Did Martin Luther Remove Books from the Bible? A Pastor’s Answer

Why Does the Catholic Bible have more Books in it?

I love answering questions about the Christian faith online, in person, and by email. The issues involved are usually common for people so I share my answers here. Today’s question:

Answers to Common Pastor Questions

Why does the Protestant Bible have fewer books than the Catholic Bible? Did Martin Luther take out books he to suit his theology?

The short answer:

Martin Luther did not remove any books from the Bible. This claim is inaccurate and misleading. The books in question were separated from the Bible as a result of the Reformation. That is true. But they had been subject of intense debate from the time of Jesus. They were not considered Scripture by the Jewish people. Much of the early church did not include them either. The man most responsible for the confusion over the books did not consider them Scripture. They were not even part of the Catholic canon until 1547. So though Luther did begin the process by which the commonly accepted Protestant Bible came about, it’s foundation was laid 1500 year earlier.

The Protest against Rome

To understand this issue, you have to start with the Protestant Reformation. Really comprehending the causes of this world shaking revolution should clear up questions about these additional books. It may also challenge you to examine the things you accept as “normal religion” in your life.

The Reformation started in 1517 as an attempt to fix problems with the Roman Catholic Church of that time period. These were not just objections to the practices you heard about in History 101. Indulgences – selling salvation – was bad enough. There was so much more going on. The Catholic Church from 800 AD until the Reformation was nothing like even today’s version. It was not so much a church but rather a religious absolute monarchy. It was an imitation of the secular political structure of the time. The Church alone dictated to the “regular” people how to worship God, how to live, how to work, and even who they belonged to. It required people to work in almost slavery on Papal lands and constantly pay for their salvation. It even directed wars against other Christians and non-believers. The Pope was the unquestioned King of this worldly kingdom. He grabbed massive amounts of land and wealth in the process. Every aspect of life ran through and for the benefit of the “princes” of the church. Nothing was allowed to diminish or question their authority – enforced with the pain of death at the stake.

Freedom to Rest – Galatians 3

The allure of such immense power and wealth was obviously tempting. Wealthy families of the times purchased jobs in the church for their children who then handed out more positions to their relatives. The family of the Pope at the time of Luther bought him the position of a bishop at 7 years old and cardinal at 13, for example. They bribed enough people for him to eventually become Pope. This supposed man of God then encouraged a war in order to give his brother more wealth and power. He also made his cousins, nephews, and other relations bishops and cardinals.

As you can imagine, this had an affect on the doctrines and practices of the church. When priests were amassing too much wealth and were passing it on to their children and out of the control of the church, for example, the Vatican decided priests could not be married. Was there a Biblical mandate for this decision? No, but the churchmen needed to preserve their wealth so they did it anyway. This does not mean there were not good men and women in the church during these years. But the leadership of so many of these evil men over a long period of time had an impact. Their practices were all over the church by the 1500’s. They were accepted as normal.

Then Luther and the other Reformers came along. They were not the only ones to see these great issues. They were simply the first ones who were able to do anything about it. Jan Hus made the same objections as Luther about 100 years prior. The church killed him to silence his dissent. The Reformers sought to go back to the actual foundation of the faith – the Bible – rather than the accepted practices. They questioned whether the decrees from the palaces of Rome were true and demanded evidence proving it. This process of examination led to the Reformation. The church across the world chose to stop following men and seek God alone. Salvation by grace was brought back to the forefront. The church universal for the first time in many years objected to killing people in the name of God. The Bible was shared freely in every language rather than hoarded and concealed. Questioning in order to get closer to Jesus was encouraged. The idea that one regular person is worthy to go to Jesus that you accept so freely now was revolutionary for the time.

Is Your Gospel Worth Dying for?

The church as a body of believers was reborn! What a wonderful thing!

The reformers weren’t done . They examined everything from this new God focused perspective. It was no longer what those in Rome proclaimed from their golden thrones. Instead, they asked simple questions about everything to make sure it was from God and not some guy who bribed his way to power:

What does the Bible say? What does history tell us? Why are we doing this act we claim is on behalf of God? Would Jesus ever do this? What about the early church? Is this true?

We all owe a great debt to the men and women of the Reformation.

If you have a Bible in your home in your language and the confidence to read it, this is fruit of the Reformation. If you believe Jesus loves you directly, this is from the Reformation. If you think you are worthy to take communion, bread and wine, this is from Luther and friends.

You are Enough in Jesus

It took brave Christians staring down the most powerful men of their age to bring all this back to the common man. They got back to the roots of the church.

The Reformers also applied this same scrutiny to the Bible. This questioning led to where we are today – the difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bible which we call the Apocrypha.

What if I am Having Doubts? A Pastor’s Answer

What are the Apocrypha?

The Apocrypha are the 7 additional books of the Catholic Bible – Tobit, Judith, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (or Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach), and Baruch. They were written during the time period after the Old Testament but before the New Testament. The Protestant church generally views them as deserving of respect and containing some historical truth but not inspired – meaning without error and God breathed. You are free to read them and learn from their historical aspects. They just do not meet the standard to be included in the Bible.

The Apocrypha are old. They are also likely real in that they are the same books as they had back then. They were well known by the Jews during the period. They were also known to contain some accurate history about the time between the Testaments. So they are very old books that contain history of the Jewish people read at the time, so that is good. But the writings of Josephus are also old, real, and about the Jews. So are any number of ancient Jewish documents. That does not make them Scripture. This is the big issue involved.

It is worth noting that the New Testament canon has been agreed upon almost universally since the 2nd Century. The doctrines and words of Jesus have been agreed on for 2,000 years.

So what happened with these other books?

Why are the Apocrypha Not in the Protestant Bible?

The Reformers studied how we got the Bible and how it was compiled. They were truth seekers, which is a good thing. They found concerning things about the Apocrypha.

It started with the fact the Jewish people themselves did not consider the Apocrypha to be part of the Old Testament Bible. The keepers of the Law who lived in Israel at the time of Jesus did not keep them with the rest of the Bible. They also did not refer to them as Bible. So the Hebrew Old Testament read by the Jewish people did not include the Apocrypha. The Jewish people were aware of the books and read them. They just treated them as history and not inspired Scripture. This position never seems to have changed. This should be enough alone to give us pause as they are Old Testament books.

Are you beginning to see how far back this question goes?

It continued with the fact that Jesus, the Apostles, and the writers of the New Testament never once quote the Apocrypha. Not once among the many references made by Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the like did any of them say “As Scripture says in…” and cite Tobit or Maccabees. These men quote the Bible in every speech they make. Jesus quotes as far back as Genesis and relies on Deuteronomy to fight off Satan’s temptation. They also quote non-Christian sources and lost books on a number of occasions. They had the Apocrypha, clearly, yet they did not cite to it once. It is a glaring and I believe damning omission.

The early church also had problems with these books from the start. Many early Christians were against the Apocrypha. The Church council of Laodicea in 363 AD considered the Apocrypha, for example. They not only rejected these books as Scripture but also forbade reading these books by the church. Early church leaders like Origen, Melito, Cyril, and Athanasius joined in and all wrote against the Apocrypha. They made the same arguments as those above. The basic conclusion of these folks was the books were useful for some things but were not Holy Scripture.

If you stop here – about 400 years after Jesus – you again understand why their are significant issues about these books.

Then a simple decision by one guy named Jerome entered the narrative and caused all sorts of confusion that persists to this day.

The Vulgate

Jerome was a church leader in the late 300’s. He was commissioned by the Bishop of Rome to create the Latin Vulgate. This was the “official” translation into Latin of whole Bible. Jerome did not believe the Apocrypha were inspired. He agreed that the Jewish people in Israel never treated them as Scripture. He acknowledged they had not changed that position. Jerome’s position was consistent with the Jews and many others in the early church. Jerome also departed from the norm of that day. He understood Hebrew so he translated from the original Hebrew Old Testament rather than the more common Greek version. This formed the foundation of his position. Yet, when the Vulgate was completed in 405 AD, he included the Apocrypha in the Bible. It appears to have been a concession to the pro-Apocrypha position of part of the church. Jerome wrote introductions to each of them indicating they were helpful but not Scripture. Yet, the timing and inclusion would have long lasting repercussions.

The church change described above took place in the centuries that followed while Latin was the dominant language. People simply got used to the Apocrypha being included among the books of the Bible. Jerome’s introductions were still there saying they were not canon but most people did not even have a Bible during the years that followed. The Catholic Church did not get rid of the issues with the disputed books. It did not add any new scholarship or insight. But the inclusion of the books alongside the inspired ones in the official translation made them hard to tell apart. The “official” church also forbade anyone from disagreeing with them. What did that look like? When William Tyndale had the gall to translate the Bible into English so people could read it, he was executed as a heretic. You can understand why the arguments died down as a result. The Vulgate and all translations based on it therefore included the Apocrypha for many years.

These questions all came back up with Luther and the Reformers. They asked the same questions that the early church did, now without threat of death. The reformers found themselves agreeing with the Jews, many early churchmen, Jerome, and with the early church council:

The books of the Apocrypha are not bad, but they are not part of the Bible.

The new found freedom to ask questions led them to the same conclusion of 1100 years prior. This is why the Protestant Bible has fewer books. As you can see, the issues did not come out of the blue. It is simply a conclusion based on 2,000 years of evidence and discussion, when it was allowed. The difference between the canons does not change the authenticity of the New Testament or most of the Old Testament. It was not a plot by either side. It was simply the result of a difference of opinion that has been going on for a very long time.

Were the Reformers correct? I think the evidence is overwhelming. But here is the great news.

First, these books are not the New Testament. The disagreement about the Apocrypha has no affect on the truth of Jesus, the Gospel, and the clearly documented doctrines of Jesus.

Second, you are free to investigate them yourself. This is the liberty Jesus won for you on the Cross. It is also the right to question and value yourself as a person Martin Luther and the Reformers risked everything to gain for you. Keep that in mind as you explore the issues.

God bless you.


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17 thoughts on “Did Martin Luther Remove Books from the Bible? A Pastor’s Answer
  1. I have found that the canon of Scripture is the single most fruitful topic to discuss with Protestant friends. The canon is the set of books that make up the Bible—Scripture’s “table of contents”—and it is one of the most important issues between Catholics and Protestants for two reasons: first, because the Catholic and Protestant canons differ (Catholics have seventy-three books in their canon and Protestants have sixty-six); second, because Protestants believe in a doctrine called sola scriptura or “the Bible alone.”

    Sola scriptura means that only the Bible is the sole, infallible rule of faith and the sole source of public revelation given by God to man. Under this doctrine, Scripture is the first, best, and ultimate depository for divine truth, as well as the only one that is without error, having been inspired by God himself, who cannot lie.

    But for sola scriptura to be true, we must first be able to know which books, exactly, make up Scripture (i.e., the biblical canon). We must also know this biblical canon with a certainty strong enough to bind our consciences. After all, if we believe that God inspired books to be written such that they are without error but we don’t know which books those are, we are left in the unacceptable position of not knowing whether a given book is inspired (and therefore inerrant) or whether it is just another book written from the mind of a human being.

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    Martin Luther was not afraid to challenge the canon of Scripture. He relegated four New Testament books to an appendix, denying that they were divinely inspired. Though this alteration of the New Testament wasn’t adopted by the Protestant movements, his alteration of the Old Testament was, and by the end of the Reformation Protestantism had removed seven books (the deuterocanonicals) from the Old Testament canon.

    This means if Protestantism is true, God allowed the early Church to put seven books in the Bible that didn’t belong there.

    Why Protestants changed their canon
    The Protestants rejected the books for several reasons, two of which we will focus on here. The first was a “problematic” passage in 2 Maccabees, and the second was their desire to go “back to the sources”—ad fontes—which to them meant using the same books that the Jews had decided upon.

    2 Maccabees included a laudatory reference to prayers for the dead, a practice that the Catholic Church had encouraged for assisting the souls in purgatory. Recall Luther’s protest of the sale of indulgences to remove the temporal punishment due for already forgiven sins—punishment that must be paid before a soul would be fit to enter heaven. Luther and the Reformers rejected purgatory, so all that was connected with it also had to go: indulgences, prayers for the dead, and the communion of saints (which includes those both living and asleep in Christ).

    The Reformers pointed out that these seven books were not included in the Jewish Hebrew Bible. For that reason, they argued, the books should not be accepted by Christians. Some Protestant apologists seek to bolster this claim by mentioning the theory that, around A.D. 90, a council of Jews at Jamnia explicitly rejected these books. (The consensus among modern scholars is that the Jews closed their canon closer to the end of the second century A.D.)

    Others like to point out that some Church Fathers rejected one or more of these books. They strengthen this argument with the testimony of Josephus and Philo—two Jews from the first century—who also did not accept them.

    Why the deuterocanonicals are inspired
    Because Catholicism is true, the church Christ founded, and not the Jews, possessed the authority and divine guidance to discern the Old Testament canon.

    A little historical background is needed here. The first Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used during Jesus’ time, was called the Septuagint. It was an evolving set of books that was added to from the third century B.C. until the time of Christ. It remains the most ancient translation of the Old Testament that we have today and so is used to correct the errors that crept into the Hebrew (Masoretic) text, the oldest extant manuscripts of which date only from the ninth century.

    The Septuagint was used extensively in the Near East by rabbis, and in the first century the apostles quoted prophecies from it in the books that became the New Testament. It was accepted as authoritative by the Jews of Alexandria and then by all Jews in Greek-speaking countries.

    By the time of Christ, the Septuagint contained the deuterocanonical books. The majority of Old Testament quotes made by the New Testament authors come from the Septuagint. In fact, the early Church used the Septuagint as its primary Old Testament source until the fifth century. Its importance cannot be overstated.

    Historical evidence also shows that there were multiple, conflicting Jewish canons at the time of Christ. Protestants claim that the Hebrew canon was closed at the time of Christ. But let’s stop and think about that: How could the Jews close their canon when they were still awaiting the advent of the new Elijah (John the Baptist) and the new Moses (Jesus)?

    Recall that Malachi 4:5 tells us that God would send a new Elijah the prophet: “Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” We know from John 1:19-25 that the Jews were eagerly awaiting this new Elijah, as well as the new Moses.

    Since many prophets in the Old Covenant had been inspired by God to write books, it only makes sense that the Jews would expect these two great prophets to write books as well. Closing the Hebrew canon before the prophets’ advent, then, would have been unthinkable.

    Timothy Michael Law, in his new book When God Spoke Greek, has demonstrated that the Jews did not close their canon until the second century A.D. This fact renders the (alleged) Jewish council’s decision at Jamnia moot. It should be noted that most scholars today doubt that any such council ever took place.

    But even if it did, would Jewish leaders possess the authority to make a decision binding upon the Christian Church? Those Jews who had accepted Christ had already become Christians. The remainder had no authority to decide anything about divine truth, as that authority had passed to those filled with the Holy Spirit (i.e., the apostles). The same goes for the opinions of Josephus and Philo. The Jews did not have the authority to decide the canon. The Church did.

    Law also shows that the Greek Septuagint is a witness to an at times even more ancient textual stream of the Hebrew scriptures when compared with the Masoretic text. Ironically, this meant that the Reformers goofed when they relied upon the Masoretic text and the (truncated) Hebrew canon in their attempt to go “back to the original sources.” They should have used the Septuagint translation and included the seven deuterocanonical books! Thus the argument that Christians should base their Old Testament off of the Hebrew Bible rather than the Greek Septuagint is dubious.

    Regarding Church Fathers doubting the deuterocanonical books, it is true that several rejected one or more of them or put them on a level lower than the rest of Scripture. But many, including those with doubts, quoted them as Scripture with no distinction from the rest of the Bible.

    The broader fact is that the testimony of the Fathers was not unanimous on the Old Testament canon. Even Jerome, the great biblical scholar, early in his career favored the Hebrew canon but then changed his mind and submitted his opinion to the wisdom of the Church, accepting the deuterocanonicals as Scripture (ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.vi.xii.ii.xxvii.html).

    Finally, it should be pointed out that Protestants seeking to defend their canon based on historical evidence—even if they are convinced they have found sufficient proof—run into an insurmountable problem: Nowhere in Scripture does it say that this is the way to know which books belong in the canon. Such a criterion for choosing the canon in fact contradicts sola scriptura, because it is an extra-biblical principle.

    A consistent Protestant argument for selecting the canon of Scripture, then, must itself come from Scripture, which would create a circular argument. Unfortunately—but providentially—no such instructions from God exist. No table of contents is found in any biblical book. No scroll with a table of contents is considered inspired by Protestants (or by Catholics).

    The self-authenticating canon
    Most Protestant apologists realize that all their stalwart arguments have iron-clad rebuttals. And so many have abandoned those arguments and cling to their last remaining bastion: They claim that the inspired books authenticate themselves. This idea is so widely used that it is worthy of a lengthy explanation.

    The self-authenticating canon means that a true Christian can read a given book and easily tell whether it is inspired by God or not. The Holy Spirit dwelling within the Christian would witness to the book’s inspiration. This theory did away with the need for trusting the corrupted early Church or for tracing the messy history of the canon’s development. Instead, you as a faithful Christian simply picked up your Bible, read the books, and listened for the inner witness of the Spirit telling you that the books were inspired by God.

    Similarly, you could theoretically pick up a non-canonical epistle or Gospel from the first or second century, read it, and note the absence of the Spirit’s confirmation of its inspiration. As Calvin described it:

    It is utterly vain, then, to pretend that the power of judging Scripture so lies with the church and that its certainty depends upon churchly assent. Thus, while the church receives and gives its seal of approval to Scripture, it does not thereby render authentic what is otherwise doubtful or controversial. . . . As to their question—How can we be assured that this has sprung from God unless we have recourse to the decree of the church?—it is as if someone asked: Whence will we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Indeed, Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste. . . . those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and Scripture indeed is self-authenticated (Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, vii.1, 2, 5).

    Calvin makes two claims here. First, that the Church does not give authority to Scripture but rather Scripture has authority by the fact that God inspired it; second, that a Christian can know the canon from the Holy Spirit’s testimony within him, not by trusting a decision of the Church.

    Calvin’s first claim has never been contested by the Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, or any Christian. It is a straw man: The Church teaches that it received inspired texts from God (through human authors) and that God guided it in discerning which among many texts were truly inspired. The Church is thus the servant of written revelation and not its master.

    Calvin’s second claim has become the common answer from Protestants who can’t concede that a corrupt Church selected the canon. There’s an element of truth to it: Surely the Holy Spirit does witness to our souls when we read the Bible. But Calvin sets up a false dichotomy here: Either the Church, by discerning the canon, imagines itself in authority over Scripture, or the canon is self-evident to any Christian. Calvin replaces the belief that God guided the Church in selecting the canon with the belief that God guides me or you in selecting it. He forces his readers to choose between these options, but in fact they are both false.

    History contradicts Calvin’s claim
    There is no principled reason, in Scripture or elsewhere, to believe that God would guide me or you in this discernment but not the Church. Moreover, Calvin’s subjective criterion for discerning the canon is surely impractical and unrealistic. How would a person seeking truth but not yet indwelt by the Holy Spirit know which books to read to find truth? What about a new Christian who had not learned to distinguish the inner voice of the Spirit from his own? At what point after his conversion would a Christian be considered ready to help define the canon? If two Christians disagreed, whose inner judgment would be used to arbitrate their dispute and identify the real canon?

    Another problem with Calvin’s claim is that the facts of history contradict it. As we have seen, the selection of the canon was not an easy, debate-free process that ended with the close of written revelation in the early second century. Rather, the canon emerged slowly through a laborious process, with differing canons being proposed by different Church Fathers during these centuries.

    If the canon were obvious and self-evident, the Holy Spirit would have led each of them to the same canon. Yet even these faithful, Spirit-filled men, so close to the time of the apostles and Christ himself, proposed different canons. It was not until almost A.D. 400 that the canon was settled, and it contained the seventy-three books of the Catholic Bible. When, more than 1,100 years later, the Reformers changed the canon by rejecting the seven deuterocanonical books (and Luther unsuccessfully tried to discard others), it was another example of intelligent and well-meaning Christians disagreeing about the “self-authenticated” canon.

    The books of the canon are not obvious merely from reading them. Martin Luther should prove that to Protestants, since he was the founder of the Protestant Reformation, and yet he tried to jettison four books from the New Testament.

    The Church discerns the Old Testament
    This means that neither the New Testament nor the Old Testament is self-authenticating. And so we come full circle back to the question of the deuterocanonicals. Weighing this evidence, any open Protestant should be able to admit that the only thing keeping him back from considering these books as inspired by God is the Protestant tradition that rejected them. Is that tradition from God or from men?

    The Church’s careful discernment of the canon settled on including the deuterocanonical books. And, with some occasional doubts, the books were consistently included in the canon from the 300s through the 1400s. In fact, the ecumenical council of Florence in the mid-1400s reaffirmed their inclusion in the Old Testament canon. This was long before Martin Luther and the first Protestants and lends further evidence that the Church accepted these books as inspired and did not “add” them to the canon in response to the Reformation, as many Protestants claim.

    If Protestantism is true, then for more than a thousand years all of Christianity used an Old Testament that contained seven fully disposable, possibly deceptive books that God did not inspire. He did, however, allow the early Church to designate these books as Sacred Scripture and derive false teachings such as purgatory from their contents. Eventually, God’s chosen Reformer, Martin Luther, was able to straighten out this tragic error, even though his similar abridgement of the New Testament was a mistake.

    1. Hi Wamala –
      Sorry for the delay in responding. I took an extend break over the summer and am just getting back to blogging. Thanks for your extensive response. Some thoughts after reading:

      I am not sure what the thoughts on a later closing of the Hebrew canon has to do with the issue. The Jewish homeland of Israel was destroyed in 70 AD. The Jews in the Greek world had all sorts of views on the books that are different than what the Jews in Israel thought. Jesus was also present before then and closed the canon at that point based on His arrival. If it is not in there at the time of His arrival, it really doesn’t matter what the Jewish people wanted to add later or expected.

      The Church’s careful discernment of the canon settled on including the deuterocanonical books. And, with some occasional doubts, the books were consistently included in the canon from the 300s through the 1400s. In fact, the ecumenical council of Florence in the mid-1400s reaffirmed their inclusion in the Old Testament canon. This was long before Martin Luther and the first Protestants and lends further evidence that the Church accepted these books as inspired and did not “add” them to the canon in response to the Reformation, as many Protestants claim.

      Do you honestly know the history of the Catholic Church for a good portion of the time period you reference? I am not intending to be disrespectful, but you rely on the “careful consideration” of the church men of that time period. History and their own writings and records show us they were often not even Christians, much less careful and faithful servants of the Lord. Their decisions included declaring war on other Christians, murdering those who disagreed with them, and making regular Christians like you and I work as virtual slaves on Church property because “God said”. The pope promised Jan Hus safe passage to come to Rome to discuss his views, before arresting him and killing him. These are the men who bought and sold church offices. This is not meant as “All Catholics are BAD” type of argument, but when you are relying on the RC Church because it is the RC Church, a huge problem is that same church has been officially awful on many occassions. Just because they gathered together and agreed on something doesn’t make it true. Many of them did not even read the Bible.

      The premise is also flawed as the books were not “included” in 300’s.

      Jerome – the man who put together the Vulgate is the one who gave them the name Apocrypha. He wrote they were not inspired and did not have authority to form doctrine of the Church. he also noted that the books were not part of the Jewish canon. It was this same Bible that later used to justify the books.

      Lastly, the argument “we wouldn’t have the Bible without the church” is also one in which Catholics seem to misunderstand what Protestants believe. We reject the authority of the group of men centered in Rome who have only been a real power since about the 800’s. They call themselves the Universal Church who has been there the whole time, but that actual structure really only took power with the destruction of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Franks. Before that, the Eastern Empire had much more power and the state church was more of the Orthodox Church. the Ethiopian Church also probably precedes the “Roman Catholic Church” as do some of the Eastern Orthodx churches like in Serbia etc. Yet, this does not mean they are the One True Church either. That is the communion of the saints – the living breathing body of Christians the world over. The Bible calls living Christians saints rather than some guys elected by a bunch of other guys who bought their jobs. So, historically, the Apostles and then the early church compiled the Bible and through correspondence and examination, as a body, filtered out the pretenders and agreed on the Bible. There was general agreement in the 1st Century what was real and what was not. It did not need a solemn church council to get that done.

      BTW – even back then there was disagreement about some of the books included. The Gospels and most of the NT were agreed upon. But like Luther, some held out Hebrews and 1 John and 2 John, before it was agreed that they were authentic. So Luther was merely agreeing with some of the early church. He also was just one man among many in the Reformation.

      So, in short, I disagree with you but respect your right to not be convinced.

      1. I’m not intending to get into the whole argument about the books, but I do want to clarify that Catholics do not refer to the clergy as the “communion of saints”, because sainthood is not granted to you for declaring service to God or becoming his priest, we recognize that human beings retain free will. Papal infallibility is ex cathedra. And the Roman Catholic Church has been around as long as the Eastern Orthodox Church.

      2. Hi Emily – nice to hear from you! Perhaps I missed/forgot the comment about the clergy being the communion of saints? Can you explain if it is something I wrote?

        About the age of the Roman Catholic Church vs the Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Churches – my point is it really depends how you date them.

        The RCC says that it is the church that carried the line from the Apostles to now.

        Yet, you have the first 400 years where the church that is recorded by history looks nothing like the one that calls itself the RCC centered on Rome. It was neither Roman nor centralized.

        The best argument for a centralized monolithic church is probably from the Eastern Orthodox, honestly, because the earliest centralization of the church was part and parcel with the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire AND the associated church men started originally in Rome but then transferred with the Emperor to Constantinople. Imperial Christianity HQ was there, not Rome. Rome was left as a bit of a backwater of the Empire and left to wither.

        It was not until the 800’s that the church that was left over at Rome made an alliance with the Franks which gave it the power to start dominating Europe.

        So the folks from the beginning were not in Rome. Then after a few hundred years, there was some people in Rome, but they moved to Constantinople. It if far from an unbroken line.

  2. First of all, thank you for writing your blog. It is, by far, the best pro-Protestant canon website I’ve found so far.

    I want to do further research and have 3 questions.

    Your blog says:
    The early church also had problems with these books from the start. Many early Christians were against the Apocrypha. The Church council of Laodicea in 363 AD considered the Apocrypha, for example. They not only rejected these books as Scripture but also forbade reading these books by the church.

    Wikipedia says:
    The 60th canon listed Canonical books, with the New Testament containing 26 books, omitting the Book of Revelation, and the Old Testament including the 22 books of the Hebrew Bible plus the Book of Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah; but excluding all the deuterocanonical books proper. It is also believed that they may have demonized the “Second Book of Enoch”, which led to its degeneration.
    The authenticity of the 60th canon is doubtful, as it is missing from various Greek manuscripts and may have been added later to specify the extent of the preceding 59th canon.


    Here are my 3 questions:

    Do we have copies of the canon list of the church council of Laodicea decided on or are they added later as Wikipedia says?
    Is it true that Revelation is missing from the church council of Laodicea?
    Is it true that Baruch is contained in the church council of Laodicea, in which case they didn’t reject the entire Apocrypha?

    1. Hey Jared – thanks for the words of encouragement! I applaud your desire to research the questions in depth and not take mine or anyone else’s word on the issue. You are correct, for example, about the inclusion of Baruch by the Council. I missed that while making my point. Sorry. My overall goal was to encourage all Christians to follow in the footsteps of the Reformers and not accept a narrative simply because it is oft repeated. In this case, the Catholic Church’s stance that the Apocrypha has been accepted since the beginning, aka “They have always been there, why did Martin Luther take it out?”. That does not match up with the history at all.

      This ties in with your questions:
      The question of whether the books were added in Canon 60 is one that is still debated. 59 – says non-canon books should not be read and 60 sets out the books so it is an important question. Wikipedia has a definitive answer based on early Greek manuscripts, but scholars still debate the issue.

      However, at about the same time as the Council, we do have records of leading lights of the church like Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem who set out the books of the Bible. Their lists are almost identical to the Canon 60 one – but include Revelation. Then, in other councils that occurred within the same time period, the New Testament is the same. The Old Testament reflects the same debate as today – with one or two of the Apocrypha, but not all.

      So the list with Canon 60 may have been added but it generally reflected the position of a good portion of the church, even if it was.

      Revelation was not included in Canon 60, but was recognized otherwise around this time period.

      Lastly, yes, they included Baruch, but this is not a shocking thing. It shows both the decentralized nature of the early church and the desire to seek truth. The councils and leaders of the early church were debating these issues determined to get it right and willing to contradict others in seeking to do so. The challenging part about the Apocrypha is that they are not “bad” books. They are generally historical and to be respected. This is what Jerome notes when he includes the Apocrypha with intros. It is just that they don’t rise to the level of Scripture.

      The overall point is not that the church never agreed that the Apocrypha were to be included. Rather, that both the Jews and the early church had consistent significant questions about them. It was only the later dominance of the Catholic Church allowed by their taking secular power that tried to silence the argument.

  3. Just reading this in 2022. Thanks for your writings. You claim no one quotes the Apocrypha in the New Testament. I believe that is not true. Sirach for instance is referred to/quoted in Matthew correct? To say it is never quoted (or referenced) is false.

    1. Hi Herman – well, I disagree with you and restate that it is not quoted – as in directly cited. I have seen the arguments about Sirach in Matthew and basically they state that Jesus relied upon Sirach or paraphrased it. The argument is not convincing to me, but, regardless, it is markedly different than saying it was quoted.

      1. I am curious about this as well – are ALL of the other books of the Old Testament quoted/directly cited? I don’t have a way of finding this out other than to ask scholars of the Bible. It would seem a good argument if so.

      2. I will have to go back and look at this, but from my recollection there are almost 300 direct quotes from the Old Testament that clearly quote from 35 or 36 of the Old Testament books. There are then arguments about the other 3, whether they are directly referenced or just alluded to. They are Song of Solomon, Ecclesiates, and Esther. So I think though it does not decide the question, it is evidence that does point to an issue with the NT writers and the Apocrypha/Deuterocannon.

  4. Thank you for this insight. I was raised Catholic and converted to Protestant in my 30’s. I truly have an understanding of God’s love and character more than I ever did living under the thumb of Catholic legalism. People can argue all they want about the Apocrypha but what this all boils down to in the end is about our freedom in Christ. I love Him and know Him and know I will be with Him when I leave this body. I never had this as a Catholic because you are told when and how and what ways you can worship Him. Today I am free for Him to be a part of everything I do every day. I don’t go to humans who have died before me to pray, the Catholic version of a Saint, I pray directly to Jesus. God never wanted us to make idols of Mary or other people. He wants us to go to Him

    1. Sorry – hit reply to quickly. I agree with you completely. Praise God for guiding you into His wonderful, joyful freedom! I am also grateful for it as well.

      The Catholicism that I saw was either filled with misery or entirely cynical. It was not a pretty picture. – certainly not one God calls us to.

  5. I wonder if you have seen this book: https://shop.catholic.com/why-catholic-bibles-are-bigger-revised-2nd-edition/
    This discussion has inspired a deeper look into the early church history as I have learned that Jesus and the disciples did know and accept these books and did not speak against them. I like deep diving and sharing knowledge, and I plan to take a look at this book. I thought you may wish to know about it – and even have a conversation with the author, perhaps. It would be a great discussion!

    1. Hi Natalie – sorry about the delay on this comment. I appreciate that you are looking into this issue. I also personally enjoy researching the questions and discussing them. I haven’t seen that book, though will try to check it out and I am familiar with many of the arguments in favor of the books. I presented my conclusion after researching and comparing the evidence and the arguments of both sides, but I do understand that other Christians do disagree with me. I would point out in this discussion that this point:

      I have learned that Jesus and the disciples did know and accept these books and did not speak against them.

      Is not wholly accurate. Jesus and the disciples would have known of the books as they were written by that time and generally known in Israel. Jesus and the disciples are also never specifically recorded as speaking against them. But the third statement is inaccurate both specifically and if applied more generally. There is no record of Jesus or the disciples approving of the books so it cant be said that they specifically did from them. Generally, Jesus and the disciples were part of the larger group of Hebrew Jews who lived in Israel during the Temple period. This group as a whole never accepted the books as Scripture. So this is not definitive as to Jesus and the disciples, but it does point to an inclination against, for me.

      That would be a great conversation! Thanks again for the comment! God bless you, Tom

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