Orthodox or Catholic canon?

Differences between RC and EO canon include 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, and Psalm 151.

This is my understanding of the debate (please correct me if I’m wrong):

EO argues that the Septuagint is inspired, as evidenced by the apostles quoting them authoritatively. Thus, all of the books in the Septuagint must be included.

RC argues that only 73 of those books are in the canon because all the early local councils of the Church (including Rome, Carthage, and Hippo) accepted this.

Can anyone give me a good case on which side is correct? It’s important to me because I want to know all the books that God inspired.

Why do we have to be bound by one canon considering there has never been one universally agreed upon canon? I suppose roman catholics will dissasgree however, arguing for the authority of the papacy to define the canon however it wants.

The Catholic Church does not reject any part of the LXX. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches might have a different idea of what exactly the LXX is. There is no “official” definition of the LXX, and there are many variants. The Catholic Church accepts the variant that was widely in use in the Western regions during the 3rd-5th Centuries. Various Orthodox Churches accept slightly different versions of the LXX which might have been in circulation in the East.

Nobody really knows which books were in the Septuagint at Jesus’ time. We know almost definitely that Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Baruch, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach). Those were included in almost all the manuscripts. But since there was no “standard” version of the Septuagint, because there was no printing press, different manuscripts have more books than just those 7.

Different regional traditions trust different manuscripts. For example:

The Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches recognize the following:
3 Maccabees
1 Esdras
Prayer of Manasseh
Psalm 151

Georgian Orthodox Churches include:
2 Esdras
4 Maccabees (which is only accepted as canonical in the Georgian Orthodox Church)

The Syriac Orthodox tradition includes:
Psalms 151–155
The Apocalypse of Baruch
The Letter of Baruch
The Ethiopian Biblical canon includes:
1–3 Meqabyan

Sorry if this doesn’t fully answer your question. Hopefully someone more knowledgable on the subject will come along.

Actually, you helped quite a bit (especially for the statements that I bolded). Thanks! :slight_smile:

The exact layout of the canon isn’t an issue to Catholics or Orthodox. We agree on some books which must be there (Protocanon) but we have never stated that that is all there can be. I believe the Eastern Catholic Churches use additional books from the Roman Catholic Church, and the exact canon varies between Orthodox Churches.

Because we don’t believe in Sola Scriptura the idea that the definition of what scripture is has some wiggle room isn’t a very surprising one.

A very good question…

I think that the confusion - for one coming from a protestant background - is how the bible canon is viewed. The protestant mindset places a somewhat different emphasis on it than the Catholic and Orthodox Church does.
Note that - the 73 book canon was established around 400 AD or so but in the East the larger canon continued to be used. Interestingly, this difference did not cause any great rift and certainly was not the cause of the great schism - which did not occur for another 500 years or so. So what does this say about how the One (no schism yet) Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church viewed this matter?

The original purpose (as I understand it) in defining the canon was to provide a universally consistent set of books for use in the liturgy. It was not necessarily intended to be the viewed as the “be-all end-all” of God inspired writing. That view is one that developed with the reformers and the development of “Sola Scriptura”.

Indeed the Church has used bits and pieces of other writings in her teachings and pious traditions. The idea of Joseph being older and having other children comes from the Protoevangelium of James as does ( I believe) the names of Mary’s parents Johachim (sp) and Anna.
The Didache, a very early catechism, is still held in very high esteem - but not part of the canon.

If the above is incorrect, someone please correct me.


Curiously, from a Lutheran perspective, our view of SS may be the reason why we don’t have a “closed” canon of scripture. When our communion uses scripture for the purpose of doctrine, we take into account which books are historically attested, and which ones are historically disputed.

The practice is better explained here:


Here’s a sentence I hardly ever get to write: This chart from Wikipedia might be helpful to look at.

As someone else wrote, there is no single “Catholic” or “Orthodox” canon. Given that, I don’t know how anyone is supposed to answer questions like that of the OP. Unless you undertake study on your own or make a point of communing in many different jurisdictions, you’ll only ever be exposed to the canon of scripture already used in your particular church, so perhaps the best answer to your question is to trust the canon as you encounter it, and not try to pit the different versions against one another, since they not only vary across communions but also within them (which should give you a good idea of how Orthodox and Catholics approach the Biblical canon, however it’s defined).

There is a Catholic canon (the proto-canonicals, plus Judith, Tobit, Baruch, Wisdom, Sirach, and 1 & 2 Maccabees), but not a single Orthodox canon. Different Orthodox Churches use different canons.

So all the Eastern and Oriental Catholic churches use the same canon as the Latin majority? That would seem to contradict information given by Eastern Catholics on this very website
, though whether or not they correspond exactly to those of their Orthodox mother churches (where there are differences) is, I suppose, a different question.

Let me quote from post #6 of that thread:

“The Churches in union with Rome have historically accepted only the Roman Canon of Scripture.”

The Orthodox Churches use different canons, but all Catholic rites use the 73-book cannon that the Latin Rite does.

I was thinking more of post #2 in that thread by the same poster, but okay.

I think you misunderstand what an imprimatur is. Imprimatur simply means, “let it be printed”, indicating that the book has been given the approval of a Bishop. Just because a bible has an imprimatur does not mean that all the books contained in it are all canonical. A Bishop doesn’t even have the authority to decide which books are canonical and which are not.

HI icamhif: The Council of Trent in a way closed te canon but that is due more to the Protestant reformation when Protestants decided to use the Palestinian canon of the Old Testament. Psalm 151 as I understand it is more due to numbering than a different Psalm. the other books found in the Orthodox Churches while not included in the Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches because they are still somewhat disputed as to whether or not the are inspired, but mosely due to the fact that they were suposely written within the first century by Jewish writers so far as I been able to find out.

That may or may not be so, but those of the Byzantine Rite use the Prayer of Manasseh liturgically, despite the fact that Rome claims it is not inspired.

Yes, I suppose I failed to mention that. Many of the Eastern Catholic Rites use the ‘extra’ books from their respective Orthodox Churches liturgically even though they do not consider them canonical or inspired.

Psalm 151 is not canonical. Though the canon was infallibly defined at Trent, it had been authoritatively determined more than 1000 years earlier, at the Council of Rome in 382 and the Council of Carthage in 397.

The canon of inspired Scripture is no longer disputed in the Catholic Church, because of the three Councils mentioned in the last paragraph.

I understand your fidelity to the canon of scripture as promulgated by Trent, but hypothetically speaking (that is, supposing that Trent had not promulgated a closed canon or that Trent did not promulgate a canon at all) would you find the thought of having multiple canons which differ slightly to be problematic? I only ask because I have a hard time seeing why that should be an issue today when it was not an issue early on.

Well, yes, I suppose I, along with most other Catholics, would find it problematic. One of the Four Marks of the True Church is ‘Unity’, after all.

I think the canon was an issue early on, hence why two of the earliest Councils (Rome in 382 and Carthage in 397) were convened to discuss it.

But then, was the Church in disunity until Trent? I think from the Orthodox perspective, unity does not imply absolute uniformity, which is why slightly varying canons of scripture do not bother us so much.

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