Defending the Full Truth of the Gospel in India: Michael Prabhu Examines the New (Age) Community Bible

“Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end…”

EDITORS NOTE: In a time when many are leaving the true faith to follow errors, I believe it’s of upmost importance that the full truth of the Gospel be made known to those inspired by grace to receive it. Still today, the coastlines await the “true light that enlightens all men…” After looking over Michael Prabhu’s (rather long) critique of the recently released New Community Bible in India I found myself willing to support his cause, and so I offer his article below in solidarity for the sake of the divine truth. Note: the article from his site Metamorphose has been edited for ease of reading.

A NEW AGE BIBLE? THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 

by Michael Prabhu  

“The main event of the launch of The NCB took place during the Inaugural Eucharist of the Year of St Paul, on 28 June 2008 at Holy Name Cathedral, Colaba, Mumbai, which was presided over by His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias of the archdiocese of Mumbai… The Event was simultaneously repeated in several parts of the country where Paulines are present.” The NCB was released by Archbishops and Bishops in over 20 cities; in Mumbai and Chennai, individual parishes did the same.                

[Quotes from the NCB and other sources reporting on the NCB are within inverted commas]

The New Community Bible (NCB) was released in India by the Society of St Pauls [St Pauls] “with commentary prepared by the best Bible scholars in India”. Price: Rs 250.00. Claimed as “a gift of the Pauline Family to the Church in India. The NCB is the contextualized commentary on the Sacred Text, made especially for India, taking into account the rich cultural and religious heritage of this land.”

This ministry continues to receive letters and telephone calls about these ‘contextualized’ commentaries in the NCB. None of them has gone into examining the fidelity to earlier texts and original languages of the NCB translations.

 It must be admitted that several of the commentaries are good.  Yet, one cannot say that, as a whole, they are superior to the footnotes and commentaries in any other Catholic Bible already available in India, such as the New Jerusalem Bible [NJB], the New American Bible [NAB] and the Christian Community Bible [CCB]. Each version has its own special characteristics, and different people have different preferences. There are those who will use only the Revised Standard Version [RSV] for its language, while rejecting the New RSV, and others who choose the Good News Bible, Today’s English Version [GNB] for its simplicity. These versions do not have a commentary.

Having said that, we must ask : Would one want to consume food if it is known to be contaminated by even a molecule of excrement? Or drink a glass of water from a container into which a drop of poison has been introduced? Will not one apply the same criterion for SPIRITUAL nourishment, especially if it concerns the Bible, the Word of God?

That is what people contacting this ministry are asking, so let us examine the facts and some of the specific objections. The passages with ‘problems’ are not many, but in view of the above argument, they are certainly much too many.

It might be noted that, in the NCB commentaries, we did not locate — in a Bible meant for the people of India — any one single reference at all to the Early Church Fathers, to the great missionaries and saints of India [nothing about the apostles Sts Thomas and Bartholomew; Sts Francis Xavier, John de Britto and Robert de Nobili to name a few] or to Vatican Documents [what about Ecclesia in Asia?] and encyclicals. There is of course the one passing reference each to St Cyril of Alexandria and Mother Teresa, but we could have missed them while reading about Gandhi (94 and seven more), Kabir [“as the mystic Kabir says”] (12, 14), Martin Luther King (98), Adi Shankara (113), Vinoba Bhave (1680), [“religious teachers such as”] Sri Ramakrishna (1681), Buddha [“as the Buddha said”] (1658, 1719), [“the Indian mystic”] Mira Bai (1935), Tagore & Gitanjali (1938), etc. [page numbers in brackets thus: (1938)]

The General Editor of the NCB, Rev (Dr) Augustine Kanachikuzhy SSP correctly anticipated that “References made to Indian Scriptures in the Commentary could perhaps make some Christians uncomfortable.” He goes on to explain why they were introduced and to insist that their inclusion “does not imply in any way that Indian Scriptural terms are parallel to Biblical terms or that the parallel references are saying the same thing as the Biblical text.” (viii)

If that were true, he would have carefully avoided use of the upper case ‘S‘ or the term “Scripture” itself for the religious texts of other faiths. To justify their inclusion, he quotes a line from Nostra Aetate and another from Dominus Iesus, but he fails to impress those of us who have read these and other documents in their entirety and understand their contents, message and purpose. Let us check out the priest’s claims against what we find in the commentaries.

One can read from the the Upanishads (8, 89, 117, 1301, 1509, 1652), the Rig Veda (11, 876), Mahabharata (20, 59, 101, 755), Yoga Sutras (122), Manusmriti (260), Bhagavata Purana (273), Narada Bhakti Sutra (398, 456), the Bhagavad Gita (317, 462, 756, 1662, 1680, 1719, 1900), etc. Hindu mythological figures and deities are named e.g. Shiva (59) in Genesis, Krishna (317, 755) and Arjuna (317, 755) in the books of Joshua and 1 Maccabees 3. The most such references in the commentaries are on the first two books of the Bible [Genesis and Exodus] and in the Gospel according to St Matthew. The respective commentators are Jesuit Fathers Rui de Menezes SJ and George Soares Prabhu SJ. Other such instances were noted in a few other biblical books, one or two per book. Biblical incidents have parallels [equals or precedents?] in Hinduism, usually introduced by  “Similarly we read…”

“The concept of Adamah seems to be similar to that of the Indian Bhumidevi (goodess earth)” Genesis 2 (13).  [Is it?]

Jacob’s wrestling with God [Genesis 32: 22-32] is compared with another such “divine-human combat […] the fight of Arjuna with god Shiva”, again most thankfully with the “g” in the lower case. (59)

The defeat of the evil Kauravas is heard echoed in that of the Pharaoh. Are we to suppose that “Yahweh as a God of liberation” played a similar role in the mythical Mahabharata war? (101)

David and Jonathan’s friendship reminds us of “that between Ram and Lakshman”. (422)

In Joshua, Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna is compared to God’s command to Joshua.  (317)

In Maccabees, Krishna is referred to as “the incarnate god”, thankfully with the “g” in the lower case. (755)

The commentary says, “similarly we read in the Bhagavadgita…” to parallel Krishna’s instruction, “…Adore Me, make obeisance to Me, thus uniting yourself to Me…” with Jesus’ words of eternal life in John 6: 60-71. (1900)

We wondered why David’s seduction of Bathsheba [2 Samuel 11] did not inspire the commentator to introduce an obvious parallel from Indian mythology: Krishna’s seduction of the gopis.

The commentary on Psalm 5 (876, 877) obliges us to read “the famous Gayatri-mantra at daybreak facing the rising Sun: Om bhur bhuvgajh svah […] May we meditate on the most excellent lustre of the sun-god, that he may illumine our intellect.” By way of this quote from the Rig Veda, Sun [capital letter ‘S‘ as given by the commentators] worship is appreciated in a supposed Bible, along with the mantra ‘Om’ [Aum] under the sub-title “Prayer at Daybreak”.

This ministry’s years of research is conclusive that the Om and Gayatri mantras may not be chanted by Christians.

Readers are invited to visit this ministry’s website and read the detailed and intensively researched articles on these issues, or click on http://www.ephesians-511.org/documents/SURYA NAMASKAR AND YOGA.doc

General comments that everything “cannot be taken literally” tend to confuse people about what may and may not.

1. Creation is a story, Eden is a mythical garden (14), and Adam and Eve’s sin “some claim was a sexual one, but the Bible says nothing to support this view.” (15)

2. The narrative of the plagues of Egypt is “composed from three separate accounts; hence the repetitions and inconsistencies… [It] is not a scientific account of what actually happened.” (101)

3. The parting of the waters of the Red Sea and the crossing: “Motion pictures have used this narrative for box-office effect. The narrative, however, is not a factual, historical account.” (112) Of course, there has to be a parallel event in “Indian spiritual tradition”. The pre-figured liberation and salvation in this event in the book of Exodus has been explained in Hinduism (112, 113). Never mind that it is “mukti or moksha which is the final emancipation or liberation, the highest goal of human life”. “The Sanskrit word for the incarnation of the gods, ava-tara, …denotes the crossing of the incarnated god down into our world for the purpose of salvation.”

Unlike for the Bible text, the commentator does not [dare to] say that this is “not a factual, historical account.”

4. The Ten Commandments: “It is not correct here to speak about laws… [They] are the charter of freedom of the children of God.” Naturally, Hinduism must also have the equivalent of what, despite our learned scholars’ modernist explanations, was revered by the Israelites as The Law. So, the NCB says: “The Indian scriptures speak of… ” (121, 122)

5. “The Sun Stood Still: It is a poetic way of expressing [the event].” The sun really did not stand still [Joshua 10: 1-14], says the commentator. (329, 330) Probably the sun also did not dance at Fatima though witnessed by 70,000 people? 

6. “Causes for the Fall of Israel: ‘They served their filthy idols’ [2 Kings 17:12]. Here the word ‘idol’ does not just mean an image or representation, like we have images of Jesus and the saints.”

The commentator then explains that “the Israelites also adopted [the foreign nations’] filthy and worthless cultural practices in sex, greed and violence. Our contemporary society has its own ‘idols’, and a country like India may adopt ‘idols’ of a foreign culture with the false values that go with them.” (553, 554)

What a travesty of a commentary on a biblical passage. 

The meaning of 2 Kings 17: 7-23 is crystal clear: God visited His wrath on His chosen people because they worshipped idols [images] of the pagan nations, and paid homage to them using the religious practices and symbols of the pagan cultures. Is not exactly that is which is happening in the Indian Church today in the guise of inculturation? The NCB is only one more example of that, inviting the wrath of God on the Church. One excellent commentary is on 2 Corinthians 6:14-7: 1. “[Paul] strongly advises them to separate themselves from pagans, lest they be polluted in their faith and morals.” 2078 This, too, is as much for us as for the Corinthian Church.

7. “False Religion” [Jeremiah 7: 1-34], NCB, verse 9 reads in part, “Will you […] worship Baal and follow foreign gods you have not known, and then you come and stand before me in this Temple that bears my name, and say: Now we are safe; we can go on doing these abominable things”. It is as if the commentator never read that line. He preferred to explain that Josiah’s reforms “failed to bring about a real conversion in the lives of the people”, so Jeremiah “debunks their ritualism and legalism” and from there he jumps to mentioning “Vatican II and its liturgical reform”.

Dear commentator, all of the laity are not as ignorant as you might believe. Jeremiah 7:9 is as much about what is happening in our Church today as it was in his time.

There are several such commentaries in the NCB that we have not analyzed here, because arguing them individually is not within the scope of this article. The theologians do not intend to deceive. It is what they sincerely believe. It is what is being taught and learnt in the seminaries for over four decades [see forthcoming reports]. From just the 2 Kings 17:12 commentary, we can see that the deceit is subtle. There is truth in the explanation, or partial truth. Not the full truth. The commentator cleverly digresses from the real problem, diverting us to moral and social issues like “sex, greed and violence”. He is obliged to write so.  A faithful commentary would only indict the Indian Church.

8. One more commentary deserves scrutiny. The Gerasene Demoniac [Mark 5: 1-20] is first admitted as an “exorcism narrative” (1745). But then, in almost three hundred words of commentary, never once is Satan or the devil mentioned. Exorcism from what? The closest hint was to “the immense capacity of evil to tyrannize human beings”. From thereon, it was mostly about liberation* of the individual, and our “duty to everyone, particularly those living in sub-human conditions, fettered by social, religious and economic bonds”, “our mission to liberate* these unfortunate people”. An exorcism situation becomes a platform for preaching about social justice.   liberation* see further below

That the NCB is seriously intended to be the ‘Indian’ ‘Bible’ is further illustrated by these commentaries:

9. “‘And he rested on the seventh day… and made it holy’ [Genesis 2: 2-3]. One may perhaps compare it to the Indian samadhi, which is the eighth and last stage of Yoga and denotes a state of peace, tranquility […] concentration, contemplation […] completion, accomplishment and fulfillment.” (12).

So, they managed to get yoga [with a capital ‘Y’] in on page 12 of the NCB. If there are charges being leveled that some of NCB’s Hindu, sorry ‘Indian’, commentaries are contrived, how about this one: God the Father, the creation story, the Sabbath, yoga, samadhi. Is that logical? Apart from the absurdity of the ‘parallel’, the samadhi of yoga is more than what the priest-commentator would have us believe.

Go to our ministry’s website http://www.ephesians-511.org/documents/YOGA.doc and check out the truth about yoga.

10. “‘Breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ [Genesis 2: 7]. God infused into the human body an immortal soul […] the principle of life [prana] which vivifies and pervades the human being.” (14)

The comparison or parallel of the breathed spirit of God with the pagan concept of prana is grossly misleading.

Prana: (Sanskrit, Hindu philosophy) is the same as chi, qi or ki (Taoism- Buddhism-Chinese-Japanese). 

As prana, it is an essential component of yoga [pranayama], and as chi, qi, ki in New Age alternative therapies such as acupuncture, homoeopathy, reiki, pranic healing, all martial arts including tai chi, etc. The Vatican Document on the New Age talks in several places of this esoteric or occult ‘inner’ or ‘cosmic’  or ‘subtle’ or ‘vital energy’, and I quote just one under the sub-title “Central Themes of the New Age“: “an energy, which is also identified as the divine soul or spirit.” #2.3.3 In monistic pre-Christian philosophies like in Hinduism, this energy is god.  cf #2.3.4.2

Does the priest’s commentary in the NCB support the teaching of Rome, or does it contradict it?

Yoga: Catholics are cautioned against the spiritual dangers of yoga in two Vatican Documents of 1989 and 2003. 

11. On Matthew 2:19-23 concerning Jesus’ “hidden life”, the priest denies the popular myths that “Jesus visited India” and of Jesus’ “tomb in Kashmir”. He also affirms that Jesus’ “teaching is […] very different from Vedanta”. While his initiative is highly commendable, he could not resist the inclination [for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of] to insert this: “[H]is miracles are eruptions of charismatic power, not the result of yogic techniques. All that he said and did fits in well with the picture not of a yogi but of a Jewish Galilean teacher…” (1647)

Who wants to know what Jesus was not? Jesus was not a yogi; he was not many things. The inclusion of references to prana, yoga and yogic techniques demonstrates that the priests have no moral judgment against them. By inference, they approve of them. In all probability, like many priests and some Bishops, they even engage in them. Prana and yoga are associated with the psychic chakras, kundalini energy, etc. How has the Indian Church regressed to a state where a ‘Bible’ casually discusses such issues? Is there no discernment and orthodoxy left in the theological and ecclesiastical structure of the Church? Where is the clear distinction between culture and religion [which word many theologians would, following the New Age trend, like to substitute with “spirituality”]?

Is the above what makes the NCB an ‘Indian’ ‘Bible’? If St Pauls were to publish an inculturated Bible in a Caribbean nation that is steeped in voodoo or spiritualism, would they draw parallels with spiritualism or quote from local voodoo folklore in the Bible commentaries?

Any such references if at all made must clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously state the spiritual or moral error of those practices and the incomparable superiority of God’s revelation in the Bible. That is not seen in the NCB.

12. For example, the commentary on “The Resurrection of the Dead” [Luke 20: 27-40] contrasts the Christian belief in the resurrection with “the Hindu understanding of transmigration” of the soul, and explains the theories of “cycle of rebirth” and “karma” as possibly “leading to a diminished sense of the seriousness of life”. (1861, 1862) Such religious/spiritual philosophies are intrinsically evil and have wrought moral, physical and emotional havoc in the Indian ethos for generations, holding the vast majority of Indians in servile bondage in the caste system.

Here was an excellent God-given opportunity for our otherwise verbose scholars to have their say. They did not. If that is not compromise, what is? They would not call the Ten Commandments as laws, but “the charter of freedom of the children of God.” (121) Why did they not insist now for that “freedom” for the Indian “children of God”? Can they truthfully state that it never crossed their mind to outright condemn the Indian caste system, which is, after all, also a cultural phenomenon in this nation? If they did make that statement, few would believe them. Not us anyway.

CBCI commissions, theologians, and writers of every hue know otherwise to publish tiresome words on this cancer.  But not in the NCB. The commentaries provided many opportunities to raise that issue which is also a horrible blot on the Indian Church itself, being nurtured in it even in the hierarchy. One excellent opportunity was in the above commentary, when the writer rightly said that genuine salvation is “the liberation of the whole human person”.

Other places for us to look hopefully for such a condemnation were the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and Luke 6. So we looked. Of course there were comments on the plight of the poor, on injustice, and always on liberation, a word our Indian theologians love to throw around (in dozens of places in the NCB): liberation from oppression, cosmic liberation, social justice; yet, the poor dalits were mentioned just once, in the commentary on the Beatitudes (1652).  All this talk about this liberation and that liberation, but silence on the liberation of Indians from the enslaving yoke of caste – which the Church should be championing — in a ‘Bible’ meant for India. If that is not hypocrisy, what is?

Too many priests are proponents of this gospel of social justice and liberation, ignoring the reality of sin that is the root cause for all injustice and bondage, so they promote a Jesus who is a social reformer, not the Redeemer from sin. They treat the symptoms, not the disease. They see in the Scriptures what they want to see and ignore the rest. In this ‘Indian’ ‘Bible’, were we expecting too much of our theologians to see them condemn Manu’s Law which is the anti-thesis of the Beatitudes? Interestingly, Manusmriti is in the NCB, referred to as an ancient Indian law book. (260)

13. We also looked into the commentary on Matthew 2: 16-18, Herod’s “Massacre of the Innocents”. (1646)

Now, why were we not surprised at what we found? We quote: “In their wholly undeserved death the children stand for the many innocent victims perishing all over the world through malnutrition or violence, the victims of an evil system run by people like Herod, who blindly pursue profit and power”. Period. While pointing a finger at people like Herod, are other fingers pointing back at the Church? Where was the Church when abortion was legalized in the 1970s? Where will the Church be when euthanasia is eventually legalized?

The Herods in the government will pass the bills for political considerations [remember PL 480 and abortion?], and the Herods in the Church will make token noises of disapproval. We will be accused of being judgmental, but that is a risk which we have already taken. If such statements upset our Church leaders and scholars, then can someone explain why contraception, the murder of unborn babies, female infanticide, honour killings, usury, same-sex marriages, stem cell research, euthanasia, the death penalty and a dozen other similar issues were not discussed in the commentary of this Indian community ‘Bible’? Surely, they are issues concerned with social justice and liberation? Matthew 2:16-18 was a good place to start.

Short explanations would have gone a long way in truly enlightening our largely ignorant Catholic laity. The cost of discipleship is zero when one writes on these topics in Catholic in-house magazines. Was no one willing to pay the price for stating the Catholic position on such life-and-death issues in the NCB? Pope Felix III said, “Not to oppose error is to approve it, and not to defend truth is to suppress it, and indeed, to neglect to confound evil men when we can do it, is no less a sin than to encourage them.”

Because of such commentaries as discussed, and also because of their silence on important socio-religious issues, the NCB will support a diluted, sugar-coated gospel that does not challenge those who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ. Study using the NCB’s inter-religious portions has the potential to damage grassroots faith in the SCCs and BCCs, which largely are anyway as different from the early New Testament Church of the Acts as chalk is from cheese. The NCB is ideal for use in inter-faith dialogue and inter-religious prayer meetings with people of non-Christian persuasions. If a particular Scripture makes them uneasy, a non-confrontational commentary, or a sharing that uses one, can reassure them that they are not being challenged by Christianity. All religions are equal.

Catholics need not be surprised. The unique and central symbol of Christianity, the Cross, has been, at one time or another, sandwiched between the symbols of other religions — including those with occult connotations like the Om and the yin/yang — on the covers of most Catholic magazines, including Archdiocesan and CBCI periodicals.

14. Against Exodus 3:5, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” is a drawing [courtesy Fr Christopher Coelho OFM] of footwear in the foreground of a composite of the upper portions of a gurudwara, a church, a mosque and a Hindu temple. (92) Though the steeple is in the foreground, one may just miss it at first glance, as we did. The mosque and the temple are more prominent, especially the temple which is fairly eye-catching.

In place of the commentary, there is a box on page 94. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted on “respect for other religions”, and on that we whole-heartedly agree with him and with whoever created the box. The writer refers to the “multi-religious and multi-cultural context of India”, suggesting that we meditate on that aspect with the picture. Now is the picture “multi-religious” or is it “multi-cultural” or both as the commentator prompts us to believe? No prizes for guessing. The commentator then states, “In asking us to take off our sandals, Scripture is telling us that every place or manner in which God manifests himself is sacred, and therefore, every religion is deserving of our respect…” (94)

We believe that this is a lie, a deliberate misinterpretation of the Word of God. Moses was in the presence of the Living God. To take Yahweh’s spoken word in a specific context in Exodus 3:5 and manipulate it to apply to the Ashtoreths and Baals of Moses’ time or their equivalents today, is blasphemy and goes against the First Commandment, which the same commentator said anyway is not a law, which means it is not a commandment as such. Would the commentator-priest suggest that Moses take a stroll up to the local Baal-house, remove his sandals and meditate using the NCB?  [Meditation — through Vipassana, Yoga and Zen — another word our priests love. What happened to prayer or good old contemplation?] If Moses must not do that, why do we program a 21st century Indian Catholic to do the same, the name of the deity simply being different? Will those who have published the NCB say that God actually exhorted Moses as well as the People of God to worship at “sacred” Sai Baba shrines, dargahs and temples where most Indians believe “God manifests himself”? We suspect that some will. After all, the NCB has certified them as holy ground. 

The box commentary continues, “This concept is perfectly in keeping with the mind of the Church. A few of the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent teachings of the popes are given below to help in the meditation of the devout Catholic.”

a. The first is, not unexpectedly, an excerpt from Nostra Aetate #2: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing what is true and holy in [other] religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.” This is the favourite and inevitable quotation of the inculturationists.

They interpret it as a mandate for the Hindu-isation of the Church. The Document says absolutely NOTHING about our being obliged to assimilate, adapt, adopt or incorporate their “ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings” into our faith, rituals and way of life. It only says that we do not reject but we respect what is true and holy for them. It also says that they only contain “a ray of that truth which enlightens all men”.  Key words: ‘a ray’, ‘that truth’.

Christianity is that “truth which enlightens all men”. The Word of God [Scripture plus tradition] is the fullness of that revealed truth. But Catholic scholars and theologians would still prefer to chase “a ray of that truth”. They play with the mirror, struggling to grasp intangible reflections while ignoring the blazing light that is their treasured possession. The Indian bishops have not ever clarified, in black and white, exactly what is “true and holy in other religions” in the Indian context, thus making equally clearly for the simple faithful, what is not.

b. The second is taken from article 53 of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelisation of the Modern World“.

This is Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, and it should read as “On Evangelization in the Modern World“. 

‘Of’ and ‘In’. A minor error. But it’s not a typo, and it’s there in the NCB. Does it show up our scholars’ unfamiliarity with Church documents? From our experience, they mostly always quote for all occasions the very same few articles that might give them a bit of credibility or leverage in their quest for inculturation, as we shall see them confirm shortly.

The excerpt: “The non-Christian religions carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searchings for God, a quest which is incomplete… They are impregnated with innumerable ‘seeds of the Word’ and can constitute a true ‘preparation for the Gospel’.” What can be clearer than that? Echoes, searchings, seeds, preparation.

c. The third is from article 26 of Dialogue and Mission, 1984. The key phrases, all quotes from Vatican II Documents: “elements which are true and good” (Lumen Gentium 16); “elements of truth and grace”, “seeds of the Word”; “seeds of contemplation”; (Ad Gentes 9, 11 &15, 18). Elements, seeds. Will this NCB nurture non-Christians with the Gospel or does it direct Catholics to explore and experiment with the seeds, elements and rays of other religions?

d. The fourth excerpt is from Pope John Paul II’s 1999 Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia #15, and it simply says good things about the Asian peoples and their tolerance, harmony, non-violence, etc.

We wonder why there is no Documentary quotation anywhere of the main mission of the Church: evangelization.

We mentioned earlier that there are no references to any Vatican Documents in the NCB commentaries. Let us make a correction. We found them in the most unlikely of places [contrived?] — in “The Law of One Sanctuary”, Deuteronomy 12:1-12 (277, 278). Why are we not surprised to find repeated there the very same excerpts from Nostra Aetate and Evangelii Nuntiandi that we noted above [see a. and b.]? Because, in all the Conciliar and post-Conciliar literature, there is not anything else that they can find. And why were they noted in the commentary on “The Law of One Sanctuary”? To emphasize religious pluralism.

We will report the gist of it, quoting wherever necessary. Earlier, there was worship in Israelite homes. This “led to aberrations.  To correct this situation, all worship was centralized in the Temple at Jerusalem, and a general cleansing of local sanctuaries was ordered. The command to destroy all pagan places of worship was a means in that primitive society to preserve unity of faith and worship. The significance of the plurality of religions had not yet been discovered.” The commentator then explains that in the closed groups of society that then existed, “the religious system of these groups was also controlled by this separatist mentality.” But, “[T]he world scene has changed very much since then […] Even the Christian Churches have come to view other religions in a new light.”

To justify the last lines, the commentator says, “Pope Paul VI stated this very succinctly…” and proceeds to quote Evangelii Nuntiandi, followed by Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate. To promote the error of religious pluralism, the commentator strings along two Vatican Documents immediately after his commentary. Now, if one would read the Catholic Community Bible or CCB [see further below] on which the NCB is reportedly “based”, one will find a commentary that is quite different, and non-problematic. The Filipino scholar asks, “Why did God want only one Temple?”, and answers, “Because first Israel and then the Church must be a sign of unity in the world… that one people alone serve him in his only House, his Church.”

The two commentaries are as different as the theological leanings of the two scholars, and no prizes for guessing who of the two is orthodox. This alone demonstrates the potential and hidden dangers in the commentaries of the NCB. Pope John Paul II in his “Ad Limina” address to the Bishops of India on their visit, 3 July 2003 said this, “It must be noted that relativist explanations of religious pluralism, which state that the Christian faith is of no different value than any other belief, in fact empty Christianity of its defining Christological heart: faith alienated from our Lord Jesus, as the only Saviour, is no longer Christian, no longer theological faith.”

‘Religious pluralism poses for Christianity a greater threat and grounds for greater anxiety than for all other religions. For no other religion, not even Islam, proclaims itself so absolutely as the religion; Christianity is the one and only valid revelation of the one living God’: Karl Rahner, 1962 The commentary on “The Origin of the Samaritans” [2 Kings 17] is one that we appreciate, and must be read here:

“For us, believers of the New Covenant, who often live in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, it will be necessary to exercise the utmost honesty, discernment and discipline to preserve the purity of our beliefs and practices.”(555)

15. “The Virgin is with Child: In Hebrew, the word used is almah, which simply means a young woman.” NCB (1239)

The people of Israel believed that the believing community would give birth to the Messiah. So they substituted the word ‘virgin’ for the original term ‘young girl’. So the evangelists will easily recognize the fulfillment of that prophecy in the virginal birth of Jesus.  Isaiah 7: 14  

No. The above two lines in italics are not our words. They are from the commentary of the CCB on which the NCB is reportedly “based”. To understand how the NCB commentaries include what is irrelevant to our faith, explain what need not be explained, and do not say what must be said, one must read the CCB commentaries, in this case on Isaiah 7 [pages 532, 533], and note the differences. 

The commentator on 2 Corinthians 10 writes, “The Lord called [Paul] to evangelize the Gentiles”. (2082)

Is the release of the NCB by the Society of St Paul in this Pauline year focused on that mission of evangelization by the incorporation of explanations of Gentiles’ philosophies and teachings in its commentaries? We can reproduce hundreds of passages from the communications of the Popes, all of which call for the evangelization of Asia.  Indian theologians conveniently ignore these exhortations from Rome.  Why can we not be honest with ourselves and admit that there is virtually NO evangelization in India as far as the structural and hierarchial Church is concerned. Evangelization is being carried out by and in retreat centres belonging to a few religious congregations, by individual priests, and by hundreds of lay ministries and prayer groups across the nation, all of it on their own initiatives, often with no support from the local Church, and sometimes with opposition from it. And these centres and ministries have made proper Bibles available, often at subsidized rates and sometimes free of cost, in English and in the vernacular, to millions of Indians including non-believers, many of whom have accepted Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church. One is reminded of the oft-quoted and most regrettable words of Mother Teresa, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.” 

The very first words of Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam in the Preface to the NCB are, “The clear and primary mission of the Church is to transmit, in keeping with Jesus’ mandate (cf. Mt. 28: 18-20), God’s message of hope and salvation to all of humanity.” (v) In that statement, he fully concurs with what we have said earlier. Does the Archbishop believe that the NCB is an effort in that direction? He does. In the next line in the Preface, he says, “The New Community Bible intended for India is an effort towards the realization of the above mentioned mandate.” And, “It is the fruit of an enthusiastic project undertaken by the Society of St Paul.” Let us examine those statements.

The mandate, as copied from the NCB, reads, “Then Jesus approached them and said, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to fulfil all that I have commanded you.”

Can the Archbishop, the Bishops who approved/released the NCB, and the scholars who wrote the commentaries honestly say that the Indian Church is exercising this authority and responsibility that it has received through apostolic succession and that they are carrying out this mandate? Many lay people, especially those who are in ministry, do not think so. The NCB commentaries fortify that belief.

To some, this venture appears to be purely a commercial one. Fr Tony Charanghat said that the NCB was available for just Rs 250 “whereas the original versions cost upward of Rs 1000 a copy”. He might be referring to the CCB. But the CCB uses superior paper, weighs much less, has water-proof covering, a thumb-index for easy location of books and colored plates and maps! And it certainly does not cost anywhere near as much as the priest claims it does. The Good News Bible, Today’s English Version [GNB] costs less than the NAB, without the offensive commentaries, and has maps, a brief Introduction to each book, a “Word List” with the meaning of each important biblical word, and an Index, the last two of which the NCB doesn’t have. Published also by St Pauls, the GNB and the New Jerusalem Bible, like the NCB, are the only easily available Catholic bibles that I have seen which do not carry the words “The HOLY Bible” on the cover as the Revised Standard Version [RSV] and the New American Bible [NAB] do. Why?

Has the eighteen years of research and publishing of the NCB been funded financially by SOBICAIN, Madrid? Will the GNB and other Catholic bible editions be completely replaced in due course so that the NCB will be the only version available at St Pauls stores? These are questions that only St Pauls can answer. St Pauls Father Augustine Kanachikuzhy SSP, the General Editor of the NCB, declares that the NCB is a “revised version” of the Christian Community Bible [CCB] of the Philippines. This CCB was “revised and adapted for India” by “the best Bible scholars in our land […] A careful revision of the text too was called for in some instances,” he says. What these revisions and adaptations are, and why they were necessary, he does not clarify. (viii, ix)

The Philippines CCB has the Imprimatur of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of that Catholic nation. St Pauls is a co-publisher. We bought a copy of the 19th edition of the CCB from St Pauls, Delhi in March 1998. We find no problem with the text. So, what was the need for “revision and adaptation” of the text for India? Was it to give support to the content of certain commentaries?

The priest adds, “The commentary had to be re-written in toto.” That is quite understandable, in the light of what we have examined of the NCB commentaries. With all these changes made, how can it still be claimed that the NCB is “based on […] the CCB.” (iv)? The Philippines CCB boldly proclaims itself as a “Catholic PASTORAL edition”, which it is, on its cover. Why was the NCB reluctant to call itself a “Catholic PASTORAL edition” instead of just “Catholic edition” as its cover states?

If such a commentary was really required by some, why could it not be published separately from a Bible, as are many other dubious books authored by Indian theologians and sold by St Pauls? Note the capitals used — every time he mentions other religious texts — by the General Editor of the NCB, Fr Augustine, for the term “Indian Scriptures” in reference to the Bhagavad Gita, the Rig Veda, the Dhammapada, the Koran, etc.

Even in the commentaries, when non-Christian religious texts are referred to they are called Scriptures with a capital ‘S’. (121, 1301, 1660, etc.) The same goes for Krishna, using a capital M for “Me”, indicating that he is a deity (1900). The personal pronoun “me” for Jesus, Son of God, does not rate the same dignity [e.g. Mathew 11:28]. 1677, 1678

Was the NCB approved by the CBCI after thoroughly examining its contents on completion of the project and submission of it to the teaching magisterium of the Church at the national level, or is it the Society of St Pauls, the NBCLC, and the “team of Indian Bible scholars” who held the cards? The faithful would like to know.

Most Rev. Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam [Archbishop of Trivandrum], is Chairman, Bible Commission, and Chairman of the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC], Bangalore, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI] institution that promotes the most error [liturgical, New Age, etc.] among both religious and laity in the Church. He writes in the NCB preface, “a competent team of Indian Bible scholars undertook the responsibility of completely re-writing the Commentary of each book of the Bible based on sound exegesis and relevant pastoral application.” Page ix of the NCB thanks “Harold Vaz for scrutinizing the whole Bible from a theological and Scriptural viewpoint” and “Bishop Thomas Dabre for examining the references to Non-Christian Scriptures.” It does not say whether Harold Vaz is a lay man or a priest.

When the Archbishop refers to the textual contents of the NCB, he correctly calls it “Scripture” with an upper case ‘S’. But he also appreciates the NCB’s “many references to the deep spiritual message and values found in the Scriptures [the same upper case ‘S’] of other great Indian religions.” Does he thus not equate the Word of God with other religious texts that contain at best “a ray of truth” [Nostra Aetate  #2]? He also says that the NCB would benefit “persons of other faiths”. How? By it’s discussing concepts of and parallels in — which have absolutely no interest for or relevance to the true believer — other religious writings? Since there seems to be not more than a few dozen such references, will their inclusion be sufficient to influence these “persons of other faiths” favourably towards Christianity and Jesus Christ? Or

a) will they understand that Christianity and Jesus Christ are not so unique after all?

b) will Catholics, too, begin to believe, contrary to the Bible and Church teaching, that we are not so unique after all?

There is no reason to believe that the NCB has an appeal to the non-Christian that other Bible translations do not have.

In our opinion, the insertion of parallels from other religious texts was limited to just the few dozen in the NCB’s nearly 2,300 pages, and many more weren’t, for the simple reason that they could not easily have been. That is why we believe that some of the parallels were contrived.  There are no Jobs or John the Baptists, no Elijahs or Jeremiahs, no Peters or Pauls in other religious texts. There are no precedents or parallels for almost all biblical events. What best these other texts – not “scriptures” — can offer is myth, fable, philosophy that is challenged and refuted by biblical revelation, a pantheon of false gods, and good men searching for the truth about man, God, sin, salvation and life after death which only the Bible contains in all fullness.

Even if some of the NCB commentaries can be defended by the scholars, were they really necessary?

In the NCB, the Living Word of God is juxtaposed against pure mythology, nature religion and pagan philosophies. The impression is sometimes forced on the reader by these commentaries that one religion is as good as another. Some make the NCB appear to be an apology to people of other faiths [“Well, these are our Scriptures, but you’ve sure got the equivalent in yours as well. Good for you”], as opposed to the business we should be engaged in:  apologetics. Many explanations will cause doubts to arise in the minds of lay Catholics who are poorly informed. 

Traditionalists will reject the NCB on the basis of just the one drawing of an Indian woman wearing a bindi [tilak] in the centre of her forehead, while preparing to do arati [aarti] or puja with a flame, flowers and a coconut on a plate. (2263)It can be expected that the Church’s use of such commentaries will be exploited by aggressive Protestant sects involved in sheep stealing and by Catholic traditionalists. The latter are already condemning it. Catholic laypersons and priests feel it is like reading a book promoting Hinduism. Some do not want to even call it a ‘Bible’. One priest termed it a “New Age bible”. A layperson described it as “an inter-religious book”. All those Catholics who contacted this ministry said that they would never recommend the NCB to anyone.

The NCB which took eighteen years from concept to release may, God-forbid, be here to stay. It will not be easy for the Bishops of India to unite, honestly admit that the NCB is a serious lapse of orthodoxy, and take corrective measures. The scholars who wrote the commentaries will justify the theological positions on which they have expounded. From their perspective, lay people have not studied philosophy and theology and do not understand Bible exegesis and hermeneutics, and their indignation and concern may safely be ignored. St Pauls will not be willing to incur the financial losses that they will incur in incorporating the necessary corrections in the commentary. It does not matter that the simple faith of many lay Catholics will be harmed. The Church will pay the price for it.

The NCB commentaries will be a scandal to many, and a deterrent to others as the issues are gradually made known. The only beneficiaries will be those who are campaigning for their version of inculturation, and through it for eventual full autonomy of the Indian Church [from the alleged hegemony of Rome]; and of course the Society of St Paul, as the first printing of 15,000 copies is sold out and they go for a second printing. There is nothing unique about the NCB.  The CCB might instead be made available in India at a more affordable price.

St Pauls and their “Better Yourself Books”: I think that it would be better for the Bishops to undertake a survey among people in lay ministry concerning the media ministry of St Pauls, than for us to elaborate much. Popular Catholic titles have never reached India, and Catholics get them from overseas. There is a general impression that St Pauls is a money-making enterprise. Prices are exorbitant [dollar exchange rate] as compared to those for imported books available in Protestant bookshops. We have bought Catholic titles there at a fraction of St Pauls prices. Would-be Catholic authors, including priests, have been dismayed at the mercilessly high margins demanded by St Pauls, and have published their works elsewhere. It is fantasy to believe that St Pauls was doing the Church a favour by publishing the NCB. We would like to be corrected if there was little or nothing in it for them.

When questioned, more often than not, the priests, brothers and Daughters of St Paul in charge know little or nothing about the contents of many or most of the books in their stores, excepting a few popular titles. In a genuine ministry or apostolate they would be spending less time at the till and more with the prospective customer.

We have not seen a single popular book on Catholic apologetics whereas the international market is flooded with them.

Over three years, 1997-2000, this ministry visited St Pauls stores in Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Kolkata, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, etc., and made a list of hundreds of books printed, published and sold by St Pauls. All of these books did not belong in a Catholic or any Christian bookshop. There were occult books, anti-Christian books, even an anti-Catholic title. Their psychology and self-help sections deserve special mention, because the contents of most books are incompatible with biblical revelation. And of course, large numbers of books on Enneagrams and all shades of New Age alternative medicines and eastern meditations. If the cash registers will ring, the book will be at St Pauls. All letters to St Pauls from this ministry have elicited no response. The updated list will be released later this year.

On Sunday July 13, 2008, the following response from Most Rev. Valerian D’Souza, Bishop of Poona, was read out at all Masses in the diocese:

The Community Bible

There have been questions/comments/criticism raised regarding the newly released Community Bible.

Kindly keep in mind these following points:

1. The Bible is divinely inspired and infallible. Its authentic interpretation has been handed over to the official teaching authority (magisterium) of the Catholic Church.

2. Commentaries are explanations regarding the Bible to help us, but do not share the infallibility of the Bible.

3. The main point is the message that is being conveyed by the passage in the Bible.

How that message is conveyed need not be true, that is with regard to time, details, whether it is a story, parable, myth, etc. For example, the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan is to help a person in need, even if he is my enemy. Whether it really happened is immaterial.

4. The Catholic Church claims that she has the whole truth. The Catholic Church teaches in Vatican II documents that other religions have rays of truth which illumine all men, elements of truth and goodness which we Catholics should appreciate. “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.”

By referring to such truths in other religions, the commentary does not equate such writings with the Bible.

Many editions of the Bible have commentaries, footnotes, explanations. The term ‘Bible’ refers only to the sacred Scriptures in the book and not the rest.

Bishop of Poona

The Bishop’s letter does not address the problems highlighted in this report. He may not have had the opportunity to read the commentaries, and we trust that His Grace will take a closer look at the contents of the NCB. His Grace was one of those who had been contacted by this ministry on the ‘phone on July 8. We wrote to the Bishop the same day, but have not received a response till now. We wrote to two other Bishops with the same result.

We pray that the Bishops of India will take the concerns of the faithful, laity and priests, most seriously.

The Imprimi Potest for the NCB is given by Father Varghese Gnalian SSP, Provincial Superior, Society of Saint Paul.

The Nihil Obstat is given by Most Rev. Thomas Dabre [Bishop of Vasai], Chairman, Doctrinal Commission, CBCI.

The Imprimatur is from Most Rev. Percival Fernandez, Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, Former Secretary-General, CBCI.

In case you would like to write to the Bishops/St Pauls, the email addresses of some of those named are as follows:

Most Rev. Thomas Dabre vasaidiocese@gmail.com ;

Most Rev. Percival Fernandez percival_fernandez@vsnl.net ;

Most Rev. Valerian D’Souza valdsouz@vsnl.com ; punedioc@vsnl.com ;

Most Rev. Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam bpsoosa@md4.vsnl.net.in ;

Father Varghese Gnalian SSP / Fr. Augustine Kanachikuzhy SSP  stpaulsmarketing@gmail.com;

You may also write to:

His Eminence Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil CSsR, President, CBCI cardinal@ernakulamarchdiocese.org ;

His Eminence Telesphore Cardinal Toppo cardinaltoppo@gmail.com ; telestoppo@rediffmail.com ;

Most Rev. Stanislaus Fernandes, Vice President, CBCI abpstanny1@dataone.in

Most Rev. Mar Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Vice President, CBCI  imarcleemis@hotmail.com

We are looking for Catholics who have the concern, commitment and courage to express their solidarity with us. We urge every Catholic reader to write to the Bishops. Even before contacting us, some Catholics have spoken over the telephone and/or written to their Bishops and to St Pauls explaining their problems with the NCB.

If you support this initiative, please do write in.

A group of concerned priests and laity have created an address where you may communicate. Please do so.

The address is: response2communitybible@gmail.com . If you wish to remain anonymous, please state so.

We can also provide you with the names and contact numbers of any or all of the Bishops. We further intend to take up the matter with Rome, if we are not satisfied with the response of the Bishops of India. We call for a Catholic boycott of the NCB and request the Bishops to halt sales of the first edition and further printing.

Would you be interested in joining a signature campaign against this book? Replies will be treated in confidentiality. If names of lay Catholics are mentioned, it will be only with their permission.

With inputs from priests and lay Catholics from India and overseas,

Michael Prabhu www.ephesians-511.net METAMORPHOSE CATHOLIC MINISTRIES, CHENNAI Tel: 24611606

email: michaelprabhu@vsnl.net and/or response2communitybible@gmail.com

7 thoughts on “Defending the Full Truth of the Gospel in India: Michael Prabhu Examines the New (Age) Community Bible”

  1. A parish co-ordinator of the parish to which i belong had attended a training session at the NBCLC and on his return, whie narrating the events that took place at the NBCLC inter alia, informed that the word “om” was the first word in the universe. When i asked the co-ordinator in question whether it was according to the bible, i was told that i would have to go to Bangalore to know that and what has happened does not surprise me. Let me ask one question if the catholic church claims the fullness of truth then why does one need to cast a glance at another’s partial truth?

  2. Hello Jacob,

    Thank you for responding with your insightful comment. I believe there are two parts here that need clarification.

    Om or Aum considered as the first word and sound at the creation of the universe: For Christians, we know that God is Spirit, and we must worship in spirit and truth… There is a problem here in terms of the Hindu understanding of the nature of God–the personal or impersonal nature of the divinity depending on their interpretation or tradition.

    As Christians we understand that by the power of the Holy Spirit the Word was made flesh and became man. God from God, Light from Light. God became man and revealed himself to us in the flesh. This still occurs through hypostatic union with the Holy Trinity by means of the Holy Spirit, who leads us into the fullness of revealed divine truth in Jesus Christ.

    Accordingly, yet with respect for the Hindu search for the fullness of truth, we do not follow an impersonal God or power, nor do some Hindu traditions.. The use of Om in prayer is unnecessary in Christianity, as through the Spirit we are placed in union with Christ who reveals the Father. In such union, the Son reveals the Name of the Father of all creation. God speaks to man in divine union with the soul, and both soul and flesh recognize in the purity of obedience their Creator.

    In union, the eyes and ears of the soul both see and hear (according to the state of our soul, and above all, the will of God) the deep things revealed by the Spirit for our salvation– God speaks, and therein we respond to the word(s) of God in the freedom of His Love and Mercy.

    We find here that salvation comes through the Jews, by means of Jesus Christ alone as the Word made flesh, and that His house will be known (and called) a house of prayer for all peoples. The seeds of the fullness of truth can be found in man’s long search for God throughout history, but now, God comes in search of men revealing Himself in full to those who allow him to do so… And this fullness is present always on earth–body, blood, soul, and divinity within the Most Holy Eucharist.

    From my understanding of the situation concerning the New Community Bible, some folks are creating theological difficulties for the sake of inculturating the Gospel in a syncretic way. Which is not only dangerous spiritually, but fails to understand the true meaning of Christ’s own words, “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” That is, He is with the Church in its mission to teach. To obscure the truth within our hearts and within the Sacraments of salvation tends to obscure that Jesus Christ is the only savior of the world. And again, He asks, “Who do men say I am?

    Our job as Christians is to lead souls to the Messiah, to concrete and experential conversion in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of man. To obscure his person is to obscure the very face of the one true God.

    Sad to say, but there are both unseen spiritual realties, as well as, flesh and blood men who will to do just that… So we must be clear about the truth of divine revelation always.

    As for casting a glance at another’s partial truth: without full knowledge of the situation, I would hope this is done in an inviting manner in the hope of enlightening the partial truth.

    I hope this helps my friend…

    Peace to you, yours, and all, in the truth

    james mary evans

  3. Praise God,
    May the Holy Spirit be with you. Thank you for defending our faith. Iam reading all your articles, and fully agree with your writings of the N.C.B. I pray for you , and am glad that through your efforts the NBC is put up for revision. I also pray for the church authorities to be enlightened, and do only thatis of God’s kingdom.

    In the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
    Reggie.

  4. DEAR SIR
    WE HAVE WORKING FOR THE JESUS CHRIST AND SHARING THE GOSPEL OF GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST.NOW WE PLANED TO BUILT A CHURCH .PLEASE I REQUEST YOU TO PRAY FOR ME.
    THANK YOU

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