What's with these "extra" books in the Bible?

During Jesus' time there were two Old Testaments in use. There was the Palestinian canon (written in Hebrew) , which is identical to the Protestant Old Testament, and there was the Alexandrian canon (written in Greek) also known as the Septuagint, which is identical to the Catholic Old Testament ("canon" means the list of books). Comparisons of the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls indicates that an accurate "eyewitness" exists to the Septuagint. Jesus quotes the Septuagint in 80% of his Old Testament references. The Septuagint was the Scripture of Jesus' time. It has the order of Bible books that we find in modern Bibles, the Palestinian canon has a completely different order. The NIV Bible use the Septuagint's order of books, yet it leaves out some of the books (Deuterocanonical books) that we find there.

The Alexandrian and Palestinian canons were almost identical except the Septuagint contained the seven Deuterocanonical books, which Protestants call the Apocrypha. The Apostles and the early Church including the early Church fathers used the Septuagint. The African Synods of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD) also approved it.

Evangelicals favour the Palestinian canon because it is the one that the Jews ratified in 90 AD at the Jewish (non-Christian) Council of Jamnia. Catholics feel that this Jewish council was not binding by God because God's authority was passed over to Christians at the Pentecost (Acts 2:1) sixty years earlier. Some people question if an actual council occurred at Jamnia but that does not change the premise. The Jews decided to review their canon books after the resurrection of our Lord, and those decisions are not at all binding on Christians.

We got an email that said:

Plus Jerome never included them [apocrypha] in the canon of the Vulgate, but kept them separate from the inspired scripture. The Catholic Church never officially declared this books inspired until 1546. The Church may have considered them in the canon, but never Officially declared them as scripture.

Here is a snip from Columbia University (a secular institution):

"As to the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, Jerome made hasty translations of Tobit, Judith, and the additions to Daniel and Esther; the rest he did not touch, hence the Vulgate includes Old Latin versions of them." http://www.answers.com/topic/vulgate

The Vulgate always included the Deuteros. Four were translated by Jerome and the rest of them used the old Latin.

The Deuterocanonical books were not added to the Bible at the council of Trent. Faithful Christians always considered them part of the Bible. The Latin Vulgate, written in 400 A.D. by Jerome included the Deuterocanonical books. Their formal acceptance happened at Trent as a response to the Reform. This was the first time the Deuterocanonical books were called into serious question.

The Gutenberg Bible of 1455 contained the Deuterocanonical books. It was the Vulgate written in Latin, and predates the Reformation.

There was not a published Bible before the Reformation that did not contain the Deuteros.

I've heard some Evangelicals say the Deuterocanonical books don't belong in the Bible because they are unbiblical. That is a circular argument. Martin Luther removed them from his version (he also wanted to pull the Books of James and Revelation). Now, based on this new canon, Evangelicals are saying the Deuteros are unbiblical. If the Deuteros were in the Bible from the beginning, which is what history reveals, then we would say they are biblical by their very definition.

I asked Dr. Art Sippo (a well-known Catholic apologist) to explain a bit of the history of the Septuagint - the Greek Old Testament - that Jesus quotes from most often:

There is no single text corpus called The Septuagint (LXX). There are actually several families and the vast majority of them are Christian in origin well after the 1st Century. We know that they [Deuterocanonical books] were in virtually all of the Christian collections of the time. That is the point that counts. When Christians collected the OT in the first 3 centuries AD, they INVARIABLY used the LXX and included some if not all of the deuteros and sometimes included other works that we consider apocryphal. We know this because we have several codices (i.e., bound books) from the early Church which appear to have been created by Imperial edict right after the Council of Nicea in 325. We also have lists of books from the 2nd Century (e.g., the Muratorian Fragment) and the testimony of several Fathers to that effect starting with Justin Martyr in150 AD. The Fathers also extensively quoted from the Deuteros from the late 1st Century onwards. Until the mid 4th Century, no one seriously challenged the long OT Canon.

We went to a lecture by Peter Flint, the author of the only existing English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (published in 1999, www.deadseascrolls.org). His book on the scrolls was declared book of the year 2003 by the Institute of Biblical Archeology in Washington, DC.  He made it plain that the Deuterocanonical Books (Apocrypha) were included with the other books of the Old Testament in the scrolls. They were found together.

Professor Flint (who is not a Catholic) made a powerful statement. He said, "you cannot have a Bible without the Church." When we asked him about it during the book signing after the lecture he said to me, "Without the Church you have a bunch of books. With the Church you have a Bible." (Lecture Feb. 13, 2004, Ottawa, Canada)

This is a very important statement from a non-Catholic scholar like Mr. Flint because of its implications. If the Bible requires the Church for its Canon (list of Books to include), one would think that the decision process to decide on the Canon would have to be "inspired" by God. It seems these are the options when trying to determine the authentic canon of the Bible:

  1. God gave the Jews that Grace in the 2nd century A.D. when they chose the Masoretic Canon (after they rejected his son, the Messiah)
  2. God gave the Reformation that Grace in 1546
  3. God give the Catholic Church that Grace at Carthage in 397 A.D.
  4. God did not inspire the Church decision on the Canon.

We can't imagine God waiting 1550 years until the Reformation to inspire a decision on the Canon. So we also would rule out #2. We can't imagine God being okay with there being two Canons floating around so we would rule out #4. That leaves us with the option that either the Jews were given that Grace in the 2nd century A.D. or the Catholic Church was given that Grace at Carthage. We have difficulty believing God would give more grace to the Jews after they rejected his Son the Messiah than they would give the early Christians who used the Deuteros. So we believe that Grace was given to the early Christians who used the Deuteros and ratified their inclusion in the Canon in 397 A.D. at Carthage.

So that's the Catholic reasoning for including the Deuteros. We have pulled a tremendous amount of inspiration from them. I was particularly struck by the books of Tobit, Wisdom, and Judith. If you haven't read them, please give them a spin and judge for yourself. Martin Luther was totally into Tobit. It formed part of Luther's Bible.

Which books really are received in the canon, this brief addition shows. These therefore are the things of which you desired to be informed. Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and Joshua the son of Nun, and Judges, and the four books of Kings 2 together with Ruth, sixteen books of the Prophets, five books of Solomon, 3 and the Psalms. Also of the historical books, one book of Job, one of Tobit, one of Esther, one of Judith, two of Maccabees, two of Ezra, 4 two of Chronicles. And of the New Testament: of the Gospels four. Epistles of the apostle Paul fourteen. 5 Epistles of John three. Epistles of Peter two. Epistle of Jude. Epistle of James. Acts of the Apostles. John's Apocalypse. But the rest of the books, which appear under the name of Matthias or of James the Less, or under the name of Peter and John (which were written by a certain Leucius), or under the name of Andrew (which were written by the philosophers Xenocharides and Leonidas), or under the name of Thomas, and whatever others there may be, you should know they are not only to be rejected but also condemned.

  1. The Latin text here conforms to the one printed in B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (5th ed. Edinburgh, 1881), pp. 570f.
  2. That is, First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings.
  3. According to Augustine, five books were sometimes ascribed to Solomon: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus.
  4. That is, Ezra and Nehemiah.
  5. F.F. Bruce prefers "thirteen" here, which implies the omission of Hebrews. He states that "the three best" copies of the letter "reckon Paul's epistles as thirteen (written xiii), but the rest reckon them as fourteen (written xiiii)." (Canon of Scripture, p. 234.) But it is not at all probable that Hebrews would have been deliberately omitted from the list by a Roman bishop in the year 405, and the variation between xiiii and xiii is easily explained by scribal error.
  6. http://www.bible-researcher.com/innocent.html

Date Event
The New Testament books are written.
140 Marcion, a businessman in Rome, taught that there were two Gods: Yahweh, the cruel God of the Old Testament, and Abba, the kind father of the New Testament. Marcion eliminated the Old Testament as scriptures and, since he was anti-Semitic, kept from the New Testament only 10 letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke's gospel (he deleted references to Jesus' Jewishness). Marcion's "New Testament", the first to be compiled, forced the mainstream Church to decide on a core canon: the four Gospels and Letters of Paul.
200 The periphery of the canon is not yet determined. According to one list, compiled at Rome c. AD 200 (the Muratorian Canon), the NT consists of the 4 gospels; Acts; 13 letters of Paul (Hebrews is not included); 3 of the 7 General Epistles (1-2 John and Jude); and also the Apocalypse of Peter. Each "city-church" (region) has its own Canon, which is a list of books approved for reading at Mass (Liturgy)
367 The earliest extant list of the books of the NT, in exactly the number and order in which we presently have them, is written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his Festal letter # 39 of 367 A.D. (Arianism starts introducing spurious books)
382 Council of Rome (whereby Pope Damasus started the ball rolling for the defining of a universal canon for all city-churches). Listed the New Testament books in their present number and order. 
393 The Council of Hippo,  which began "arguing it out." Canon proposed by Bishop Athanasius.
397 The Council of Carthage, which refined the canon for the Western Church, sending it back to Pope Innocent for ratification. In the East, the canonical process was hampered by a number of schisms (esp. within the Church of Antioch). However, this changed by ...
AD 405

Innocent sends a response to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse

Qui vero libri recipiantur in canone sanctarum scripturarum brevis annexus ostendit. Haec sunt ergo quae desiderata moneri voluisti: Moysi libri quinque, id est Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium, necnon et Jesu Nave, et Judicum, et Regnorum libri quatuor simul et Ruth, prophetarum libri sexdecim, Salomonis libri quinque, Psalterium. Item historiarum Job liber unus, Tobiae unus, Hester unus, Judith unus, Machabeorum duo, Esdrae duo, Paralipomenon duo. Item Novi Testamenti: Evangeliorum libri iiii, Pauli Apostoli Epistolae xiiii: Epistolae Iohannis tres: Epistolae Petri duae: Epistola Judae: Epistola Jacobi: Actus Apostolorum: Apocalypsis Johannis. Caetera autem quae vel sub nomine Matthiae, sive Jacobi minoris, vel sub nomine Petri et Johannis, quae a quodam Leucio scripta sunt, vel sub nomine Andreae, quae a Nexocharide, et Leonida philosophis, vel sub nomine Thomae, et si qua sunt talia, non solum repudianda verum etiam noveris esse damnanda.

AD787 The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II, which adopted the canon of Carthage. At this point, both the Latin West and the Greek / Byzantine East had the same canon. However, ... The non-Greek, Monophysite and Nestorian Churches of the East (the Copts, the Ethiopians, the Syrians, the Armenians, the Syro-Malankars, the Chaldeans, and the Malabars) were still left out. But these Churches came together in agreement, in 1442A.D., in Florence.
1442 AD : At the Council of Florence, the entire Church recognized the 27 books. This council confirmed the Roman Catholic Canon of the Bible which Pope Damasus I had published a thousand years earlier. So, by 1439, all orthodox branches of the Church were legally bound to the same canon.  This is 100 years before the Reformation.
1536 In his translation of the Bible from Greek into German, Luther removed 4 N.T. books (Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation) and placed them in an appendix saying they were less than canonical.
1546 At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church reaffirmed once and for all the full list of 27 books. The council also confirmed the inclusion of the Deuterocanonical books which had been a part of the Bible canon since the early Church and was confirmed at the councils of 393 AD, 373, 787 and 1442 AD. At Trent Rome actually dogmatized the canon, making it more than a matter of canon law, which had been the case up to that point, closing it for good.

A little more on the history of the Books of the Bible

The term "canon" means is that a book is approved for reading at the Divine Liturgy --that is, the Mass. This is what "canon" (a Greek word meaning "rule") originally referred to. The "canonical" books were those books which were approved for reading at the Liturgy.

Books which were not approved for reading at the Liturgy were called "apocryphal" (or "hidden"), and so excluded from the Liturgy. Among the "apocryphal" books, some were considered to be very orthodox and even inspired (but still not approved for public reading at the Liturgy), and others were considered to be uninspired or to contain errors (or even to be outright heretical). Only the "canonical" books were approved for reading at the Liturgy (the Mass).

Before the late 4th Century, each city-church had its own, local "canon" of the Bible, and these local canons differed from city-church to city-church ---some local canons including books which are currently excluded from our present Bible (such as 1 Clement to the Corinthians, or the Epistle of Barnabas, or the Book of Enoch, etc.), and some local canons excluding books which are currently included in our present Bible (such as the Epistle of James, and Hebrews, and 2 Peter, and 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation). The reason that city-churches had different local canons is because city-churches had different local Liturgies --that is, the Liturgy (form of worship) in the city-church of Rome was different from the Liturgy (form of worship) in the city-Church of Corinth, or the city-church of Ephesus, or Antioch, or Jerusalem, etc. This included the yearly Liturgical calendar, with different city-churches celebrating different local feast days on any given date.

Since the feast days differed, so did the corresponding readings for those feast days; and since there were only so many Liturgical readings (from so many canonical books) that a city-church could have in a given year, this limited the number of books in the local canon of that city-church.

As the Church entered the 4th century, there was no such thing as one, universal "Bible"
(one universal Scriptural canon, which the entire, universal Church shared in common).

When the Arian heresy ripped the Church apart (pitting bishop against bishop, and city-church against city-church), this created an enormous problem, since you had different bishops (Arian vs. Catholic) quoting from different books (or sets of books) in defense of either Arianism or Catholic Trinitarianism. Needless to say, this complicated and prolonged the controversy, and made Arianism much harder to defeat. Well, by the year 382, when the Arian heresy was finally defeated, Pope St. Damasus of Rome (who had been the librarian for the church of Rome prior to becoming Pope) took it upon himself to correct this problem, and to guarantee that it would not happen again, by initiating steps for the formation of a universal canon of Scripture which all city-churches would hold in common, which would eliminate any book which even implied Arianism (or other condemned heresies).

To "start the ball rolling" on this, Pope Damasus promoted a Biblical canon which was a synthesis of the canon of the city-church of Rome and that of the city-church of Alexandria --the two leading city-churches of the universal Church. Damasus then turned this proposed canon over to the bishops of North Africa for analysis and debate. And he did this for four reasons:

  1. North Africa was not part of the theology schools of either Alexandria or Antioch, which were the two intellectual factions that had caused the Arian controversy.
  2. North Africa had the most bishops per capita of anywhere in the universal Church at the time, so they would reflect a good sample of universal opinion among the bishops.
  3. The North African Church had a traditional custom of meeting in council (either at Carthage or at Hippo) every two years, which would give them the ability to hash things out effectively; and
  4. Many of the North African bishops were renowned scholars, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, who participated in the debate and helped to formulate the canon.

So, at both the councils of Hippo (393) and at Carthage (397), the North African bishops worked out the final canon of the both the Old and New Testaments for the universal Church. This is the present canon of the Catholic Church, which the North Africans then submitted to Rome for final ratification. Now, we're not sure when this final ratification was given, but we do know that, by A.D. 405, Pope St. Innocent I was promoting the so-called "canon of Carthage" (397) throughout the Western Church. Rome would also have sent rescripts of its decision (final ratification of the Carthaginian canon) to Alexandria, the 2nd See of the universal Church and the primate in the East, with the expectation that Alexandria (as Eastern primate)would disseminate it throughout the East.

The timeline by Mark Bonocore & Bob Stanley

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