If our Old Testament is based off the Greek Septuagint, why are 3 and 4 Maccabees not Canon?


I know 3 Maccabees is Canon in Eastern Orthodoxy, 4 Maccabees has a sort of paracanonical status being in an appendix to the Greek Bible. But even so both are in the Septuagint; why did the west only acknowledge 1 and 2 Maccabees?


This thread existed before… he’s a link to all the previous answers.



This is the best link that I’ve found


It is important to remember that officially, the Orthodox have not formally determined which books are part of the Old Testament and which are not.

The Catholic Church has determined that 3 and 4 Maccabees are not part of Canon. The Orthodox have NOT officially declared one way or another.

Catholics believe that 3 and 4 Maccabees are important texts, are part of the apocrypha.

I pray this is helpful.

God Bless


Yah. It just kind of doesn’t make sense in a way though. Like I know there’s other books such as 1 and 2 Esdras( 3 and 4 Esdras in appendix to Latin Vulgates as Ezra and Nehemiah are 1 and 2 Esdras in Vulgate), The Prayer of Mannaseh(I’m appendix to Latin Vulgate), and Psalm 151. Just seems the Catholic Church seems to take pride in using the Septuagint for the source of it’s Old Testament but doesn’t use the full books that are in it. The Orthodox follow it closer.


Did you read the link I provided?

I would not say the Church takes pride in the Septuagint. Reason it’s discussed is because the Hebrew speaking Jews (after Christ’s death) felt that the translation that was valid was the Hebrew text and that the Greek texts, used by Greek speaking Jews, was invalid. The Protestants will say the Septuagint is invalid because the Jews said it was after Christ’s death.

The only real argument the Church is making is that the Septuagint was NOT considered invalid at the time of Christ.

However, all copies of the Septuagint were NOT the same. Some copies were missing letters and others had extras. Remember, the Septuagint wasn’t a book, it was a collection of scrolls containing the Scriptures translated or written in Greek.


Yah i read it man. Makes me wonder though, in a hypothetical sense, if the east and west were to ever come in unity again which progress is made every year it seems; I wonder how they would treat the Canon of the Bible. Would the west let the east still have regional canons by their respective Patriarch or would they have to settle on a set Canon for the east and west. Of course this is hypothetical but still interesting to think about if the Catholic Church would ads books to it’s Old Testament that Orthodox have always use; or would the Orthodox stop books? It would be interesting to see how that would develop then again we probably wouldn’t see it in our lifetime.


I would guess that the former Orthodox would still be allowed to read from those books in their liturgy, but have to agree that on the books that the Church dogmatically declared as inspired.

However, please note: if I’m not mistaken, the Church never dogmatically declared that those extra books the Orthodox use are NOT inspired. The Church simply dogmatically declared that 72 books the Catholic Church recognizes are inspired. Meaning, I believe the Church has never dogmatically declared additional books to not be inspired. At least this is how I understood it once from an Eastern Catholic.

God Bless


Here’s the thing. The Septuagint is not a canon of books. It’s pretty much a catch-all term - and a very, very nebulous and confusing one at that - for a particular variety, a particular kind of version of Jewish (sacred) literature written in or translated into Greek.

I’ve said this before in another thread: the ‘Septuagint’ as we know it today is really a Christian construct - heck, the term itself is a Christian invention. The term ‘Septuagint’ is so vague that it could literally have different meanings depending on the context and/or the speaker.

Part of the confusion surrounding the term lies in how the early Christians used it.

In the 3rd century BC, the Torah or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) were translated into Greek, probably in Alexandria in Egypt. A legend, probably dating about a century after this translation was made, claims that this translation was made by seventy-two Hebrew scholars from Jerusalem who were commissioned by the Greek king of Egypt to make a translation of the Jewish Law for his library.

This legend was so famous it was repeated as fact by later generations of Jews and Christians. However, by the time it got into Christian hands, the legend became distorted a little bit: early Christians tended to consider other Jewish texts in Greek they encountered and commonly used to be also of the ‘version of the seventy’ (versio septuaginta in Latin), although the original legend was about the Greek Torah only.

So depending on who you ask, ‘Septuagint’ could either mean (1) the 3rd century BC Greek Torah, with the earliest Greek versions of other OT books (3rd-1st century BC) being called “Old Greek” (OG); or (2) in a more looser way, as a catch-all reference to the earliest available Greek translations of Jewish (scriptural) books as a whole, or even (3) Scriptural books in Greek that were available to and read by the early Christians, regardless of whether they were the oldest versions of said books or not. Nowadays the more common sense in popular usage is somewhere midway between (2) and (3), with more emphasis on (3).

Now it’s important to remember this: the books that make up what we usually call the ‘Septuagint’ were not translated as a set.** These books were originally independent texts that were made by different people at different times.** In fact, AFAIK it’s rather unlikely that the collection of these books we call ‘the Septuagint’ today already existed before Christianity arose. It was actually the early Christians who grouped together these different independent Jewish literature in Greek floating around into a kind of loose collection - or rather, a kind of category.


On page 172 of Gary Michuta’s book, “Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger,” there is a table of early copies of the Septuagint and the books they contain. I bring it up because I think it shows, perhaps, that the books you are wondering about are not part of the Septuagint after all.

Based on the information Michuta gives, the earliest copy of the Septuagint in existence is the Vaticanus codex from the 4th century. It contains all of the Old Testament – including the Deuterocanon, except the Maccabees. It does not contain the books you mention.

The next earliest is the 4th century Sinaiticus codex, which is missing Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Ruth, Baruch, Ezekiel, and Daniel, but includes the rest. It does not contain the books you mention.

The next earliest is the fifth century Alexandrinus codex, which lacks 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, but contains all the Deuterocanon. It also includes 3-4 Maccabees and 1 Esdras, but not 2 Esdras or the Prayer of Manasseh. (I mention those last three documents because some Orthodox accept them as canonical – but they are not in the oldest copies of the Septuagint that we have.)

The next earliest is the fifth century Ephraemi Rescriptus, which has only Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Job, Wisdom, and Sirach. It does not contain the books you mention.

Finally, there is the eighth century Codex Basilano-Vaticanus-Venetus, which lacks only Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, and the last chapter of Baruch. It also adds 3 and 4 Maccabees, but not the Prayer of Manasseh or the two Esdras books.

All of these manuscripts contain books from the Deuterocanon placed among the other Books of Scripture, but the majority of them do not appear to include 3-4 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, or the two Esdras books. (BTW Ezra and Nehemiah are two books that all Christians accept as canonical, and those are sometimes called 1 and 2 Esdras in older literature. The manuscripts I mentioned above Do contain those. But there are also two other books called 1 and 2 Esdras, which only the Orthodox accept as canonical, and those are the ones I am talking about in this post. As Catholics we count them as apocryphal.)

We can summarize the table this way (assuming I wrote down my notes correctly and Michuta’s table was complete):

There are 5 copies of the Septuagint in Michuta’s table on page 172 of his book.

5 of them contain Wisdom;
5 of them contain Sirach;
4 of them contain Judith; the one that lacks it lacks most of the Old Testament;
4 of them contain Tobit; the one that lacks it lacks most of the Old Testament;
3 of them contain Baruch; those that lack it lack much or most of the Old Testament;
3 of them contain 1 Maccabees; one of those that lacks it lacks most of the Old Testament;
2 of them contain 2 Maccabees; two of those that lack it lack much or most of the Old Testament.

2 of them contain 3 Maccabees;
2 of them contain 4 Maccabees;
1 of them contains 1 Esdras;
0 of them contain 2 Esdras;
0 of them contain the Prayer of Manasseh.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that these books were part of the Septuagint. As Catholics, we call them apocryphal; the Orthodox accept them, and though I’m not entirely sure what their reasons are, I would not want to criticize them for it without knowing.

Anyway, I hope that helps. Please let me know. Perhaps you could get Gary Michuta’s book for more information. It’s available here: amazon.com/Why-Catholic-Bibles-Are-Bigger-ebook/dp/B00E99AU1C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410020908&sr=8-1&keywords=michuta+bibles


Because they have not been part of western liturgical tradition.


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