Canon of the Bible

Summary Remarks

7 categories of books:

  1. Jewish/Protestant Old Testament (incl. ĎPseudographaí)
  2. Catholic Greek Old Testament
    List showing placement of deuterocanonical books
    Description of deuterocanonical books
  3. Additional Old Testament Books in the Eastern Orthodox Canon: list and descriptions
  4. Additional Books in the Canon of the Ethiopian Monophysite Church
  5. Old Testament Apocrypha (i.e. not included in categories 1-4)
  6. Christian New Testament
  7. Additional Christian Apocrypha

Early Christian Manuscripts and disputed books

Arguments regarding the Catholic Deuterocanonical Books

Arguments regarding the Orthodox Deuterocanonical Books

Summary Remarks

There are 66 books in the Protestant canon and 72 in the Catholic canon. By comparison, the 42 books listed below (debated among Jews and early Christians and/or deemed canonical by various groups of ancient Christians which survive to the present day) which may be considered controversial:

Hebrews Shepherd of Hermes 1 Esdras
3 Corinthians 1 Clement 2 Esdras
2 John 2 Clement Prayer of Manasseh
3 John Ascension of Isaiah Tobit
2 Peter Book of Henoch Letter of Jeremiah
James Book of Jubilees Greek Additions to Daniel 
Jude Combat of Adam and Eve Sirach
Revelation Wisdom of Solomon Esther
Epistle of Barnabas Baruch Greek Additions to Esther
Didache Judith Ecclesiastes
Acts of St. Paul 1 Maccabees Song of Songs
Apocalypse of Peter 2 Maccabees Proverbs
Apostolic Constitutions 3 Maccabees Ezekiel
Gospel of the Hebrews 4 Maccabees Psalm 151

    The early Church did not have widespread agreement on the books of the New Testament until the end of the fourth century (Council of Hippo in 393, 3rd Council of Carthage in 397, and 6th Council of Carthage in 419), and even then this was an agreement in the Western Mediterranean alone, i.e. the canon was not final settled by an ecumenical council until 1546. The fact is that the canon of the Bible was not an issue which divided Christians enough for them to decide the matter until the dawn of Protestantism in 1546. They were, however, throughout the first 15 centuries of Christianity numerous widespread controversies concerning the nature of Christ and the Trinity and the Sacraments, which were settled in a series of ecumenical councils which were called to irreformably decide these questions (e.g. I and II Nicea, I and II Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, I-IV Lateran, Florence). The fact that disagreements about the Biblical canon continued during and after the fourth century can be seen in the following: 

    The fact that Christians did not consider the canon a significant issue until the 16th century is strong evidence that any form of Christianity which requires as an essential point that there exists a clearly-defined canon must be a different form of Christianity than existed at any time between in the first sixteen centuries of Christian history. Further, we do not have strong traditions of apostolic authorship for all the New Testament writings from the early second century on. On the contrary, Revelation was barely admitted and was widely disputed for centuries. The epistle of Hebrews just a little less so, along with James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 & 3 John. Most modern Christians will agree that Hebrews and Revelation are important to Christianity. Also the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermes, Didache, and the Gospel of the Hebrews were widely accepted as authoritative, and read in church. Hard evidence of the confused state of the the canon in the early Church is found in the following easily-verifiable facts: 

Thus, as late as the fourth century, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation were still widely debated, and on the basis of early church testimony alone, without the authoritative decision of a subsequent church council, we should even now doubt the apostolic authority of at least Revelation, Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation, and should be slow to dismiss at least the Shepherd of Hermes and the Gospel of the Hebrews (9 books). We cannot have probable confidence about the traditional New Testament canon without belief in divine guidance through a visible organ such as an infallible Church. John Wenham, a Protestant theologian who gave special attention to the canon, noting this difficulty, appeals to the guidance of Providence to insure the soundness of their decisions, but does not explain why he then rejects this Providence in other matters of Catholic doctrine before and after the local council of Hippo.

    Finally, the canon of the Old Testament was, and still is, controversial. From Christís infallible teachings on the Old Testament, we can regard the Old Testament as inspired and infallible, but what exactly did this Old Testament include which Jesus declared authoritative? First, there is the dispute over the Catholic deuterocanonical books (Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Letter of Jeremiah, and several additional chapters of Daniel and Esther), included in the Catholic Old Testament but not in the Protestant Old Testament. The Catholic canon of the Old Testament was also not settled by ecumenical council until 1546, but there was an Old Testament canon promulgated along with the New Testament canon cited above by the local councils of Hippo in 393, and Carthage in 397 and 419. This canon included the deuterocanonical books, making it suspicious when Protestants appeal to these local councils as evidence for the canon of the New Testament but ignore the Old Testament canon promulgated together with that New Testament canon by these very same councils. Besides these, there is also the question of the "Antilegomena," Old Testament books which were still of controversial authority even in the second century: Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Proverbs, and Ezekiel (cf. Archer, Survey of Old Testament Introduction). It should be noted that Ethiopian Jews, against the general Jewish canon from the Council of Jamnia, AD 90, accept all the Septuagint books (except Ecclesiasticus) to this day (Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 2, page 174). For the purposes of this discussion it need only be noted that between the deuterocanonical books and the Antilegomena, there are 25 books of considerable disputability from the Old Testament. 

    It can be argued that these 42 disputed books are not essential to Christianity. However, this seems fairly dubious for several reasons. First, Revelation tells us far more about our heavenly home than any other book, and Hebrews is very valuable for its teaching on the priesthood of Christ. 2 Maccabees 12:46 teaches purgatory fairly clearly. Other deuterocanonical verses support Catholic justification (Tobit 12:9, 14:10,11; Ecclus 3:30; 1 Macc 2:52) (Wenham 152), intercession of saints (2 Macc 15:12-16), and the power of good works to atone for sin (Sir 3:3,15,17). Second, the claim that everything important is not in these books seems a rather subjective claim: the most important according to whom and according to whose authoritative opinion? Third, in principle, what kind of a canon is it that contains 66 books, and 42 uncertain ones (64% uncertainty)? This suggests rather that the canon was not an important question for Christians and for God for the first 15 centuries of Christianity. The boundary of the canon is remains to this day too ambiguous to assert (even probably) without an external, visible infallible organ, and to make such an assertion independent of this organ seems to fly in the face of the implication of historical fact that Christians were not too concerned about the canon for 15 centuries because they looked to another authority besides scripture alone.

1. Jewish/Protestant Old Testament (Pseudographa marked *)

Genesis 2 Chronicles Daniel
Exodus Ezra  Hosea
Leviticus Nehemiah  Joel
Numbers * Esther Amos
Deuteronomy Job Obadiah
Joshua Psalms Jonah
Judges Proverbs Micah
Ruth Ecclesiastes Nahum
1 Samuel * Song of Solomon (Song of Songs, Canticles) Habakkuk
2 Samuel Isaiah Zephaniah
1 Kings Jeremiah Haggai
2 Kings Lamentations Zechariah
1 Chronicles * Ezekiel Malachi


2. Catholic Greek Old Testament

List (showing placement of deuterocanonical books, marked by *)
Genesis * Tobit * Daniel (with additions)
Exodus * Judith Hosea
Leviticus * Esther (with additions) Joel
Numbers Job Amos
Deuteronomy Psalms Obadiah
Joshua Proverbs Jonah
Judges Ecclesiastes Micah
Ruth * Song of Solomon (Song of Songs, Canticles) Nahum
1 Samuel (LXX: 1 Kings) * Wisdom Habakkuk
2 Samuel (LXX: 2 Kings) *Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) Zephaniah
1 Kings (LXX: 3 Kings) Isaiah Haggai
2 Kings(LXX: 4 Kings) Jeremiah Zechariah
1 Chronicles (LXX: 1 Paralipomenon) Lamentations Malachi
2 Chronicles (LXX: 2 Paralipomenon) * Letter of Jeremiah * 1 Maccabees
Ezra (LXX, Russian: 1 Esdras) * Letter of Baruch * 2 Maccabees
Nehemiah (LXX: 2 Esdras) Ezekiel

Description of Catholic deuterocanonical books:

  1. Susanna (Daniel 1). Describes Daniel's demonstrating the guilt of several men who accuse Susanna of adultery by having them testify independently about the details of the adultery they claimed to have witnessed.
  2. Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Children (inserted between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24). Includes a prayer of Azariah (Hebrew for Abednego) and a hymn of thanks with a repeating line as in Ps 136.
  3. Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 13) (and another trip to the lionsí den)

3. Additional Old Testament Books in the Eastern Orthodox Canon

Prayer of Manasseh 2 Esdras (LXX: 4 Esdras, Russian: 3 Esdras) Psalm 151
1 Esdras (LXX: 3 Esdras, Russian: 2 Esdras) 4 Maccabees (Russian: 3 Maccabees) Syrian ending to Job

4. Additional Books in the Canon of the Ethiopian Monophysite Church

5. Old Testament Apocrypha

Note: Apocrypha are sometimes organized by origin (i.e. Judaic, Gnostic, Catholic, etc.), as this facilitates a more accurate understanding of the purposes of specific writings. This document, however, follows the more common procedure of listing them by genre/subject matter. Thus, all Apocrypha, even that written as late as the 10th century AD but dealing with Old Testament figures and themes are listed here (likewise regarding the New Testament Apocrypha below).

6. New Testament Canon

    The most common Christian New Testament Canon of the 27 books listed below was no less controversial in the early days of the Church than the Christian Old Testament Canon was, though since that time it has become notably less controversial. As noted above, the NT canon should not, however, be regarded as free from controversy: 

Gospel of Matthew Ephesians Philemon
Gospel of Mark Philippians James
Gospel of Luke Colossians 1 Peter
Gospel of John 1 Thessalonians 2 Peter
Acts of the Apostles 2 Thessalonians 1 John
Romans 1 Timothy 2 John
1 Corinthians 2 Timothy 3 John
2 Corinthians Titus Jude
Galatians Hebrew Revelation (Apocalypse)

Note: From the time Eusebius first drew attention to them until the Council of Trent, the three following passages were the subject of controversy, and they are (mostly unconsciously) accepted by Protestants on the authority of Trent against the evidence of the earliest MSS.

7. Additional Christian Apocrypha, listed by genre

Early Christian Manuscripts and disputed books

Early MSS of parts of the NT

1). In the original Greek alone, there are over 5,000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments of portions of the NT that have been preserved from the early centuries of Christianity.

2). The John Rylands manuscript, containing part of the Gospel of John and dating to AD 125-130, is no more than forty years older than the Gospel itself.

3). The Chester Beatty papyri, dating from AD 200, contains major portions of the NT.

4). More than thirty papyri date from the late second through early third centuries.

5). Four very reliable and nearly complete NTs date from the forth and fifth centuries (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus from roughly 350).

6). There are 8,000 copies of the Vulgate, the Latin translation of Jerome in 382-405.

7). There are 350 copies of Syriac versions of the New Testament, most written in the 400s.

About the LXX (Septuagint): Jews and early Christian regarded this translation from Hebrew to Greek as divinely inspired. As Eusebius and Augustine describe, the 70 Jewish scholars called upon by the Pharaoh to produce a Greek version of their scriptures for the Alexandria library all, working entirely independently, arrived at a single Greek rendering for every single verse. Significant differences between the LXX and the the Hebrew Masoretic text (9th century) include:

  1. The LXX uses a word meaning Ďvirginí in Isaiah 7:14, whereas uses an ambiguous word, more likely to be translated Ďyoung woman.í
  2. Genesis 6 genealogies

List of most important LXX Manuscripts:

  1. Codex Vaticanus (4th C). OT includes Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah (Wenham 148-49).
  2. Codex Sinaiticus (4th C). OT includes Tobit, Judith, First Maccabees and Fourth Maccabees, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus (Wenham 149). NT includes the 27 plus Epistle of Barnabus and Shepherd of Hermas.
  3. Codex Alexandrinus (5th C). OT includes Tobit, Judith, First, Second, Third, Fourth Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Psalms of Solomon (Wenham 149). NT includes the 27 plus 1 and 2 Clement
  4. Codex Claromontanus (6th C). NT includes the 27 less Phil, 1 and 2 Thes, and Heb, plus Epistle of Barnabus, Shepherd of Hermas, Acts of Paul, and Revelation of Peter (Hartono "New" 2).

Arguments regarding the Catholic Deuterocanonical Books

The following reasons are often cited to argue that Catholic canonization of the deuterocanonical books seems innovative and dubious:

a) They were not canonized until 1546.

b) They were canonized at a suspiciously convenient time, for they were useful in counter-Reformation controversy against Protestants: 2 Macc 12:45-46 supports purgatory and prayer for the dead (Geisler Apologetics 365); Tobit 12:9, 14:10,11; Ecclus 3:30; and 1 Macc 2:52 support Catholic justification (Wenham 152); 2 Macc 15:12-16 supports the intercession of saints (Jerusalem Bible 656); and Sir 3:3,15,17 supports the power of good works to atone for sin.


a) It is true that these books were not canonized by an ecumenical council until 1546óbut neither were any other books of the Bible. It was not considered necessary to define such a doctrine until the Reformation, when Luther, in an unprecedented move, published his German Bible with James, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, and the deuterocanonical books extracted from the main text and placed in an unnumbered appendix (cf. Stravinskas 113). Even Luther believed the extent of the canon remained an open issue (Runia 139, Wenham 165). As seen in Part 1, the local councils of the 4th century which canonized the New Testament, also canonized the deuterocanonical books.

b) The Catholics were not adding books, but the Protestants were taking them away (see Part 1). Moreover, since Catholic theologians at the time rarely used these texts as prooftexts, but make different arguments principally about the authority of the church, this objection is weak. One reason the Tridentine canon was approved was that it taught explicitly the resurrection of the dead (2 Macc 7:9, 14:46, Wisd 2:23), Hell (Sir 7:17), and the Final Judgment (Wisd 3:9-10), important Christian doctrines which were left vague in the Jewish canon of Old Testament scriptures (cf. Jerusalem Bible 656).

Protestants also argue against the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books in the canon, on the grounds that the Old Testament of Jesus and the Apostles did not include the deuterocanonical books, as assertion they back up with the following prooftexts and arguments:

a) Lk 11:51 ("from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah") indicates that Jewish accepted the Jewish canon, since Abel was the first martyr of the Jewish canon (Gen 4:8) and Zechariah was the last martyr of the Jewish canon (2 Chron 24:21) (McDowell 31).

b) Josephus: "We have not tens of thousands of books, discordant and conflicting, but only twenty-two [the standard number from the Hebrew Bible, 24, probably comes from the combinations Judges-Ruth and Jeremiah-Lamentations], containing the record of all time, which have been justly believed (to be divine)... From Artaxerxes until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased. But what faith we have placed in our own writings is evident by our conduct; for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared either to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them. But it is instinctive in all Jews at once from their very birth to regard them as commands of God, and to abide by them, and if need be, cheerfully to die for them" (Josephus, Against Apion I.8.41,42 quoted in Wenham 135-36, Geisler Apologetics 365-66).

c) Philo (20BC-AD40), despite his extensive Old Testament quotations, never quoted from the deuterocanonical books as inspired (McDowell 35).

d) At Jamnia in AD90, Jewish scholars did not accept the deuterocanonical books and decided to retain the pseudographia (Ezekiel, Esther, Ecclesiastes) (McDowell 36).

e) According to the Talmud, i) "after the latter prophets Haggai, Zecharia, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel" (Babylonian Talmud, "Sanhedrin," VII-VIII, 24), ii) "Up to this point [the time of Alexander the Great] the prophets prophesied through the Holy Spirit; from this time onward incline thine ear and listen to the sayings of the wise" (Seder Olam Rabba 30); iii) "the books of Ben Sira and whatever books have been written since his time are not canonical" (Tosefta Yadaim 3:5) (McDowell 31).

f) 1 Macc 9:27 confirms the Talmudic evidence ("there was great distress in Israel, such as has not been since the time the prophets ceased to appear among them"), implying that it was definitely not inspired (Geisler Apologetics 366).

g) 2 Macc 15:38 likewise makes claims about itself inconsistent with a inspired book: "If [this book] is trashy and mediocre, that is all I could manage."

h) 2 Macc 15:9 similarly refers to the "law and the prophets" as a closed canon, at least implicitly (Geisler Apologetics 367).

i) Mileto, Bishop of Sardis (~170) compiled the earliest datable list of Old Testament books (which he obtained in Syria), which leaves out the deuterocanonical books: "Their names are these . . . five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. Jesus Naue, Judges, Ruth. Four books of Kingdoms, two of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, Solomonís Proverbs (also called Wisdom), Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job. Of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra [all books of Hebrew canon in that order, but with Esther omitted] " (Letter to Anesimius in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History IV. 26 quoted in McDowell 32).

j) Jesus authorized the "Law and the Prophets" (Mt 5:17, Lk 24:27), not the writings, in which the deuterocanonical books would have been included due to their late date (Geisler Apologetics 367).

k) Lk 24:44: ". . . Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms." Jesus here refers to the three-fold division of the Palestinian canon mentioned by Josephus (McDowell).

l) Paul believed "everything laid down in the law or written in the prophets" (Acts 24:14) (Geisler Apologetics 367).

m) The book of Baruch was probably not even written until AD 100 (McDowell <<).

n) It seems that if the book of Baruch were authentic, it would have been included with the other minor prophets to form a book of "The Thirteen" rather than "The Twelve."

o) The Hebrew text and the Greek text of Sirach differ so dramatically (Jerusalem Bible 1034) that it is likely the Jews felt reasonably free to edit in their transmission of the text, which makes it unlikely that the Jews saw Sirach as canonical. That the Church canonized the Greek text (Jerusalem Bible 1034) seems suspicious, since in all non-deuterocanonical books (I believe) the book itself is canonized and the discovery of earlier texts implies a revision of the current Bible.

p) Arenít Protestants right in following the Jewish canon (and not recognizing the Deuterocanonical books, since Christianity is an extension of Judaism, and since the Jews have been "entrusted with the very words of God" (Rom 3:2) (Geisler Apologetics 365)?


a) The parallel verse (Mt 23:35) refers to Zechariah son of Barachiah, not the Zechariah son of Jehoiada of 2 Chron 24:20-22, so the argument fails (Hartono "Old" 2).

b) Jesus and/or the Apostles knew both canons, as proven by the fact that the New Testament writers on rare occasion did quote from the Hebrew, translated into Greek, rather than quoting directly from LXX. This should not be surprising since we know that Greek-speaking-Jews, who would have used the LXX, lived in Palestine (Acts 6:1) (Hartono "Old" 1). They used LXX more and on crucial passages, such as Isa 7:14 (LXX: virgin, Pal: young woman). So, Josephus testifies to the extent of the Palestinian canon, but not to its divine authority.

c) Like Josephus, Philo is a representative of the Palestinian school and testifies (implicitly) to the extent of the Palestinian canon, but not to its divine authority.

d) Palestinian Jews naturally canonized the Old Testament according to their tradition and not that of the Hellenized Jews. Their decision was not universal, as Egyptian Jews to this day accept the LXX canon less Ecclus (Hartono "Old" 1). It may even be that the exclusion of the deuterocanonicals at Jamnia was precisely a move against the growing Christian sect, since the gospels were also specifically denounced at Jamnia (Akin 1).

e) More evidence from the Palestinian school (which triumphed in Judaism) does not prove that school right.

f) God can inspire anyone to write scripture, prophets or no (Hartono "Old" 3).

g) Most books of the Bible lack claims of inspiration, and some even bear marks that would seem to exclude inspiration. i) 1 Cor 1:14-16: "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I donít remember if I baptized anyone else)" which seems to imply that the inspiring God forgot what he was saying (Keating 129). ii) 1 Cor 7:12,25: "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.. . . Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lordís mercy is trustworthy."

h) Similarly, Peter refers to Paulís writings as scripture, and this does not imply a closed canon, so neither need this verse in 1 Macc.

i) Mileto was one bishop among many who disagreed. His views are not the oldest extant Christian views on the Old Testament canon (see above), even if his list is the earliest. Even were his evidence somehow more significant than the others, since he did not include Esther, his evidence still would not support the Protestant canon.

j) This objection goes equally strongly against protocanonical books in writings. Moreover, Jesus refers to the Psalms in addition to the Law and Prophets in Lk 24:44.

k) Jesus is speaking here about prophecies, not necessarily about the canon: just as not every Old Testament book is quoted in the New Testament, so also not every Old Testament book contains Messianic prophecy. Moreover, Daniel is placed in Writings in the Palestinian canon, and since Jesus doesnít mention Writings as distinct from Psalms when mentioning the books which prophesied of him, it seems he implicitly approves of the LXX canon. Further, these terms seem to have been used rather loosely, e.g. Paul quotes from both Psalms and Isaiah and calls both "Law" (Rom 3:10-19; 1 Cor 14:21) (Hartono "Old" 2).

l) This objection likewise goes equally strongly against protocanonical books in writings. Moreover, Paul quotes frequently from writings.

m) There is considerable debate about the dating of Baruch; many place it before 100 BC (Jerusalem Bible).

n) Baruch was written late enough after the other twelve minor prophets that we should not expect it to be compiled together.

o) Catholics trust that God guided the process of canonization through the apostles and early Christians. The Hebrew texts of Sirach, I believe, do not predate the Greek texts, so the charge of suspiciousness is ungrounded. The divergence in text is explainable on the ground that the Palestinian Jews did not consider the book canonical, and hence, were not hindered from introducing changes to the Hebrew text. Finally, significant differences between Hebrew and Greek texts are found in the books of the Jewish/Protestant canon as well, especially Esther (the additions aside) (Hadas in Goodspeed 165).

p) During the time before Christ, Jews were divided over the canon, with Greek-speaking Jews accepting and using the deuterocanonical books and Palestinian Jews not accepting them. There is no reason to consider Jewish partisan opinion normative in a matter of Christian doctrine (Josephus, Philo, Jamnia). There is good reason not to take Rom 3:2 to support the Palestinian canon; New Testament writers quote from non-biblical sources (2 Tim 3:8, Jude 9,14).

Furthermore, there is a good positive case for the deuterocanonicals, in addition to the patristic evidence cited in Part 1:

a) The best evidence that the apostles accepted the deuterocanonical books is that the New Testament is full of quotations from the LXX translation of the Old Testament, which included the deuterocanonical books (Stravinskas 113). It is implausible that the apostles would have quoted from the LXX without giving a warning to their followers that certain books were fallacious had that been their view (Akin 1).

b) The New Testament even alludes to 2 Macc 6:18-7:41 in Heb 11:35 (Geisler Apologetics 364, Hartono "Old" 2).

c) Acts 7:14 indicates that the earliest Christians used the LXX. In this verse, Stephen relates that Jacob came to Egypt with 75 people, which is the number found in the LXX, but not in the Hebrew (which gives the number as "70") ("Complete" 1).

d) Wisd 1:16-2:1, 2:12-24 contain messianic prophecy: "But the godless will call out . . . ĎIf the virtuous man is Godís son, God will take his part and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies. . . . Let us condemn him to a shameful deathí" (Wisd 1:16, 2:18,20) predicts "The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. . . . ĎHe trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ĎI am the Son of Godí" (Mt 27:41,43) ("Complete" 2).

e) Early fathers such as Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril of Jerusalem quoted the deuterocanonical books (Geisler Apologetics 464).

f) The earliest extant Old Testament MSS, including the Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Alexandrinus included the deuterocanonical books (Geisler Apologetics 364).

g) Augustine accepted all the deuterocanonical books (Geisler Apologetics 364).

h) The Roman Synod by Pope Damascus (382), the Synod of Hippo (393), and the Synods of Carthage (393, 397, 419) all accepted the deuterocanonical books (Geisler Apologetics 364; Jerusalem Bible 601).

i) Many Church doctors and councils from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries listed the deuterocanonical books as inspired (Geisler Apologetics 364).

j) Protestants should remember: i) that the Bible was always copied and printed with the apocrypha written mixed in with the rest of the Bible until Luther separated them out for the first time in his German Bible (Wenham 147); ii) that the Bible was not regarded as complete without the apocrypha even by Protestants (though understood as non-doctrinal, edifying reading) until 1827 when the British and Foreign Bible Societies decided to do so (and were soon followed by the American Bible Society) (Wenham 149).

Rejoinder to positive case for the Deuterocanonicals:

a) Wenham argues that it is impossible to know what books were in the first-century LXX given that the extant codices from the 4th and 5th centuries include "apocryphal books . . . but with no consistency as to the books contained or their order; they are mixed up with the undisputed books of the canon" (see above) (Wenham 148-49).

b) Despite this one allusion from one deuterocanonical book, no deuterocanonical book is quoted in the entire New Testament. If the apostles did consider the deuterocanonical books inspired, we should expect that they would have quoted from it since they quoted from the Old Testament so extensively, and even quoted a pagan poet in Acts 17:28 (Geisler Apologetics 364). Granted, the New Testament quotes only 18 out of the 22/24 Hebrew Old Testament books, but we would expect that there would be at least one quote from one deuterocanonical book if Jesus or the apostles considered them authoritative (Geisler Apologetics 366).

e) Despite the fact that Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril of Jerusalem quoted the deuterocanonical books, these three as well as "all important Fathers before Augustine clearly rejected the Apocrypha" (Geisler Apologetics 464).

f) See a.

g) Augustineís authority is less than that of Jerome, his contemporary, who rejected the deuterocanonical books (Geisler Apologetics 364). Augustine said of Jerome, "If there is anything he does not know, no mortal knows it." Initially, Jerome refused to translate the deuterocanonical books for the Vulgate, and later only translated a few hurriedly; when he died, the deuterocanonical books were imported into the Vulgate from the old Latin version (McDowell 36). Jerome first used the word "apocrypha" (lit., hidden) to designate the deuterocanonical books (McDowell 33). Moreover, Augustine did not consider the deuterocanonical books inspired until after 325, when the Greek translations including the deuterocanonical books appeared (Geisler Apologetics 364).

h) No synods before 325, when the Greek translations including the deuterocanonical books appeared, listed these books as inspired. Moreover, these synods were "local listings," not authoritative ecumenical judgments (Geisler Apologetics 364). If they were authoritative, then Jerome would have been a heretic.

i) While many doctors did accept the deuterocanonical books, many others did not, including Cardinal Cajetan as late as the Reformation era (Geisler Apologetics 365).

j) This does not prove that the case for their authority was in any way undecided.


a) Just as the extent of the deuterocanonical books was in question after the fourth century non-ecumenical councils, so too was the extent of the New Testament canon, with different versions of the New Testament book appearing in MSS even after the 4th C. So Protestant objectors inconsistently accept these councils for their New Testament canon but not for their Old Testament canon, not realizing that before the Reformation, the canon of both testaments was not a divisive issue for Christians, further evidence against sola scriptura (Hartono "Old" 3). Sinaiticus includes the 27 plus Epistle of Barnabus and Shepherd of Hermas; Alexandrinus includes the 27 plus 1 and 2 Clement; Claromontanus (6th C) includes the 27 less Phil, 1 and 2 Thes, and Heb, plus Epistle of Barnabus, Shepherd of Hermas, Acts of Paul, and Revelation of Peter (Hartono "New" 2).

b) This criteria of "quotation, in; no-quotation, out" is not an adequate basis to reject the deuterocanonical books, because i) the New Testament never quotes from Esther, Ecc, and Song of Songs, ii) There are indirect quotations of the deuterocanonical books in the New Testament (see above), iii) There are quotations "from scripture" in the New Testament which cannot be traced to an Old Testament source (Jn 7:38, Jas 4:5, Mt 2:23), and iv) Jude 9 and 14 quote from the Ascension of Moses and Enoch, non-canonical books (Hartono "Old" 2).

e) Geisler Apologetics is simply distorting the facts: These three did not reject the deuterocanonical books completely, nor was there any unanimity among other important fathers, as is seen above.

f) See a.

g) Jerome was persuaded to include the deuterocanonicals because of their widespread acceptance. Moreover, late in his life, in his reply to Rufinus (402), Jerome defended deuterocanonical portions of Daniel, writing, "What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanne the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I was relating not my personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us" (Against Rufinus 11:33 in Akin 3).

h) True, the deuterocanonical books were the subject of much debate for several centuries, and the first counciliar listings of the Old Testament canon were indeed late, but the same may be said for Esther, 2 Pe, 2 and 3 Jn, Jude, James, and Rev (Hartono "Old" 2).

i) Cajetanís opinion further corroborates the ambiguity of the canon before Trent and the fact that it was not a divisive issue until the Reformation. Had any majority of Christian ever believed sola scriptura, the canon surely would have been a divisive issue before 1546.

4) The deuterocanonical books contain contradictions with other Christian doctrines, implying that the Catholic Church which canonized them has erred.

a) The deuterocanonicals teach the pantheistic doctrine of emanationism (Wisd 7:25) (Wenham 152).

b) The deuterocanonicals teach the pantheistic doctrine of pre-existence of souls (Wisd 8:19,20) (Wenham 152).

c) The deuterocanonicals teach the pantheistic doctrine of creation out of pre-existent matter (Wisd 11:17) (Wenham 152).

d) The deuterocanonicals teach the pantheistic doctrine of the body as a weight on the soul (Wisd 9:15) (Wenham 152).

e) The deuterocanonicals teach the doctrine of annihilation of evildoers (2 Macc 7:14).

f) Implicit moral praise of treachery and deceit for the nationalistic cause in Judith.


a) This verse states only that wisdom comes from God.

b) This verse is unclear; it may mean that a pure body results from righteous living or that a pure body is a benefit of being born in the noble line of Solomon.

c) This verse teaches that God created the world out of formless matter, just as Genesis teaches: Gen 1:1-3: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ĎLet there be light,í and there was light."

d) This verse is very similar to Jesusís statement, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," and to Paulís descriptions of the flesh battling with the spirit (e.g. Gal 5), though the New Testament contains a further development, clarifying this teaching so that it is not misunderstood as anti-material/Gnostic/Neo-Platonic.

e) 2 Macc does not teach this doctrine as such; a character espouses his belief in annilationism. Even Protestants must concede that the doctrines concerning the afterlife were relatively undeveloped in Old Testament times and were not clarified until Christís coming.

f) As in all doctrine, moral doctrine undergoes developments, and in no area is moral doctrine more difficult (and debated to this day) than ethics of war. The main message of Judith is not an advocacy of treachery, but an encouragement to trust Godís providential care for his people.

5) The deuterocanonical books contain contradictions with history, implying that the Catholic Church which canonized them has erred.

a) Many parts of the deuterocanonical books seemed fanciful and gratuitous in the supernatural (the Dragon in Daniel, the absence of any cross-examination of Susannaís accusers, the magic and death of husbands in Tobit, etc.).

b) Nebuchadnezzar as king of Assyria in Judith 1, historically false (Boettner in Hartono "Old" 2).

c) Wisdom claims to be written by Solomon, but this is very dubious since it contains ideas common to Hellenistic philosophy which entered Palestine much later.


a) Catholics acknowledge that these stories probably are not historically true according to canons of nineteenth and twentieth century historical criticism, but their symbolic meaning is the crucial aspect of interpreting these books. Acknowledging this, Catholicism does not leave itself open to Bultmannian demythologizing because its doctrines are quite clear about what stories recounted in the Bible must be interpreted as historically true (i.e. the Fall, giving of the Law, Incarnation, Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension) and which may be interpreted otherwise (the rest).

b) Judith means "Jewess," an indication of the bookís allegorical nature. Combining the Babylonians and Assyrians together symbolizes both major conquerors of Israel, reinforcing the basic point of the book that Godís people should rely on his ways of deliverance, even if they (like a woman) seem dubious and unreliable (Hartono "Old" 2). As scholar Moses Hadas remarks, "By opening his story with a statement that Nebuchadnezzar ruled over the Assyrians in Ninevah when, as every literate reader would know, Nebucchadnezzar ruled over Babylonians in Baylon, the author of Judith virtually gives notice that his work is a fiction. . . . If . . . we read Judith or Tobit as a chronicle of actual events, we must either resort to most implausible interpretation or dismiss the chronicler as an ignorant bungler; but if we realize that such books were intended as edifying romances for the purpose of inculcating and strengthening loyalties under trying conditions, we can appreciate them as honest and effective pieces of literary art" (in Goodspeed 131, xvi). In other words, Judith need not be interpreted literally, and moreover should not be, since the author has indicated this in the first sentence. In no way is belief in the inspiration of Judith damaged by its fictional character if there are good reasons to consider its canonization valid.

c) First, this charge applies equally to Ecclesiasties and Song of Solomon, against which similar charges concerning fraudulent authorship claims can and are often leveled by scholars (cf. Hadas in Goodspeed xvii). Thus, this argument is either equally damaging to the Protestant canon or else equally innocuous. In any case, it is probably innocuous. First, we cannot dismiss these claims in any of these books merely by an argument based on a closed causal system of cause, and second, even if all three books were not written by Solomon as stated, it is likely that this was a commonly-understood convention and therefore not fraudulent.

Arguments regarding the Orthodox Deuterocanonal Books

As we have seen above, in addition to the difference between the Catholic and Protestant Old Testaments, there are other debated books which the Eastern Churches accept  as canonical, but both Catholics and Protestants do not acceptó1 and 2 Esdras (LXX: 3 and 4 Esdras), 3 and 4 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manassah, Odes, and the Psalms of Solomon.  Protestants often argue that the simulataneous inclusion of the deuterocanonicals and exclusion of these additional Orthodox books is arbitrary, citing the following reasons:

a) Latin codices often include 3 and 4 Maccabees and the Psalms of Solomon (Wenham 151).

b) The Fathers, including Justin, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, used intertestamental books outside the Tridentine canon, especially Enoch and 2 Esdras (Wenham 151).

c) The Eastern Churchís Old Testament canon includes additional books.

d) The Church of England listed 1 and 2 Esdras and Manasses as part of the Apocrypha which was be read "for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine" (Article 6, 39 Articles, quoted in Wenham 147).

e) It is especially suspicious that the Church rejected 2 Esdras and included 2 Maccabees since 2 Esdras 7:[105] speaks strongly against praying for the dead and 2 Macc 12:45 supports prayer for the dead (Geisler).

Answered: The Tridentine decision stated that the canonized books were those which could be affirmed without doubt, and most of them including 2 Macabeess had long been informally accepted and were not in any real doubt. Trent reaffirmed as an ecumenical canon the counciliar decisions of the fourth century in which the New Testament as 27 books was also canonized. These fourth-century councils considered the other apocryphal books and excluded them for good reasons. The Prayer of Manasseh was excluded because it contradicts the doctrine of original sin and the record of Genesis by claiming "For Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who did not sin against you..." Following Jerome, and noting that 1 Esdras is either incomplete or placed in a supplement in all official copies of the Vulgate, Trent decided not to recognize 1 Esdras either. 2 Esdras was written in the Christian era in Latin, and hence it could not be placed with the others in the Tridentine canon as "beyond doubt." It could not have been excluded on the basis of teaching against prayer for the dead, since 2 Esdras 7:[105] says it will be useless to pray for someone after the Day of Judgment, not after death: "The Day of Judgment is final and shows to all the stamp of truth. Just as now a father cannot send his son or a son his father or a master is his slave or a friend his dearest friend to be sick for him, or sleep or eat or be cured, so no one can pray for another then, or lay a burden on another, for they must all bear everyone his own iniquity or uprightness then" (Goodspeed translation). The Eastern church kept these books because they were in the Slavonic translation, on the authority of the translators. Finally, it must be remembered that there is no argument for the canon except the argument from Providence, and if Providence is accepted for the fourth century New Testament canonization, it ought logically to accept the fourth century Old Testament canonization as well as the Tridentine canon.

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