Differences in Western Bibles

I heard the other day on EWTN than Jesus quoted from the Septuagint and I know that, as Catholics; we accept the Septuagint as canon. This got me to thinking: What was the canon during Second Temple Judaism?

I ask because I heard Fr Larry Richards, also the other day on EWTN; said that the Septuagint was the canon during those times and that the Sadducees had revised the canon after the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132 AD in favor of the Masoretic Text. That this was because that the omitted 7 books dealt with the afterlife and the Sadducees didn’t believe in an afterlife.

As a corollary question: Why did the Protestants remove these 7 OT books from their canon?

I heard that this was because they decided on the Masoretic Text as well; believing it was a more accurate translation.

In addition: I heard that Luther wanted to remove the Epistle of Saint James because he called it, if I remember right; the “ Epistle of Straw “ because it conflicts with his faith alone doctrine.

Who stopped him from doing that?

For the Protestant canon questions: I mean no attack or disrespect; just an honest set of questions.

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Luther wanted to remove the Apocalypse of St John (Revelation) as well as other NT books. I believe he even wrote that he wanted them removed because they conflicted with ‘by faith alone’. But even the reformers told him that he was going too far. But to this day Revelation and other books he didn’t like are at the end of German Protestant bibles.

Even the Apocalypse? Wow. That’s mind blowing.

Yes. Even the Apocalypse. And think how many Protestants use it as ‘evidence’ against Catholics.

How could they use the Apocalypse as evidence against us?

They claim we are the ‘whore of Babylon’ and that the Holy Father is the anti Christ using Revelation.

They basically use the negative imagery about the devil and demons and claim it represents the Catholic Church. Very conservative fundamentalist Protestants often believe this.

:thinking:I remember the vitriol the Early Protestants would employ in attacking the Church. Not a saintly way to call your opponents.

Luther even admitted that he had to thank the ‘Papists’ for giving him the Canon of the Bible.

That’s… idk. Wow.

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In this specific time period: it varied from Jewish community to another. There was no single standardised canon that was seemingly accepted by every Jewish community across the mediterranean basin.

It was considered canonical in the sense that most of the books in the LXX (the Septuagint) were incorporated into the Western Church’s canon (some were not) But because the LXX is a translation of a Hebrew base text, it is unclear if the early Church regarded the Greek LX as “inspired” as such.

The Western Church, quite early on, prioritised a Hebrew base text for the Vulgate OT it was possible. Sometimes it wasn’t, as only the Greek text of a book was available, in which case it has had to draw upon the Greek text from the LXX.

The Reformers removed these deuterocanonical books primarily because their individual canonical status was generally rather vague (or doubted), even from the early Church (cf. disagreements between Catholic and Orthodox). The protocanonical books (Genesis to Malachi), on the other hand, were all consistently recognised as canonical whether Jews or Christians.

The MT is not a translation as such, but a manuscript tradition generally considered the most accurate representation of the autographs (i.e. the original texts now long lost to history). The MT is the basis for all contemporary Catholic translations of the protocanonical books (supplemented by material from the LXX).

:thinking: Interesting. My next question would be: Why was there doubts as to the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books?

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The Septuagint is a translation. The Masoretic text isn’t. It’s the original Hebrew text.

I’ll just remind you that St Eusebius of Cesarea thought the same. He wrote that Revelation was a revolting text which should have no place in canon.

Saint Eusebius that write the History of the Church?!

Yes, that one…

ETA: it goes to show that canon long was a plastic and evolving thing, not something set in stone, and that everybody has some kind of “canon in the canon” according to one’s theological biases. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but we would do well to be aware of our own biases :wink:

It varies from book to book: some, such as Tobit, are considered to have been written much later (c. 2nd century BC) than the protocanon; others like 2 Maccabees were written originally in Greek and not translated from a Hebrew base text; some such as Judith were entirely rejected by any Jewish community in the Second Temple Period.

Sometimes it’s unclear why a book was rejected/accept. For example, the Prayer of Manasseh is accepted by Orthodox but not by Catholics, and I’m unclear as to the reason.

A lot of the issue is due to the ambiguities around what we mean when we say “canon” compared to what Jews and early Christians meant when they said “canon”: was it something that was entirely fixed and closed, or was there a central group of shared texts (the protocanon) with some sort of “grey area” for deuterocanonical books that varied from community to community?


I have an additional question, Oddbird: Was Calvin a lawyer by training and not a trained theologian?

Interesting point. So, I’d like to know: How did the Church decide on the canon?

Hey, Oddbird: How did Calvin arrive at his theological conclusions?

I’ll answer you after my meeting!

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I hope @OddBird doesn’t mind if I answer on his/her behalf: yes, he was trained as a lawyer. But he was originally interested in becoming a priest. Regardless, most educated professionals would have studied theology to some extent, and doubtless Calvin also studied rhetoric, Greek, Latin (perhaps Hebrew), philosophy and a myriad of other law-related disciplines to inform his theological work.

In terms of a precise, line-by-line reasoning of why X book was rejected and Y book was accepted: it’s unclear. It was, to an extent, an issue of tradition: the books that were accepted were those that had accompanied a particular Christianity community since its inception.

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