Protestant Bibles before 1880

This is an excerpt from an article that a fundamentalist family member sent my wife. I want to reiterate that this is not a Catholic source. I don’t want to post the link but would be happy to give it to anyone interested through pm if the wished (it’s very anti-Catholic). Or one could google it :wink:

Up until the 1880’s every Protestant Bible (not just Catholic Bibles) had 80 books, not 66! The inter-testamental books written hundreds of years before Christ called “The Apocrypha” were part of virtually every printing of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until their removal in the 1880’s! The original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail. Only for the last 120 years has the Protestant Church rejected these books, and removed them from their Bibles. This has left most modern-day Christians believing the popular myth that there is something “Roman Catholic” about the Apocrypha. There is, however, no truth in that myth, and no widely-accepted reason for the removal of the Apocrypha in the 1880’s has ever been officially issued by a mainline Protestant denomination.

Could any Protestants tell me anything about this? Is this true? I know for some time that the Deuterocanonical books remained in the Protestant Bibles but has there been any reason given as to why they were removed all of the sudden in 1880s? If this excerpt is true, why were they kept in the Protestant Bibles in the first place? Was there unanimous Protestant agreement that they were not Scriptural? Has it really only been the last 120 years that Protestants have rejected these books?

Thanks and God bless

It is true that the “Apocrypha” were included in the early Protestant bibles. In America this generally meant the King James Bible. However, they were not integrated into their logical places in the Old Testament like they are in Catholic bibles. Instead they were all placed together between the testaments, and in addition to the seven extra books of the Catholic bible plus the expanded versions of Daniel and Esther, they contained 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Letter of Jeremiah and Prayer of Manasseh. I have seen some of these old bibles and our church used to have one until it was lost in remodeling job a few years ago.

However, their presence in the old bibles does not mean they were accepted as canonical. They were regarded as useful and informative, but not canonical, and they were seldom read in church. Since the Protestant churches have no magisterium, what goes into the Bible is usually left up to the publishers. The publishers came to realize they could omit the Apocrypha from their bibles without anyone complaining so they did just that. It didn’t happen instantly in 1880 but that is the time they gradually began to drop the Apocrypha from the King James Bible. That is also the time that the “modern” translations of the English bible began to appear on the scene, none of which included the Apocrypha.

The term “apocrypha” means lost or hidden and it is appropriate to refer to them as such because today they are truly lost. Anyone who doesn’t think so should go to a non Catholic Christian book store and ask for a Bible that has the Apocrypha. They don’t carry them.

Thanks for the response Zenas. So the quote is more or less correct? What about the comment about Protestants only rejecting these books in the last 120 years and no mainline Protestant denomination officially stating why they were removed? I only ask because most of the things about Catholicism in this book was wrong so I am curious if it got the stuff about Protestantism wrong as well.

Thanks and God bless

Yes, the quote is more or less correct, except that these books were not rejected in only the last 120 years. Luther and Calvin rejected them and it is paradoxical that they would reject their canonicity on the one hand and put them in their bibles on the other. I can’t explain this. I do know there is nothing akin to a Protestant church council or any denominational declaration that the apocrypha are no longer thought to be canonical. The nearest you will come to this is that some churches have a statement of faith that will say the Bible consists of 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.

I don’t know about Calvin, but my understanding of Luther’s position on the canon was he based much of what he thought on the early Church. Eusebius, Jerome, etc., and the debates over not only the D-C’s, but also over the long-disputed books of the NT.

Personally, I’m not totally convinced that Luther was right about the D-C’s.

I do know there is nothing akin to a Protestant church council or any denominational declaration that the apocrypha are no longer thought to be canonical. The nearest you will come to this is that some churches have a statement of faith that will say the Bible consists of 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament

For Lutherans, this is correct. No where in the Book of Concord is there stated a specific list of the canon of Scripture. Technically, as a result, for Lutherans the canon is not closed, though for all practical purposes, the D-C’s are not used as if canon.


Hi Roman__Catholic,

I think this article is true.
In the late 19th century there was another “Reformation” called Pietism and I think one should see the removal of the deuterocanonical Books from the Holy Bible in that light.

If Protestants always have rejected the deuteros (from the beginning in the 16th century), I can’t really say. But IMO it’s quite probable.
Although in Lutheran Bibles used in the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Austria and Germany, the Deuteros are still contained.
I think really rejecting and not printing them anymore started with Calvin and Zwingli. As far as I know as early as in the 17th century, the “Zürcher Bibel” (the traditional Swiss Bible in the Reformed Evangelical Church) was printed without Deuterocanonicals. However, the “Apocrypha” in the Zürcher Bibel only contains/contained 1 & 2 Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, Ben Sirach und Wisdom.

Hope I could help. =)

This is what I was most concerned about but I wanted to quote the entire paragraph to get a better context for others. It seemed to me that throughout the article the author felt that they should be included and that there was no justification for them being removed. Plus I think he was pretty bent out of shape that these books have come to be associated with Catholicism and was trying to make a point (obviously by stretching the truth) that Protestants had always accepted them, always had them in their Bibles and only within the last 120 years rejected them. The article over all was horribly written. It’s suppsoed to be a “history” of the english Bible but there are zero references for things the author pushes as facts (as seen by my quote of it) and is basically all opinion.

Anyways he was wrong about most of the stuff regarding Catholicism (he did spell it right though) so I was curious if he got the Protestant stuff wrong too.

Thanks and God bless

I have never ran into Pietism. What were their reasons for rejecting them?

God bless

Thanks for commenting Jon. Could a Lutheran accept the DCs then since there has been no official statement made on it? I would be very interested if you had any articles from a Lutheran perspective in favor of the DCs inclusion (if any of the sort exist that is).

Thanks and God bless

oppps, was suppsoed to be an edit, not an entire new post :o

Ironically, the KJV (an Anglican Bible), which many Protestants cling to as the only “inspired inerrant” Word of God, was printed in 1611 to compete with the Protestant Geneva Bible of 1560.

The Deuterocanonical Books/Apocrypha were removed from the King James Bible in 1885–That was 126 years ago. The KJV contained the Apocrypha for 274 years. Guess it took God 274 years to get His “inspired inerrant” Word just right in the King James Bible. :wink:

One article said of the KJV: “American printers discovered that they could leave out the Apocrypha and sell the Bible for the same price, and no one would care because it wasn’t used much.” Link:
I can’t really vouch for the website, but it has some interesting bits of info.

The Protestant Reformers had all sorts of ideas about the Biblical Canon. Martin Luther didn’t like James, Jude, Revelation, Esther, or Hebrews. He placed them at the end of the Bible. Luther was a complicated man to say the least. He is famous for adding the word “alone” to Romans 3:28 “thus, we hold, then, that man is justified without the works of the law to do, alone through faith.”

Luther did include the Apocrypha in his German Bible, but placed them between the N.T. and O.T.

You can Google these things to fact-check my memory. :slight_smile: I’m always open to correction.


I’m not an expert on the subject but offer these comments.

  1. Yes, many of the old ‘Protestant’ Bibles - often the large pulpit types - carried the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments.

  2. These books are not rejected by most Protestants, but not considered canonical.

  3. The Protestant Old Testament matches the Hebrew scriptures you will find in your neighborhood synagogue.

  4. Some Protestants will take passages from the Apocrypha to read, e. g., passages used at funerals, etc.

  5. The Apocryphal books were written later than the rest of the OT - between 150 BC and 70 AD.

  6. Catholic scholars were not fully united on including the OT Apocryphal books in the canon. St. Jerome, as I recall, who achieved the Vulgate translation, did not approve.

7. There are New Testament Apocryphal books, too, of course. Various traditions have come from these books. For example, the names of Mary's parents are not found in the NT but are found in the NT Apocryphal. These books have been studied by some scholars in recent years. They contain some wild miracles - for example, that the child Jesus blessed some birds he made from clay and they flew! 

8. Personally, I don't think this should be a major issue between Catholics and Protestants. Those who want to go after 'gotcha' arguments, whether Catholics or Protestants, enjoy emphasizing such petty points. In my view this is rather silly tribalism.

 God bless Catholics, Protestants and those of every creed, color, culture and country. Let us make religion a bridge and not a barrier.

I don’t really know. :confused:
Pietism started, as far as I know, first in Germany in the 19th century. They are very conservative.
I guess they reject the deuteros because they are not in the “original Bible” which is the Jewish canon?

[quote=Roman_Catholic;]Could any Protestants tell me anything about this? Is this

The earliest known Bible in English to contain only the 66 Book Protestant Canon, was the 1599 Geneva Bible. Copies of that edition were also printed with the 76 Book Anglican Canon.

The 1611 KJV was published with the 76 Book Anglican Canon. Piracy being what it is, it was quickly reproduced by unauthorised parties, with only the 66 Book Protestant Canon.
(The reason for the law threatening fines, and jail time, was precisely because so many copies were printed without containing that material.)

Until Cromwell’s dictatorship, publisher’s greed was the driving force behind offering Bibles that consisted only of the 66 Book Protestant Canon. Cromwell banned the printing of Bibles that contained books other than those found in the 66 Book Protestant Canon. Once his dictatorship was abolished, it was legal to publish Bibles that contained the 76 Book Anglican Canon.

In the early 1820’s, the Bible Society fractured, due to the question of whether or not to publish and distribute Bibles other than the 66 Book Protestant Canon. The major driving forces in that debate was economics. Theology took second place. (Economics is also why they started distributing Bibles that contain only the 27 Book New Testament.)

The English Revised Version was published in 1885. The easy availability of that text, without deuterocanonical content, explains the apparent removal of that content from American Protestant Bibles in the 1880s. One other point to consider, is that prior to the Civil War, most English Bibles, that were distributed in the United States, were printed in Great Britain.

, and no widely-accepted reason for the removal of the Apocrypha in the 1880’s has ever been officially issued by a mainline Protestant denomination.

Both the Anabaptist Movement and Reformed Christianity rejected the deuterocanonical material for two major reasons:

  • They are not known in Hebrew;
  • They are not accepted as canonical by Jews;

Depending upon the specific group, either one, or both of those reasons are still cited.

Both groups started publishing Bibles that contained only the 66 Book Protestant Canon, in the sixteenth century.


No one in this thread is trying to make this a “gotcha” argument. I’m offended that you would even offer this point. I was curious about whether a very **anti-catholic **article written by a Protestant, a Protestant which backed the inclusion of these books, was correct about what he wrote regarding Protestant Bibles. I have never seen or heard a Protestant argue for their inclusion and I was curious if he was stretching truths to fit his argument which it appears, through very selective word choices, that he did.

God bless

Thanks. I will look into the movement. Just thinking out loud here but it’s curious that there needed to be a movement to reject these books if they were already not accepted by the Protestant community. That’s the first thought with very very limited knowledge on the matter that comes to mind.

God bless you and thanks

Pietism was much earlier–late 17th and 18th centuries.

I’m not sure why the 1880s in particular. I thought that the removal happened earlier in the 19th century, and was linked to the rise of a militant Calvinist Evangelicalism in Britain and the aggressive promotion of Bible translation and distribution as a way of converting Catholics to Protestantism. The faction that came to dominate the Bible Societies believed that including the Apocrypha would be a concession to Catholicism and would militate against the goal of spreading Protestantism through getting lay Catholics to read the Bible.

At least that’s my understanding, but it’s based on just a couple of references I’ve seen here and there and I may have built too large a construction on a shaky foundation!

I think that this was primarily an English-language issue. The KJV was of course an Anglican Bible, and thus the printing usage until the early 19th century was dominated by the Anglican view that the deuteros were on a secondary level–not fully inspired but not to be removed altogether either. This is also the position of many Lutherans, I believe. It finds some support in remarks made by St. Jerome (though I recognize that Jerome’s attitude was complicated and is a matter of controversy).


Thanks Edwin. Is there any truth to the author’s claim here:

King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail.

Nothing is referenced in the article so it’s difficult to do fact checking.

God bless

I don’t know off the top of my head, but it doesn’t sound at all surprising. James was into imposing religious uniformity–as were most rulers of that era! He was particularly concerned to suppress both the radical Protestants (Puritans) and the Roman Catholics.


JL: Where and when was the Jewish “original Bible” canon settled. In Christ’s time the Essens used some of the Dueterocanonical books, I can’t recall off the top of my head, but one or so of them was in Hebrew. My understanding the Saducees held only the first five books of Moses as canonical. The Pharasees held the Protestant canon. The Jews in the diaspora used the Septuagent, which the apostles used to spread the gospel, as it was in Greek, the common language of the time. I have yet to see anyone show were there was an offical Jewish canon, till AFTER Christ. After Christ the Jews wouldn’t have had the authority to define a canon as that authority had passed to the Church. It seems to me if there was an authoritative defined canon, before Christ, ALL Jews in Israel and the diaspora would have had that one canon.

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