Do Catholics Have Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical Books?

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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  • Guest

    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 subsequently rejected them from the Christian New Testament canon. 

    Not quite.  The Gospel of Thomas, like the other gnostic writings, was 'rejected' from the first.  In other words, it didn't require the actions of a council to determine its status with respect to the New Testament, and was never in contention for canonicity.

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    I have noticed – as has my spiritual director, ten-plus years my senior – that my Biblical knowledge and assimilation is just beyond most priests. I don’t quote ‘chapter-and-verse’ but the heart of the great cyclical concepts of God’s love and Church for us.

    I am usually startled every time by this circumstance. I consider the Bible the human-life-handbook that surely pastors must know.

    The value of the Church’s canon definition comes out in reading the Bible – there is no better demonstration of the wisdom of Church tradition than how it has led to the Bible.

    And, I have no time for reading any would-be books of the Bible. For further example, I never read the DaVinci Code, but all the various narratives debunking it – more useful for being – simply – more Biblical! (Besides, if the trite novel had any truth, it would be titled the Leonardo Code.)

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    Words are powerful and this is a case where they really divide Catholics and Protestants.

    People throw around these words accusingly.Cry

    It truly is a shame that somehow the Bible is used as a weapon against other Christians.  We should find a way to understand each other and realize that the Bible should unite us, not separate us.  When we are separated, we look like Shites and Sunis.

    Is there any attempt today for scripture scholars to get to the bottom of these issues and unite Christians under one bible?Wink

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Also, is there a source that shows possible New Testament references to any of the Dueterocanonical books/sections of the bible?

     GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Good point Rich; I have adjusted the wording to read:

    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.

    I know that the author was not implying that they had ever been considered canonical.

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    GK –

    I thouht you own a study Bible . . . its cross-references between testaments should take you into apocrypha as well as basic Old Testament books. If you don’t know what amount to the apocryphal extensions – what difference could that make to you? 😉

    Or, are you delivering apologetic sermons, now?

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    gk wrote:

    "Also, is there a source that shows possible New Testament references to any of the Dueterocanonical books/sections of the bible?"

    I don't know of such a source, but there are several allusions to deuterocanonical books in the NT.  One example is the triumphal entry into Jerusalem in 1 Macc 13:51 and John 12:13 and elsewhere.

    But the problem is there are several of the OT books which are never referred to in the NT. So being referred to in the NT is not a good way to determine if an OT book is canon.

    There are other places in the NT where it says, "As it is written…" and there is no place in the OT which has the words which follow.

    So if we we agree use this method, we are agreeing to measure by a false standard.

  • Guest

    Well, there is this:

    Let us therefore lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life. We are esteemed by him as triflers, and he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and he preferreth the latter end of the just, and glorieth that he hath God for his father. He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the son of God. He is become a censurer of our thoughts. He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men's, and his ways are very different. Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be. For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words. These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them. And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls.

    Wisdom, Chapter 2, Verses 12-22

    In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking, said: He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him now deliver him if he will have him; for he said: I am the Son of God.

    Matthew, Chapter 27, Verses 41-43

     Not a word-for-word citation, but one can see the similarity…..

    Protect the Rock is also right- quotation in the New Testament does not mean canonicity, as there are references to non-canonical books in the New Testament, ranging from Jewish books that never made the cut, to the pagan poets St. Paul quotes in his letters.













  • Guest

    Thanks Pristinus, PTR and Narwen.

    I would just like to know if there is a reference since sometimes it comes up when talking to our Protestant brothers.  That is all.  The Catholic Church rocks and I wouldn't mind knowing more about why the Deuterocanonical books are rightly in the Bible.  A reference to quotes / paraphrases / ideas in the DC books would be nice.  Not needed but nice.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Um, we could use the seven books as a reference.

    Of course, then we'd have to actually read them.

  • Guest

    PTR says: "we'd have to actually read them."


    I hate when someone is so right that it smarts.


    Actually the book of Wisdom/Sirach is fantastic and full of good proverbs and Dr.Phil like answers.  Tobit is one of the best stories in the Bible and is where St. Raphael the Archangel is introduced.  Macabees both have great stories.  One story tells of the 7 brothers who are tortured to death in front of their mother, instead of giving up their Jewish faith.  Ester is goofy without the additions.  And I could barely call my faith complete unless like Ecclesiastisies/Qouleth I could say "Vanity of vanities … all is vanity.  Nothing is new under that sun!"  Judith stopped a war with her womanly ways.  I cannot recall what Baruch is about.


    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    I found understanding Israel's history is helpful background.  As I understand it, and again, I am just a guy in the pew…

    After the time of King Solomon, Israel divided into the Northern Kingdom (known as Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (known as Judah).  Following a tumultuous period of bad kings who did not follow God, a succession of empirical conquering took place:

     1.    The Assyrian Empire rose and conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel sending them into exile and assimilating the remaining Hebrews into other peoples. 

    2.    The Babylonian Empire overtook the Assyrian Empire and conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah sending them into exile.

    3.    The Persian Empire arose and conquered the Babylonian Empire and eventually allowed the Hebrews to return to the Promised Land (this was also the period of Esther).

    4.    The Macedonian (Greek) Empire arose and ruled over most of the Middle East to include the Promised Land.  This period lasted for about 400 years and took up the time prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. 

    NOTE:  At this time, Hebrew was a dying language, both spoken and written.  Most people including the Jews spoke Aramaic (a non-Hebrew but Middle Eastern dialect) or Greek.  In fact, Jesus and the apostles spoke Aramaic and Greek as well… AND the entire New Testament was written in Greek.

    5.    The Roman Empire rose… this is who was in power during the time of Jesus and in the following centuries.

    The Scriptures Used at the Time:

    The Hebrew scriptures were written in Hebrew [duh!] but during the period of the Macedonian Empire (around 150 years or so before Christ) a translation was made of the sacred Scriptures into the Greek language known as the Septuagint.   This Greek translation was widely used and was the most available during the time…(remember no one spoke Hebrew anymore)  including the time of Jesus and the early church. 

    NOTE:   When New Testament writers refer back to or quote the Old Testament, 90% of the time they are quoting from the Septuagint (Greek) translation rather than the Hebrew scripture.

  • Guest

    As mentioned before, the early church started by Jesus, through Peter, Paul etc. used the Septuagint and this has always been the case.  The Septuagint was used for 350 years until it came time for an official Canon to be established.  In both the Christian and Hebrew communities, the books were debated and eventually settled upon.   

    The Jews only kept those 39 books that were written in Hebrew.  The Septuagint used by the Church had an additional 7 books (as well as portions of Esther and Daniel) that were written in Greek and at the time no Hebrew counterpart could be found.  All 46 books were kept as the official Canon.  Maybe no counterpart existed because Greek was the language of the times now and some of the scriptures would have only been written in Greek? 

    NOTE: The finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls has since shown that Hebrew portions of these books DID exist. The additional 7 books are:  Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Baruch, Tobit, and 1&2 Maccabees. NOTE:  Even though the Jews did not include these books in their Canon, they are still revered and considered sacred.  In fact, their celebration of Hanukkah comes from 2 Maccabees chap. 4 

    The Reformation:

    For 1500 years the 46 books of the Christian Old Testament were uncontested.

    In 1529, Martin Luther proposed going back to the Hebrew Old Testament; he claimed that since no Hebrew counterpart of those 7 books existed, then it wasn’t divinely inspired…

    Of course, zero books of the New Testament exist in Hebrew… which is accepted by all Chrisitans as divinely inspired.   

    In addition, Martin Luther also wanted to throw out Esther, James and Revelations. 

    Why would he want to throw out these portions of the Bible? 

    Why would he want to go back to the Old Testament used by the very people who persecuted the early Christian Church?

    The books Luther removed deal heavily with issues that he disagreed with, such as the authority of the Church and praying for the dead.  

    It seems contradictory for Protestants to accept the Bible and yet reject the very authority of the Catholic Church that preserved it for them.  There would not be a Bible if it were not for the Church!

    Martin Luther himself said “Papists possess the Word of God which we received from them; otherwise we should have known nothing about it.” – Commentary on St. John CH. 16