Not Much of a Catholic “Refutation”

A “Catholic Apologist” Attacks My Apocrypha Essay

(And Commits Self-Embarrassment)


by T.L. Hubeart Jr.

© 2005 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.


I recently followed a link from Wikipedia to a website called Catholic Apologetics and found some references to my Apocrypha essay there, alleged by the proprietor or proprietors of the Catholic site to have been “refuted” by them! Since the site nowhere attributes my essay to me by name, and the proprietor never advised me of his “refutation” of my piece, it’s perhaps understandable why I missed this before. But I thought I would answer it here and point out its many inaccuracies, as well as what it carefully (and perhaps deliberately) leaves unsaid in the hopes of getting the unwary reader to buy into its claim to have “refuted” me.


I found my article mentioned at these two URLs:


Some “Apologist” Credibility Issues


The credibility problems in fact begin at the very top of the respective pages, where the author says that he found the arguments he is claiming to refute “on the ‘J.S. Bach’s Ornament Table[,]’ a site set up to support and uphold the KJV.”


Um, no, Mr. (or Ms.) Catholic Apologetics. The site has been known for nine years now as “Tom’s Virtual Cultural Empire.”* The ornament table is a separate part of the site, as is the Apocrypha essay. The ornament table says absolutely nothing about the KJV, nor in fact does the “Tom’s” home page give as its mission statement such a general purpose. The purpose of this collection of pages--which is not restricted by any means to the KJV (as is evident even in your confused reference to there being a Bach ornament table among them)--is given on the home page in these words: “These items reflect the things I believe and those that intrigue me, and I hope you find them enjoyable.” Had you bothered to find your way to the home page, you might have discovered at least the title of the site. But as the careful reader will find, this is typical of your dismal record of inaccuracy throughout your purported “refutation.”


[[* - UPDATE, 10/13/08: Well, at least it was known by that name until I had to move it to the domain once AOL decided to get out of the business of web hosting!]]


I will start with addressing the “Apologist’s” Geneva essay. It begins with a garbled quotation that is partly from me and partly from who knows where. I provide this screen shot to establish corroboration of my description, knowing that web pages have a way of suddenly changing or disappearing once their maintainer becomes aware of the gaffes that are on them. (Click on the screen shot to see a larger JPG of this image.)


catholicscreenshot2 (Small)


The “Apologist” says here that some of what he/she calls “ardent followers of the King James Version . . . argue that the translators did not hold the ‘Apocrypha’ Books as Scripture” and that “to prove this point they use the 1560 Geneva Bible. There [sic!] argument goes something like this”--and then follows a garbled quote beginning [brackets and clumsy editing given exactly as in source]:


“The Some of the earlier [pre1611] English Bibles such as the Geneva had a disclaimer stating that the Apocrypha books were not inspired... the Geneva Bible of 1560 even preface the section with a special advisory...The Geneva Bible’s prefatory notice deserves to be cited at length....”


First, one may notice by comparison the very different methods employed by myself and my attempted refuter. Anyone who looks at my essay on the Apocrypha can see the extensive footnotes I have supplied and is thereby enabled to locate the sources I have used and verify my accuracy. In contrast, the “Apologist” mainly relies, from what I can see, on page scans from old Bibles on which he/she places a convenient set of interpretations (which are highly questionable to say the least, as I intend to show later). It would have been an easy matter at the outset of the “Apologist’s” essay to simply say, “Here is a quote from a website that argues this point” and then give an unadulterated quotation from my essay. This would have been straightforward and let the reader know exactly who said what, but my adversary did not do this, and it appears to me from the wiggle words “something like this” that the inaccuracy was deliberate. (A similar inaccuracy occurs in the “Margin Notes” essay, where the “something like this” formulation is used, following mention of my pages, to introduce words that nowhere appear in my essay but are apparently pulled from another site; see the following screen shot, on which you can again click to see a larger JPG.) As we will see shortly, it is not at all in the “Apologist’s” interests to be entirely straightforward in responding to my piece.


catholicscreenshot1 (Small)


A Geneva Red Herring


Following the garbled quote from my essay, my self-appointed opponent writes (misspellings and brackets exactly as in source):


“It is true that the Geneva Bible showed open hostility twards these books, but we must not forget one VERY important point, the ‘Geneva’ Bible was rejected by the Church of England (who translated the KJV ). The Anglican translators of the 1611 KJV in there preface also attacked and openly denounced this other Protestant translation for leaving the traditional Ecclesiastical words:


“‘Lastly, we have on the one side avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who leave the old Ecclesiastical words, and betake them to other, as when they put WASHING for BAPTISM, and CONGREGATION instead of CHURCH:’ [The original preface to the 1611 King James Version called ‘To The Reader’].”


This is, quite simply, a red herring, in addition to being--again--inaccurate:


1. Firstly, whether or not the Geneva Bible “was rejected by the Church of England” (which is by the way a misleading statement at best--the King’s Printer Robert Barker, who also printed the 1611 first edition KJV, printed the Geneva as well, and the KJV translators clearly made use of it in their work) is not especially relevant in this context. But if the word of the Geneva men is to be set aside, what is the “Apologist” to do with the Great Bible’s translators, who preceded Geneva’s translators in prefacing the Apocrypha with a disclaimer, as I detail in my essay? The Great Bible was put together by the Church of England. Is their word good enough for our Catholic friend? It’s hard to say, as the “Apologist” is carefully silent about this fact mentioned in my piece. I clearly showed in my essay a continuity between Luther, the Great Bible, the Geneva, and the KJV men in dealing with the Apocrypha, which this objection does little to offset.


2. When the writer claims that “The Anglican translators of the 1611 KJV in there [sic] preface also attacked and openly denounced this other Protestant translation,” he/she is simply ignorant of the facts. Read “The Translators to the Reader” (not simply “To The Reader”—another instance where we find less than accurate citation from this author) to see what the KJV men explicitly said earlier in this document:


“And to the same effect say we, that we are so far off from condemning any of their labors that travailed before us in this kind, either in this land or beyond sea, either in King Henry’s time or King Edward’s (if there were any translation or correction of a translation in his time), or Queen Elizabeth’s of ever renowned memory, that we acknowledge them to have been raised up of God for the building and furnishing of his church, and that they deserve to be had of us and of posterity in everlasting remembrance.”


Another proof that Geneva is not intended in the quote given by the “Apologist” is the fact that the “scrupulosity” complained of is not a feature of the Geneva Bible. Geneva does not use “washing” for “baptism,” nor does it typically use “congregation” for “church.” “Washing” appears in Geneva in Mark 7:4 and 8, Luke 5:2, Eph. 5:26, Titus 3:5, and Heb. 9:10, in all of which cases KJV gives “washing” as well; most of these are clearly not “baptism” and only one case (Titus 3:5) offers room for doubt. “Congregation” appears all of three times in the Geneva New Testament, twice (Acts 7:38 and 13:43) speaking of Jews and not Christian churches, once (Heb. 12:23) referring to those already in heaven (“congregacion of the first borne”); in all three passages KJV gives “church,” but only the Hebrews passage has the underlying Greek word that is usually rendered “church” in English Bibles, ekklesia (Strong’s G1577).[1] Aside from that passage, what is the consistent rendering of the Geneva Bible regarding the word ekklesia? Why, church,” of course. Indeed, the use of “congregation” to translate ekklesia is a feature not of Geneva, but of Tyndale’s New Testament, as can clearly be seen by the following examples:[2]




Geneva (New Testament Octapla)

Tyndale (New Testament Octapla)

Matthew 16:18

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rocke I will buylde my Church: and the gates of hell shal not overcome it.

And I saye also unto the, that thou arte Peter: and apon this rocke I wyll bylde my congregacion. And the gates of hell shall not prevayle ageynst it.

Acts 2:47b

. . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

. . . and the Lord added to the Church from day to day, suche as shulde be saved.

. . . And the Lorde added to the congregacion dayly soche as shuld be saved.

Romans 16:4

Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

[Which have for my life laide downe their owne necke, Unto whom not I onely give thankes, but also all the Churches of the Gentiles]

which have for my lyfe layde doune their awne neckes. Unto which not I only geve thankes, but also the congregacion of the Gentyls.

1 Corinthians 10:32

Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

Giue none offence, nether to the Jewes, nor to the Grecians, nor to the Church of God:

Se that ye geve none occasion of evill, nether to the Jewes, nor yet to the gentyls, nether to the congregacion of God:

James 5:14

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

Is anie sicke among you? Let hym call for the Elders of the Churche, and let them praye for him, and anoint hym with oyle in the Name of the Lord.

Yf eny be deseased amonge you, let him call for the elders of the congregacion, and let them praye over him, and anoynte him with oyle in the name of the Lorde:

Revelation 2:29

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Let him that hathe an eare, heare what the Spirit saith to the Churches.

Let him that hath eares, heare what the sprete sayth to the congregacions.


Clearly, then, the Geneva Bible was not the target of the KJV men when they complained of “scrupulosity,” nor indeed is it clear that any specific translation was in their view. Let’s return to “The Translators to the Reader” and give the passage at greater length than the “Apologist” can be troubled to do:


“Lastly, we have on the one side avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who leave the old ecclesiastical words and betake them to other, as when they put washing for baptism, and congregation instead of church; as also on the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the Papists, in their azimes, tunic, rational, holocausts, praepuce, pasche, and a number of such like, whereof their late translation is full—and that of purpose to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may be kept from being understood. But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.”


Since no early English translation with which I am familiar avoids the word “baptism” (for even Tyndale uses it regularly),[3] and since the translators had earlier taken such pains to avoid criticizing their predecessors in translation (in a passage I cited above), and since another translation is singled out almost immediately—the Douay-Rheims published by Catholic exiles in 1582 and 1609 (“their late translation”)[4]—, it looks highly improbable that the KJV men had any translation in mind when they criticized “scrupulosity.” It may be that Puritan preachers were simply changing words in the extant English translations when they preached and published their sermons. I don’t pretend to know the exact reference the KJV scholars had in mind, but I have clearly demonstrated that the Geneva Bible does not fit the criteria. The “Apologist” is simply wrong.


When exactly was it “death” to own Geneva?


It is not important to detail the rest of this particular essay on the Geneva Bible here. The “Apologist” goes on to say how much King James I disliked Geneva for its marginal comments. These are well known facts that I have remarked upon myself in another essay, but they demonstrate nothing pertinent to the Apocrypha question. Even if for the sake of argument one removes the testimony of Geneva on this question, the Great Bible’s translators—King Henry VIII’s chosen churchmen—testify to the same purpose, as I mentioned before. I will remark in passing that the “Apologist’s” handling of history is not impressive, since we read (spelling and other blunders again given exactly as in source):


“One of the reasons for the creation of this translation (the KJV) was to compete And battle against with it. At point’s Possession of one of these Puritan ‘Geneva’ Bibles in Anglican England at the time meant almost certain death. So weather or not there was a ‘disclaimer’ in the Puritan ‘Geneva’ DOES NOT have any bearing on what the translators of the KJV did or thought”


To which I say, “When precisely did ‘Possession of one of these Puritan “Geneva” Bibles in Anglican England’ mean ‘almost certain death’?” The very idea is absurd, what with the King’s Printer publishing Geneva Bibles concurrently with the official church Bible, the Bishops’ Bible. Clearly the “Apologist” is misremembering (or misrepresenting?) history; Tyndale’s, the Great Bible, and other early translations were certainly criminalized early on at various periods (such as under the Catholic Queen Mary I), but nothing I have ever read suggests that possessing the Geneva Bible was ever considered a criminal act in England. I would challenge the “Apologist” to produce some reputable historical source to back up what I think is an exceedingly dubious assertion. After all, at issue is “weather” or not my antagonist has any credibility at all (and that’s rather shaky anyway after the way he/she quotes things like “Even Some 1599 editions of the Geneva Bible were published without the Apocrypha” that are from who knows where as though they were part of my own essay. Careless citations, as my Catholic friend clearly does not realize, are definitely not the stuff of which credibility is made).


“Hey, there’s a hole in my Tobit!”


I pass now to the marginal notes essay and see the “Apologist” setting forth against something that I had thought was nothing more than a demonstrable fact, that the KJV men introduced notes critical of the Apocrypha. Says the “Apologist” (again, my quotation retains blunders of grammar and style exactly as in the source):


“This is a old argument, (I have seen it several times) and a easy one to explain. The problem here is the lack of understanding of the the special guidelines set forth by the King of England . . . . To put it bluntly, this is nothing more than textual criticism for the faulty manuscripts these translators had to work with, and nothing more.”


To which I respond that this is the sheerest poppycock and “nothing more.”  The “Apologist” cites no documentary source, such as a scholarly reference book, for this claim, and I defy anyone who fairly reviews the available evidence—given, for instance, in my Apocrypha essay—to draw a like conclusion to our Catholic writer. As mentioned in that essay, the KJV’s Apocrypha notes bear a family likeness to those of Geneva; our writer mentions the latter Bible’s notes in the “Geneva” piece discussed above, but does not attempt to also claim them as a response to “faulty manuscripts.” In fact, our writer agrees with the idea that “the Geneva Bible showed open hostility t[o]wards these books,” as quoted above. The Geneva notes criticized the Apocrypha not only on the basis of textual inaccuracy (because it contained differences with analogous portions of the Hebrew scriptures), but in at least one place on theological grounds: 2 Macc. 12:44, where Geneva’s margin asserts that the Holy Ghost did not write it.[5] Given that the KJV men were instructed not to add controversial notes, that kind of marginal comment would have been clearly outside their scope, but they obviously did include criticisms of the Apocrypha’s text with reference to that of the canonical Hebrew.


Indeed, had the KJV men simply been complaining that their available texts were corrupt, and not what the Apocryphal writers penned, one would have expected some kind of comment about this serious problem in their “Translators to the Reader.” A good place for it would have been their statement there of what texts they used for translation. What do they actually say?


“If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New. These are the two golden pipes, or rather conduits, wherethrough the olive branches empty themselves into the gold.”


Here is no mention whatsoever of the Apocrypha, which at the time would only have been accessible in Greek and Latin texts for various books and portions. (It was left to later generations to find other versions of some books, one of which allowed a lengthy passage in chapter 7 of 2 Esdras [7:36-105 in NRSV] that was unknown in 1611 to be restored.) If they had found their texts in any way inadequate, would we not have had some notice of this in “Translators”? Something like “If you ask what they had before them, truly it was an exceeding ill-favored and corrupted text of those blessed books wrongly called Apocrypha, which we would fain have translated more fitly if Bishop Andrewes had procured better manuscripts”? But the KJV men are silent on this alleged problem, simply because there was no problem of the kind except in the “Apologist’s” imagination.


The writer goes on to discuss other Hebrew texts of the Apocrypha. It is really nothing to me or my argument whether or not such books can be found in Hebrew versions.[6] In fact, it is really not determinative to the Catholic writer’s argument, either, given that 1 Esdras, which he/she claims exists in Hebrew (a claim I will address just below), is not an accepted part of the official Roman Catholic canon. Whether or not a Hebrew edition of 1 Esdras in exactly the same form as the book we have suddenly reappears cannot make any difference to the “Apologist”; since Rome does not accept it (or 2 Esdras or the Prayer of Manasseh) as scripture, the Catholic author cannot accept it as such either. Nor, in fact, would the reemergence of the entire Apocrypha in a Hebrew form make any difference one way or the other to me, since the canon of scripture is—I believe—settled without their inclusion.  The “Apologist” is simply arguing irrelevancies here.


One point, however, does demand correction, when the “Apologist” says, “If we just look at 1611 King James Version we find that in the Margin notes to the ‘apocryphal’ book of I.Esderas [sic] the Translators often quote from and refer to the Hebrew version of this Book, obviously they found I.Esderas [sic] in the Language of the Jews.” A page scan is then shown from a 1625 edition of the KJV as though this is a significant piece of evidence. To which I say, Of course the KJV men cite the Hebrew. They are citing the canonical Hebrew texts on which 1 Esdras is based, not a Hebrew version of 1 Esdras itself. This is obvious from looking at the marginal notes because in many cases the reference is given.[7] Even a casual reading of these notes should be sufficient to demonstrate this. In fact, since scholars today know of no Hebrew source text for 1 Esdras,[8] the position of the “Apologist” becomes almost laughably self-contradictory. Somehow we are to believe that the KJV complained of having “corrupt” Apocryphal texts, but that these texts included Hebrew editions that are unknown today and thus would of course be closer to the “originals” than the Greek-Latin texts used by modern scholars for this book!


I trust I need not belabor the point, having sufficiently demonstrated the absurdity of the “Apologist’s” stance on this to any judicious reader.  I do not know if my opponent has the ability to acknowledge or even realize the untenable position he or she is in given the above evidence, but I have to believe that any reputable writer would need to feel very embarrassed at such exposure.


Marginal Mud-Pies


And with that, aside from some other reassertions of previous claims (which I believe I have already said enough to disprove), there is not a lot more that is worth notice in this marginal notes essay. I want to respond to one more piece of misinformation I found on the site in question, to the effect that the marginal references to Apocryphal verses in the first KJV (for example, the reference to Wisdom 2:23 in the margin of Genesis 1:27) show that the KJV men considered the Apocrypha part of scripture.


That there are marginal references to the Apocrypha in the canonical books in the original 1611 edition of the KJV is not surprising, given that readings from them were also used liturgically in the Church of England, as detailed in the calendars on the prefatory pages. But Article VI of the 39 Articles of the Church of England, which I quote in my Apocrypha essay, clearly spells out that church’s position on these books: they are to be read “for example of life and instruction of manners” but emphatically are not to “establish any doctrine.” The Great Bible’s reference to them as “Hagiographa,” also cited in my essay, makes a similar point. The “Apologist” takes the bare fact of seeing verse references to the Apocrypha in the KJV’s margins and chapter references in the calendar pages, divorced from any historical context, as evidence of how they were regarded by the translators—but this ignores a mountain of other evidence detailed in my essay, including the negligence with which they revised these books, the generic running heads of the original edition, the inadequate copy preparation (notably in the “Song of the Three Children”), and the background I’ve just mentioned of the Church of England’s official position on these books.


Simply put, the “Apologist” does not present a credible case in any way when the evidence is fairly weighed and all of it is presented, rather than cherry-picked simply to bolster the Catholic viewpoint—or at least what the “Apologist” would consider that viewpoint to be, though I rather doubt that many informed Catholics would consider the author of such a thoroughly poor attempt at “refutation” to be an adequate spokesperson for their views! 


As to whether or not my original essay makes a credible case, I leave that judgment to the reader, confident that I have more than sufficiently documented what I said there and enabled anyone who wants to check up on my veracity to do so.

(September 25, 2005)





[1] The situation in Heb. 12:23 is actually more complex than can be treated in the text without deviating into a rabbit trail. Briefly, the Greek has two relevant words, paneguris (Strong’s G3831) and ekklesia. The KJV gives quarter to both words by translating “To the general assembly [paneguris] and church [ekklesia] of the firstborn”; previous translations (Tyndale, Great, Geneva, Bishops’) had rolled both Greek terms into one, “congregation.”

[2] For the ease of anyone who wants to verify these, I have used the New Testament Octapla (ed. Luther A. Weigle; NY: Thomas Nelson, 1962), a standard reference work available in many large libraries, for Geneva and Tyndale. These are given exactly except for my slightly emending the Octapla text of Tyndale in 1 Cor. 10:32 (Octapla gives “occasionof” for “occasion of,” running the words together). The brackets in Rom. 16:4 in Geneva are of course as in Octapla (which copies a 1562 edition of Geneva that habitually gives brackets where other editions use parentheses).

[3] There is one fairly obscure early English version that does use washing where baptism would be expected, but I doubt the KJV men knew of it. The excellent annotated edition of “Translators to the Reader” edited by Dr. Erroll F. Rhodes and Dr. Liana Lupas (NY: American Bible Society, 1997) cites the Oxford English Dictionary in commenting on this passage of the preface: “According to the OED, washing is used for ‘baptism’ in Sir John Cheke’s translation of Matthew (21.25). The manuscript of this version, dating from about 1550, is preserved in Corpus Christi, Cambridge, and was not published until 1843….” They also comment that “Congregation as an equivalent of Greek ekklesia is used in Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament…and is quite frequent in the writings of the sixteenth century English Reformers (see OED)” (p. 61, note 193). 

[4] Indeed, Rhodes and Lupas (op. cit.) suggest the KJV men’s comment was a response to a remark in the preface to the 1609 Douay Old Testament which asked why these terms might not be used (p. 61, note 194).

[5] See my original Apocrypha essay for more on the Geneva note to this verse.

[6] In fact, The Septuagint with Apocrypha, Greek and English translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton and published by Samuel Bagster in 1851 (reprint—[no city]: Hendrickson, 1986) shows that Hebrew originals for many Apocryphal books or portions thereof have long been suspected (see the preface “The Books of the Apocrypha” by “H.P.” in this edition, pp. i-iii [separately paginated following the canonical books]).

[7] For example, the first passage cited by the “Apologist” here is 1 Esdras 3:13, where the word “censers” has this marginal comment in 1611 (I’m quoting from Hendrickson’s reprint of Oxford’s 1833 reproduction of the KJV’s first edition throughout this footnote): “Hebr. Kniues, Ezra 1.9.” Obviously, the KJV men are referring to the Hebrew text at Ezra 1:9, where indeed we find “nine and twentie kniues” recorded. And so go most of the other examples. One exception, at 1 Esd. 4:14, is clearly a mistake, possibly a printer’s error, where we have in the margin “Heb. is of force.” This occurs in a lengthy section (3:1-4:63; see next note) that is not known to exist at all in Hebrew, so the KJV margin was obviously intended to read “Gr. is of force,” as it indeed does in David Norton’s recent New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, a scholarly edition of the KJV (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). 

[8] On this point see Howard Clark Kee, ed., The Cambridge Annotated Study Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. xxviiii, where we read that only Greek and Latin texts of 1 Esdras are known, and that it “consists of material found in different order and with different details in 2 Chr 35-36, Ezra, and Neh 7-8. It may be a translation of a different edition of the Hebrew/Aramaic Ezra and Nehemiah. One extended section (the story of the bodyguards; 3.1-4.63) has no counterpart in the older Ezra/Nehemiah tradition.”