The Orthodox Old Testament


It is known that the Catholic Old Testament has 46 books in it, compared to the 39 in the Protestant Bible. I first learned in high school that the Orthodox Old Testament also has a different number of books in it, 53 specifically. What are the additional books? How did they end up in Orthodox Scripture? What is the Catholic take on them?


Well it depends. The Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t have an official Biblical Canon. Most Eastern Orthodox Old Testaments have all the books that Catholic Old Testaments do and they may even have 3 and 4 Maccabees in there as well. They may even have more. Some Eastern Orthodox have 151 Psalms in their Old Testament. As said, there is no agreement on this issue in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most of all Eastern Orthodox share the same New Testament though and agree with other Christians about the New Testament. But, there are actually some who don’t accept the Book of Revelation and I believe in some places you can find Eastern Orthodox Bibles without the Book of Revelation.

As for the Oriental Orthodox Church it gets even crazier. They’re probably more split up on the issue than the Eastern Orthodox. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for example, you can find that their Bibles have 81 books! Both additions in the Old and New Testament! Ethiopians even include books like Enoch in their Old Testament.

As to why this happened? Well, different traditions in the eastern and western Churches throughout the centuries. It’s just what happened.


Perhaps it would be fair to say the ****total ****canon is not officially defined, for Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole. But I think there was and is a core canon, for all, that is the main house of Scripture. Mathew, Mark and Luke, and other books. For all intents and purposes, they are official. Then there are optional rooms added on to fit the needs of individual churches within EO. Even here there is a very limited range, i. e, 3 and 4 Maccabees are admissible, books that are theologically very divergent from the “core” scriptures are not.

Or perhaps the term “official” has a somewhat different meaning.


Well i actually read about this and the answer is fairly simple but forgive me if screw it up a little bit, it was a while ago and I don’t remember everything.

So basically from my understanding is that during the years before the official canon was set (around 397AD) everyone was using many different writings. When they set the official canon some churches did not want to give up the writings they were using and kept them against the rulings of the Catholic Church.

There is also the issue that some of the extra books are actually the exact same as in the Catholic Bible just what is one book in my Bible they split into two in theirs.

The Catholic Church has the only full and complete absolute Bible from which nothing can be added nor taken away. It was Divinely inspired during the councils at the end of the 4th century and no one ever truly questioned its authenticity until the Protestants in the 16th century.

So you have a choice, actually three, the Bible set down by the Church which has been there from the beginning, the Bible which was brought about because a very few did not accept the ruling of the Catholic Church or the Protestant OT inspired by the Jewish leaders who have no authority over the New Covenant, God’s Church and in several instances threw out books simply because they could only find them written in Greek, the main and official language at the time (which from my understanding the Dead Sea scrolls have all the Old Testament books in the original Hebrew so why the OT for the Jews hasn’t changed is another really good question).


I think you need to give the Orthodox a higher position in this and say their collection of OT books has been there from the beginning too. The books the East and West used as scripture just differed. The Catholic Canon pretty much was set when Jerome translated the Bible into Latin which would be used by the Western Church, but the East continued to use the Greek versions.


This question arises regularly in these forums and I agree it’s important. But, this was settled so long ago, why does it keep coming back?

Yes, if I whine and say what difference does it make, yeah, it made a difference to Luther and to subsequent Protestants, to fit their preconceived biases.


I wish people wouldn’t make such claims as though they speak with authority on the issue. Revelation is in the New Testament of every Eastern Orthodox Church, but it is not read in the liturgy.


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