Jerome, Luther, & the Deuterocanonicals


I am sure this topic has been covered over and over in the past but I would like to start a new discussion as I have been told the following:

  1. Jerome thought the Deuterocanonicals were not scriptural.

  2. Jerome came up with the term “Apocrypha” as a name for the Deuterocanonicals.

  3. Jerome did not translate from the Septuagint as he used only the Hebrew; ergo, the Deuterocanonicals do not appear in the Latin Vulgate.

  4. Jerome’s ideas trump all Church councils and all Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, such as the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, and even Trent (when the Deuterocanonicals were added by the heretical Catholic Church).

  5. Martin Luther did not remove the Deuterocanonicals but instead relegated them to a section just like Jerome and properly called them “Apocrypha” just like Jerome.

  6. Martin Luther did not remove the Deuterocanonicals because they taught doctrine he did not accept, such as the Catholic concept of purgatory.

  7. Ergo, the Deuterocanonicals do not belong in the canon of Scripture.

I think that pretty much covers it.

Are any of the above claims correct when #7 is obviously incorrect? If they are incorrect, what exactly happened here?

:shrug: Any help would be appreciated as I am new to this area and am pretty much utterly confused right now. :blush:




Something interesting: with the New Testament, Jerome went by the tradition of Church Usage, what was “in use” and accepted by all. But with the Old Testament, he seemed to be the first Historical Critical scholar, not looking at what the Church traditionally was accepting since the Apostles and Fathers, but at the origination of the texts in their original audiences.

Unlike Luther, though, he was obedient to the Pope, the Church, Tradition. And yet kept a good deal of his Historical Critical method in place, by only using the Septuagint for the Apocryphal books, whereas it is quite plausible that the Septuagint was the only Old Testament that many, if not most, of the early church used in its study and worship, since they would not have unlimited access to synagogues with their scrolls. For instance, in Greek, Acts 8:32-33 is a word for word quote from Isaiah in the Septuagint (Ethiopian reading Isaiah); and Matthew 1:23 word for word with Isaiah 7:14 of the Septuagint. They knew these verses word for word; they used the Septuagint.

The Church defines its “Scripture” and presents it to the world, saying “We Name this set of writings to be our Scripture and we deny other texts are Scripture”. The Church does not appropriate or “find” a set of texts that themselves claim “I am scripture” and then bow to the text.

The Apocryphal books belong, not because they were in the Septuagint as a “self-defining Holy Text”, but because the Church called them Scripture, being servants of the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised to them. Our obedience today is in accepting what the Church gives us for food, rather than defining our own food from what in itself seems reasonable as food. Luther looked at the “food” saying I like this, I do not like that - it disagrees with my disposition. Jerome said “I will eat this food, even though it disagrees with my thinking at the moment”


:confused: Why would they say this? What is the basis for their believing Jerome had authority to determine the canon of Scripture – authority greater than the Pope and Magisterium.


According to "The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol 1 From the Beginnings to Jerome

Only his revision of the gospels was at all widely accepted during his life-time. It had been commissioned by the pope, and this conferred on it a certain official status. But his work on the Old Testament was a private venture, undertaken either on his own initiative or at the request of his friends.

Since his work on the OT is a private venture, at best it only reflect his personal opinions subject to the education, friends and resources he had.

Hence all the other points raised are moot. His opinion doesn’t speak for the Church unless the Church accepts it. Which she didn’t fully and Jerome obediently submitted to the Church stance. Unlike others.


Didn’t Luther try to remove some NT books like Hebrew, James, Jude and Revelation?


[quote=Maria Monte;13385690

I’m confused. My copy of the Vulgate has all 73 books. It was my understanding the Jerome submitted to the Pope’s authority and did translate the deuterocanonicals. :confused:


Jerome’s views were not always so adversarial. One may consider reading Gary Michuta’s Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger in chapter 4 “Jerome Against the World.” In pgs. 150-151, he cites several occasions where Jerome either explicitly or implicitly refers to a quote from the Deuterocanon as Scripture. The chapter also includes the sparring that took place even at that time between Jerome and Rufinus over what was canonical. Rufinus argued that Jerome’s position was an innovation, whereas Jerome’s appeal rested heavily on the language of the original texts––he appealed to their “Hebrew Verity.”(p. 142) Of course, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, we know that there were Deuterocanonical texts in Hebrew. We also know that Jerome submitted to the authority of the Church when translating for the canon, saying, for example, in his preface to Tobit: “better to displease the Pharisees, in order to grant the requests of the bishops.” (p. 148)


Luther also quotes Sirach as scripture in the Heidelberg Disputation. Jude quotes the Book of Enoch as scripture. I’m not really sure what that says either way.

Not all of the deuterocanonicals were found at Qumran and/or were composed in Hebrew so this has always seemed to me like a poor argument as well.


#3 is incorrect. Jerome mostly translated from the Greek, utilizing the Hebrew text only when there were textual issues or when the Hebrew text highlighted something he found particularly appealing. One can see this by reading his translation notes on Genesis which are happily found in English here:

#4 is a bit problematic because Carthage and Hippo weren’t councils. And some books remained controversial long into the Medieval period.

#6 is incorrect about the doctrinal part (and a bit nonsensical as well?). Luther held that these books had little relevance for salvation–they didn’t “bear Christ”. But insofar that the claim is that Luther KEPT the books and placed them in a separate section, that’s correct.


To your first paragraph, Luther did not have a consistent voice, yes. Jude says Enoch prophesied. Some of the quotes from the deuterocanonicals are specifically referred to as Holy Writ as I understand. whereas Enoch prophesying is more of an argument for Tradition, because the text in which the prophesy is recorded was not considered Holy Writ.

To the second, the reason it is significant that some Deuterocanonicals were found in Hebrew is because that seems to have been used as one of the dealbreakers against those texts by Jerome. If he had no other cause to reject the text besides his Judaic appeal to Hebrew, then his dealbreaker crumbles.


They were councils, they were just local. When you say some books remained controversial, that seems rather anecdotal because 2nd Nicea in the 8th century confirmed Rome, Carthage, and Hippo, as did the ecumenical councils of 15th century Florence and 16th century Trent. To cite exceptions to what was a contoguous understanding proves the rule in my opinion. In other words, after Rome identified a canon in 382, there was general consistency from there onward.


I guess when people hear “council” they generally think of authoritative ecumenical councils. Since this definition of the biblical canon only seemed to stick in the West and not elsewhere, I guess “local council” works, although it could be misleading to people who don’t realize that the dictum only applied/was accepted to/in the West.

As for books remaining controversial into the medieval period, Patrick457 has done some great postings about the various problems associated with the book of Tobit (as one example). You might want to take a look at some of those.


John Martin,

I don’t think the above is entirely accurate with respect to Jerome. When Jerome translated the deutero’s in the Vulgate he included prefaces to each of the deutero’s where he clearly expressed his unfavorable opinion of them as scripture. There is an article under the Canon of the Old Testament that is pretty good over at which I have copied a few snippets from.

Don’t forget Jerome’s opinion doesn’t really matter one way or the other. It’s what the Church says that is important.

From on the Old Testament Canon:

[;]The canon of the Old Testament from the middle of the fifth to the close of the seventh century

This period exhibits a curious exchange of opinions between the West and the East, while ecclesiastical usage remained unchanged, at least in the Latin Church. During this intermediate age the use of St. Jerome’s new version of the Old Testament (the Vulgate) became widespread in the Occident. With its text went Jerome’s prefaces disparaging the deuterocanonicals, and under the influence of his authority the West began to distrust these and to show the first symptoms of a current hostile to their canonocity.

[;]The canon of the Old Testament during the Middle Ages

The Latin Church

In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them, another one distinctly unfavourable to their authority and sacredness, while wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among those we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity. The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome’s depreciating Prologus.



It really is. Jerome even recognized that the 1 and 2 Maccabees were written in different languages: “he first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style.” Even with his distrust of the deuteros he still recognized that at least one of these books was originally in Hebrew.

(Out of the seven deutero’s, Tobit, 1 Maccabees and Sirach are the ones which were originally Semitic (Hebrew / Aramaic). 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, and the additions to Daniel and Esther are the ones which are (most likely) originally Greek. Baruch is essentially a hodgepodge of four or five originally separate units, and scholars disagree whether all of them or just one or more of these units were originally in Hebrew.

As for Judith, the Greek text is so Hebrew/‘Septuagint’-sounding that traditionally it was also interpreted as a translation of a Semitic work, but at the same time the language also has some features that make a simple categorization difficult, not to mention that the work also seems to quote from the Septuagint version of OT; some scholars nowadays would point to these elements as meaning that Judith is actually originally written in Greek, but the writer consciously ‘Hebraized’ his Greek in places to give the work a ‘biblical’ flavor. (You can also see it in a number of other biblical books: say, the Greek Sirach or the gospel of Luke.)

There are only two (or four) deuterocanonicals Jerome really translated: Tobit, Judith, and the Greek bits of Daniel and Esther. The thing is, while when he was beginning to translate the OT from the Hebrew Jerome did hold the deuteros in something close to contempt (cf. his ‘helmeted introduction’ to Samuel-Kings), by the time he translated Tobit and Judith (405-407; the last OT books he translated) you can sense a turnaround in his opinion: he agreed to translate Judith even if only “because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures” and Tobit since “it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops.”

In fact, one really has to remember that when Jerome was translating the OT, he wasn’t out to make an ‘official’ translation for the whole Church. It wasn’t part of the same project as his revision of the gospels and the Psalms performed under Pope Damasus’ orders. (For one, Damasus at this point is now dead, and Jerome is no longer in Rome but holed up in Bethlehem living a life of books and monasticism.) The project was undertaken simply because Jerome’s friends kept asking him to translate OT books out of the Hebrew, and really has an apologetic bent to it: providing Latin Christians with a translation that was closely approximate to what the Jews had in Hebrew, for the reason of theological discussion.

You might say that the deuteros he actually translated were really an afterthought. Jerome did Tobit and Judith in particular because bishop friends of his asked him to, and well, the Church defined them as scriptural, so there’s no longer any point at arguing.

P.S. In a way, Jerome actually contributed to the ‘death’ of the Septuagint in the Church, especially the Western Church. He delivered the final stroke.


I am not in the inner circle of people who have academic credentials to qualify them to discuss this subject.

Lacking that, I have read Catholic books that say the Septuagint is the official Old Testament of the Roman Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, what I seem to find is that a bible edition such as the Little Rock Scripture Study Bible (largely the latest revision of the New American Bible) is really a mixture of texts, arguably the Masoretic text and the Septuagint.

the Orthodox Study Bible, for example, supposed to be based on the Septuagint supplementing the revised King James Version, has what appear to me to be odditities, like the inclusion of Psalm 151 and a version of Jeremiah that varies from that in the LRSSB (not just in translation but in content, as well).

I have been distracted from reading Akivah published by the Jewish Publication Society, which supposedly contain Rabbi Akivah’s objections to the Septuagint. (Akivah lived from the middle of the first century to a couple decades into the second.)

Now THAT is what my non-academic mind is chewing on – the Jewish publications I’ve read seem to be proud of the accomplishment of the scriptures being translated into Greek, which was said to have been complete about BC 100. You’d think that would have effectively canonized the books of Old Testament scripture, but developments in Judaism in the first and second centuries seem to reflect otherwise, such that the Masoretic text seems to be the main accepted text.

What I’ve read in JPS books is that in Reformed Judaism, the rabbis don’t even consider the Torah to have been an inspired text, at all, or if inspired, only applicable to its own era. For example, women have been accepted into the rabbinate and also openly homosexual men have, too – on the basis of modern science and modern Jewish theology.

Paul’s discussion of Judaism in Romans seems to agree generally with the Jewish idea that they are expecting further revelation: From the Jewish point of view, the world will embrace Judaism; from Paul’s Christian point of view, they will all be converted to the gospel. So, one way or the other, some future revelation must be expected for either of those prophesies to be fulfilled.

I don’t know why I set the Akivah book aside. It attributes to him the reconstruction of post-temple Judaism, with emphasis on “study of the torah” (hence the term “Talmud Torah”). The Jewish Talmud and the Christian New Testament are competing interpretations of the Old Testament, both of which, in their modern domains, are considered authoritative and inspired.


In reality, I think it’s a half-truth. Yes, the Greek translations were the Old Testament for most Christians during the first three centuries of Christianity; in fact, it (and not the Hebrew text of the OT) was the base of Christian theology and piety.

Only a few people were really aware that the OT they’re reading was different from the OT text the Jews were reading, and fewer cared (though most of them could not read Hebrew). Those who cared quickly found out that the OT text they’re using was not exactly the same as the Jews had, and many of them explained these differences by either blaming the Jews (‘They altered the Scriptures to remove prophecies about Jesus from it!’ :rolleyes:) or believing that these differences were stumbling blocks placed by God in order to drive the reader into a deeper meaning.

Most, however, were not concerned about whether the Greek was a faithful translation of the Hebrew or not (not that they could tell anyway); as far as they are concerned, the Greek OT is ‘our’ Bible. The Jews might be using a somewhat different OT, but for us, the Greek OT is ‘our’ Scriptures. In fact, they accorded a sort of inspired status for the Greek OT too; in their view, God may have given his original revelation in Hebrew and Aramaic, but in order to prepare the world for Jesus’ coming (and foreseeing that the Jews would reject Him) they thought that God ‘spoke Greek’.

However, starting from the 3rd century onwards there was a sort of ‘revolutionary’ change within the Church: Origen published the so-called Hexapla, a word-by-word comparison of four Greek versions of the OT plus the (proto-Masoretic) Hebrew text and a transliteration of it into Greek letters in six columns (hence the name). One of these four translations was the Old Greek (aka ‘Septuagint’) text with interpolations to indicate where the Hebrew is not represented in the Greek and marks indicating places in the text where the Greek has additional words not found in Hebrew.

Origen gives two reasons for this project: in one place, he claims the project had apologetic motives: when discussing texts he could compare different versions to be sure that he was not building his argument on a text Jews did not accept. In another place, he claims the project was done in order to ‘heal’ the Greek text; he thought that the proto-Masoretic text - which had already become the standard text among Jews of his day - is the source text of the Greek OT. (We now know that different Hebrew texts underlie many of the ‘Septuagint’ OT books.)

Origen never set out to disparage the ‘Septuagint’ or even to dislodge its position from the Church, but the Hexapla really kickstarted the death of the ‘Septuagint’ in (Western) Christianity. His attention to the Hebrew text later led some scholars to wonder whether or not the Church had been missing out by ignoring it. His hybrid ‘fifth column’ - the edited ‘Septuagint’ - was copied frequently, eventually without the editing marks. Origen’s text ‘contaminated’ the stream of transmission: from the 4th century onwards almost all manuscripts of the ‘Septuagint’ was influenced by the so-called Hexaplaric or Origenic version.

Origen began the process (even if somewhat accidentally); it would be the three Eusebiuses from the 4th-5th century who would deliver the finishing blows. First, you have Eusebius of Caesarea and his teacher Pamphilus, both instrumental in disseminating the Hexaplaric recension of the ‘Septuagint’, now without the editing marks.

Second is Eusebius of Emesa, who studied under the Caesarean Eusebius; unlike Origen or the other Eusebius, this Eusebius clearly had a preference for the Hebrew text and sought to elevate it, only stopping short of a full endorsement of it over the ‘Septuagint’. It was due to his mixed heritage, really; he knew Greek and Syriac, and thus would had a heightened awareness that the Greek OT was but a mere translation, and one that was different from the Hebrew text Jews were using. (Syriac Christians, uniquely among Christians back then, used an OT text that was translated mainly from the Hebrew.)

The third and final Eusebius would be Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus - aka Jerome. Pretty much the ultimate Hebrew lover and supporter of hebraica veritas (‘the truth of the Hebrew (text)’) of early Christianity. (It seems he was also influenced by Eusebius of Emesa.) St. Jerome’s translations of OT books from the Hebrew - a very controversial move - was the final stroke against the Septuagint in the West (represented by its translations into Latin).

Ever since Jerome we Western Christians have really had a mixed heritage: the mark of the ‘Septuagint’ still remains in our theology and piety, but the actual Scriptures we’ve been reading is essentially a hodge-podge of the Hebrew and the Greek.


Nevertheless, what I seem to find is that a bible edition such as the Little Rock Scripture Study Bible (largely the latest revision of the New American Bible) is really a mixture of texts, arguably the Masoretic text and the Septuagint.

the Orthodox Study Bible, for example, supposed to be based on the Septuagint supplementing the revised King James Version, has what appear to me to be odditities, like the inclusion of Psalm 151 and a version of Jeremiah that varies from that in the LRSSB (not just in translation but in content, as well).

Here’s the thing. The Greek text of the Psalms has an extra psalm ‘outside the number’, Psalm 151. (For the record, we know this psalm was originally in Hebrew because a copy of the Psalms from the Dead Sea Scrolls contains this same psalm - only there it’s actually two psalms.)

As for Jeremiah: Greek Jeremiah is about one-sixths shorter than the Masoretic version, not to mention that the order of the text is different in places. It is thought by scholars that the Hebrew text which was used as the base for Greek Jeremiah actually represents an earlier version of the work, while the MT Jeremiah represents an expanded, ‘final’ version of the text. (Ezekiel is another book that is shorter in the Greek and longer in the Hebrew.)

Speaking of which, I’d really recommend this book to anyone here: Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible.

I have been distracted from reading Akivah published by the Jewish Publication Society, which supposedly contain Rabbi Akivah’s objections to the Septuagint. (Akivah lived from the middle of the first century to a couple decades into the second.)

Now THAT is what my non-academic mind is chewing on – the Jewish publications I’ve read seem to be proud of the accomplishment of the scriptures being translated into Greek, which was said to have been complete about BC 100. You’d think that would have effectively canonized the books of Old Testament scripture, but developments in Judaism in the first and second centuries seem to reflect otherwise, such that the Masoretic text seems to be the main accepted text.

The thing is, the OT books were not translated as a set. The very first OT book to be translated into Greek was the Torah, during the 3rd century BC. This translation soon became the subject of a legend that claimed that it was the work of seventy-two Jewish translators. Yes, this translation of the Torah is, properly speaking, the “Septuagint.”

(You might notice that here and in my last post I try whenever possible to just speak of ‘the Greek OT’ or the ‘Greek text’. Whenever I have to refer to the ‘Septuagint’, I put it in single quotes. Because here’s the thing: the term ‘Septuagint’ is nowadays really applied in a very broad sense. Whereas the original version of the legend was concerned only about the translation of the Torah, early Christians - who also invented the term ‘Septuagint’ BTW - changed the story a bit, so that now, the translators are claimed to have translated the whole Bible. This really ties in with the ‘early Christians accorded a sort of inspired status for the Greek OT’ I was talking about earlier.

I personally tend to reserve “Septuagint” without quotes for the Greek Torah and refer to the other books as “Old Greek” - a distinction a few scholars nowadays make. But in the last post I used Septuagint in its more common sense - the Greek OT as a whole and/or the Greek texts early Christians used, regardless of whether they were the earliest versions extant or not - which is why I put it in quotes. Okay, rant over.)

From the period between the 3rd-2nd century BC up to the 1st century BC-1st century AD other Hebrew texts (including works that later became “canonical” and those that did not) were translated in Greek; at the same time, some Jews also wrote original compositions in Greek. It is not clear which was translated when, or where; some works may even have been translated twice or more times.

There still was no ‘Bible’ or any ‘canon’ at the time; there were only ‘scriptures’, a loose collection of writings, contained not in a single volume, but in different scrolls - a library, if you will. In fact, even these Scriptures did not exist in a single, standard version; plurality and fluidity was the norm during that time. The so-called ‘proto-Masoretic’ text which became the standard text in Judaism from the 2nd century onwards was just a single strand out of many. (As noted earlier, some Greek OT books preserve a different textual version from that preserved by the proto-Masoretic text. Jeremiah and Ezekiel would certainly fall into this category.)


This is a little off-topic, but rabbis are not really priests. Legally they might be considered the Jewish equivalent of a priest or pastor, and after the destruction of the Temple they did take on a larger role in Judaism, but they’re not kohanim (priests). A kohen could become a rabbi, but a person does not necessarily have to be a kohen to become one. A rabbi is nowadays simply a lay teacher or scholar with a qualification (semichah - often regarded as an ‘ordination’) to teach. Technically, you don’t even need a rabbi to conduct religious services.

I’m not a Jew, but in light of the above I’m personally more lenient about women becoming rabbis more than I am about, say, women becoming Catholic priests (which is a definite ‘no’). The natures of the two offices are different, even if many rabbis nowadays have apparently become pretty much like Protestant pastors in function and secular laws consider them by default to be the ‘clerics’ of Judaism.


Thank you. I think Augustine or at least Augustinians in the Church may have agreed with Jerome on some of this, but I can’t find anything to support that. I know Luther based his decisions on information from his studies/training as an Augustian monk. It was not his subjective opinion.

That is all I have to say. I don’t have an opinion on what is canonical - sorry can’t help you there. My only point to make is that Luther kept everything in the Bible - and what he moved he did based on a line of previous opinion within the Church. It amazes me how few people know this - even after you tell them. ;):smiley:

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