Roman Catholics and Evangelicals
Fri Feb 9 11:55:47 EST 2001
A Fallible Canon
It should be noted that while Protestants are fairly certain that the
Apocrypha is not part of Scripture, they cannot be dogmatic about it.
Catholics call the "Apocryphal" books "Deuterocanonical". This means
canonized second - i.e. after the other books.
Most Protestants don't realize that the Deuterocanonicals include
Hebrews, James, II Peter, II John, III John, Jude, Mark 16:9ff, John 8:1-12.
These books and passages (along with others that didn't make it to the New
Testament) were in dispute throughout the first 400 years of the church.
For this reason, Martin Luther put them in an appendix along with the
Old Testament Deuterocanonicals - which we call the "Apocrypha" today.
Protestants accept the New Testament Deuterocanonicals as inspired, but
reject the Old Testament Deuterocanonicals (which I will call "Apocryphal"
from now on because it is shorter). Why? Here are some points and
As a Protestant, I'll let the Protestants have the last word.
- Protestants consider Jews to be the custodians of the Old Testament Canon,
not the Church. Orthodox Judaism rejects the Apocrypha (except
for a minor sect).
- Catholics respond that Jews have no such authority after Christ. The
Jewish Council of Jamnia (A.D. 90), which officially rejected the
Apocrypha is dismissed as a politically motivated reaction to the
new Christian sect.
- No Apocryphal book claims to be written by a prophet (receiving
direct revelation from God). Maccabees specifically disclaims this.
They are not quoted by any later prophetic book. Jewish Fathers
teach that prophecy ceased in 400BC - before the Apocrypha was written.
- The Magisterium of the Church, not "propheticity" determines which
books are inspired. Besides, is Esther prophetic?
- There are no Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts for the Apocryphal books,
except for a few fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls. And these are
not written with the special script and type of parchment reserved
for the sacred Scriptures.
- The Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament quoted by Jesus and the
Apostles, includes the Apocrypha.
- However, the oldest Greek manuscripts for the Septuagint do not include
all of Apocrypha. The very oldest do not include Maccabees. None
of them include the same list of books accepted by Trent.
- The New Testament refers to events from the Apocrypha.
- But, the New Testament does not quote the Apocrypha, and also refers
to events in pagan works and books rejected by Catholics.
- The Apocrypha was listed with the New Testament books by many
Church Councils: Rome, Hippo, Carthage, Florence, Trent.
- However, none of these Councils were Ecumenical. The Council of
Rome was ratified by a Pope, but was this infallible?
- The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the Apocrypha.
- But they declare dogmatically only what was addressed in the
- Many Church Fathers accepted the Apocrypha.
- Many Church Fathers rejected the Apocrypha.
As a Sunday School boy, I was intrigued by what my teachers called
"The 400 silent years". Whether or not you consider the Old Testament
Deuterocanonicals inspired, they are essential for understanding the history
of the Jews prior to the opening of the New Testament.
This work by Stuart David Gathman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.