Why did Martin Luther only take out Old Testament books?


If I am correct, didn’t Martin Luther only take out Old Testament books from the Bible? If I am correct, why didn’t he take out books from the New Testament?

I seem to remember he almost took out the NT book of James…



It isn’t strictly true that Luther took out any books. His Bible contained all the books the Catholic Bible does. He did relegate the dueterocanonical books but did include them as apocryphal. He did express doubt about several New Testament books.

As to why he didn’t more firmly relegate New Testament books who knows. I think this would be pure speculation. Another way to look at it is by what authority did Luther or anyone else have authority to determine the canon, or value or importance of any book.


Well said. The Church Catholic has the authority to determine the Canon. There are various reasons that will probably be posted about the Canon was not agreed upon completely by every catholic scholar at the time.

The point is that Catholics believe the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth and is guided by the Holy Spirit unto all truth including the Canon of the scripture.

Luther called James an “epistle of straw.”

Most non Catholics are Sola Scriptura but how they decided to determine their canon always puzzles me because the Scriptures did not come with a table of contents and scriptures can be twisted to fit any doctrine.



He took no books out of his “Luther Bibel” of 1545. He is incorrectly accused of this. Rather, he segregated them to the back of his bible (that bears his name, as did his Church). Having said that, he did what is worse: declared them as not being inspired by God. Thus, the mildly pejorative term “apocrypha” has since been applied to the seven Deuterocanonical books of scripture. And, rather than retain the Old Testament of the Catholic Church, in his rebellion, Luther consulted with the Hebrew authorities to determine which books they accepted, and he adopted their “Old Testament.” The only problem with that is that the Hebrews rejected Christ as well as the Old Testament books that most closely pointed to him.

As to the New Testament, Luther hated the Epistle of James, as it clearly and directly opposed his idea of faith alone (James 2:24). He called it “an epistle of straw” and said “I will have it in my fireplace.” It is believed that his close associate Philipp Melanchthon convinced him to leave James (and supposedly Hebrews, 2 Peter and a few others) in the Luther Bibel. Note that 2 Peter 3:16 directly opposes Luther’s personal doctrine of private interpretation of scripture.

The earliest King James Bibles also have the “Catholic” books in them, but Luther, having opened the door, lead to their eventual removal from Protestant bibles, supposedly to save printing costs. There was never a council (which is impossible in Protestantism) that made any such declaration or proclamation - only individual reformers did. The Protestant 66 book collection is therefore essentially the canon of a single man.


There were 2 well defined OT canons a person might choose from (if a man felt himself empowered to ****choose ****canons at all!). So it was simpler for Luther to back the shorter OT canon, a canon that had some historic support anyway, rather than the longer OT canon used by Rome.

Re the NT canon, there was no single obvious alternative. Luther expressed doubts about certain books, but it would be much harder to build a consensus around any specific alternative. In fact, once Luther would have dropped a few NT books over here, some other Protestant would have dropped a few other NT books, and a third more daring Protestant would have added a few new NT books that supported his particular Reformation agenda.

Pretty soon there would have been multiple NT Protestant canons. I suspect Luther’s theological advisors pointed it out to him, that he should stick with modifying the OT but retain the Catholic NT canon. The problem for Protestants is that, especially in recent years, Catholics have been challenging more and more, “Where did that NT canon come from?” So recent Protestant apologists devote more time to the NT canon, to show how that particular collection of books was, under God’s guidance, more or less inevitable, not the product of the Church hierarchy.

I think this logical process is faulty, as based on after the fact reasoning. For instance, the argument is that Luke or Colossians are true scripture because their theology is consistent with what we know to be Christian doctrine. But if you believe sola scriptura, then our doctrines are communicated only through scripture, so there is a circular reasoning.

Lutherans and others use “Tradition” and the ECF’s as a back up guidance to sola scriptura, which helps identify Mathew as true scripture, and Gospel of Mary as not; thus no need for a magisterium. But ****someone ****had to pick out 1% of traditions as the reliable Sacred Tradition, and **someone **had to designate **this **list of scholars as ECF’s and ****that ****list of early Christian scholars as heretics.

One can argue that Luther was directly guided by the Spirit (thus not needing a Magisterium) in deeming certain OT books as non scriptural. But then the Mormons could say Joseph Smith was directly guided by the Spirit, or some other formulation, in deigning certain books to be added. Muhammed could claim that same direct guidance.

I can’t see any alternative to the role of the Magisterium in deciding the biblical canon for Christians.


a rather related question.

how come the catholic and orthodox have different canons then? which one is correct?


The canon recognized by the Bishops of Rome ultimately in the Council of Trent.


This is what I have gathered from asking similar questions. I don’t know that the Septuagint was consistent from region to region. Therefore the Old Testament in Orthodox and Catholic bibles is different.

The Canon that Catholics use can be seen in the Councils of Hippo, Carthage, Rome and Trent. And when the Bible was translated into Latin, the same books we use today were included. The Orthodox never used the Vulgate as their scriptures remained in Greek and was based on a different version of the Septuagint used in their region. I don’t think they ever established a Canon per se.


One could argue that, to which one ought to ask where the attesting miracles were. In the case of Luther and others of his time there were none.


Depends on what is meant by “canon” and what is canonical…:wink:


In addition to this, there is the fact that Greek Orthodox Churches (especially) have a more fluid (less formal or legalistic) notion of how the idea of a “canonical book” should be applied. For example, in the Greek Orthodox Liturgy, they have NEVER read from the Book of Revelation. And, because of this, many modern Greeks will claim that Revelation is “not canonical.” …because they do not read from it in their Greek Liturgy. Now, the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church does read from Revelation in their, Russian Liturgy is beside the point. So, for the Eastern Orthodox, “canonical” does not really refer to a univesally-agreed upon canon, but to the common regional practice of specific Churches. Uunfortunately, this has led some modern Greek and Antiochian Orthodox to claim that the Book of Revelation is “not inspired” and/or “not binding” on them, which is a modernist revision (a heretical novelty), which no ancient Greek or Antiochian would ever claim. For, what their forefathers would say is that Revelation (or another book like it) is still Divinely inspired, but just not canonical (i.e., not approved for reading at their Liturgy). And, for those Easterners who did recognze the binding authority of the Cathaginian canon, they would of course say that Revelation is universally binding (i.e., canonical in a universal sense), but simply not part of their local Liturgical canon.


A trick question! (perhaps)

This (amazon.com/Orthodox-Study-Bible-Hardcover-Christianity/dp/0718003594/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493657510&sr=8-1&keywords=orthodox+study+bible) Orthodox Study Bible (which I don’t recommend) says that there is NO “canon” in the sense of the canonical books of the Roman Catholic Church. It says that the Greeks used the Septuagint as it came to them and that’s all that needs to be said. (I haven’t seen it, but I would suggest the Oxford U. Press edition of the Septuagint, just on the pedigree of the publishing house).

Some say that the Catholic NT is partially based on the Septuagint. To me, that’s a tricky statement as well – The Catholic NT uses a lot of clearly recognizable Septuagint, but you have to remember that not all the Septuagint disagrees with the Masoretic text or its precursors that would eventually become the Masoretic text of the OT. So, to me, again, there is no evidence that the Catholic NT uses anything but the Septuagint.

Luther’s standard for the OT was that he was only confident in texts that were attested to in a Hebrew original (such is what I have heard or read). On that basis, the Protestant Bibles should be updated with the Hebrew texts that were found at Qumran. Those other Hebrew texts were found at Qumran some 450 years later.

The best statement of the matter, to me, is found in The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford U Press), an essay in the back on the Dead Sea Scrolls. that essay proclaims that ALL three traditions of scripture were found at Qumran: 1) the pre-masoretic Hebrew text, 2) the precursor of or the actual Septuagint text, and 3) the Samaritan Torah.

The oldest existing Masoretic text, which nobody doubts contains considerable editing and annotation, comes from about the 9 century AD. As someone already pointed out, the Jewish scholars like R. Akiva, wanted to pull the rug out from under Christians who were appealing their beliefs to Hebrew scriptures.

I think it’s especially significant that it was ancient Jewish scholars who produced the Septuagint, which says A LOT about what the Jews considered to be inspired texts, worthy for reading by the non-Hebrew-speaking Jews outside of Palestine.

And, of course, since there was no dictionary of Hebrew to help us understand the original Hebrew scriptures, the Septuagint becomes a valuable resource for translating and understanding the Hebrew scriptures.


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