So what's the story with the deutero-canonical books?


Can someone tell me if these books were part of the original canon when it was first defined? Or, did the Church add them later? I understand infallibility, so it doesn’t challenge my faith to hear that the pope may not have included them earlier, because I understand that by saying nothing, infallibility is still intact.


In the 2nd century B.C., Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, decided he wanted to build the greatest library in the world, which would contain a copy of every book ever written, all of them translated into Greek, which was the dominant language in that part of the world at the time. This would include, of course, the Jewish Scriptures. In Alexandria, there was a huge diasporic Jewish community, and seventy Jewish scholars were hired from that community to locate, gather, and translate every last book of Jewish Scripture that could be found. This was accomplished, and the name of this Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures was the Septuagint, after the Latin word septus, meaning seventy—since seventy scholars worked on it. This Greek translation carried the 73 books currently found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.

By the time of Christ, the Septuagint had become accepted by many diasporic Jews throughout the ancient world; it was, however, not held in favor with the “legalistic” factions in Jerusalem, which would include the Pharisees and the Sadducees. To these folks, Hebrew was a sacred language, and in their way of thinking, if God wanted us to know something, then He’d see to it that it remained in the sacred language of Hebrew; and if God didn’t care enough about a book remaining in Hebrew, then apparently it wasn’t terribly important to begin with. Accordingly, at a Jewish council held at Jamnia in approximately 100 AD, they put together their own collection of the Jewish Scriptures, made from only the books still extant in the original Hebrew. (Another reason for rejecting the Septuagint books had to do with the fact that the Books of Maccabees contained evidence of friendship treaties between the Jews and the Romans—and by this time, the Jews had come to hate the Romans so much that they didn’t want anything to do with them.) This Hebrew collection was called the Masoretic text, or sometimes the Masora. It contained the 66 books now found in all Jewish Bibles, since it rejected the Greek books found in the Septuagint.

It should be mentioned at this point that many copies of the Hebrew Scriptures had become lost or destroyed in the years between 300 B.C. and 200 A.D.; and Hebrew originals for some of these rejected books were impossible to find. Since the late 19th century, however, archaeological finds have uncovered copies of nearly all these books, or parts of them, in Hebrew, which were hidden by various people to protect them from being destroyed. So to use the reasoning of the Masoretic faction, God did preserve these books in Hebrew—it’s just that they couldn’t find them at the time.

By this time, the Christians had come along, and they tended to use the Septuagint, rather than the Masora. As time went on, they added their own writings (Gospels, epistles) to the corpus, and by the time of Pope Damasus, the whole works was translated into Latin by Jerome. Since Jerome was usuing regular street Latin instead of high-falutin’ classical Latin, the Latin version was called the “Vulgate”, after “vulgar” Latin. This became “the” Bible for Christians right up into the 16th century.

It must be borne in mind that during the first 400 years of Christian history, there was no clear-cut “canon” for Biblical books; there were many, many books produced during this period, some of them heretical (the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, for example), some of them unorthodox (like the “infancy narratives” such as the Gospel of Psuedo-Matthew and the Proto-Gospel of James), and some of them orthodox but incomplete (such as the Didache). Some of these books were held as divinely inspired Scripture by some Christian communities, while some of the books in our present canon were rejected.

The list which we now have (for the New Testament) was settled by Pope Damasus in 382 A.D., and confirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. The same list was reconfirmed at the Councils of Carthage (397 and 418 A.D.), Florence (1441 A.D.), and Trent (1546 A.D.). Pope Innocent I declared the canon officially closed in 405 A.D.


Regarding the extra-biblical books, there were a number of ancient writings out there which never made it into the Bible (and usually for good reason). Some of the New Testament writers were familiar with these books, and even quoted them in our Bible; for example, Matthew 7:13 is an echo of the Epistle of Barnabas 18-20; Matthew 14:13-21 is an echo of 2nd Baruch 29:8. Jude loved the Jewish apocrypha—verse 6 can be found in the Book of Enoch, verse 7 in the Testament of the 12 Patriarchs, and verse 9 can be found in the Assumption of Moses. (Of course, on the other hand, Paul himself also quoted from the pagan Greek poets Epimenides, Aratus, Menander, and Cleanthes.)

Anyway, the Greek Septuagint/Latin Vulgate was used as the standard Christian Bible right up to the time of the Reformation. When Luther came along, as we all know, he had some serious problems with certain Catholic doctrines such as purgatory. He rejected this doctrine, and in order to reinforce that rejection, he also rejected the seven Old Testament books from the Septuagint, since one of them (2nd Maccabees) contained a passage which corroborated the concept of purgatory. (Luther also had a problem with the concept of “works”, and wanted to throw out the Epistle of James as well “faith without works is dead”], but his friend Philip Melanchthon convinced him that if he kept on tossing books at the rate he was going, he was going to end up with a pretty thin Bible.) The other Reformers picked up on Luther’s German translation with its omissions and additions (again, to reinforce his idea of sola fide, Luther added the word “alone” to Romans 5:1, changing it from “justified by faith” to “justified by faith alone”), and thus, all Protestant Bibles to the present day have 66 books, with the omission of the seven Old Testament books from the Greek Septuagint.

Catholic Bibles still contain those seven books, which consist of Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees; Orthodox Bibles contain them as well, and some Orthodox churches also accept 3rd and 4th Maccabees, for a total of 75 books.

Protestants will often claim that the “Apocrypha” cannot be canonocal, because “Jesus never referenced them”. So we have to ask, did Jesus quote from the Apocrypha?

The short answer is yes—and so did the Apostles.

Jesus and the Gospel writers referenced the Deuterocanonicals in the following instances:

Matthew 6:12, 14-15—"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your heavenly father forgive your transgressions."
Sirach 28:2—“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”

Luke 1:17 (describing John the Baptist)—"He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers towards children and the disobediant to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord."
Sirach 48:10—“You are destined, it is written, in time to come, to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, to turn back the hearts of fathers towards their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.”

Luke 1:28, 1:42—"And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you!’…Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."
Judith 13:18—"Then Uzziah said to her: 'Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women of the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Luke 1:52—"He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly."
Sirach 10:14—“The thrones of the arrogant God overturns, and establishes the lowly in their stead.”

Luke 12:19-20—"I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’"
Sirach 11:19—“When he says: ‘I have found rest, now I will feast on my possessions,’ he does not know how long it will be till he dies and leaves them to others.”



Luke 18:22—"When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.’"
Sirach 29:11—“Dispose of your treasure as the Most High commands, for that will profit you more than the gold.”

John 3:12—"If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?"
Wisdom 9:16—“Scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?”

John 5:18—"For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but he also called God his own Father, making himself equal to God."
Wisdom 2:16—“He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.”

John 10:29—"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand."
Wisdom 3:1—“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.”

Paul and James allude to them as well:

Romans 2:11—"There is no partiality with God."
Sirach 35:12—“For he is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.”

Romans 9:21—"Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose andanother fo an ignoble one?"
Wisdom 15:7—“For truly the potter, laboriously working the soft earth, molds for our service each several article: both the vessels that serve for clean purposes, and their opposites, all alike; as to what shall be the use of each vessel of eiother class, the worker in clay is the judge.”

Romans 11:24—"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?"
Wisdom 9:13—“For what man knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”

1 Thessalonians 2:16—"(The enemies of Christ persecute us), trying to prevent us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved, thus constantly filling up the measure of their sins. But the wrath of God has finally begun to come upon them."
2 Maccabees 6:14—“Thus, in dealing with other nations, the Lord patiently waits until they reach the full measure of their sins before he punishes them; but with us he has decided to deal differently”

James 1:13—"No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one."
Sirach 15:11-12—“Say not: ‘It was God’s doing that I fell away’; for what he hates he does not do. Say not: ‘It was he who set me astray’; for he has no need of wicked man.”

James 5:2-3—"Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver hav corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire.“
Judith 16:17—'The Lord Almighty will requite them; in the day of judgement he will punish them: he will send fire and worms into their flesh, and they shall burn and suffer forever.”

Now, of course, you may say that these don’t sound like exact quotes, and you’d be right; but there are thousands of allusions in the New Testament from the Old, both Deuterocanon and not, which are not exact quotes. Romans 11:34, for example, also has an allusion to Job 15:8, but ironically the allusion to Wisdom 9:13 is closer in actual wording to it than Job is. And, of course, if you want to get into loose allusions, we could expand the above list to ten times the size it is. Then there are also the cases of outright error in some New Testament quotes, such as Matthew 27:9, in which Matthew quotes “the prophet Jeremiah”, when the allusion is actually found nowhere in Jeremiah but rather in Zecheriah 11:12-13.

There is also the case of some Old Testament books not being quoted by Jesus in the New Testament: He didn’t quote from Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, or the Song of Solomon. And yet they are still considered to be canonical Scripture even though He did not reference them.

Does all this help, now that your eyes have glazed over? :slight_smile:


“…does a New Testament cition automatically mean that the cited text should be regarded as Scripture? Everyone knows that it does not. The New Testament authors quote several works that are not part of anyone’s bible,…” -Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger


Does all this help, now that your eyes have glazed over?

Actually, this detail is very helpful, it’s exactly what I needed. Many thanks for taking the time to help me.:hug1:


Yes, they were on the original canon proclaimed by Pope Damasus I in the late 4th Century. Before that, there was no canon, either Christian or Jewish.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit