For Christians who reject the deuterocanonical books (apocrypha)

I know, I know, another canon of Scripture thread. These are always fun. :wink: But I’m hoping this discussion will turn out to be worthwhile for both sides. (hey, you never know.)

Anyways, I’ve wondered this for a while now, but I’ve never been able to ask a Protestant in person, so I thought I’d do it here.

My question is two parts basically:

  1. Why exactly do protestants not accept as Scripture the seven books that Catholics do? What’s the criterion you use to determine what belongs and what doesn’t?

  2. What do you guys think of the fact that for 1500 years all Christians accepted those books as inspired? Does that put the inspiration of any of the other books of the Bible in doubt for you? If not, why not?


For my fellow Catholics: Usually when this topic comes up, someone will make the claim that Martin Luther took out these books because they disagreed with his teachings. That may or may not be true, but I’d rather not turn this thread into a debate about that. It usually just goes nowhere. So let’s avoid bringing Luther’s motives into the discussion ok? :thumbsup: I just want to focus on why Protestants today don’t accept these books.

I don’t know if that’s the adjective I’d use :smiley:

  1. What do you guys think of the fact that for 1500 years all Christians accepted those books as inspired? Does that put the inspiration of any of the other books of the Bible in doubt for you? If not, why not?

I can only contribute so much here because I do accept them as inspired Scripture. However, it would be erroneous to say that all Christians accepted them for 1500 years. Many did not.

The Catholic Church did not officially canonize the Deuterocanonical books until the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D.


The Council of Carthage made it clear what books were to be in the Bible, that included the deuterocanonical books.

But some Fathers had different canons. The great St. Athanasius being my prime example.

Yeah, but he was born before the Council of Carthage had made the formal canon of the Bible. The early Church did not have a actual Bible canon. Some accepted the duterocanonicle books, others didn’t. But most did accept them. That’s one of the reason why Carthage issued them as apart of the Bible canon.

The problem with that is that Carthage was a provincial council. It wasn’t binding outside of the geographic area which Carthage oversaw.

It has to do with the two listings of OT books that existed around the first century. There was a list of books used by those within Israel, and a list used by those outside of Israel.

The answer to the OP can essentially be found in this other thread of the same topic:

Not quite. Canon was decided upon in the 400s. Trent only dogmatically included the LXX, in response to reformers going with the Hebrew canon.

Actually no, 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.

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 decison (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.

  1. Why exactly do protestants not accept as Scripture the seven books that Catholics do? What’s the criterion you use to determine what belongs and what doesn’t?

We accept them just at a lower level than Catholics do. They are useful but not inspired. This is consistent with a minority view in church history.

  1. What do you guys think of the fact that for 1500 years all Christians accepted those books as inspired? Does that put the inspiration of any of the other books of the Bible in doubt for you? If not, why not?

Not at all because the first statement is false. Christians from Jerome to Cajetan declared them to be useful but not inspired.

Why does the Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox have different canons than Carthage? Did they never hear about the ruling of that council, or did they simply ignore the decision?

Because, while Alexandria apparently (as it always did) followed the lead of Rome and accepted the Carthaginian canon, there was a major problem in the other Eastern patriarchate of Antioch (which represented the other half of the Eastern Church at the time), given that Antioch, at the time, was torn by internal schism, with two (and sometimes three) Catholic bishops all claiming to be the rightful Patriarch of Antioch! So, because of this, the canon of Carthage was never initially implemented or effectively accepted throughout the Patriarchate of Antioch; and since Constantinople (the Eastern imperial capital) was the Liturgical dependant of Antioch (the Byzantine Rite being a modified form of the Antiochian Rite), Constantinople never initally implemented the canon of Carthage either. And, because of this, well into the 8th Century, you have Byzantine and Antiochian fathers, such as St. John Damascene, recognizing books like 1 Clement to the Corinthians or the Book of Enoch as canonical works!

The Alexandrian Patriarchate has a different canon than Rome.

And they continued not to follow the council because of what?

The lack of a consistent canon in the early Church is an argument in favor of the Catholic position. I would find it very difficult to reconcile Sola Scriptura with this fact. How can our faith be based on “Scripture alone” when the early Church didn’t see the need for a definitive canon of Scripture? As has been pointed out in this thread, even as late as the time of the Great Schism, a thousand years into Church history, there was still no universal canon between the West and East despite the fact that they had continued to be in communion with each other. This points to the fact that Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church is what ensures unity in doctrine / faith. The Bible is the product of the Church - it is her book. The Bible comes from the Church, and not the other way around (as many evangelicals seem to think).

Alexandria continued to adapt it’s canon after its schism.

  1. I can’t speak for any Protestant but myself especially since the term Protestant is so vague as to have no meaning whatsoever. Why didn’t I accept them? I didn’t know they existed. I had some vague idea that Catholics had a few extra books in their Bible, but not enough of an idea and not enough curiosity to go out and study them. I would compare it to having a poor copy of Shakespeare’s complete works and not even knowing if, for example, The Two Noble Kinsmen was missing from the text. Since I didn’t know it existed, I wouldn’t go out looking for it. I just assumed my collection of books was complete since it was the same collection of books my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, teachers, professors, counselors, deacons, pastors, elders, etc had.

I do vaguely remember reading the apocrypha in a college New Testament studies class, but there were some weird books there and I think they were New Testament books, not just the ones in the Catholic Bible.

  1. People in general give me doubts as to what God is like and what God was thinking to create us and put up with us, but I am in no doubt as to the inspiration of the Bible. I don’t think all Christians can be counted upon to agree on much of anything so I hesitate to accept that they all agreed on the same thing for 1500 years. I believe there has been quite a bit of disagreement over a lot of things over the years. As to why it doesn’t give me doubts, why would it?

No, they were recognized when the canon was established in the fourth century. Please remember that Trent was stating what WAS believed, not new beliefs, in a rebuttal to the ‘Reformation’.

Those books were/are/will be used in the Mass/Divine Liturgy of the Christian Church, both east and west, Catholic and Orthodox, now for nearing 2,000 years and until the Parousia.

This is all a question of authority. Man’s versus the Church’s.

Interesting questions… and answers!

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