Turning the tide. Answering Orthodox on Bible Canon?


Yah. I have often wondered why the Catholic Church accepts the first two books of Maccabees but the third and fourth not. It is interesting mainly because they are all present in the Septuagint. I often wonder what distinguishes a book as scripture like Judith yet not 3 Maccabees. I am not questioning the church in any way, I am just saying the bibles canon history is so complex people really have no idea. I have met many Catholics who have no idea there are different canons of scripture between different traditions. Sadly I’ve met many who only own Protestant Bibles and have no idea… I usually recommend the NRSV w deuterocanonical books as a common Bible that people can get even more writings for their money and also have a bible that has books accepted by Protestant, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox. The first step to reuniting is to understand the traditions of all. Not by saying we are wrong but that we can find some common ground.


The Catholic canon is the same as that of Nicea and Trent. The Orthodox wadn’t as legalistic as Rome and continued using some of the older books. They may consider certain books inspired but not canonical.


Has the Catholic Church ever stated anything negatively about any of the Orthodox canons?



I don’t think so. The Orthodox accept all of the deuterocanonical books which the Catholic Church does. The Greek version of Ezra which is really a rendering of Ezra and Nehemiah besides a unique story in chapters 3 and 4 and is known as Esdras A in Greek Bibles whereas Ezra and Nehemiah are 1 combined book known as Esdras B. It is called 1 Esdras in most modern bibles.This book is in the traditional Vulgate as 3 Esdras and was moved to an appendix following the Council of Trent. 2 Esdras is in Slavonic Bibles as 3 Ezra. It has had very large inspiration in liturgy in the Catholic Church. The antiphons of the requiem mass are taken from it. It was put in an appendix to the Latin Vulgate following the Council of Trent as well as 4 Esdras. Prior these two books followed 1 and 2 Esdras in the Vulgate( which are Ezra and Nehemiah in modern Bibles). The Prayer of Manasses( Prayer of Manasseh in modern bibles)followed 2 Chronicles in the Vulgate but was moved to the appendix as well following the Council of Trent. These three texts, today known as 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh are not regarded as scripture by the Catholic Church however did make their way into liturgy of the Church. These three texts were also in the original KJV apocrypha with the other deuterocanonical books, and until the 1750 Challoner revision was in an appendix to the Douay Rheims Bible. So Trent did not reaffirm every book which is what Protestants claim. Why these three texts were not affirmed is something I would be interested in knowing.
3 Maccabees and Psalm 151 were included in some manuscripts of the Vulgate throughout the centuries as an appendix but I don’t believe ever got much view as being Canon in the Church. 4 Maccabees I don’t believe is in any Canon strictly put but is an appendix to the Greek Orthodox Bible.
It is so complicated and people are many times unaware of it. Like not only are translations different but the number of and the placement of books is different in different traditions. I find it fascinating to study.


I think the Catholic Church won’t even raise a stink about it. If ever there are talks about restoration of communion and this question comes up, the Catholic theological answer to the Orthodox canon will likely be a profound “meh” accompanied by a shrug. The followup Catholic theological treatise to “meh” will be “no problem, whatever.”

They, on the other hand, will probably call us heretics…


Why do you say that they would call us that? I do understand it seems the Orthodox have more negative views of Catholics than vice versa. Let us not forget however the schism of 1054 was a long time coming and both sides were to blame. I think many Orthodox have a negative view of the Latin sac of Constantinople in 1204 unfortunately. As for the canon you are right. In fact many Eastern Catholics use the bibles of the Orthodox Church and many traditions are the same. Christ established one Church but that doesn’t mean it can’t be diverse. Things like filioque and using leavened or unleavened bread would not be deterrents either. It really comes down to papal authority. Where the Orthodox viewed the bishop of Rome as the first among equals, which is now the Patriarch of Constantinople( new Rome), the west says the Pope is infallible and more than just a first among equals. It is really ridiculous when one thinks of it logically. Why can’t we just go back to the system of the early Church? I think we need reconciliation now more than ever.


The Orthodox, quite simply, don’t like us. Not so much 1054 as 1204.

You’d think the Filioque and the leavened/unleavened bread questions would be nonissues. For us, our deep, profound theological position on those is, “meh”+shrug. And the Ukrainian Catholics happily go leavened bread and drop the Filioque. No big deal.

But for the Orthodox who would really just shove 1204 in our faces, despite our apologies (because that was a bad thing we did), they will see heresy anywhere we differ.

Yes, we need to re-establish communion, and there is nothing that prevents it. But the stumbling block is, quite frankly, the Orthodox. The Catholics would bend over backwards to harmonize theologies and see things their way. They are not willing to do the same for us.


Yah. I see your point. It is unfortunate. To be honest I think the schism of the east and west is even more depressing than the Protestant Reformation. Seeing as both sides can genuinely make a claim to going back to Christ and us recognizing the apostolic succession is still valid.


And the claim is valid on both sides, which is why the Orthodox are true churches and not mere “ecclesial communities”. This is what makes the schism even more unhappy and scandalous.


Yet the canon we have today, didn’t change from 382 and the Council of Rome

Pope Damasus I, Decree of Damasus,

From http://patristica.net/denzinger/

The Canon of Sacred Scripture *

84 “Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.

The order of the Old Testament begins here:Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Joshua Nave one book, judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books, Paralipomenon two books, Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus one book.

Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book, with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations, Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee one book, Micheas one book, Joel one book, Abdias one book, Jonas one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc one book, Sophonias one book, Aggeus one book, Zacharias one book, Malachias one book.

Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books, Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books.

Likewise the order of the writings of the New and eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church supports. Of the Gospels, according to Matthew one book, according to Mark one book, according to Luke one book, according to John one book.

The Epistles of Paul [the apostle] in number fourteen. To the Romans one, to the Corinthians two, to the Ephesians one, to the Thessalonians two, to the Galatians one, to the Philippians one, to the Colossians one, to Timothy two, to Titus one, to Philemon one, to the Hebrews one.

Likewise the Apocalypse of John, one book. And the Acts of the Apostles one book.

Likewise the canonical epistles in number seven.Of Peter the Apostle two epistles, of James the Apostle one epistle, of John the Apostle one epistle, of another John, the presbyter, two epistles, of Jude the Zealot, the Apostle one epistle, see n. 162 ff. *

The canon of the New Testament ends here.”

The total is 73 books. This canon has not changed

Note: When you see an OT book name above that reads differently from what is expected, see the translation of that name here http://www.drbo.org/
For example “Osee” = Hosea


Was this church wide or only for the Latin rite? There was no schism yet thus why would eastern churches include these extra books? Maybe it was only binding on the minimum included but isn’t saying others couldn’t be inspired.
I believe the synod of Jerusalem was reaffirming to the Canon in eastern Orthodoxy.


Interesting because this is fact. Until the Council of Trent 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh were in the Old Testament and were moved to an appendix in 1592 by Pope Clement Vlll. So the Vulgate for centuries included more books than his list even says. Thus why I don’t think the church had as much of a strictness to canonicity.


In 382, The decree of Damasus as it was called, (73 books by name ) were also validated by the later councils of Hippo and Carthage, 393, and 396 (local not ecumenical councils) and the same canon was validated in Florence Session 11 1442 and Trent , (both ecumenical councils ).

IOW the canon hadn’t been finalized before 382. IOW, there was flexibility. IOW there was no bible as we know it prior to 382 because the books determining scripture hadn’t been finalized yet.

Are you referring to the year 1662?

For clarification and distinctions, there is http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/is-the-vulgate-the-catholic-churchs-official-bible


Just An additional comment Re: the article

From the article (emphasis mine)
"Second, he clarifies that Trent’s declaration “as all know, applies only to the Latin Church.

This is important because the Latin Church is not the whole of the Catholic Church.

Non-Latin Catholic Churches

There are more than twenty other Churches—the Melkite Church, the Chaldean Church, the Maronite Church, etc.—that are also part of the Catholic Church."

But for perspective and proportion, among all the rites, not to diminish or aggrandize in any way, the point of perspective or proportion of any rite, just finishing the point,

In the world, The Latin Church is ~98% of Catholicism. https://www.catholicsandcultures.org/eastern-catholic-churches

However a particular language is not forced on anyone. And as we’ve seen, the vernacular is now the norm


The interesting thing is these apocryphal books of the Vulgate did make their way into liturgy of the Catholic Church.
This article mainly discusses the Extraordinary Form.

For the Ordinary Form, however, 4 Esdras 2:36,37 is cited as an entrance antiphon on the second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday.
4 Esdras 2: 36-37
“Receive the joy of your glory, giving thanks to God,
who has called you into the heavenly kingdom, alleluia.”
4 Esdras 2: 34,35 is cited at masses for the dead in antiphons, also All Souls Day option 2, and a common of martyrs.
Entrance Antiphon
cf 4 Esdr 2:34-35
“Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

The Prayer of Manasseh 9-10 is cited in the office of readings on the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time following the reading from 2 Samuel on David’s repentance.
Prayer of Manasseh 9-10; Ps 51:3-4
℟. My sins are more in number than the sands of the sea. My transgressions abound, and I am not worthy to look up and gaze at the height of heaven because of the number of my wrongdoings, because I have provoked your wrath.* I have done what is evil in your sight.
℣. My offences, truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned.* I have done what is evil in your sight.

This isn’t to give merit that these texts are inspired as the Church has made the decision. Just showing that these three texts do have a history in the Church and have even made their way into our liturgy. I find it interesting.


using That same link

it explains

"the presence of an occasional liturgical text from a non-canonical or “apocryphal” book really does not say anything about how the book itself was viewed; much less does it indicate that it was held on a par with the canonical books. Moreover, while it is certainly true that the vast majority of Mass propers in the Roman Rite are scriptural, the source texts of the Office have always been far more varied.

The Latin-speaking West has essentially three “apocryphal” books, which is to say, books which were often included in manuscripts of the Bible, and in early printed editions, but are not recognized by the Church as canonical. Each of these is also represented in the Roman liturgy, but just barely. There is a fourth such text which is only very rarely included in Latin Bibles, but is well-known to the Greek Church, and also found its way into the Roman Office… [snip for space]

That said,

I’m also thinking of music as part of the liturgy, could in some cases come from purely secular sources, not necessarily canonical sources. IOW, as the link pointed out, that issue doesn’t necessarily need to be held on the same par with canonical books and writings


Oh I know.
I just found it interesting is all.
But yes, just because it is not Canon doesn’t mean it can’t be in liturgy. None of the texts purports anything against the Faith.
Somehow they had made their inclusion into the Vulgate and probably were viewed as scripture by some for a while. Even though there are lists of the canon in history, and of course the deuterocanonical books do belong in the Bible, I have read that it wasn’t as huge of a deal until the Protestant reformation.
Saint Thomas Aquinas actually cited the Prayer of Manasseh quite a few times in Summa Theologica. It seems because they were in the Vulgate some may have never questioned its canonicity which really wouldn’t be completely settled once and for all until the Council of Trent. Although there were earlier Councils, it seems the Protestant reformation made a set canon much more necessary because all of a sudden doctrines were made or broken from their inclusion or exclusion. Tradition was at attack by sola scriptura believers.
So what the Vulgate did, as Pope Clement Vlll said in the preface to the Appendix:

Oratio Manassa, necnon Libri duo, qui sub libri Tertii & Quarti Esdrae nomine circumferuntur, hoc in loco, extra scilicet seriem canonicorum Librorum, quos sancta Tridentina Synodus suscepit, & pro Canonicis suscipiendos decreuit, sepositi sunt, ne prorsus interirent, quippe qui a nonnullis sanctis Patribus interdum citantur, & in aliquibus Bibliis Latinis tam manuscriptis quam impressis reperiuntur.

The Prayer of Manasseh, as well as two books, which circulate under the name of the Third and Fourth Book of Ezra, are set aside in this place—that is, outside the series of canonical books, which the holy Tridentine Synod accepted, and determined should be taken up for canonical—lest they should perish completely, since they are sometimes cited by some of the holy Fathers, and they are found in some Latin books, both
manuscript and printed.

As this note suggests, it was the decree on the biblical canon by the Council of Trent (1546) that created the situation in which it made some sense to print the Vulgate with an appendix containing non-canonical books. For it was only at Trent that the biblical canon was definitively settled. Thenceforth, editions of the Vulgate for a Roman Catholic readership would need to conform to the canon approved by Trent, and so it would no longer be appropriate to print the Prayer of Manasseh and 3–4 Ezra among the other biblical books, as the Gutenberg Bible had done, for instance. An edition of the Vulgate could completely omit any non-canonical works, as the Sistine edition had done, but the editors of the Sixto-Clementine edition were concerned that these venerable though non-canonical books might no longer be available, even though previous generations of Christian authors had sometimes referred to them.

Thus was born the Vulgate appendix.


This was only for the Latin Church because it was a local council. Just like Hippo and Carthage, they were local councils/synods of the Latin Church in North Africa.



So basically, the Church never said prior to the schism that the Orthodox could not include these extra books? I assume it’s not like they added them after the schism, as they just traditiokally always used the complete text of the Septuagint which included books such as 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151 etc.


Yes, the councils/synods in Rome, Hippo and Carthage only dealt with the Latin Church.


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