I know a lot more now about the history of the Bible than I used to. It amazes me at how much I took for granted before I became a Catholic. For example, it never occurred to me that perhaps I didn’t have a right to interpret the Bible however I saw fit, by virtue of the fact that I did not write it, codify it, or translate it. I treated the Bible as if it just grew on a tree. It was there, for sale in a bookstore, right? Wasn’t that all the permission I needed to buy one and determine for myself what it meant?
There was a brief time as a young adult when I thought of myself as a Berean. I remember being a bit prideful that I was “searching the scriptures” to see for myself if something is true (this was in the VERY early days of the cult, when it was still a fundamentalist Bible church). The Bereans are the group of Jews who are lauded in the Bible for “searching the scriptures” to see if Paul and Silas were right. But I just realized something: the Bereans were almost certainly using the Septuagint. Here are the verses that mention them (Acts 17:10-12):
But the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea. Who, when they were come thither, went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, who received the word with all eagerness, daily searching the scriptures, whether these things were so. And many indeed of them believed, and of honourable women that were Gentiles, and of men not a few.
If I am correct then this is significant. The Septuagint contains the entire Old Testament canon… what I think of as the shared part (the part where Catholics and Protestants agree), as well as the seven Deutercanonical books, which Protestants reject as Apocryphal. I see now how naive I was to claim to be like a specific group of people when it comes to fidelity to the scriptures, yet I rejected some of the scriptures those people used.
There is nothing wrong with searching the scriptures, but as Jews, the Bereans had that right by virtue of their lineage. Imagine that same scenario but a group of idol-worshiping pagans instead of Jews. We might wonder why they were using those scriptures, since they had no historical connection to them. Does it make sense that they have the same right to use those scriptures as the Jews? Would they reach the same conclusions as the Jews? I am no longer certain that I had any right at all to use the Bible, since I had implicitly accepted the authority’s declaration regarding the canon, yet felt it was OK and even necessary to reject other authority claims. Maybe that’s OK, but as it looks to me right now, I have a problem with it because it seems contradictory. As a Protestant, was the Bible my book? If so, on what basis?