Mailbag Page 22
Navigate

Taking the Oath in Court
The "Hidden" Books of the Bible

Taking the Oath in Court
Matthew 5:34

Question - In Matthew 5:34 Jesus commanded us, "Do not swear." Does this mean that, when testifying in court, Christians should not swear to tell the truth?

Bible Bell's Reply

First let's take a look at the context of the Lord's command concerning oaths...

(Jesus said...) Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord."

But I say to you,
do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No." For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Mt 5.33-37 (see also Jam 5.12)

The Answer

The answer to this question is simple: OBEY the Lord's command...

  • Do not swear in the name of God.
  • Instead, simply tell the truth. Nothing more. Nothing less!

There is no problem in obeying this command because the American justice system permits us to declare or affirm in court, in lieu of swearing.

But -- IF there ever comes a problem in our obeying the Lord's command, the command stands. We must obey God rather than man.

The Reason for the Command

God wants Christians to earn and deserve the reputation of being honest people who do not lie.

By adding oaths to our statements, we either admit that our usual speech cannot be trusted, or else we lower ourselves to the level of a lying world that follows the evil one.

Think About It -- If a liar takes an oath to tell the truth, that oath may be the greatest lie of all. On the other hand, a Christian person's "oath" is not mere words, but WHO he or she is in Christ.

The Background of the Command

Lord Jesus gave the command in Matthew 5.34 at a time when He was teaching a group of Jewish people.

Those people were very devout in seeking to obey the absolute letter of the numerous Laws that God had given in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

But some of those folks had become too clever by half...

  • In order to circumvent the Law's requirement that an oath made to the Lord must be kept, they were swearing with "tricky words" that made people think they were swearing to God, whereas they weren't really doing so.
  • For example, instead of saying, "I swear to God I will do such-and-such," they would say something like, "I swear by the throne of God that I will do such-and-such." The person taking such an oath felt that it was not binding upon him because he hadn't actually sworn to God.
  • They were (in effect) making promises while crossing their fingers behind their backs.

Jesus was teaching them about the spirit of God's Law. Namely: (1) Don't lie. (2) Don't get tricky with the truth. (3) Mean what you say. (4) Do what you promise.

Jesus put it this way: "Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No." In other words, say what you mean and MEAN what you say. Nothing more. Nothing less!

The "Hidden" Books of the Bible

Question - What are those extra books in the Bibles used by Roman Catholics?

The Old Testament in Protestant Bibles has 39 books. Catholic Bibles have 46 books -- seven extra books.

Protestants call these seven extra books the Apocrypha, from the Greek word apokruphos, meaning "hidden."

Catholics know them as the deuterocanonical books...

  • "Deutero" means "second."
  • "Canon" designates those books that are inspired by God and, hence, are included in the Holy Bible.
  • Ergo, "deuterocanonical" means that Roman Catholics regard the seven extra books as a second set of God-inspired books.

In summary, Roman Catholic Bible Scholars believe the seven extra books are inspired by God. Protestant Bible scholars do not.

Listed below are the seven extra books in Roman Catholic Bibles...

  • Tobit | Judith | 1st Maccabees | 2nd Maccabees
  • Book of Wisdom | Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) | Baruch

Also, Catholic Bibles contain...

  • 107 additional verses in the book of Esther
  • Three additional chapters in the book of Daniel (174 verses)

If you want to read these extra books in their entirety, you will find them in Bibles such as...

  • The New American Bible (not to be confused with the New American Standard Version)
  • The New Jerusalem Bible

A synopsis of these books is provided at the bottom of this article.

Some Reasons Why Roman Catholic Scholars Believe the Apocryphal Books ARE of the Canon

 

Some Reasons Why Protestant Scholars Believe the Apocryphal Books are NOT of the Canon

In a few instances, the New Testament refers to events described in the Apocrypha. There are New Testament allusions to the Apocrypha, but not once is there a direct quotation. The NT never refers to any book outside of the Canon as authoritative.
The New Testament often quotes Scripture from the Septuagint Bible, which contained the Apocrypha. The New Testament does quote from the canonical portions of the Septuagint, but (to repeat) it NEVER quotes from the Apocrypha.

Moreover, Jesus and the apostles quoted lots of Scripture, but never once did they quote the Apocrypha.

It is not even certain that the Septuagint in the days of our Lord's sojourn on earth (1st century AD) actually did contain the Apocrypha. The earliest Greek manuscripts that include the Apocrypha date from the 4th century AD.

Note: The Septuagint is an ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek.
Some early church fathers quoted from the Apocrypha. Human usage does not determine whether or not a book is canonical. Preachers may quote from (say) Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible. This doesn't mean that Henry's commentary is inspired by God.

Some of the Additional "Problems" Concerning the Apocryphal Books

The apocryphal books contain errors and conflicting teachings, such as...

  • Nebuchadnezzar reigning in Ninevah rather than in Babylon (Judith 1.1)
  • Prayers for the dead (2 Maccabees 12.45-46, in conflict with Lk 16.25-26, Heb 9.27, 2 Sam 12.19)
  • Salvation by works (Tobit 12.9, in conflict with Rom 4.5, Gal 3.11, Gen 15.6)
  • God making His creation out of pre-existing matter, rather than creating the matter itself (Book of Wisdom 11.17, in conflict with John 1.1-3, Heb 11.3)
  • God assisting in the telling of lies (Judith 9.10, 13)

A Brief Summary of The Apocryphal Books

Tobit

Tells the story of Tobit and his wife. They were taken to Ninevah by Shalmaneser. In the land of exile they observed the Jewish Law. When Tobit went blind and needed money, he sent his son, Tobias, to a distant city to collect a debt. On the way, an angel led Tobias to Echbana, where he fell in love with, and married, a beautiful widow. The widow's seven prior husbands had successively been slain on their marriage day by an evil spirit. Tobias averted death by burning the inner part of a fish, the smoke of which drove the evil spirit away. The gall of the fish was used to cure Tobit of blindness.

Judith

This story tells how Judith, a Jewish widow, saved her people from the Assyrian commander, Holofernes. Judith went to the tent of Holofernes, got him drunk, and chopped off his head.

First Maccabees

1st Maccabees is a useful historical record of the 40 years beginning with the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes to the Syrian throne (175 BC) and ending with the death of Simon the Maccabee (135 BC). This book gives us a good account of the Jewish resistance to Antiochus, and the Maccabeean wars that brought temporary independence to the Jewish state.

Second Maccabees

2nd Maccabees is primarily a re-telling of the first 7 chapters of 1st Maccabees.

The Book of Wisdom

This book is mainly a treatise on ethics, seeking to protect Jews in Egypt from falling into skepticism, materialism, and idolatry. Unlike the Old and New Testaments which honor the body, this book regards the body as "something that weighs down the soul" and "burdens the thoughtful mind" (9.15).

Ecclesiasticus

This book -- the longest of the apocryphal books -- extolls the value of wisdom and praises famous men such as Noah, Abraham, and Enoch.

Baruch

Baruch has three main sections. The first section is a prayer of penitence, recognizing that the tragedies that befell Jerusalem were just recompense for her sins. The second section, poetical in nature, explains that Israel's misfortunes are due to her neglect of wisdom. The third section, also poetical, is a message of comfort and hope for distressed Israel.

Additions to the Book of Esther

In the second part of the 1st century BC an Egyptian Jew translated the book of Esther into Greek. He also added 107 verses into six places where he felt that a more "religious" note was needed. The pious insertions mention prayer and the name of God, neither of which appear in the canonical book of Esther.

Additions to the Book of Daniel

Three chapters have been added to the book of Daniel, thereby incorporating the apocryphal book called "Bel and the Dragon." The "dragon" in this tale is really a serpent that the Babylonian king worshipped until Daniel slew it by feeding it lumps of pitch, fat, and hair. The story also tells "more details" of Daniel's sojourn in the lion's den. Namely, it relates that Daniel was miraculously fed by the prophet Habakkuk, who was caught up by an angel in Judea, and taken to help Daniel in the lion's den in Babylon.

Navigation
Site Index| Mailbag Index | Home | Contact us