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Extra Bible Books?

Alright, sorry I took a break. Had a lot going the last week or so. But I’m back, and now I’m not talking about my story of transistion, rather actual topics I, and others, have to wrestle with when initially learning about the Catholic faith. Hurdles, some have called them.

The first question I got from a reader was this: “Hey…I went to Protestant school too, and I heard a lot about the apocryphal works being added to the Bible.  What is the church’s/your own opinion on those books? Are they generally accepted as doctrine?”

So that’s this week’s topic. I too, of course, had concerns about there being edits to the Holy Scriptures growing up (STILL DO) and this often was an accusation brought up against Mormons, JW, and Catholics. So what’s up?

I can’t literally answer the question, but I think I know what it’s getting at: the 7 book difference between Protestant and Catholic Bibles.

To be fair, words like “added” start with presuppositions. When we say something is added, we mean that the original existed without it. The word “added,” then, is entirely wrong here and here’s why.

Quick review of Canon history (to the best of mine and the Internet’s knowledge):

1678051

132 B.C. -The Septuagint is completed. For those of you who don’t know, the Septuagint was the Greek version (because Greek was the common tongue) of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. Septuaginta means 70 in Latin and is the title of this because supposedly 70 interpreters and translators worked on this translation, hence earning itself the shorthand Roman numeral LXX. The LXX was used in my Greek textbook for translation exercises. The key thing is that the LXX included the apocryphal texts.

c.30 A.D. Christ dies and the apostles go out an spread the faith using the LXX as their Scriptures.

c.135 A.D. Rabbinic Judaism reaches its height. Why I mention this is because Rabbinic Judaism uses Hebrew-only texts as its scriptures. This excluded the apocryphal texts since these were only found written in Greek. Consequently, this branch of Judaism rejected the Septuagint.

397 A.D. The Council of Carthage establishes the New Testament canon: 27 books.

Ok so just to clarify at this point the Christian Scriptures include 73 books, not 66.

1534 A.D. Luther’s Bible publishes the Apocrypha in its own section.

1600’s A.D. Puritans print Bibles without the Apocrypha.

OK PHEW….enough history already.

I map this out to make a point. These “extra” books of the Bible were not added. Rather they were cut out by Rabbinic Judaism and Protestantism if we follow the series of events. So my fear does still lie with people making edits to Scripture, but now it’s no longer the Catholic Bible that I’m worried about.

Also this is how I jumped this hurdle when processing it myself: if I’m trying to find the purest Christianity out there, it’s going to be at the beginning of it. And quite frankly, these “extra” books were in the canon when the Church started and, more importantly, when Jesus walked the earth. If the Apocrypha was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

“Oh but Jesus never taught with the Apocrypha though,” might be what you’re thinking. I’d beg to differ. There’s actually quite a few references Jesus makes to scriptures that are no longer in the Protestant Bible. Of course, since Protestants don’t recognize these books as Scripture, there’s not going to be any cross references in your ESV.

But here’s a few that Catholic Answers (a great resource by the way) offers:

Matt. 9:36 “like sheep without a shepherd” is from Judith 11:19

Matt 12:42 Jesus references “the wisdom of Solomon” which was recorded and is known as the Book of Wisdom.

Matt 22:26, Mark 12:20, and Luke 20:29 reference Tobit 3:8 and 7:11

These are just a few.

The other thing I’d want to mention is that many Church Fathers reference these books. One that sticks out in my memory is Athanasius. The reason why is because he referenced Wisdom so many times along with other Scripture that a girl in my class asked, “What is ‘Wis.’?” I told her that depending on her perspective, it was an original or extra book of the Bible.

So there’s my case. It’s really pretty simple to just look at history and see the progression of the canon and how it got here. We could argue that there were reasons and doubts about canonizing these books, but the fact of the matter is that they were accepted from the start. And quite frankly, that’s good enough for me. What’s more is that they’re used as Scripture by Jesus and Church Fathers, so even better.

To those who disagree, I get it. I was hesitant at first and I still haven’t read all of these books for myself. But I would ask you to do this: don’t refer to these books as added. Added is simply the wrong word to portray what happened. If original carries too much of a positive connotation for you, then called them old or obselete. But don’t call them added.

Another thing to mention is that apparently a good bit of the scriptural support for Purgatory comes from Maccabees. So if you don’t have the book in your Bible and you say there’s no scriptural support for Purgatory, you’ve really hit on two problems that are intertwined.

Thank you, dear reader, for the question. I am open to more, so keep them coming! Have a great week and peace be with you!

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3 thoughts on “Extra Bible Books?

  1. It is interesting that the LXX includes the Apocrypha, but I really don’t find that sufficient to convince me that means the Jew’s wholeheartedly accepted them as fully divinely inspired revelation. There’s a few reasons:

    1. Josephus (a Jew who knew his canon as well as the Septuagint) explicitly says they only considered 22 (or 24 depending on how you arrange them) books to be divine. Those are the same 22 books the Protestant’s have in their canon. He’s before 135 AD btw.

    2. Philo, also a Jew, first century, who knew/used the Septuagint, gives a list of what he considered his people to use as holy books and never includes the Apocrypha. Also before 135 AD.

    How else do we know the Jew’s didn’t see them as divine? They pretty explicitly tell us the line of prophecy ceased after the death of Zechariah. Josephus even explains “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”. So all that to say, I think its safe to say the Jew’s never saw the Apocrypha as divine. Even before the rise of Rabbinic Judaism.

    But what about Jesus? Well, to start I’d say just because the he may allude to material from the Apocrypha that doesn’t mean that he viewed them as inspired or canonical. Heck Paul quotes pagan philosophers all the time and Jude even cites the Pseudepigrapha. Even the Old Testament cites non canonical books like the book of Jashar. All that to say, I think its highly doubtful that Jesus intentionally was citing the Apocrypha along the same lines as cited the authority of “the Law and the Prophets” (his usual way of summarizing scripture) and I think its relevant that no Gospel writer ever cited an alleged Apocryphal allusion and then followed it with a fulfillment formula “this was done to fulfill etc” like they did with other scripture all the time.

    Finally, and not to make this excessively long, I have to say I think leaving our Jerome in your historical survey is quite telling. To say univocally that the Christian Scriptures included the Apocprypha prior 397 AD is to entirely skip Jerome’s own distinction between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. He writes, “As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabes, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two Volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.” Then he goes on to explain how this is not only his view but the view of the church at his time and before him! This can be supported with quotations from Melito of Sardis, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazainzus and Basil the Great. All of these men believed there is a difference between books of doctirne and books helpful for the historical background of the church (apocrypha). Thus, they all explicitly define the OT canon as only 22 books (the Protestant view). What is perhaps most surprising is to find the bishop of Rome Gregory the Great, even in the fifth to sixth century, citing the same distinction and then granting 1 Maccabees as non-canonical.

    I didn’t want to get into all the citations here (as I see you didn’t in your article either) but they can be provided if necessary. All that to say, I agree with your methodology, find the earliest expression of Christianity and stick to it. I just disagree with your conclusion and would encourage you to do some more historical study before concluding on such an important issue. 🙂

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    1. Hey yeah great points. And these are the type of arguments I give a brief nod to regarding the debate and controversy. But my main concern is that they were in the Bible at the start, and so therefore are not “added.” That’s all my argument was, is, and is meant to be.
      Perhaps at a later date I should write something more detailed about the Catholic criterion for canonization. I prefer to write in response to reader’s questions, is there a specific question you think might start that post off well? You’ve obviously studied this well, and a good answer comes from a good question.

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