. If it's not in the footnote on that page, is there a handy reference to look these things up?

Discussion: The Internet and most of the larger bookstores offer Catholic encyclopedias and Bible dictionaries with words and topics listed alphabetically to ease your search. For example, New Advent, The Real Presence Association, and Catholic Culture websites offer definitions and in-depth information from a Catholic perspective. If you prefer to look up words or topics in print, try The Catholic Encyclopedia published by Nelson, the Modern Catholic Dictionary by John A. Hardon, S. J., or Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Some publishers provide comprehensive information on specific topics, too, such as the Dictionary of Mary by the Catholic Book Publishing Company. I recommend the above resources simply because I have those books and have visited those websites, but readers might recommend other sites or titles, so check back to see what's posted below.

Question: After Jesus sent a demon out of a man, his disciples asked him why they weren't able to do that. In this verse (Mark 9:29), Jesus answers, "This kind can only come out through prayer." That's the NAB version. The King James and Douay Rheims have "prayer and fasting." In my Vatican II class we came across this, and it shut the whole class down while we fussed with this difference. We agreed that it significantly changes the meaning or emphasis of what Jesus is saying. I think the big thing on people's minds is, how can they just change a verse in which Jesus speaks like this and which one is right, and are there more like this among the different translations of the Bible? I'd appreciate input on this or a direction to go to research it further.

Discussion: Over the centuries, scribes sometimes inserted small additions or glosses that were not originally included in the biblical text. Newer translations of the Bible usually omit those insertions but often include a footnote to explain why or to provide a variant reading that may be more familiar to most Christian readers. Nevertheless, these types of additions have some rationale or support from Holy Scripture. For example, in Matthew 6:16-18 and also 9:14-15, Jesus discusses fasting, commonly practiced by Jews and early Christians. Older scriptural references to fasting can also be found in Psalms 35:13 and 69:10, Isaiah 58, and Joel 1:14 and 2:12-13. If you would like to compare translations, The Complete Parallel Bible offers side-by-side passages in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Revised English Bible (REB), New American Bible (NAB), and New Jerusalem Bible (NJB.) Also, a previous Bible Talk article, "Studying The Study Bibles," recommends other resources for researching words, practices, and beliefs. Debate will undoubtedly continue, yet the concept of "prayer and fasting" remains scripturally intact even though that actual phrase was not originally part of the verse you cited.

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