Did Martin Luther remove books from the Bible?


Exactly so. Protestant Bibles leave out seven of the OT books:
Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Macc., Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch.
There is no difference in the NT canon.


You’re asking for a “historical reference” for something that didn’t happen. Luther did not remove any books from the NT canon. Not in the 1530s and not any other time. Never.


The quotes I gave suggest that he did not consider four NT books inspired, unless I’m misunderstanding him. If we define “the canon” as “the list of inspired books,” then it seems to follow that he did remove books from the NT Canon. What am I missing?


Look at a Lutheran Bible and you’ll see that the number of books in the NT is 27. No different from the Catholic canon.


I asked you for a link, so that I could at least have the benefit of having the same source material to work off of. You accused me of being ignorant and at odds with theologians from EWTN. Yet the only person here that thinks that Luther took books out of the New Testament is you. If theologians from EWTN are making that statement, I think you need to post up the link so that the rest of us can at least review the source material that you’re basing your post on.

Every person here has told you that Luther never took 7 books (or any books) out of the New Testament. Period. Had Luther removed books from the NT Canon, you would see a difference in the number of books between the Catholic NT Canon and the Protestant NT Canon, the same as you do with the Old Testament where there is a difference between the Catholic Canon and the Protestant Canon.

You’ve come up with a historical “fact” that isn’t a fact and never happened and now you want forum members to make arguments to support this event that never actually occurred and when people challenge you on the very basis of your supposition you come back with sarcasm and treat us like we’re stupid. I don’t think anyone here is stupid, but I do think you’re confusing the OT with the NT and stubbornly clinging to your mistake.


That doesn’t mean Luther didn’t take them out. Maybe the Lutheran church put them back in later. That’s my understanding: after writing that Hebrews, Jude, James, and Revelation weren’t inspired in the quotes I provided earlier, Luther later edited those prefaces to essentially put those books back in the Canon. And now modern Lutheran bibles have them in there. But he did take them out. He just put them back later. Simple as that.

At least, that’s my understanding, and I think the quotes I cited bear it out. What am I missing?


I recall when I was reading on this topic several months ago that he wanted to remove those four books but that he was talked out of it. I can’t recall by whom, just that he backed down on removing those books from the Bible and settled for making commentary indicating that he didn’t find them worthy.


Good luck with that. It never happened. Luther removed NO books from the NT Canon. He placed 7 books from **the OT **canon in an appendix.


Dmar, my friend. I’m not trying to pick a quarrel with you. If I gave you that mistaken impression, I apologize. But I think I can see the way to finding a conclusive answer.

Were any Bibles ever printed containing fewer than 27 books in the NT? I don’t know the answer: I freely confess that I am simply assuming that there weren’t any because, if there had been, we would know about them. The information would have found its way into the mass media. We would find it, for example, in the Wikipedia articles on the Gutenberg Bible, on Luther, and so on. Wouldn’t we?



No problem, and if I sounded defensive or quarrelsome, I apologize too. I think we may be using the same term to mean two different things.

But I think I can see the way to finding a conclusive answer.

Were any Bibles ever printed containing fewer than 27 books in the NT?

I very much doubt it for the same reasons you do. But can’t something be excluded from the Canon and still be included in the Bible? I think it can. For example, some bibles, including the Vulgate both before and after the Council of Trent, contained the noncanonical book of 3 Esdras in an appendix, but did not include it in the canon. When I say Luther dropped books from the Canon, I don’t mean he had a bible printed without them, but that he put them in a separate section away from the books he recognized as inspired. What do you mean by “Canon”? Because I suspect we are using the term in different ways.


Yes, clearly we’re using the word “canon” to mean two different things. You’re quite right about that. Were any Lutheran Bibles printed – or circulated in manuscript, for that matter – with Luther’s four suspect books relegated to an appendix or to second-class status, however that might have been indicated?


It’s pretty clear from his biblical prefaces that Luther did not consider Hebrews, James, Jude or Revelation to be inspired Scripture. He basically says that James doesn’t really understand the Gospel and contraditcts St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture. He never removed them from his Bible, but he placed them at the end of the New Testament (not exactly in an appendix) along with his prefaces explaining his opinions. Certainly he did not regard them as canonical as the term is generally understood today.


Thank you. I didn’t know that. I knew about Luther’s adverse comments, but I didn’t know that he had gone so far as to segregate the books physically, giving them the same treatment he handed out to Tobit, Judith, and the others.


Why not go to the library and look at a copy of Luther’s 1534 Bible yourself? All the books are there. There’s no unambiguous proof because it doesn’t exist.


It’s not the same treatment. Luther moved the deuteros into a wholly new separate section outside the OT; James and Hebrews were at best simply moved near the end of the NT.


It is my understanding that the preface he puts before them separates them from the others. Especially these words: “Hitherto we have had the right certain chief books of the New Testament. The four following had, in ancient times, a different reputation.” – This language seems to separate Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation from the rest of the New Testament. In their individual prefaces, he seems to deny their inspiration. Put those two facts together and I think it is safe to say Martin Luther separated those four books from the rest of the New Testament and denied their inspiration. By my definition of “canon” as referring to a list of inspired books, that means, in my view of his actions, he removed four books from the New Testament canon. And I think my view of his actions is the correct one.



In the 16th century, Martin Luther adopted the Jewish list, putting the Deuterocanonical books in an appendix. He also put the letter of James, the letter to the Hebrews, the letters of John, and the book of Revelation from the New Testament in an appendix.


There’s an awful lot of “Luther did this” versus “Luther didn’t do that” going on in this thread, so it would probably be good to look at what Luther actually did and then work from there rather than making assumptions from second-hand information. This is the table of contents from his 1522 New Testament. The following facts are true:

*]He placed the four books in question at the end of the New Testament (contrary to the customary order)
*]He places a large vertical space in between the four books and the rest of the books.
*]He does not number the books (the numbers only go to 23).
He does not label them as being in a separate section. In the text of the Bible, Hebrews comes right after 3 John, as if it were just the next book of the New Testament. However, Hebrews is preceded by its preface, and we all know what that says.

So did he put them in an appendix? Not if your definition is that they have to be in a section explicitly labeled “Appendix.” However, he did append them to the end of the New Testament and clearly differentiated them from the preceding twenty-three books, as I already explained. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think it’s stretching the truth to say that he put them in an appendix, though I deliberately didn’t earlier to avoid getting hung up on that point.



Thanks for posting this. I found out the same thing occurs in the 1545 edition:


And also in the 1548 edition:


However, when you get to later editions published after Luther’s death:




Compare Luther’s list with a Catholic translation published by Johann Dietenberger.

(Note that not only are Hebrews and James in the standard order (between Philemon and 1-2 Peter), the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans (zu den Laodiceern) is listed between Hebrews and James!)


Thanks as always for doing the digging, Patrick.

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