Q&A: Apocrypha? Subtracted, not added.


Why did Catholics add the apocrypha?


For those who don’t know, the apocrypha or ‘deuterocanonical’ books are a list of seven Old Testament books: Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch (along with some additions to Daniel and Esther) that are accepted by Catholics and not by Protestants. ‘Deuterocanon’ means ‘a second canon’ while ‘apocrypha’ means doubtful or inauthentic books. Obviously, as a Catholic, I’m going to use ‘deuterocanon.’ So why did Catholics add the deuterocanon?

This is a very common, and good question to address. The first Christians were Jewish, but very quickly the early Church became filled with Greek speakers, and Greek was the lingua franca or common language. Because of this, the version of the Old Testament used in the Church was the Greek Septuagint… which included these seven books. So these apocrypha were ‘added’ by Greek Jews before Jesus was born.

After the Christian faith began, the Jewish leaders made a final canon or list of Scriptural books. They excluded these books and at the same time also rejected all of the New Testament. In Christian circles, there were many ongoing debates over these Greek books, not unlike the debates over various other Bible books. However, the Church used them as Scripture from her founding up until the Reformation. Even today, Catholic and Orthodox Christians still call these books Scripture. Anglicans, Lutherans and the Assyrian Church of the East include these books in the Bible but don’t believe they have the same authority.

So, we should ask: Why do some Christians remove the deuterocanon altogether? The removal happened over time for no one reason. The Reformers generally thought they were not as Scriptural as the rest of the Bible. Luther was the first one to move the deuterocanonical books to their own separate section, titled ‘apocrypha.’ He also moved four New Testament books that he found doubtful to the end of his Bible translation. The first Protestant Bibles ignored Luther’s New Testament innovations but all kept the ‘apocrypha’ in their own section. About 100 years after Luther, the Westminster Confession declared that the ‘apocrypha’ were not Scripture and ought not to be considered as such. Some 300 years after Luther, new Protestant Bibles began to be printed without the ‘apocrypha’ at all. Now, 500 years later, this is normal and the old normal seems strange; so it seems more natural to believe these books were added rather than subtracted.

For more information see: New Advent

Why am I doing this? Click here.

N.B. I am only a new Catholic. Though I have an undergrad degree in theology and am working on a Masters, I will not be a flawless source of information. But friends and family have many questions since my wife and I began becoming Catholics, and this is an attempt to answer those questions.


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