Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Catholic Bible - extra books?

Hi, what about the extra books in the Catholic bible that is not found in the Protestant Bible?  How can we understand / trust the canonization process when there are such differences?  Can you comment on this?


Daniel Kim said...

They are called deuterocanonical or apocryphal books, and they have been controversial books that sometimes accompanied the canonical bible.

They were books of historical interest, because they recount some of the events that took place in the inter-testamental period (the period 500 years of God's silence between the OT and the NT). But whether they are divinely inspired -- that's the issue. I think it's telling that these books were never included into the New Testament canon throughout all the councils throughout the first millennia, even from the Catholic side.

In 1500's, the Catholic Church placed all these deuterocanonical/apocryphal books into the OT canon... which is a strange thing, because the OT Jews did not accept these as divinely inspired. So the Jews have their Scriptures, which is exactly the same as our Protestant OT (the Jewish OT have fewer books, but don't be confused by that, it's because they didn't separate out books like 1 & 2 Kings, etc.), and both Catholics and Protestants have the same NT. But only the Catholics have the other books inserted into the OT canon, which the OT Jews themselves did not accept. So why would the Catholics insert something back into the OT?

The reason is the Protestant Reformation which happened in the 1500's, which was sparked by the sale of indulgences among other things, which was the idea that you could pay money to atone for your dead family members' sins. As the Protestant Reformers (who were all originally Catholics, by the way), raised an issue by pointing to the Bible and showing that such practices are unbiblical, that's when the Catholic church officially adopted the extra books into the OT in the Council of Trent in 1540's. So the official inclusion of these books into the Catholic Bible seemed to come in the 1500's.. (you can see the reason why - since the Protestant Reformation was calling out the Catholic church based on the Bible, by adopting these books which supported some of the positions of the Catholic church such as purgatory and the whole idea of atoning for someone's sins after their death with money (which shows up in 2 Maccabees 12), the Catholic church could legitimately say that their bible does support the idea of indulgences, which was a huge point of contention during the Protestant Reformation). Of course, from the Catholic's perspective, they would say that the apocryphal books were always in the Bible, and that they were only reaffirming the divine inspiration of these books. Now, the Catholics could not put those books into the NT, because the 27 books of the NT were already set in stone by many times over, for over a millennia. So they put them into the OT, since they felt that it was okay for them to have a different OT than the Jews, since the church does not recognize the authority of the Jews to determine if something is divinely inspired or not. (since the Jews don't even recognize the NT as divinely inspired anyway).

But I think the fact that the Jewish people do not recognize those books as canonical is highly problematic for the Catholic Bible. Because that means Jesus, when he was referring to the "Scriptures", he was referring to the 39 books of the OT that the Jews recognize, not the Catholic OT.

Hope that helps clarify some things.

Anonymous said...

Randomly came across this, but wanted to clarify some things. First:

I think it's telling that these books were never included into the New Testament canon

There seems to be a confusion here between what are known as the "Antilegomena" (NT "apocryphal" writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, which aren't included in any church's canon, including the Catholic church) and the "deuterocononical" books. The deuterocanon was never, ever suggested to be included in the New Testament canon--rather, they were initially included in the Greek Septuagint that the early church fathers had access to, which was translated c. 200-100 B.C.


the Catholic Church placed all these deuterocanonical/apocryphal books into the OT canon... which is a strange thing, because the OT Jews did not accept these as divinely inspired

The problem with this is that the Jewish process of canonization didn't occur until roughly the end of the 1st century A.D. -- after Christianity was already formed, most of the books of the New Testament were written, and churches were already composed of primarily non-Jewish populations.

Additionally, the books weren't "placed" in the OT canon in 1500 -- the oldest codices (bound books) of scripture--such as Vaticanus from ~400 A.D.--out there all contain the deuterocanon. It's fairly clear from variants between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text (the oldest codex of the direct Hebrew OT), that the New Testament authors were actually often quoting from the Septuagint itself, rather than the Masoretic Text. Even some of the early church fathers who wrote some of the first arguments for Biblical inerrancy specified their OT canon lists as the books from the Septuagint (i.e. Augustine in On Christian Doctrine, Book ii, chapter 8, who has the books of Tobit, Sirach, Maccabees, etc. all listed).

The first major opponent of the canonicity of the deuterocanon was St. Jerome, when he began his translation of the Bible into Latin (a.k.a. the Vulgate). Basically his argument was, "some of these texts aren't found in the Hebrew texts I have in front of me" -- he argued that he should translate directly from Hebrew and that the Septuagint contained books that should be ignored. The church told him essentially, "translate from the Septuagint, but where it disagrees with the Hebrew scriptures, you can consult them for your translation." This is how things were for roughly 1000 years (with continuing occasional arguments about what should/shouldn't be included) until Martin Luther came on the scene.

Martin Luther, as he translated the Bible into German, being well acquainted with the arguments and writings alone, took the deuterocanon and moved it into a section between the OT and NT and called it the "apocrypha" (he actually included it in his Bible translation!), which is more or less how things stand today in Bibles that include the deuterocanon. Eventually this section was generally dropped from most modern translations. Interestingly enough, as far as the NT goes, Luther also doubted the canonicity of the book of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.

Daniel Kim said...

Thank you for this extra information and learning. It's always good to discuss and learn from different perspectives.

If you are still reading this thread, I have some questions: when the OT canon was "closed" by the Jewish council (I assume you're talking about Council of Jamnia in AD 90-100?) - were the deuterocanonical books included?

Do you believe that the OT canon was closed at that point?
Do you believe that the OT canon was closed at any point?
When Jesus was referring to the Scriptures as a Jewish rabbi, what do you think he was referring to?

Not that I have clear answers to these things, but would like to get your perspective.

Anonymous said...

So, at least from the various sources I've read, there's no real clear indication that the council of Jamnia actually ever really took place--my understanding is that the theory was first put forth in the 1800s with regard to some comments in the Mishnah about debates regarding canonical status of writings in the Ketuvim sometime in the 1st century. Overall the theory has been generally disputed, but there does seem to be clear consensus based on the Mishnah itself that shortly thereafter the Tanakh was more or less settled for Jews.

At the time all of this happened, the deuterocanon wasn't included as canon (though Jewish rabbis would still occasionally quote from Sirach as they would scripture in various talmud). Various academics have talked about theories as to why the books weren't included and the general thought is that most are due to either explicit late authorship (in the case of something like Sirach, though there's also a case to be made that it was written before Daniel was finished), or due to the original language not being in Aramaic/Hebrew.

With regard to the oother questions:

Do you believe that the OT canon was closed at that point?
Do you believe that the OT canon was closed at any point?

To be quite candid, from my personal perspective, I'm not sure I have a clear answer either. The simple answer is that various canons were pretty much closed at the point where they experienced a wide consensus about their content (i.e. the Ethiopian/Eastern Orthodox canon which includes texts beyond even the Catholic text). From the perspective of what should be considered "divine scripture" though, I'm mixed -- I'm a Protestant for reasons outside the canon debate, but I haven't necessarily formed a conclusion about OT canon itself. From my perspective, it doesn't change my views about Jesus, so it's more a historically interesting area of study rather than something core to my beliefs.

When Jesus was referring to the Scriptures as a Jewish rabbi, what do you think he was referring to?

Again, I'm not entirely sure I have an answer -- but just based off of the textual traditions of the early church fathers, the apostolic writings as well as what we currently know about Judaism during the second temple period, my guess is that it was probably more expansive than what we consider today to be the OT canon (i.e. Paul's reference to Jannes and Jambres, Jude's use of tradition from 1 Enoch, 1 Clement's use of the book of Judith, the number of copies of the Book of Jubilees and 1 Enoch found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.). But once again, as far as I'm concerned, this isn't central to my understanding of the person of Jesus.

Also, took a look around at the rest of the site -- even though it hasn't been updated in awhile, thank you for creating resources for people investigating Christianity!