Full Question by anonymous:
Why did the Catholic Church add extra books to the Bible? Why do Catholic Bibles have more books? I heard they were added at the Council of Trent, is this true?
Let me explain a few things before I get into this one.
- The “extra books” that the Church is alleged to have added are also known as the Deuterocanonical books.
- The Deuterocanonical books are all in the Old Testament.
- Martin Luther wanted to remove the Epistles of James, Jude, Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation. Calling the Epistle of James, “worthless straw,” because it conflicted with his doctrine of Sola Fide. Thankfully his followers weren’t keen on altering the New Testement so this article will focus on the 7 Deuterocanonical removed during the reformation.
- The Deuterocanon is sometimes referred to as the Apocrypha. These are somewhat interchangeable terms, Apocrypha being used more by Protestants, it also has a negitive connotation to it.
The simple answer is that the Catholic Church didn’t add anything to the Bible, it was the “Reformers” (mostly Martin Luther and John Calvin) that removed seven books and parts of a few others.
Their reasoning depended on who was doing the reasoning, but they generally it was one of the following reasons.
- They were written in Greek and not Hebrew, so they couldn’t be part of the Jewish canon.
This claim fails when we have discovered Hebrew and/or Aramaic originals for most of the dueterocannonical books. Also the entire New Testament was written in Greek, the language says less about a book than the content.
Tobit and Wisdom were found among the Dead Sea scrolls in their original Hebrew. This would refute the idea that they were all originally written in Greek.
- They were not part of the canon accepted by Jews, therefore they weren’t accepted by Jews in the time of Christ.
This one is both true and false. At the time of the reformation there is evidence that the Deuterocanonical books were not accepted by Jews as Biblical canon. But in the time of Christ, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, known as the Septuagint, was sidle read and accepted. The Septuagint is the likely translation use by Christ himself.
The bigger question here is why would Christians base their canon on what the Jews of the 16th century regarded as canonical? If we went by that, none of the New Testament would be acceptable. After all, Jews are not Christians.
- They were never quoted by Christ or the Apostles, therefore they are not canonical.
This argument doesn’t hold up when you consider that lots of Old Testement books were not directly quoted in the New Testament. Some of them are: Ezra, Nehemiah, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, Nahum, 1 Chronicles, and Lamentations
Also this argument would assume that something quoted is canonical, but the Epistle of Jude quotes the Book of Enoch (Jude v.14) and St. Paul quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides in Titus 1:12, but neither Epimenides or the Book of Enoch are included in the Bible.
But this argument ignores the fact that Dueterocanon was quoted in the New Testament, Hebrews 11:35 is a paraphrase of 2 Maccabees 7.
Another thing to note is that Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate Hanukkah, “It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.” (John 10:22-23) The feast of dedication is what we now call Hanukkah, and is instituted in 1 & 2 Maccabees. If Jesus didn’t accept the canonocity of these books why would He travel all the way from Galilee to observe the feast?
- They contained too much that validated Catholic doctrines.
This claim was made by none other than John Calvin himself, and may have been the most correct and honest thing he ever said.
Second Maccabees contains verses pertaining to praying for the dead and purgatory, “He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Maccabee 12:43-45)
- They were widely read by the early Christians.
This is an indisputable fact, the Septuagint was the most widely read of all the versions on the Hebrew Scriptures in the time of the Apostles.
- Early lists of canons by the Church Fathers include them more times than not.
It’s true that St Jerome didn’t initially include the Deuterocanon in his translation of the vulgate, but no Church Father is infallible, that special charism is reserved for the Bishop of Rome (The Pope) and even though St Jerome had doubts other Church Fathers did not.
- To say that the Deuterocanon was added at the council of Trent is intellectually dishonest.
How did Martin Luther propose to remove these books in the first decades of the 16th century if they weren’t added until the middle of the 16th century at the Coincil of Trent? Their removal predates their addition, according to this fallacy, by at least 30 years, and that is just not possible.
The Council of Trent was called, the same as every previous Council, to address error and heresy. This council did dogmatically declare the canon to be the 73 books that we know today, but it only did so to counter the heresy that the Dueterocannonical books didn’t belong in the Bible. This council was not the first to give a list of books belonging in the Bible, it was just the first to do so dogmatically.
The Council of Carthage in 397 issued this first definitive list of scripture canon: “The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two books of Paraleipomena, Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John. Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon. Because we have received from our fathers that those books must be read in the Church. Let it also be allowed that the Passions of Martyrs be read when their festivals are kept.”
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For 1500 years all Scripture included the “7 extra” books in the Catholic Bible until Martin Luther decided that he knew better.
So really the questing isn’t “why do Catholics have extra books?” but “why is your Bible missing 7 books?”
(As a side note, the King James Bible included the Deuterocanonical books from 1611 until the mid 1800s. They were included between the Old and New Testaments)
(Ask your own question about anything Catholic by visiting my contact form at Questions about Catholicism )
2 comments on “Question: Extra Books in the Bible”
Thank you for this excellent and thoughtful post. Having been raised in and surrounded by Protestant denominations my entire life, I have never really given much thought to these “extra” books until recently. When I was younger I always wondered about those “silent” years between the Old and New Testament, and why God didn’t provide revelation during that time, but I guess some of the deuterocanonical books answers that issue. The main objection I’ve heard most is the one about these books not being a part of the accepted Jewish canon. I also took a “Christian origins” class in high school by a very liberal/secular teacher who frequently attacked the historicity of 1 and 2 Maccabees, but then again he also attacked the historicity of pretty much the entirety of scripture. I’ve never actually read the deuterocanonical books, but after this post I will make sure to do so!
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Look up the council of jamnia in 95AD, this is when the Pharisaic Jewish leaders decided to use the Palestinian canon over the Alexandrian Canon. Part of the decision was based on the fact that the early church used the Alexandrian canon as their scriptures (remember too that “scripture” for the first century Christian was only the Old Testament and whatever apostolic letters that a particular church possessed because the New Testament hadn’t been compiled yet. Have fun discover 7 new books of the Bible. Also I didn’t mention in the article that there are several chapters of Esther and Daniel removed from Protestant bibles, look them up too. God bless
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