Question: After reading your article, "Catholic and Protestant Bibles: What is the Difference?" I called the above missing books the "apocrypha" and a Catholic priest was confused. I got the feeling that more than the above books are called the "apocrypha" including some books that Catholics don't consider divinely inspired. Should I have said those in our Bible or Septuagint? Or another word I have heard is "Deuterocanonical."
Discussion: Terminology about the Bible can be confusing, especially since Protestants and Catholics might use the same word to mean different things. The Greek word, "apocrypha," means hidden and, indeed, those extra Old Testament books have been hidden from most non-Catholic readers. So when Protestants in general and non-Catholic Bible publishers in particular use the word, apocrypha refers to the "extra" books found, plainly and visibly, in the Old Testament of all Catholic Bibles. Catholics, however, refer to those same books as deuterocanonical, which means the Church recognizes the books as divinely inspired but part of the second canon.
The books in a Jewish Bible or a Protestant Old Testament are protocanonical, which means they're part of the first canon established by the Jews in the first century after Christ and eventually accepted by most Protestants in the 16th century. Long before the official Jewish canonization of Scripture, however, the Jews commonly accepted the books of the Septuagint — a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible that included newer inspired writings written in Greek. Since Jesus and the early Christians were familiar with, and used, the Septuagint, the Church accepted the books too.
Then, in an effort to keep their faith pure from influences apart from the Hebrew world, Jewish leaders decided to exclude all of the books that came about after the time of Ezra (around 400 to 500 years before Christ) and also any books that were not originally written in Hebrew in Palestine. That decision became the first canonization or authoritative listing of the books of the Bible that Christians refer to as the Old Testament, but this did not keep the Church from continuing to acknowledge the divine inspiration of books initially accepted by all Judeo-Christians. Therefore, the "extra" books included in the Septuagint — and in the Old Testament of all Catholic Bibles — became "deuterocanonical" but hardly apocryphal, or hidden, since they have been right there in the Catholic Old Testament for many centuries!
To confuse the matter more, Catholics consider such mysterious books as the Gospel of Thomas to be apocryphal since the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. did not deem them divinely inspired and therefore did not include them in the Christian New Testament canon. So the books that Catholics call apocrypha are books that do not belong in the Bible canon, although they may have historical interest. Some of them had literally become lost or "hidden" over the centuries, too, whereas others continued to be known because of occasional references to the books or arguments against them by the Early Church Fathers.
Protestants do not accept those apocryphal books either but refer to them as pseudepigraphical, meaning their false attribution to various apostles. If you'd like to know more about these somewhat hidden books, you can unearth additional details with the help of a Catholic encyclopedia, found in print or on the Internet. Also, The New Catholic Answer Bible published by Fireside Catholic Publishing includes an enlightening chapter entitled "Origin, Inspiration, and History Of The Bible," which, thanks to more than one Bible Talk reader, I now have and highly recommend.
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