Roman Catholic Vs. Eastern Orthodox Canon?


I recently purchased the New Oxford Annotated Bible W/ Apocrypha, the Bible has the Hebrew Bible as the first of the text, and following it has the Deuterocanonical books. Now I know the Roman Catholic Church accepts 1, 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch including the Letter of Jeremiah, Additions to Daniel ( Prayer of Azariah the song of the Three Jews, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon) .

Now my question is this, after these books which are accepted by the Catholic church are books also accepted by many Eastern Orthodox Churches, 1 and 2 Esdras( which I believe are actually 3 and 4 Esdras in the Latin Vulgate because Ezra-Nehemiah are 1 and 2 Esdras in the Latin Vulgate), 3 and 4 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151.

My question is to anyone who may know why these Orthodox books are not included in the Catholic Bible? I always thought Orthodox and Catholic Bibles all come from the Greek Septuagint, which I know Jerome translated into Latin. But even though these books are not in the Catholic Bible, is it beneficial to read them as well? I really like this Bible because it is easy to understand and when you have questions it has answers in the footnotes.


My understanding is that there are many editions of the Septuagint. Unless I’ve misunderstood something, no two manuscripts of the Septuagint are alike. I think there has been an attempt to reconstruct the original Septuagint by comparing the manuscripts that we have, but there is not universal agreement on which manuscripts to use. One difficulty is that there was more than one attempt to translate the Old Testament into Greek and not everyone agrees which translations were intended to be part of the Septuagint. If Manuscripts A and B are totally independent translations of the Book of Ruth, for example, how do you know which one to call the Septuagint? I don’t think ancient manuscripts come with title pages.

Anyway, if scholars ever figure out which manuscripts were in the Septuagint, they will run into another problem: all of the ancient Bibles we have are incomplete. They are missing whole books. Moreover, Bible “A” will often contain books that Bible “B” doesn’t. Now, you might think, Of course they would have different books, there was a lot of debate back then about whether to include the Deuterocanonical books, and Revelation, and Jude, and some other books, right?

Well, there was debate, but the Deuterocanonical books and Revelation and Jude (etc.) aren’t usually the ones that throw scholars for a loop: they find 3 and 4 Maccabees in some of these ancient Bibles with very few words about them among the Church Fathers. It leads to a paradox: if some of the Church Fathers believed those books were inspired Scripture, why haven’t we found a debate about it among their writings? If they didn’t believe those books were inspired Scripture, why do they show up as part of their Bibles? And if this inclusion confuses us today, shouldn’t if have confused people back then? How come we don’t find anybody back then wondering why 3 and 4 Maccabees were in some Bibles and not others?

I don’t think there is much data about the reasons for these things. Perhaps partly as a result of this, there are different ways of dealing with these ancient Bibles. Some people want to take the Canon from the list of books enumerated in the early Church councils. Others do not trust councils. I’ve never heard someone suggest this option, but consider this ingenius idea: let’s take all the ancient Bibles, count up which bibles contain what books, and take the average as our Canon. But the latter option has a problem mentioned earlier: all of the manuscripts we have are incomplete. Some of them only have a very few books in them and those are tattered and ripped.

Also: from what time period would we take the average? From the Bibles of the 4th century? There’s only about 7, I think, and all are incomplete. From the Bibles between then and the 8th century? Why stop there? Should we take the average of all the Bibles published between 300 A.D. and 2015 A.D.? Then we would be left with a Protestant Canon.

This post is getting long, but I think the reason why there are different Canons in the East and in the West is contained in the above mess. The sum of it is: if we don’t stick with what the early Councils said, we’ll get no sure basis on which to make our bibles.


This question was asked on Catholic Answers Live this month.

While the answer was short, it’s the best answer I’ve heard regarding this

Note: I don’t know the minute, but I THINK it was in the 2nd half of the hour.


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