Why does the Catholic and Orthodox churches have two different canons and who changed?

If the Early Church before the split of east and west comprised the canon, then how is it that the Catholic church and Orthodox church have different canons? Which set was authentically discrened by the Spirit?

The canon wasn’t closed at any point, except by the Catholic Church at Trent. Most differences in the canon are organizational and not involved in content, but the “extra” bits the Orthodox churches have can be attributed to Nicaea defining a “minimum” for the canon but not closing it. Hence some Oriental Orthodox churches have many more books while the Catholic Church stuck with the “minimum.” So all the canons save for the protestant can be argued as guided by the Spirit (from the apostolic/catholic point of view).


This is good information. Do you have something that points to Nicea declaring a minimum cannon. I admit I was not aware of this.

I believe it was the Council of Carthage which gave a minimal canon (which was accepted at Nicea). However it has been a while since I put any thought to the subject, and its late at night, so my memory might not be as trustworthy as otherwise.

It seems on my first post I came to folly! I apologize, as Nicaea didn’t declare anything involving the canon of Scripture, save for the accepting of Judith. Nine_Two is correct in that the Council of Carthage 397 defined such a “minimum” canon, affirming the choice of the Synod of Hippo 393 before it (newadvent.org/cathen/01199a.htm). But even so, the Council of Trent closed the Catholic canon while the Orthodox canons never have been “closed” to my knowledge. Anyone of greater knowledge may of course correct and/or repudiate me.

Is this to imply that had the Catholic church closed the cannon at Hippo, the Catholic & Orthodox bibles would look the same today? How does “closing the cannon” by one authority keep it closed by a dissenting authority? I don’t understand.

The East was a dissenting authority in the year 400? Remember, at the time that this canon from Carthage, which would later become the canon used by the Roman Catholic Church, was promulgated, the East would have been using canons recommended by local figures, like Basil in Cappadocia or Athanasius in Egypt.

What you are referring to here is a difference in the Old Testament. This is nothing like the concern over the New Testament, which, being all new material had to be sorted out.

The early Christians used whatever the local Jewish congregations/synagogs were using, because the early Christians were for the most part Jews and God Fearing Gentiles.

In most places outside Palestine (and some within Palestine) the Jews knew and spoke Greek, and therefore they usually had a set of the Jewish Bible (Torah, Prophets, and Writings) in Geek. This was a library of manuscripts we call the Septuagint.

Being a library, every ‘book’ was under it’s own cover. Some were not used very much and others were referred to constantly. It is possible, even likely, that some of the minor books did not circulate as widely, or when old were not as readily replaced.

Also new synagogs might not start out with a complete set, adding to the collection when they are able. Often they would keep a set in Hebrew and the one in Greek which likely would get heavy use.

This is what we inherited. It has nothing to do with the great series of crises the early church was going through when trying to establish an acceptable canon. The Jewish Bible was a given, no one worried about it (it varied only slightly from place to place and that only in minor books). The Fathers were concerned with such questions as whether the Shepard of Hermes should be included as scriptural reading in worship: why or why not.

The fact that one local particular church did and another church did not use a certain ‘new testament’ book was not serious unless some teaching error was supported by it. Then the church fathers would have an opinion on whether the use of a ‘new’ testament book should be excluded. Sometimes their reasoning was rather arbitrary. The Old Testament/Tanakh by contrast was not a big concern.

We really should not get too fixated on this as an issue.


Is it your opinion then that the Septuagint is part of the deposit of Faith?

I know the post isn’t addressed to me but…
I would say that yes it is:


IIRC St. Augustine wanted to kill (not literally) St. Jerome because he favoured the Hebrew texts instead of the LXX when Jerome was making the Vulgate.

So then,

You would say that the Septuagint is part of the deposit of Faith based on this.

So then, a few key things we can take away from Saint Justin’s account are that:

(1) The Septuagint’s translation was guided by the Holy Spirit and is of divine origin as a translation;
(2) The story of its origins is completely true, as verified by Justin himself just a few hundred years after it occurred
(3) The Septuagint was translated for the sake of Christians, so that the way would be paved for its doctrines;


The Old Testament certainly would be. Jesus read from it, studied it diligently, mastered it and preached from it. To think otherwise would be heresy by the way, that line of thinking was promoted by a man named Marcion who rejected the Old Testament scriptures and the God of the Old Testament.

There is no doubt that the early Christians used Old Testament scriptures in several languages, Jesus probably used both the Hebrew and the Greek. The Septuagint was the standard Greek version and was disseminated widely around the Mediterranean. However, there were copyist errors, unavoidable and innocent of malice, but most of the errors probably came after Christ. It is our duty to recognize that errors happen, and with diligent study of all known copies it should be possible to recognize many of these errors and restore the verses to what Jesus would recognize.

In any case, the Greek Septuagint form of the Old Testament has been adopted as the standard for most Orthodox. Yet, most Orthodox cannot read koine Greek and have to rely on translations anyway.

There are other valid early forms of the Old Testament too, it was known in Aramaic and possibly also Coptic and Persian from very early dates. The Aramaic is (I think) called the Peshita. Insofar as that goes, these are part of the deposit of faith because the Tanakh/Old Testament is part of the deposit of faith.

I don’t take the position that any of these are more legitimate or more ordained by God than any other. What I object to is some publisher or translator deliberately altering the text to make their own beliefs more acceptable. Heretics have done this in the past, even with our well known Gospels. It was a great challenge for the early fathers to root out the bad versions with deliberately altered texts, since they could spread as readily between parishes as the best copies.

The entire premise is flawed. It isn’t Catholic / Orthodox variance, it’s regional variance.

The Latin Romans developed one Canon.

The Greek Churches developed another.

The Syriac Churches another, called the “Peshitto”

The Copts another.

The Ethiopians the largest.

The Catholic Eastern Churches recognize the same Bible as their Orthodox/Assyrian counterparts as Canonical. So there is variance within the Catholic Communion of Churches.

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