Church Fathers and the Deutero-Canonical Books


I want to know if any Church Fathers rejected the Deutero-Canonical Books, either as a whole or some. Can someone provide a list of Church Fathers who rejected them, if there were any. A Protestant recently told me that “most Church Fathers rejected the deutero-canonical books”. Thanks.


ask him to prove it


I don’t know if “most” rejected them but it is quite incorrect to assume that none of them did.

Just two examples from another thread are Melito of Sardis and Jerome.

From in OT Canon

I only give two examples but my point is don’t make the mistake of assuming that all the ECF’s accepted the deutero’s.


Cyril of Jerusalem also rejected most of the apocrypha.

Of the Divine Scriptures.
33. Now these the divinely-inspired Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament teach us. For the God of the two Testaments is One, Who in the Old Testament foretold the Christ Who appeared in the New; Who by the Law and the Prophets led us to Christ’s school. For before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, and, the law has been our tutor to bring us unto Christ. And if ever thou hear any of the heretics speaking evil of the Law or the Prophets, answer in the sound of the Saviour’s voice, saying, Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it Matthew 5:17 . Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings: for why do you, who know not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble yourself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters.

  1. Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if you are desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 4 Paragraphs 33 & 34


Similarly Athanasius

  1. There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
  1. But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit,-Athanasius, (Letter 39)


John of Damascus

Observe, further, that there are two and twenty books of the Old Testament, one for each letter of the Hebrew tongue. For there are twenty-two letters of which five are double, and so they come to be twenty-seven. For the letters Caph, Mem, Nun, Pe, Sade are double. And thus the number of the books in this way is twenty-two, but is found to be twenty-seven because of the double character of five. For Ruth is joined on to Judges, and the Hebrews count them one book: the first and second books of Kings are counted one: and so are the third and fourth books of Kings: and also the first and second of Paraleipomena: and the first and second of Esdra. In this way, then, the books are collected together in four Pentateuchs and two others remain over, to form thus the canonical books. Five of them are of the Law, viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. This which is the code of the Law, constitutes the first Pentateuch. Then comes another Pentateuch, the so-called Grapheia, or as they are called by some, the Hagiographa, which are the following: Jesus the Son of Nave, Judges along with Ruth, first and second Kings, which are one book, third and fourth Kings, which are one book, and the two books of the Paraleipomena which are one book. This is the second Pentateuch. The third Pentateuch is the books in verse, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes of Solomon and the Song of Songs of Solomon. The fourth Pentateuch is the Prophetical books, viz the twelve prophets constituting one book, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. Then come the two books of Esdra made into one, and Esther. There are also the Panaretus, that is the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Jesus, which was published in Hebrew by the father of Sirach, and afterwards translated into Greek by his grandson, Jesus, the Son of Sirach. These are virtuous and noble, but are not counted nor were they placed in the ark.-John of Damascus (Exposition of the Othodox Faith, Book 4)


As I remember from a couple dozen threads on this topic in here, there is a difference in the Church Fathers between “canonical” and “inspired.” ALL of the Church Fathers used the deuterocanonical books in their writings, sermons, examples, and they were read in the liturgy. The deuterocanonicals were treated as inspired Scripture just as the proto-canonicals.

SOME of the Church Fathers did not include them specifically in their OT canon lists, but those SAME Church Fathers had no problem calling those deuterocanonical books “inspired.”

See the long articles on this topic by the apologist Matt1618.

And Anglican historian J.N.D. Kelly: “It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive [than the smaller canon of Protestantism and Palestinian Judaism]…It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called apocrypha or deuterocanonical books…In the first two centuries at any rate the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture.” (Early Christian Doctrines, page 53,54). Kelly gives several examples from 1 Clement, the epistle of Barnabas, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, etc.

The best Catholic book on this topic is by the lay apologist Gary Michuta, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger (link to his site).

Bottom line: there are NO Church Fathers who “rejected” the deuterocanonical books. SOME of the Fathers called them not strictly “canonical” but still treated them as Scripture and called them “inspired” – inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:15f; 2 Peter 3:16f) no less than the proto-canonical.

Phil P


Four examples from St. Jerome, who is normally cited as a Church Father who explicitly “rejects” the OT deuterocanonicals:

“Does not the Scripture say: ‘Burden not thyself above thy power’ [Sirach 13:2].” (Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 108 (AD 404), NPNF2, VI:207)

(1) Jerome cites Sirach and calls it explicitly “Scripture.”

“Do not, my dearest brother, estimate my worth by the number of my years. Gray hairs are not wisdom; it is wisdom which is as good as gray hairs. At least that is what Solomon says: ‘wisdom is the gray hair unto men.’ [Wisdom 4:9]. Moses too in choosing the seventy elders is told to take those whom he knows to be elders, indeed, and to select them not for their years but for their discretion [Num 11:16] ? And, as a boy, Daniel judges old men and in the flower of youth condemns the incontinence of age [Daniel 13:55-59, or Story of Susannah 55-59, found in Catholic Bibles].” (Jerome, To Paulinus, Epistle 58 (AD 395), NPNF2, VI:119)

(2) Jerome uses the book of Wisdom along with Moses’ writings (in this case, Numbers); he also refers to the Story of Susannah (in the longer Daniel) to make a point.

“I would cite the words of the psalmist: ‘the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,’ [Psalm 51:17] and those of Ezekiel: ‘I prefer the repentance of a sinner rather than his death,’ [Ezek 18:23] and those of Baruch: ‘Arise, arise, O Jerusalem,’ [Baruch 5:5] and many other proclamations made by the trumpets of the prophets.” (Jerome, To Oceanus, Epistle 77:4 (AD 399), NPNF2, VI:159)

(3) Jerome cites the Psalms, with Ezekiel, with Baruch and calls them all proclamations of the “prophets.”

“…still our merriment must not forget the limit set by Scripture, and we must not stray too far from the boundary of our wrestling-ground. Your presents, indeed, remind me of the sacred volume, for in it Ezekiel decks Jerusalem with bracelets [Ezek 16:11], Baruch receives letters from Jeremiah [Jer 36, Baruch 6] and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove at the baptism of Christ [Matt 3:16].” (Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 31:2 (AD 384), NPNF2, VI:45)

(4) Jerome refers to “Scripture” and the “Sacred Volume” as including Ezekiel, Baruch (with Jeremiah), and the Gospel of Matthew.

Did St. Jerome “reject” the deuterocanonical books? One is forced to say No. He calls them elsewhere not strictly “canonical” but he clearly accepted them as “inspired Scripture”, uses them, and they were read in the Liturgy. More examples in the Matt1618 articles above, and the Gary Michuta book.

Phil P


The more accurate answer to this would be that there were differing opinions as to what the complete canon of scripture should be…that is until the late 4th century when The Church decided on the canon under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. After that time there were 2 more councils which confirmed the same canon which was then used from that time forward even to this day…except by certain followers of various “reformers” from the 16th century.

So, they didn’t really reject them in the early Church since the canon hadn’t been decided yet…they simply were putting out their opinions on the matter.

There was one group that rejected them though…the Jewish council of Jamnia (sp?) rejected them because they were accepted by this pesky new sect called Christians who follow that blasphemer Christ.


Thanks. But what I still don’t understand is how can a book be considered “Scripture” yet not “canonical”? Isn’t a Canon a list a books accepted as Scripture? According to “matt1618” (the site linked here) the Church Fathers (origin, St. Athanasius and the other Fathers that Protestants say rejected the books) considered the books Scriptures but not “canonical”.


In retrospect we rigorously identify “canonical” with “Scriptural,” but perhaps we should not anachronistically impose this distinction with contemporary clarity on the Fathers. (The best way to decide what they mean would be to sift through those quotes and check the usages in context.)



Dark << how can a book be considered “Scripture” yet not “canonical” >>

Because to the early Fathers “inspired” or “Scripture” had a much wider meaning than simply what is strictly “canonical.” Especially since it was the Church herself who determined what is canonical, what is inspired, etc. It was a growing recognition, along with the rest of Christian doctrine. Pope St. Leo the Great called the decrees of Nicaea “inspired” (see the chapter on the Fathers in the book Holy Writ or Holy Church by George Tavard). St. Athanasius called the Council of Nicaea “the word of the Lord.”

“But the word of the Lord which came through the Ecumenical Council at Nicaea remains forever.” (Athanasius, Letter to Bishops of Africa, 2; c. 370 AD)

Church historian Philip Hughes, citing St. Athanasius, Popes Leo and Gregory the Great:

" ‘The word of the Lord, put forth by the Oecumenical Council at Nicaea is an eternal word, enduring for ever.’ Eighty years or so later than this the pope, St. Leo I, warning the bishops assembled at the General Council of Chalcedon to leave untouched the decisions of Nicaea about the rank of the great sees of the East, speaks of Nicaea as ‘having fixed these arrangements by decrees that are inviolable,’ and says, ‘These arrangements were made by the bishops at Nicaea under divine inspiration.’ This was in the year 451. His successor, St. Gregory the Great, writing about 594 to the patriarch of Constantinople, has a reference to the special prestige of the first, doctrine-defining General Councils which equates their work with that of Holy Scripture: ‘I profess that as I receive and venerate the four books of the Gospels, so I do the four councils,’ which he proceeds to list: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus 431, Chalcedon 451. These, he says, ‘are the four squared stone on which the structure of the holy faith arises.’ " (Hughes, A History of the General Councils 325-1870, Introduction)

J.N.D. Kelly I’ve quoted already, he shows while certain Fathers did not include some of the D-C books on their canon lists, they still used them as Scripture, along with the OT proto-canonicals. “For the great majority, however, the deutero-canonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.” (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 55)

Your best books are the Gary Michuta one from the Catholic side, and the Anglican Roger Beckwith’s OT Canon in the NT Church (1985) for the Protestant side.

Phil P


Jerome may have (I don’t know from my own research) not wanted to include the deuteros in the Bible, but he did anyways out of obedience.


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