Turning the tide. Answering Orthodox on Bible Canon?


I feel in America where the majority of Christian’s are Protestant or Catholic the conversation is always defending why Catholics accept more books than Protestants as scripture.
However in dialogue I have come to realize we forget many times that the various Orthodox churches tend to have more books than ours! Is there a way to defend why Catholic Bibles have less books than Orthodox? For example, they many times also include 1 Esdras , 3 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151; Slavonic Bibles include 2 Esdras( called 3 Ezra in their Bibles) and also 4 Maccabees is in an appendix to the Greek Bible. In defense the Catholic Church is aware of many of these texts. 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh was traditionally in the Latin Vulgate and although not received into the Canon of Scriptures was put into an appendix of the Vulgate by Pope Clement Vlll in 1598 because although the Council of Trent did not affirm these texts as Canon, they nonetheless should continue to be read " lest they perish entirely( why traditional Protestant apocrypha includes these three texts as prior to Trent Prayer of Manasseh followed 2 Chronicles and 3 and 4 Esdras followed 1 and 2 Esdras( Ezra-Nehemiah). Also Psalm 151 was in some manuscripts of the Vulgate. 1 and 2 Esdras however are called 3 and 4 Esdras in the Vulgate appendix as Ezra and Nehemiah are called 1 and 2 Esdras in the Vulgate.
From what I’ve had in dialogue Orthodox don’t make much of this because their view of scripture is different and more if the traditional view Catholics had prior to the reformation when all of a sudden the Church had to defend the Canon with the advent of sola scriptura and that Orthodox tend to include all of the books of the Septuagint as worthy to be read.
The fact is this. Protestants have 66 books. Catholics have 73. Most Orthodox have 76 however it depends on the patriarchy. The largest Canon of any church is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which has 81 books including the books of 1 Enoch( very popular book in early Christianity and also quoted in Jude), and Jubilees.
I just realize Catholics are always defending our additional books but never why we have less than other traditions. Is this because Orthodox don’t have a need to justify the canon like Protestants do?
Entire books have been written on the biblical canon formation and it is fascinating. I just thought this would be interesting from a perspective not only of Catholics and Orthodox but also Protestants, as I feel many are unaware that Orthodox do have more books in their Bibles than even Catholics. We share all of the same additional books but Orthodox accept even more mainly from the Septuagint tradition.

The Canons of the Bible

I’ll watch this thread, I’m interested in this topic.


I read non-canonic Scriptures as well. There is one by Pope Clement that is very good, btw: a letter to the corinthians. These others mentioned by the OP and used by the “orthodoxes” are all interesting to read, but not to be taken as inspired.

The Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church during the many centuries of it’s existence. By His grace, men of great knowledge and full of the Holy Spirit were able to tell which texts are inspired. The Council of Trent only formally recognized what has been known by the Church since it’s first centuries.


Yes historically the Orthodox have accepted these additional books for their liturgy. However the books are not used to base a specific doctrine that contradicts Catholicism. In contrast Protestants threw away books in order to support doctrine, for example belief in Purgatory.


Yes. Like I said I am just curious because it seems like the conversation is always why Catholic Bibles have more than Protestant Bibles when in fact we are really in the middle of overall Christianity when it comes to books in the Bible.


Yes that is in the Apostolic Fathers collection. Very highly regarded by the church. Many were cited as scripture by some early church fathers.


I dont think to be the case. I think for the Orthodox to justify their canon is self defeating because as you said they have differences themselves in their canons. How would they defend a 76 book canon when others have 81 and sound unified on this issue?

I would say to start with - which Orthodox canon is the correct one? When you find the answer to this to be obscure because of authoritative divisions then you can move forward in that direction.


Well in defense the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is not part of the Eastern Orthodox communion. They are actually a branch of Oriental Orthodoxy.


I would say the only books completely foreign to the Catholic Church are 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151.
1 and 2 Esdras( or 3 and 4 in the Vulgate) and the Prayer of Manasseh were in the vulgate and are in an appendix to the Clementine Vulgate and are used( though barely) in liturgy.


“Completely foreign”? Maybe to “many Catholics” but i wouldn’t say “to the Catholic Church”. That is two totally different things.



What I mean is not that the church wasn’t aware of these writings but that they were never regarded as anything in the Church but pseudographia. Whereas the others listed have had a history in the Vulgate and Catholic history.

With that said 3 Maccabees and Psalm 151 were at sometimes in history appended to the Latin Vulgate. Also the letter to the Laodiceans. However they were not put in an official appendix to the Vulgate following the Council of Trent thus why I call them foreign.


It is noteworthy that Psalm 151 was also discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.


That is an interesting assessment. And I never thought of it that way. Yes having 2 Esdras is the Slavonic Bible would make Uriel a recognized scriptural archangel, however it doesn’t go against any teaching. All of these additional texts were used by eastern churches even prior to the schism of 1054. The only one I thought may have something was 3 Maccabees but it doesn’t. The basis is more of an historic novella, it reminds me somewhat of Judith where it has some historical elements but the historicity is not the goal of the author. 4 Maccabees is actually a stoic philosophical text on reason that emphasizes on the martyrs in 2 Maccabees.
So yes you are correct it doesn’t contradict anything in the Catholic Church.


Yes and Psalm 151, because it contains biographical details about King David, supports that the Psalmist is King David, which doesn’t contradict Catholic tradition.


I had an Orthodox study Bible which explained that the OC does not consider the books of the B to be canonized in the sense that the RCC does. They accept the Septuagint on the basis of tradition, not a dogmatic declaration by any pope or council.

I threw it out, because it was not an total English translation from the LXX, it was the KJV with additions as appropriate to reflect the LXX. I realized that this book was not what I wanted on my shelf.

I think the 73 of the RCC were decided by a variety of church councils. I’ve read Ps 151 in that OC Bible, and I was not impressed with it, with all due respects.


The point is just that really though.
The RCC didn’t canonize the books until the Council of Trent when it was an absolute necessity in the counter reformation. The Catholic Church used to have the same view as Orthodox do on it.


Go for it! The more dialogue and engagement we have with the Orthodox, the better.


See that’s what I mean.
I personally think we have better chances of reconciliation with the Orthodox than we do with Protestants. Actually the Orthodox are still a valid apostolic church who also go back to Christ. We are separated by schism. But many of our beliefs are exactly the same.
I don’t think the biblical canon would mean much in reconciliation. I’m sure Rome would allow them to continue using the books they always have which aren’t in Catholic Bibles. As a matter of a fact I believe many eastern Catholics use Bibles with these extra books. I believe the Council of Trent was only completely binding on the Latin rite and only defined what WAS scripture but never said it wasn’t possible other books were not scripture.


Absolutely! The second Vatican council suggested that the Orthodox have valid sacraments bc they have a valid priesthood. They are to be venerated as the eastern “lung” of the Church. They are so close to us Catholics, it amazes me. Keep at it!


The Catholic Church has no interest in “refuting” the various Orthodox canons. It’s largely a non-issue.

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