FAQ 3: why do Catholics have fatter Bibles?

thanks to Cody Robertson, Discipleship Associate and Ministry Intern, for this excellent and thorough article.

Why do Catholics have extra books in their Bible?

The Catholic Bible includes 7 books that the Protestant Bible does not include.  These are referred to as the “Apocrypha” outside of Catholicism and “Deuterocanonical” within. These are 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jerimah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.

These books were officially added to the Catholic bible in 1546 by the Council of Trent. The council was convened in response to the Protestant Reformation, and several of these books taught doctrine that disputed the teachings of Martin Luther and his contemporaries. These books include chiefly the idea of being saved by faith plus works rather than by faith alone, as well as praying for the dead.  The fact that the books contradicted themselves, retelling the death of Antiochus of Epiphanes three different ways in three different places, was ignored at the priority of reaffirming the churches teachings. Prior to the Council of Trent, the books of the Apocrypha had been included in the Latin Vulgate at the protesting of its author Jerome.  Some say that these books were included merely as a history similar to maps, and history that may be included in an appendix of a modern Bible.

Using the New Testament as a guide we see the Old Testament quoted or alluded to 295 times with none of these quotes by Jesus or the writers on the New Testament referencing this section of scripture. The New Testament and Jesus’ teachings are actually at odds with the teachings of the Apocrypha; for instance, praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:46 “It is therefore holy and wholesome to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins”, and Jesus’ words in Matthew 8:21-22 “Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

The Jews at the time of Jesus also rejected the Apocrypha.  Josephus, a Jewish historian born AD 37 wrote, “From Ataxerxes to our own times a complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records”. Josephus and the Jews of the first century believed that God had been silent for the previous 400 years as no prophets had arisen during that time. The writings of the Jewish Rabbis also points to God not speaking after this time. “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had died the Holy Spirit departed from Israel” (Babylonian Talmud). Even the books of the Apocrypha do not claim divine inspiration. 1 Maccabees 4:45-46 even says that; “So they tore down the altar and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them” The author of this book clearly states that no one with the authoritative word of God was around at the time of his writing.

In Summary, these apocryphal writings are ultimately not included in Scripture for the following 4 reasons.

  1. They were not considered by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament to be God’s word.
  2. The Jews did not regard the Apocrypha as the divine inspired word of God.
  3. The books themselves do not claim to be the authoritative word of God,
  4. The books contradict core teachings of the New Testament and Jesus.

For an in depth study of this topic see The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce

And for a more cursory study see Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Bershears as well as Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

Online Resources include www.bible.ca/catholic-apocrypha.htm ; http://www.gotquestions.org/apocrypha-deuterocanonical.html; and http://cuf.org/faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=28 for a look at the Catholic view of this topic.

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