Many people know that Catholic Bibles and Protestant Bibles are not the same. While both contain the same 27 New Testament books, the Catholic Bible has more Old Testament books than the Protestant Bible. Did the Catholic church add these books, or did Protestant churches remove them?
Protestants do not accept certain Old Testament books that the Catholic church accepts. Jews before Christ rejected the disputed books, but the translators of the Septuagint included them. In the second century, the first Latin Bibles, translated for the church and from the Septuagint, included the books.
What is the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books, and what do those terms mean? What books are included in the writings, and where are they found in Bibles that include them? Why do Protestants reject these books as inspired and authoritative for Christians? Keep reading to learn more.
Also, see Protestant vs. Catholic vs. Orthodox: What’s the Difference? for more.
What Is the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books?
“Apocrypha” and “deuterocanonical” are two common ways to describe the disputed books. In certain contexts, the terms are controversial because of their theological implications.
- Apocrypha: The word “Apocrypha” literally refers to “things that are hidden,” but sometimes people use the word to convey information that is unorthodox or fictitious. In this sense, the word “Apocrypha” is controversial when the connotation is that the books don’t have value.
- Deuterocanonical: The word “deuterocanonical” literally means “secondary canon.” Canon, in this context, refers to an officially accepted collection of books. “Deutero” conveys that they do not have the same status as other books of the Bible.
Sometimes people who accept the books in question find the term Apocrypha offensive because the implication is that their content is false. (Also, see Catholic Lord’s Prayer vs. Protestant Lord’s Prayer: What’s the Difference?)
Sometimes, people who do not accept the disputed books find the term deuterocanonical offensive because they believe there is no secondary canon. There is the officially accepted books of the Bible, and then there is everything else.
What Books Comprise the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books?
Some historians and theologians state there are 13 books in question, yet others say there are only seven. A few argue that there are 12. These are simply different ways to describe the same collection of literature. (Also see Why Did Protestants Leave the Catholic Church?)
Seven of the disputed writings are stand-alone books, while the other six are additions to canonical books (more below). Those who state there are 13 books are counting additions, like an added chapter, as a “book.”
- Tobit (stand-alone)
- Judith (stand-alone)
- Wisdom of Solomon (stand-alone)
- Ecclesiasticus, also called Wisdom of Sirach (stand-alone)
- Baruch (stand-alone)
- 1-2 Maccabees (stand-alone)
- Additions to Esther
- Additions to Daniel
Did Jews in the Old Testament era accept these books? No. The Hebrew Bible never contained these writings.
What is the Septuagint? The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament completed in Egypt in the third century before Christ. The prefix “sept” alludes to the legend that 70 scholars worked to complete the translation. The Septuagint contains the disputed books.
Did the early church accept these books? No. The first Christians rejected the books in question.
Who was the first to include the books in the Bible? In one sense, the translators of the Septuagint were, when they included the books in their Greek translation of the Old Testament.
In the second century, the translators of the Latin Bible included the books. Jerome included them in his translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate, at Augustine’s insistence, but he assigned them a secondary status. (Also, see Do Protestants Believe in the Saints?)
Did the Reformers accept them? The Protestant Reformers rejected the books as being of the same inspired nature as the other 66 books of the Bible. Some, like Martin Luther, believed that there was a benefit to reading the books, even though they were not on par with Scripture. (Also, see Protestant vs. Lutheran: What’s the Difference?)
Does the Eastern Orthodox Church accept the writings in question? Yes. Their extra-biblical literature also includes 1 Esdras, Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 3 Maccabees. Jews in the Old Testament era, the Roman Catholic Church, and Protestant churches all reject these additional writings.
Why Do Protestants Reject the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books?
There are several reasons that Protestants reject the books in question. Some reasons are historical, and others are theological. Not all Protestants agree with every reason described below. Others would add many other arguments for rejecting the disputed books. (Also see Do Protestant Churches Have Nuns?)
The theology found in the disputed books is contrary to the theology found in the 66 books of the Bible.
Tobit 12:9 is an example of this because it teaches that a person can acquire salvation through financial offerings, “For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life.”
Protestants believe that the Bible is very clear that God’s grace alone saves sinners. Ephesians 2:8 reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Another theological conflict is the doctrine of purgatory. 2 Maccabees teaches the doctrine and practices associated with it, like praying for the dead and collecting financial offerings for the church so that the dead can be saved from sin (Macc. 12:41-45; Bar. 3:4). “O Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel, and of their children, that have sinned before thee, and have not hearkened to the voice of the Lord their God, wherefore evils have cleaved fast to us.” (Baruch 3:4, DRA)
New Testament writers never cite the books in question. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and other teachers in the New Testament quotes from most of the books in the Old Testament, often from the Septuagint translation.
However, they never quote from any of the disputed books. Some argue that Paul alludes to certain passages in the disputed books. But because he does not use a quotation, the source is less certain. (Also, see Protestants vs. Puritans: What’s the Difference?)
The Jews in the Old Testament era rejected the books. This argument is persuasive to many Protestants because the authors and the content of these books are distinctly Jewish, so their original audience questioned or rejected their authenticity.
While the Hebrew Bible is organized into 22 books and the Christian Old Testament contains 39, they are the same writings, just arranged differently. (Also see 7 Symbols of Protestant Christianity)
It is not certain that the earliest versions of the Septuagint contained disputed books. The earliest editions of the Septuagint date to the 4th century A.D.
It is possible that people added the books later, which is a suggestion supported by the fact that New Testament writers did not quote from the books.
Many in the early church rejected the books. The earliest list of canonical Old Testament books dates to the second century.
The disputed books are not on the list: Melito, Bishop of Sardis, circa 170 A.D., wrote, “When I came to the east and reached the place where these things were preached and done, and learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set down the facts and sent them to you.”
He continues, “These are their names: the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of the Kingdom, two books of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon and his wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, The Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.”
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