My Bible Study group at the Falmouth Hospital has again enticed me to look deeper into what the Catholic Church says about another subject. This time it is the Bible and why there are seven books in the Catholic Canon that do not appear in the Protestant bible. It is interesting how ignorant some people are concerning the reason why, even those who think they know the bible backwards and forwards. I often get asked the question from Protestants why we added books to the Bible. In actuality, they were removed because they did not fit the philosophy at the time. If you were at the “Sunday School for Adults” that Fr. Healey had Sunday, you would have gotten an insight as to the period of time that the changes occurred. His subject for the next few weeks is the Reformation. He is a store-house of historical information.
First, a definition of a couple of terms. A “canon” is a list of books or texts which a particular religious community regards as authoritative scripture. The word "canon" comes from the Greek meaning "rule" or "measuring stick". It is the group of books that is considered “inspired”. There are seven books that the Catholic Bible has in the Old Testament that the Protestant Bible does not. They include: 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, and Baruch, along with additional passages in Daniel and Esther. The Catholic Church calls these the deuterocanonical books or Second Law. Protestants normally call these the Apocrypha meaning hidden books, ones that are considered outside of the canon.
Before Martin Luther and the Reformation, there was no “Catholic Church” as we learned at Fr. Healey’s Sunday School. There was only one Christian faith although there was a split between East and West in who was the leader of that Christian faith. The Bible used by the early Christians (before the Reformation) was the Greek Septuagint which included all the current Catholic books of the bible. The first council that accepted the present Catholic (Christian) canon was the Synod of Hippo in North Africa in 393AD and the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. At the Council of Trent in 1546, the council fathers, in refutation of Luther, gave a formal definition of the “Canon of the Bible” and accepted the same list which had been proclaimed by the Councils of Hippo and Carthage and which had always been accepted. Thus for the entire first 1,500 years of Christianity, all forty-six books of the Old Testament were accepted by the universal Church as being inspired.
The church in the time of Martin Luther had a lot of problems that he had issues with. As a result he posted his “Ninety-five Theses” in 1517 which was the start of the Protestant Reformation. One of his main issues had to do with the selling of indulgences, especially for those in purgatory. Another doctrine that Luther declared was that we are saved by “faith alone”, not by “faith and works” as the Catholic Church states. There were seven books of the Bible that did not fit with his ideas and doctrines so he simply eliminated them from the Old Testament, thus seven less books than Christians had followed for the previous 1500 years. He was also intent on eliminating several books of the New Testament because they referred to “works” as being part of salvation. The books he tried to remove were Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation but the other Protestant reformers at the time resisted and Luther included them in his German-language bible. So the short answer as to why the Protestants have seven less books in the Old Testament is because Luther decided to eliminate them because they conflicted with his ideas.
A bonus. If you want to learn more about any book of the Bible, check out The Bible Project on You Tube. It gives a an excellent animated discussion of each book in about 5 or 6 minutes. You’ll find it fascinating.
Deacon Greg Beckel