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The Deuterocanonicals

Although the Catholic and Protestant Bibles have similar New Testament canons, an additional seven books (the deuterocanonicals–Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch), and expanded versions of Daniel and Esther, are found in the Old Testament of Catholic Bibles. The Septuagint, the version of the Old Testament used by the Greeks (which included the seven books found exclusively in the Catholic Bible, and from which most of the Old Testament quotes found in the New Testament are) was adopted by the Catholic Church. We see references to the deuterocanonicals throughout the New Testament (such as Hebrews 11:35, which refers to 2 Maccabees 7).

It is also clear that the early Church Fathers accepted the missing books of the Bible. The decree of Pope Damasus at the Council of Rome states: "The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis . . . Exodus . . . Leviticus . . . Numbers . . . Deuteronomy . . . Joshua . . . Judges . . . Ruth . . . Kings, four books [1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings] . . . Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books . . . Psalms . . . Proverbs . . . Ecclesiastes . . . Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs . . . Wisdom . . . Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] . . . Job . . . Tobit . . . Esdras, two books [Ezra and Nehemiah] . . . Esther . . . Judith . . . Maccabees, two books" (A.D. 382). At the Council of Hippo, in Canon 36, we read: "The canonical scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua . . . Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and part of the Psalms], the twelve books of the prophets [the minor prophets], Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books" (A.D. 393). The Council of Carthage, in Canon 47, lays out the same canon (A.D. 397). The decisions of these local synods was generally accepted by the Catholic Church for 1200 years, and was stated infallibly by the Council of Trent in the middle of the sixteenth century, in response to the challenge of the Reformers, who removed these books by going with the Jewish Canon formed at the Council of Javneh, in which the Jews of the late first century (many years after the Church came into existence) excluded these books from the list of inspired Scripture. The Reformers accepted this canon in part because certain teachings in the deuterocanonicals (such as prayers for the dead and the intercession of the saints) were opposed to their teachings. Their excuse for excluding them was that there were no Hebrew manuscripts for the books.

Even though Hebrew manuscripts have since been found for these books, Protestants still reject them. They say Christ and the Apostles never quoted the deuterocanonicals. They say the seven books contain various errors, so they could not possibly be canonical. They even make the claim that the deuterocanonicals themselves claim to be uninspired. And they say, Jerome, who wrote the Vulgate–the official Bible of the Catholic Church, rejected the inspiration of the seven books, as did Athanasius, another great Father of the Church.

First of all, it is insignificant that Christ and the Apostles never quoted the deuterocanonicals. Many inspired books of the Bible were not quoted by Christ (Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Obadiah, Nahum) while many uninspired books (the Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses [Jude], the Ascension of Isaiah [Heb. 11:37]), and even pagan poets [Acts] were quoted.

Second, Protestants are mistaken when they say the deuterocanonicals contain errors. It is true that the books of Tobit and Judith are wrong about certain points of history and geography. But these stories are just that–stories. It is insignificant that historical and geographical errors occur in pious fictions–they are nothing more than stories, and we should not expect stories to be historically and geographically accurate, because storytellers are not and should not be concerned with historical or geographical accuracy. The Bible is not infallible in matters of science, history, and many other areas.

Protestants also argue that because Judith, who is supposed to be an upstanding woman, lies, the book cannot be inspired. However, according to Jewish thought at the time, Judith was quite right in lying to King Holofernes, because in doing so, she saved her people from their enemies. This is no different than the midwives lying about Moses' birth–and because Protestants must admit Exodus is inspired, they must also refrain from dismissing Judith as an inspired book for this reason.

The other supposed error is that the angel Raphael lied about who he was. What Raphael did was call himself "Azariah", which simply means "Yahweh helps." So Raphael was not lying about who he was; rather, he was letting Tobit know that Raphael was God's agent; that through Raphael, Tobit was being helped.

Third, Protestants say that Sirach and Second Maccabees themselves deny that they are inspired. Sirach opens with this statement: "You therefore are now invited to read it in a spirit of attentive good will, with indulgence for any apparent failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages"; while 2 Maccabees opens thus: "I will bring my own story to an end here too. If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do". However, we see in 1 Corintians 1:15-16 that St. Paul has a mental lapse, when he temporarily forgot who he baptized. In 1 Corinthians 7:40, Paul gives his "opinion". In verse 12, he says that the he and not the Lord is speaking (1 Cor. 7:12). The point is, it is possible that one can write under the inspiration and not know it. Sirach and the author of Maccabees were not sure they did a very good job in translating, but they were nonetheless writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, when they wrote, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was with them, regardless of whether or not they knew it.

Finally, the fact that certain Church Fathers had a canon similar to the Protestants rather than the Catholics means nothing. No Church Father is infallible, and therefore, those who disagree with the Catholic canon are wrong. Furthermore, it is a mistake to say that Jerome rejected the deuterocanonicals, because later in life, he accepted them: (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]) "What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon [additions to Daniel], which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn't relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that [the Jews] are wont to make against us".

Catholic Tracts


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