Modern Errors about the New Testament
by William van Leeuwen
BookVenture Publishing

"“...the ecumenist’s goal of unity through a common Bible has fallen far short of its idealism. The goal was laudable... the means poorly and illogically executed..."

The New American Bible is approved for current use by Catholics. A devout Catholic, the author espouses that the church fathers may have compromised their teachings when producing this ecumenical version with the Protestant (Separated) Brethren. He begins by using his many years of research to provide a thorough background of general issues facing early Christian believers in choosing the best texts for translation and inclusion. With illiteracy the norm in early church ages, only a few trustworthy historians were acceptable to validate the source texts. These respected histories were written by Flavius Josephus (93 AD) and St. Eusebius (300 AD). The first verbal gospel was delivered by Peter as he spoke to the two thousand people assembled in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Each time this gospel was retold, it was altered slightly to suit the hearers—for example, when Paul made his point about the one true God to the Greeks in Athens. The Apostles and the early teachers expected the Lord’s return within their lifetime, so they felt no immediate need to record these accounts.

For the remainder of the book, van Leeuwen explores specific reasons for early church acceptance of biblical sources and their texts. In Chapter 2, he discusses the origins of the Four Gospels, with explanations why they differ and when they were written. For instance, he postulates that Luke interviewed Mary for his Gospel, and Mark repeated in his Gospel what he heard preached by Peter. Matthew and John each recorded what they had seen and heard, but not always the same details were remembered. None of the Four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John—mention the fall of Jerusalem or any Roman persecutions. This appears to date these works as recorded by 63 AD and before Nero's organized persecution of Christians in 64 AD, although some scholars believe the Gospel of John to be written much later.

Chapter 3 explains how the church fathers identified which writings of the Apostles to be included in the New Testament. Chapter 4 discusses the difficulty of identifying false teachers, even in the time of Paul. Spelling variations of names, such as of Simon (Simeon, Symeon) Peter contribute to confusion regarding authorship. In Chapter 5, the author explains how to distinguish among transliterations, interpretations, and translations. For example, several books included in the New American Bible were accepted only by the early Catholic Church.

This 500-page history and critique by van Leeuwen is a significant accomplishment that required over eighteen years of research and writing. The appendices add some well-placed archeological photographs and a useful chart that complement this authoritative work. The underlined text throughout the book also clearly indicates salient points the author wishes to emphasize. With authoritative backup, the author has clearly presented issues regarding the development and acceptance criteria for any Bible translation. Any reader, theologian or layman, will be able to appreciate van Leeuwen’s engaging tales and commentary on the New Testament and early church times.

In addition, the author uses some diplomatic skills to gain support for his main argument regarding ecumenical compromises made with the New American Bible. Because Protestants allowed inclusion of Catholic-only books, Catholic fathers accepted notes that clearly oppose their own teachings. The author expects this book to serve as a heads-up regarding such notes that question the Holy Family members and Mary’s unique status in the gospel.

The author is to be commended for respectful and non-argumentative handling of valid claims in this critique. Given the cost and time to accurately translate or transcribe around the latest archeological finds, one might wonder if the New American Bible compromises could yet serve both audiences when accompanied by clerical instruction.

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