What is the Orthodox Canon? (i.e. What are the books of the Orthodox Bible?)


We were discussing the canon of the Bible in another thread…


…and some implicit friction arose regarding the Roman Catholic Biblical canon vis a vis the Orthodox canon. I asked some questions therein, but I thought I would start a new thread here in case those more knowledgeable in the area of Orthodoxy miss that post.

So, mainly my questions are:

(1) Has the Orthodox canon been solidified? Or do different Orthodox groups/churches have different canons (the “Oriental” Orthodox, like the Ethiopians and Armenians, not withstanding)?

(2) What are the books of the Orthodox canon(s)?

(3) How do Orthodox know what the canon is? Do they appeal to a pre-schism council? A post-schism council? Something else?

I look forward to any comments or help others can offer!

I am interested in this myself. I would like to know more about why the Greek and Russian Churches have a different canon. According to the notes in my RSV, these Churches do have a different canon.

Regarding the difference between the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox canons, I do know that one (perhaps the only?) difference is the inclusion of 2 Esdras (AKA 4 Ezra) in the latter (though, in the Old Slavonic Bible, I think it is called 3rd Esdra?). The difference is probably due to the fact that this book was never part of the Septuagint, but it has been well respected by prominent members of the Church throughout the centuries.

But, aside from precise lists, what I really want is the methodology for deciding the canon. In other words, I hope others don’t just get on Wikipedia and reproduce the Greek and Slavonic canons here. Rather, I am wondering what (if any) councils the Orthodox look to in determining their canon, and if those councils pre-date or post-date the Great Schism.

Perhaps someone can recommend a book (or website) on the subject of the Orthodox canon?

There is a list of OT books by church in the Wikipedia article Development of the Christian Biblical canon.

I am also aware that the EO include Psalm 151 in Psalms. I am not sure about other differences within the individual books.



I am amazed that there was dogmatic pronouncement on the canon only after the 16th century. That there could be unanimity on that for over a thousand years is amazing. Dogmas seem quite unnecessary.

I found this information here. It lists the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant canons.

Psalm 151 epitomizes the Orthodox approach to the canon: all the Orthodox Bibles include it, including its subtitle: This Psalm is ascribed to David and is outside the number [of Psalms].


This is the best page you’ll find on it. The Assyrian Canon is the Syrian one including the Letter of Baruch in Baruch, but with a smaller New Testament (lacking 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation; though most Bibles are printed with these in now).

The lists don’t really tell the full story, I think. I’ve read a few Orthodox writings which suggest that some Orthodox consider the deuterocannonical books at a different level than the Hebrew books. I haven’t really seen any official Orthodox teaching on this, and I suspect they are likely to contradict one another.

I’m just glad I’m Catholic… can’t quite imagine having to grapple with questions like: “what degree of scripture is this book?” when reading the Bible.

Well, we all (Catholics and Orthodox) have traditionally used the Septuagint. It was primarily taken as it was received. Some of those books were not popular reading in the early church and sets of the Septuagint could be produced without the less popular books to save on expenses. That may account for the discrepency between east and west on this point.

Orthodox don’t obsess over it, we use Catholic Bibles as well as Orthodox ones, we don’t freak out because some books are missing from the Catholic Bible. :wink:

I heard from a Jewish lecturer that the Septuagint had 15 apocryphal books in it’s collection. We might call them deuterocanonical (or maybe not), but I have yet to see a complete list of all 15 and I don’t know how they arrived at that. (I wonder if he was counting each of the three deutero-canonical fragments of Daniel as separate books? In any case, I don’t think I have ever seen fifteen, I’d like to see the list.)

This is all Old Covenant stuff anyway, it was never as controversial or as critical as the process of determining the New Testament canon, because the New Testament was indeed new, and that was why congregations didn’t know what to trust for public reading.


Psalm 151 epitomizes the Orthodox approach to the canon: all the Orthodox Bibles include it, including its subtitle: This Psalm is ascribed to David and is outside the number [of Psalms].**

Keep in mind that while Ps 151 is in the Orthodox Canon, and is included in the Orthodox liturgical Psalter, it is not read liturgically.

Btw you are the ones to invent the term “Deuterocanonical” secondary canon and it was the translator of your official text, St. Jerome of the Vulgate, who first raised the question.

We don’t grapple with the question.

Anyone know what canon or canons the Eastern Catholic Churches use ?

I wonder.

I don’t think it has ever been addressed specifically. In the first place they would automatically use whatever the local Conference of Catholic bishops has decided upon, so I guess that means the NAB in the USA :shrug:

On the other hand, when the Russian Catholics asked what changes they should make now that they were in communion with Rome, they were informed by Pope Pius…verbally…“nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter” which means to add nothing and take nothing away, change nothing.

Even before that, the Secretariat of State for Pope Pius gave this instruction to the Administrator Rome appointed for that body (when it was excised from the Melkite Patriarchate):
“Therefore His Holiness commands the aforementioned priest Zerchaninov to observe the laws of the Greek-Slavonic Rite faithfully and in all their integrity, without any admixture from the Latin Rite or any other Rite; he must also see that his subjects, clergy and all other Catholics, do the same.”

These people were accepted both from the Synodal church and the Old Ritualists and both traditions (officially) were left intact. Even their calendar was taken entirely with all of it’s Orthodox saints. What does that mean with regard to the Russian canon of scripture?

I don’t know.


Hi all, hi hesychios,

First of all I have a list of ALL apokryphal books of the old testament on this website.

Secondly the list of all apocryphal/deuterocanonical books of the Septuagint:

Additions to Esther
The Wisdom of Solomon
The Letter of Jeremiah
Additions to Daniel:

(Azariah and the three Jews
Bel and the Dragon)
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
1 Esdras (=3 Ezra)
The Prayer of Manasseh
Psalm 151

3 Maccabees

**4 Maccabees (only as *appendix ***in some Russian Orthodox Bibles! [Mine for instance doesn’t have it!!)[/COLOR]

The Book of Odes (only fragmentary)
The psalms of Solomon

2 Esdras (= chs 1 and 2 = 5 Ezra; chs 3-15 = 4 Ezra (=the ezra apocalypse); chs. 15 and 16 = 6 Ezra) BUT: This book is only as an appendix in the Biblia Sacra Vulgata!!

All books marked **RED ** are deuterocanonical books in the Russian Orthodox church.

I have just counted the books that are deuterocanonical/apocryphal and out of the septuagint, they are 15 books, to Hesychios; The Additions to the book Daniel have to be counted as ONE book

Greetings form Middle Europe, Austria,

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