Has the church explicity EXCLUDED books from the canon?


I recently was reading about the council of trent, and the concept of open and closed canon. I discovered that in Trent Rome condemned luther for removing books that were already agreed to be inspired, but there seems to be a popular opinion that rome has never condemned the orthodox church for adding books to their canons.

my understanding of the canon is that the whole purpose of introducing one (way back when, in the 300s or 400s) was to combat the gnostic heresies by defining exactly what is inspired and what isn’t. Perhaps this is incorrect and the purpose of the canon was always to affirm some books and deny some books, but never to affirm some books whilst denying “all other books”.
so theoretically, my highschool maths textbook could be inspired if it was demonstrated to have apostolic authority and be agreed upon by the early church. Obviously this is an absurd example but hopefully my point is clear.
More importantly, this opens the door to potential reconciliation with the orthodox churches, who have different canons (do they even have an idea of “canon” at all? or is there merely “scripture”? To what extent do they consider scripture to be “inspired?”). The question of scripture I understand to be a smaller issue between the catholic and orthodox churches. Is there the possibility that rome could at some point widen their canon to conform to the orthodox, or that the orthodox churches could narrow their canons to conform to the catholic one? (for practical purposes, I would say “no” because the catholic canon has been agreed upon for so long that it would be very hard indeed to justify adding new books. But so far I haven’t seen a theological reason why this couldn’t happen at some point in the future.)

Finally, I was wondering if anyone could direct me to some examples of the church explicitly denying a given scripture as being canonical. (for example the gnostic gospels? or the Muslim gospels? Or the book of mormon? Did the church ever explicitly say “no”?)

Bonus insightful quote which I stumbled across somewhere on here:

Books may not be added to the canon. The belief is that books of scripture we don’t know about yet may exist, and even if we don’t know about them, if they’re scripture, they’re already part of the canon. So the discovery of another book of the bible would not be an addition to the canon - much like canonizing a saint does not make that person into a saint. They already were one. It’s just a declaration that now we know they’re a saint.


Excellent question…awaiting replies as well :slight_smile:


All I can really offer is reasoning from my own limited knowledge of this post. I think condemning of Luther’s exclusion and not so much of the Orthodox addition is probably based upon intentions, since Luther did it because he wanted to take traces of Catholic doctrine out of the Bible while the Orthodox addition has no effect doctrinally if those extra books are added in. Luther’s concoction produced non-Catholic results while the Orthodox addition didn’t effect doctrine.

Making a case against Luther has more to do with a wide variety of things and the canon is a very small part.


Isn’t it the case though that texts such as 2 Esdras, Psalm 151 and 4 Maccabees were dropped by our side, rather than added by the GO side?

What was the rationale there?



see here for some info.

and i disagree with the quote.


This topic was discussed at length previously:

Orthodox Bible Canon vs. Catholic Bible Canon

Trent enumerated the received canon of Scriptures. It did not specifically exclude other texts.

The Orthodox Church traditionally did not make the sharp delineation between canonical and non-canonical texts. It viewed them in a gradation of spiritual quality and was less disposed to assert that the non-canonical books possessed no spiritual quality at all.




The canon of scripture as it exists today came long before the schisms which later divided Christianity. By the third century the major books were already universally accepted.

Wiki: The first council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent) may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419.[28] These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed.[29]

The canon of the RCC was the canon held to be true and complete for many centuries by all Christians. This canon was later deviated from by other developing Christian denominations. These goups did not develop a new canon, but rather rejected writings which had long been accepted as true and inspired.

No new books will be added because we have received the fullness of revelation through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is through Jesus that God was revealed in His love. That was the great, final, and most important revelation. What could be more instructive or add to such a message?

The books that were rejected were considered and debated by many of the Fathers of the Church. Since the bible is considered inerrent and inspired authoritatively by the Holy Spirit, we would have to agree that during this process, the Spirit would have worked through these human guardians of the faith to accept books such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Shepherd of Hermes if they contained the Word. Since they were rejected, we must assume that they were not intended to be scripture by God.

None of theses books were secret to the men of the time. They were known and excludud because they heretically contradicted the true revealed Word of Christ and/or because they were written in a much later time period, well after the Age of the Apostles. After the age of the Apostles ended with the death of Apostle John between 89AD-120AD, the Church considers that no new revelation is to be revealed. By this time those people who knew Christ best, the witnesses of His life had died.

Since the Church holds that all of the books in the canon are the true inspired Word, not even ecumenism will change it. Doing that would deny this very vital doctrine of the Church: the inerrancy of scripture.


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