Answers to Supposed Errors in the Deuterocanonical Books

The CARM website lists five objections to the Deuterocanonical books:
  1. It says Tobit 6:5-7 is about using magic to scare away the devil
  2. It says Tobit 4:11 and Tobit 12:9 teach that our own human efforts can atone for our sins
  3. It says 2 Maccabbees 12:43 teaches that money can atone for the sins of the dead
  4. It says Judith 1:7 calls Nebuchadnezzar the king of the Assyrians when he was actually the king of the Babylonians
  5. It says Baruch 6:2 foretells that the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations when it was actually 70 years
This post is supposed to answer those arguments and serve as a resource for defending the Deuterocanonical books.

The first objection is wrong because Tobit 6:5-7 doesn't mention magic. It says that an angel told Tobias to burn the heart and liver of a fish to free a person from demonic oppression, because the demon would smell the smoke and flee. This is not because the fish was magic and the text does not say it was. Instead, the text indicates that the fish's parts were a sacrifice offered as a prayer of deliverance. Tobit 6:16-17 and Tobit 8:2 make this clearer by specifying that the fire had to be produced by means of incense and/or an incense censor. In the Old Testament, sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people, and the fish has messianic significance. This offering of deliverance backed up by the power of the Messiah was what caused the oppressing demon to become fearful when he smelled the fish offering. The interpretation that the fish was magic has no support in the text; the interpretation that the fish was a sacrifice for sins does have support in the text. CARM is wrong on this one.

The second objection is faulty because it misunderstands what Tobit says about human effort atoning for sin. Proverbs 16:6, 1 Peter 4:8, James 5:20, and Luke 11:39-41 shed light on this because they also talk about human effort atoning for sin, and the key is that expiating or atoning for our sins requires the blood of Christ as the foundation. Human good works can only acquire merit before Jesus if we are in a state of grace and forgiveness already, but that doesn't change the fact that the Bible reveals good works too and says that they really can help us spiritually to acquire forgiveness for sins committed after we are in the state of grace. Tobit 4:11, Tobit 12:9, Proverbs 16:6, 1 Peter 4:8, and James 5:20 all use the language of atonement to explain this.

The third objection is faulty for several reasons. First, the passage does not say money can atone for sins, and that is a terrible way to talk about almsgiving. The merit of almsgiving has nothing to do with its being money and everything to do with its being a form of prayer. When you give away your money as an act of charity, it is a sacrifice of something of material value for the sake of something spiritual. St. Paul says that money can be an offering in Philippians 4:18. He mentions that almsgiving has spiritual merit in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. Jesus says that if we give alms for what is in our hearts, everything will be clean -- Luke 11:39-41. This is all because when you offer something of value, it is a form of prayer, and God can answer that prayer for our own salvation. This objection is really based on CARM's rejection of prayers for the dead -- but the Bible contains both prayers and suffrages for the dead in Psalms 35:13-14, 2 Timothy 1:16-18, 2 Samuel 1:12, and 1 Samuel 31:13. Almsgiving for them is just another form of that.

The fourth objection is wrong because Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Assyrians too. The Babylonian empire included the former capital of Assyria and its territory. Notice: Judith 1:7 does not say Nebuchadnezzar was king of Assyria but of the Assyrians, who were still around even though their country was no longer independent. 2 Kings 24:1-2 even says explicitly that God gave “bands of Syrians” to King Nebuchadnezzar and he sent them against Judah. So the rest of the Old Testament confirms what Judith says was happening here.

The fifth objection is wrong because it misunderstands the prophecy of Baruch 6:2-3. First of all, it does not say the Captivity would last for seven generations, but for "up to seven generations," "for a long time," "for many years." Secondly, Baruch 6:2-3 and Daniel 9:3, 21-27 both give a greater number of years than the actual 70 mentioned in Jeremiah 25:11 -- one reason is because the true, inner captivity would last until the Messiah came, and the prophet Daniel gives the amount of time (seventy times seven) that would bring them up to the time of the Messiah. Baruch says it will last "up to seven generations," or 280 years, which brings them up to the time when the Maccabbean revolt reestablished Jewish independence.

Okay, so there's all five objections.

Also, you can use logic to show that the Deuterocanonical books are Scripture. For example, the same Councils that determined the rest of the Bible also included the Deuterocanonical books. See the councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage at this page: If Protestants think they got it wrong about the Deuterocanonical books, why don't they go the rest of the way and throw out the other books? If these councils got the Deuterocanonical books wrong, then they weren't telling the truth, and the Canon of Scripture goes out the window. Protestants can't have it both ways: if they want a Bible at all, they ought to take the whole thing as decided by the early Church. If they cut out parts they don't like, then they clearly don't trust the early Church, and have no reason to accept their judgment about the books they *do* accept.

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