The Deuterocanonical Books

What is meant by ‘deuterocanonical’?
The word ‘deuterocanonical’ translates from Greek to mean ‘second canon.’ This term means that the canonicity of some disputed books was reaffirmed at a later date. It is important to note that these books weren’t canonized at a later date than the rest as Reformers claim. They were reaffirmed at the Council of Trent in response to the denial of the books by the Reformers. Fortunately, the world has documented history to see the truth of the Christian canon.

Why were the deutero books disputed?
That question must be answered with a short history lesson. We go back to an action of the Pharisees (the same Jewish order that rejected and crucified Christ). They attempted to stifle the growth of Christianity. During the time of Christ, there were several factions in Judaism. The primaries were the Sadducees, Essenes, and Pharisees. Each continually fought for dominance over the other. In 66AD, two extremist Jewish factions called the Kanai, and the Sicarii revolted against Roman rule in Jerusalem. They held the city until 70AD when the Romans reconquered Jerusalem. The Romans expelled all Jews from Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple. The Jewish factions were scattered. The Pharisees fled to the coastal town of Jamnia, where they rebuilt the Sanhedrin, the legislative court of Judaism. Two decades later, the Sanhedrin held a council in 92AD to decide what to do against the growing threat of Christianity.

During the first century after Christ’s resurrection, Jews were converting to Christianity at an alarming rate. The Pharisees saw this as a threat to Judaism. What they did was to mandate a canon that not only omitted books that disagreed with Pharisaic teachings but also omitted books that alluded to Christianity. This action did not sit well with the other Jewish factions of the period. They denied the Pharisee Canon and held to the canon of the Septuagint. However, with the Pharisees in control of the Sanhedrin, the influence of other factions quickly died out. Thus, the Pharisees became the sole decider of Jewish Law, and their canon became the orthodox Hebrew Canon. It’s important to note that there are still Jewish factions today that continue to use the Septuagint.

How does all this affect Christianity today? Unfortunately, early Christians didn’t have access to the knowledge of history that we have access to today. In c170AD, Melito of Sardis wrote a letter stating that he traveled east from Asia Minor (possibly into Israel) and observed the teachings of the Jews. What he found was the Pharisee version of the Hebrew canon being taught and saw that it was different from what the Christian church was using as Old Testament canon. However, approx 140 AD, Justin Martyr wrote letters to Trypho in Ephesus, revealing that the Jews had removed books from their canon, sparking confusion over the Old Testament canon that would continue for millennia.

How do you know the books were once part of Hebrew scripture?
We know that they were once in Hebrew scripture because the Septuagint still contains the books. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. It was used throughout the Hellenistic world as the primary source of Hebrew scripture. This fact can be verified due to the Apostles quoting directly from the Septuagint in their writings and using it when preaching Christianity to other nations. This translation was done sometime between 300-180 BC, long before the Pharisees castrated the Hebrew canon.

I’m told that St Jerome denied the deutero as canonical. Is that true?
It’s interesting that of the overwhelming majority of Church Fathers that defend the deutero books, Protestants apologists are clear to point out that St. Jerome’s mistake proves them to be non-canonical. St. Jerome was not infallible. He was also a victim of the confusion caused by Melito’s discovery. He did, at first, have reservations on including them in scripture and named them “Apocrypha” meaning “unknown origin.” However, it is clear from the letters of St Jerome a few years later in his life that he recounted his first inclination against the books and had completely accepted them as scripture.

Didn’t St. Athanasius have the canon we use before the Catholic Church?
The thing to understand is that several churches had their own canons. Christianity had only just become legal, and there wasn’t yet a unified canon. It was the authority of the local bishop what was read in Church. St. Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria. His New Testament canon matches the canon that the Catholic councils later agreed upon. However, even though Protestants use St. Athanasius to disprove the deutero books, St. Athanasius’ Old Testament canon matched neither the Catholic OT nor the Protestant OT. Athanasius included Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah in his canon, which are deutero books that the Protestants do not hold canonical. He also excluded Esther, which Catholics, Protestants, and Jews have in their canon. Athanasius did not include the other deutero books in his canon but did say they were important for Christians to read. His canon was one of many. As I mentioned, it was the decision of the local bishops. Other bishops of his time had different canons. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, had an almost identical canon to Athanasius, but included Esther and excluded Revelation. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, had a canon that included all the deutero books except Baruch and has an identical New Testament canon. The list goes on. Just about every bishop of that period had a canon that was different in some way. The Protestant use of St. Athanasius doesn’t gain anything for their argument. It just further shows the situation of the early Church and the need for a unified canon.[/c]

Did the Catholic Church add the deutero books into the Bible in 1546AD?
No. The deutero books have always been in the Old Testament canon of the Church. Fortunately, we again have history to support the Catholic Church’s claim to its canon. Of all the books in the Bible, fourteen books (7 in the Old Testament and 7 in the New Testament) were disputed by a few people, throughout the history of Christianity, as not being inspired writings. Inspired means that the words of scripture came directly from God working through the author. While some early Christians were confused by the modified Hebrew canon, the Church itself knew the truth that the Old Testament canon of the Apostles was the Septuagint. However, for the first three centuries of Christianity, there wasn’t a fixed canon for the New Testament. The Septuagint Old Testament was being taught in churches along with the four gospels of the New Testament. However, many other New Testament books were being preached in churches. Many argued which were inspired and which weren’t. To solve this problem, Pope Damasus I called together the Council of Rome in 382AD. During that council, all the Septuagint books were included along with the New Testament books we have now (except for 2 Corinthians and Revelations), creating the first record of a unified biblical canon. Then again, in 393AD, the canon was listed at the Council of Hippo with the addition of 2 Corinthians and Revelations. In 397AD, the Hippo canon was listed at the Council of Carthage, agreed upon, and sent to Rome for confirmation. Pope Innocent I confirmed the Carthage list in a letter sent to bishops instructing them of the permanent canon in 405AD. This canon was preached in Christian churches for 1000 years before the Protestant Reformation.

By 1522, Martin Luther had become notorious for his “religious revolution” against the Catholic Church. That year he published his own translation of the New Testament in German, altering it slightly to support his doctrine of sola fide (faith alone). In 1534, he published the entire Bible in German with the deutero books removed from the Old Testament. It was in response to this publication that the fourth session of the Council of Trent, in 1546AD, reaffirmed the Catholic canon. It declared that anyone who removed or added to the Bible was to be excommunicated. Many Protestants today are taught that the books were added by the Catholic Church at Trent to support its teachings. Believing that the Church added the books at this time is an unfortunate result of the lack of education in the history of the Bible. The result now is that Protestants are left with a mutilated version of the Bible and excluded from many essential and inspiring teachings.

The fact of the matter is that the deuterocanonical books were taught in Jewish scripture at the time of Jesus but later removed from Hebrew scripture to stifle the conversions from Judaism to Christianity. The orthodox canon of the Christian Church, which includes the deutero books, has been preached in churches worldwide for almost 2000 years. There’s no reason to remove the books just because the Pharisees did, especially when the reason for removing them was anti-Christian. There is also no reason to give authority to the Mosaic Church to choose the canon for the Christian Church.

What are the deuterocanonical books of the Bible?
There are several books in both the Old and New Testaments that fall under Deuterocanonical Books. You may have only heard of the Old Testament books. Since Protestants accept the New Testament deutero books, they aren’t disputed by either side, and the questions of their authenticity are forgotten. The following is a list of the books and parts of other books that were excluded from the Hebrew Bible:

  • 1 and 2 Maccabees
  • Baruch
  • Epistle of Jeremiah (Baruch 6)
  • Sirach
  • Judith
  • Tobit
  • Wisdom
  • parts of Daniel (3:24-90; 13; 14)
  • parts of Esther (10:4 to 16:14)

Also, in the New Testament, the following books and parts of books were disputed until the Council of Trent:

  • 2 and 3 John
  • 2 Peter
  • Revelations
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • part of John (7:53 to 8:11)
  • part of Luke (22:43-44)
  • part of Mark (16:9-20)

References

  • Melito of Sardis to Onesimus, From the Book of Extracts documented by Eusebius of Caesarea.
  • Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho , Chapters 71,73
  • Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol 6, p 1147
  • Alice Parmelee, A Guidebook to the Bible (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948), p. 138.
  • Ibid., p. 149.
  • Edward Robertson, “Jamnia,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1970, XII, p. 871.
  • Joel Kalvesmaki, “All Scripture Is Inspired by God: Thoughts on the Old Testament Canon”
    [http://www.kalvesmaki.com/otcanon.htm], accessed August 15, 2007
  • “Septuagint and Reliability,”
    [http://www.septuagint.net], accessed August 15, 2007
  • Michael Marlowe, “Bible Research,”
    [http://www.bible-researcher.com], accessed August 15, 2007