Defend the Faith: Canon of the Bible
Christ the Teacher Series, Volume IV

Categories: Apologetics

Nihil Obstat: Rev. Peter Joseph, STD.

Imprimatur: + Julian Porteous, DD, VG,

Date: 13th November, 2003

First Objection: “The Catholic Church has added extra corrupt books to the Bible which were never part of the Hebrew canon!”

This is an important accusation for Catholics to contend with, because we need to be certain that it is to the word of God and not the word of man that the Church refers to when teaching and preaching to the human race, and determining vital questions of faith and morals. At the same time, it is a difficult question, because the Bible by itself does not tell us the full list of which books belong to it. Jesus Himself referred to “the Law and the Prophets.” This shows that He recognized, as the word of God, the Law or Torah, which is specifically in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible; along with “the Prophets.” In His ministry, Our Lord more specifically quoted the prophet Isaiah, the Book of Psalms, and other books of the Old Testament — but nowhere is He quoted as saying which is the full list of divinely inspired books.

The word “canon” may be defined as the catalogue or collection of books which the Church has declared to be divinely inspired, and which she regards as a rule of faith. The Old Testament books accepted widely from the very beginning of the Church, whose inspiration was never in doubt, are sometimes called protocanonical (protos = first). Books officially recognized some time later, and about the inspiration of which there was some uncertainty here and there, are called deuterocanonical (deuteros = second). The Church herself has never officially used the terminology of ‘protocanonical’ and ‘deuterocanonical.’ But we will use the terms here for convenience only. A book is simply inspired (and therefore in the canon) or not. For the Church, all the Biblical books are canonical; there is no ‘first’ or ‘second’ rank. [An apocryphal book is one that some have thought to be inspired by God, but which in fact is not inspired and the Church has rejected as such, regardless of how historical or orthodox it may be. The word apocryphal literally means to ‘hide from,’ to withhold from the public.]

“The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.”0. The complete list is given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 120, and can be found at the front of any Catholic Bible. The Protestant rejection of certain books of the Bible moved the Catholic Church to define the contents of the entire canon for the first time in 1546, in the first months of the Council of Trent. The list of books given was the same as that recognized by the Council of Florence in 1442 and other earlier lists.

At the time of Christ, there existed two collections of the Old Testament — the Hebrew of the Palestinian Jews and the Greek Septuagint of the Alexandrian Jews. The latter was a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, begun about 250 BC. According to a tradition, seventy Greek-speaking Jewish scholars performed the work. Thus the name Septuagint — Greek for ‘seventy.’ Due to the Hellenization of the eastern Mediterranean world after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek became the popular and common language of that part of the world. The large Jewish communities outside of Palestine no longer spoke Hebrew or Aramaic as their first language. Therefore, it was felt necessary to produce a vernacular version of the Scriptures for them in Greek.

A dispute arises over the canon of Scripture because the Greek Septuagint contains forty-six books while the Hebrew version only thirty-nine. The additional books are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees. In addition, there are extra fragments and chapters in the Septuagint versions of Esther and Daniel, namely: the seven last chapters of Esther (10:4 to 16:24); the prayer of Azarias and the canticle of the three children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:24-90); the history of Susanna (Dan. 13); and the history of Bel and the Dragon (Dan. 14). Together, these additional books and paragraphs constitute the deuterocanonical books.

An occasional dispute has also arisen over the canon of the New Testament. Some early Christians had doubts as to the genuineness of Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, St. James, St. Jude and Revelation.

These doubts were echoed by some of the early Protestant Reformers, notably Martin Luther. Added to this confusion, some in the early Church regarded letters such as the Epistles of Barnabas and Clement, among others, as scriptural. The oldest texts listing all of the Old Testament books date back only to the 4th century AD.

The initial objection against the deuterocanonical books is that they were not part of the Hebrew Old Testament used by Christ and the Apostles. Such a theory, however, relies on the incorrect notion that there was a fixed Old Testament canon known to all the Jews by this time. From Moses until the coming of Christ, divine revelation was communicated to the Jewish people through one of three ways: (i) the High Priests; (ii) prophets; or (iii) special men chosen by God to decide important matters in His name. Of these three, the most common were the prophets. Their extraordinary vocation, sanctity of life, and miraculous interventions in their favor testified to the divine origin of their public missions. Their testimony that a certain book was inspired was therefore a sure certification that it should be accepted as coming from God.

There are various theories as to when the Jews closed their Old Testament canon. One is that the Old Testament was closed once and for all by Ezra (400 BC). This is a view that was held by some of the Fathers and many Protestants. Such a view, however, runs into a number of difficulties. For example, the second book of Ezra contains genealogies of the High Priests continuing 150 years after the death of Ezra. In the same book is a list of the descendants of King David traced down to the sixth generation after Zerobabel, that is, down to about 300 BC. The existence of these genealogies is proof enough that the Old Testament canon remained open at least 150 years after Ezra’s death.

In fact, the Old Testament canon was still in a state of flux in the time of Christ. Both the Sadducees and Samaritans, for example, accepted only the first five books of Moses as inspired and canonical. The great Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius, provides one important hint as to why uncertainty still surrounded the Old Testament canon so late in its history:

“From the time of Artaxerxes to our own time, our history has been written down very particularly (accurately and in detail), but these books have not been considered worthy of the same credit as the books of earlier date, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets.”1

From these last words, it is evident that Josephus required a prophet to appear and canonize the deuterocanonical books in the same way other prophets in the past had done for the protocanonical books. The question at the time of his writing was still open. Unbeknowns to Josephus, this prophet was to be Christ speaking through His Church.

Nevertheless, Josephus makes it clear that the deuterocanonical writings enjoyed great credit among the Jews as sacred literature:

“But what credence we have given to all those books of our own nation is evident from our conduct; for, though so long a time has passed, no one has ever been so bold as to add anything to them whatsoever. But all Jews are instinctively led, from the moment of their birth, to believe that these books contain divine oracles and to abide by them and, if need be, gladly to die for them.”2

To emphasize this point, Josephus says that in the composition of his Jewish Antiquities he used exclusively “sacred writings,” yet he frequently quotes 1 Maccabees and the deutero fragments of Esther. Furthermore, the Talmud refers to Baruch as a ‘prophetic book;’ to Wisdom as a book ‘written by Solomon;’ and to the book of Sirach in quotation.

In addition – with the exception of Wisdom, 2 Maccabees and possibly Tobit – all the other parts of the deuterocanon were previously written in Hebrew. This points to Palestine as the place, not only whence the texts originated, but whence the Alexandrian Jews received their belief in their inspiration and divine character. This is why there are no records of any schism or controversy on the subject between the Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews.

For Jews today, no final determination of the Old Testament was made until the so-called Council of Jamnia (Javnah) in 90 AD. The Jews in this gathering (and again in 118 AD), seeking to build a new focal point for their religious beliefs after the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and in an attempt to counter the early Christians who quoted the Septuagint in support of the claims of Christ, only accepted those Old Testament books which (i) were written in Hebrew; (ii) conformed to the Torah; (iii) pre-dated the time of Ezra; and (iv) were written in Palestine. The Jewish authorities now xenophobically considered the Septuagint “too gentile.” Only the Ethiopian Jews retained the Septuagint version and still do so today (Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1147).

As to what happened at Jamnia: first, it is questionable how a small gathering of Jews could determine anything for Jews worldwide and forever, with no Prophet, no Temple and no recognizable authority when the nation had ceased to exist as a unit. Second, in any case, for Christians, Jamnia is not authoritative, as all legitimate authority had passed to the Catholic Church sixty years earlier at Pentecost. By rejecting the seven additional books of the Septuagint, Protestants therefore effectively follow the canon of the Old Testament as determined by a group of Jews at Jamnia. If Protestants accord Jews the authority to decide on such a matter, then why not consult Jews on whether Jesus is the Messiah? Third, digging deeper into history, we find that the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says, “The suggestion that a particular synod of Jamnia, held c. 100 A.D., finally settled the limits of the OT Canon, was made by H. E. Ryle;3 though it has had a wide currency, there is no evidence to substantiate it.”4

Second objection: “The Deuterocanonical books and the Septuagint were never cited by Christ and the Apostles!”

This objection against the deuterocanonicals is derived from the unfounded principle, “quotation equals canonicity.” It assumes that if a book was not quoted by Christ or the Apostles it is not canonical and vice versa. This argument is faulty for three reasons. First, “Jesus did many other signs … which are not written in this book” (St John 20:30). We do not have every quotation He ever made. Second, the New Testament authors quote a number of works not in any Old Testament canon. St. Jude quotes the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, while St. Paul quotes the Ascension of Isaiah (Heb. 11:37) and pagan authors such as Epimenides, Aratus and Menander (Acts, 1 Cor. and Titus). If quotation means canonicity, then why are none of these works included by Protestants in the canon today? Third, there are protocanonical Old Testament books accepted by Protestants that are not referred to in the New Testament either, including the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations and Nahum. Should these books, in consequence, be excluded also?

The reality, however, is that there are many hundreds of quotations from, and allusions to, the Septuagint and deuterocanonical books found in the New Testament. For example, when Our Lord quoted Isaiah to condemn those whose “heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me” (St. Mark 7:6-7), He used that version of Isaiah found only in the Septuagint. Christ also alluded to Sirach 27:6 which reads “The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree.” In St. John 10:22-36 Our Lord and the Apostles observed the key Feast of the Dedication, or Hanukkah, which celebrates events only recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees. Likewise, St. Paul draws from Wisdom chapters 12 and 13 in Romans 1:19-25. Again, in Hebrews 11:35 we read of women who “received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.” The ex-Protestant convert James Akin in his tract Defending the Deuterocanonicals states:

“There are a couple of examples of women receiving back their dead by resurrection in the Protestant Old Testament. You can find Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarepheth in 1 Kings 17, and you can find his successor Elisha raising the son of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, but one thing [which] you can never find – anywhere in the Protestant Old Testament, from front to back, from Genesis to Malachi – is someone being tortured and refusing to accept release for the sake of a better resurrection. If you want to find that, you have to look in the Catholic Old Testament – in the deuterocanonical books Martin Luther cut out of his Bible.”5

Altogether, there are over twenty allusions to the deuterocanonicals in the New Testament. In addition, there are another 335 verses in the deuterocanonicals that have a counterpart in the New Testament. They are divided as follows:6

St. Matthew: 51, St. Mark: 11, St. Luke: 29, St. John: 20, Acts: 53, Romans: 29, 1 Cor.: 22, 2 Cor.: 2, Galatians: 3, Ephesians: 8, Philippians: 3, Colossians: 1, 1 Thes.: 7, 2 Thes.: 1, 1 Timothy: 6, 2 Timothy: 5,Titus: 2, Hebrews: 24, St. James: 23, 1 Peter: 5, 2 Peter: 4, 1 John: 1, St. Jude: 1, Revelation: 24

Furthermore, out of the 350 verses cited in the New Testament from the Old Testament, 300 are taken from the Septuagint. This extensive use of the Septuagint is an informal and practical ratification of its contents by Christ and the Apostles. In doing so they embedded the Septuagint in the New Testament and made it a lasting inheritance for all Christians. Finally, the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Jewish Essene community also extensively cite passages from the Septuagint, particularly the books of Tobit and Sirach — another sign that these books were known to Palestinian Jews.

To appeal to Jewish authorities before or after Christ, in order to settle the canon definitively for Christians, is to ascribe to the custodians of a provisional Covenant a final and definitive authority for all time — which is a contradiction in terms. The Old Testament, a preparation for Christ, the Fullness of Revelation, is, by definition, closed upon the arrival of the Messiah — whether the Jews knew this or not. The Protestant appeal to Jewish practice or belief at the time of Christ attributes an exaggerated, over-arching authority to those who could not be given such authority, something which would have to wait for the commissioning of Peter and the Apostles by Our Lord.

Third objection: “Many Fathers of the Church and even Catholic popes and saints did not accept the Deuterocanon!”

Certainly a number of the early Fathers, especially St. Jerome, expressly rejected the deuterocanonical books as canonical Scripture. The same may be said for St. Gregory the Great. This is what they said respectively:

“Just as the Church reads Judith and Tobias and the Books of Maccabees, but does not accept them as belonging among the canonical Scriptures, so too let her read these two volumes for the edification of the people but not for the purpose of confirming the authority of the Church’s teachings.”7

“…we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forth testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed.”8

First, it must be recognized that no Father is the Church or infallible in all he says. Pope St. Gregory the Great did not promulgate the above quotation as Church teaching, but as a private work, which he had begun before being elected Bishop of Rome. For many centuries, it remained open to all and sundry to express private opinions about the deuterocanonicals. The overwhelming majority of early Christian writers quoted from them as inspired Scripture without question, as, for example: the author of the Didache; St. Clement I, author of the Epistle of Barnabas; the author of The Shepherd of Hermas; St. Polycarp of Smyrna; Athenagoras of Athens; St. Irenaeus of Lyons; Clement of Alexandria; Tertullian; St. Hippolytus of Rome; Origen; St. Cyprian of Carthage; Dionysius of Alexandria and St. Augustine of Hippo. Other Fathers did not accept the deuterocanonicals as canonical but considered them ecclesiastical, and useful for edification and instruction in doctrine. These included Sts. Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus and Epiphanius of Salamis. Sts. Jerome and Pope St. Gregory the Great fall into this latter category. St. Jerome calls Judith and deutero-Esther ‘holy books’. Later Doctors and Saints also questioned the canonicity of the deuterocanon. Those who favored their inclusion included Gratian, St. Stephen Harding, Stephen Langton, St. Bonaventure, St. Albert the Great, St Thomas Aquinas; those against included Hugh of St. Victor, Nicholas of Lyra, Cardinal Ximenes and Cardinal Cajetan.

There is a distinction between inspiration and canonization, although the two are co-extensive. Inspiration precedes canonization in order of time and causality. It is only God who inspires, and this occurs simultaneously with the book’s composition. Canonization (being put into the canon) takes place after the book’s composition and presupposes inspiration. Therefore, all canonical books are known to be inspired; and now — since the final judgment of the Church — all inspired books are canonical. The canon is closed; there are no inspired books that we do not know of.

Who then determines with certainty which books should form part of canonical Scripture, and by what criteria? This question applies to both the Old and New Testament canons. The Holy Spirit did not promise a revelation to any individual Christian concerning the authentic canon. Anglican Church historian, J. N. D. Kelly offers one possible solution:

“Unless a book could be shown to come from the pen of an apostle, or at least to have the authority of an apostle behind it, it was peremptorily rejected, however edifying or popular with the faithful it might be.”9

But how could early Christians know whether a book was Apostolic? Certainly not simply by a book’s claim to be so, since the Gospels were anonymous and there were numerous spurious gospels and epistles in circulation.10 Protestant Scripture scholar F. F. Bruce writes that:

“[The early Fathers] had recourse to the criterion of orthodoxy … This appeal to the testimony of the churches of apostolic foundation was developed especially by Irenaeus … When previously unknown Gospels or Acts began to circulate … the most important question to ask about any one of them was: What does it teach about the person and work of Christ? Does it maintain the apostolic witness to him…?”11

In other words, a book was reckoned as Apostolic only if its contents were consistent with the teachings of the Apostles (Apostolic paradosis, or tradition) as handed on by the Church. Who, however, was to make such a determination? To assert that this was the Holy Spirit alone without men who determined such is neither historical nor honest. The Holy Spirit did do all the work of inspiration and collection but it was through men who were leaders and pillars of the Church divinely founded, that is, the infallible voice of the successors to St. Peter and the Apostles. Thus came about the decrees of Popes St. Damasus (382 AD) and St. Innocent I (405 AD), and the Councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD), which accepted as canonical the Greek Septuagint and all the books of the New Testament. In these pronouncements the Catholic has the way to certainty. Without such a voice the Protestant has a fallible collection of infallible books.

Fourth objection: “These councils and popes made no final decision. The Council of Trent added the Deuterocanon to have Scriptural backup for its many false teachings, and in doing so contradicted the universal practice of Christianity up to that time.”

The Council of Trent added nothing to the Old Testament. Rather it re-affirmed the ancient practice of the Apostles and the decisions of the early Church through a universal dogmatic definition.

The Council of Rome in 382 AD and the Councils of Carthage 393, 397 and 419 AD all published canons entirely identical with that of the Council of Trent. So did Pope Innocent I in 405 AD, Pope Gelasius I in 495 AD, Pope Hormisdas in 520 AD, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD and the Council of Florence in 1442. Likewise, the Biblical canon of the separated Oriental Churches has always been the same as the Catholic Church — which confirms that in severing parts of the Bible, Protestants are out on an unhistorical limb.

However, all these Papal decrees and Council decisions lacked one or another important factor relating to its universal acceptance. Either they were decisions that acted only at a local level or, if they were universal, dealt with the sacredness or usefulness of the deuterocanonicals without necessarily declaring their canonicity. The Protestant Revolt, with its denials of the inspiration (and therefore canonicity) of the deuterocanonicals, provided the occasion for a universal dogmatic definition relating to their canonicity that would end all discussion. The Council of Trent’s Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures12 solemnly canonized the lists of sacred books promulgated by all the above-mentioned councils and Popes going back to Rome 382 AD.

This Decree is fully justified, for neither the Jews before Christ, or any Church Father, Saint, Pope or Council placed the deuterocanonicals on the same level as profane or simply human literature. At the very least they were hanging, as it were, between heaven and earth for that “prophet” Josephus spoke about who would elevate them to the level of the canon. That prophet was Christ and the Apostles and their successors in the Council of Trent.

Protestants may have their own reasons for rejecting the extra seven books of the Septuagint. These additional books contain certain doctrines contrary to their teachings. For example, the second Book of Maccabees speaks of prayers for the dead in chapter 12 and the communion and intercession of saints in chapter 15. No longer constrained by the authority of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther rejected the Epistle of St. James as an “epistle full of straw…for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it”, simply because it contradicted his own theory of justification by faith alone. He said of Revelation, “I find many things defective in this book, which make me consider it neither Apostolic nor Prophetic.” He also placed Hebrews and Jude in the back of his Bible as “suspected books.” These judgments proceeded from his general arrogance, which he also exhibited in his reply when challenged for changing the text of Romans 3:28: “Thus I will have it, thus I order it, my will is reason enough … Dr. Luther will have it so, and he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole of Popery.”13 Nevertheless, Luther had to admit that “We concede – as we must – that so much of what they (the Catholic Church) say is true: that the papacy has God’s word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scriptures, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?”14

Ultimately, only the magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church can tell us which books are inspired. There are many beautiful books, free from error, and full of truth, which are not inspired. Conversely, in the inspired books, there are many difficult and strange things which could have misled the limited mind of man into thinking they were not from God. In the final analysis, all purely human criteria are inadequate to resolve the question. Inspiration cannot be detected by investigation of the text alone; an external authority is needed to declare it is inspired. Only the authoritative voice of the Church of God can tell us which books are the word of God. So at Vatican I, the Church declared, “These books of the Old and New Testament, complete with all their parts … as contained in the ancient Latin Vulgate edition, must be held as sacred and canonical. The Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not as having been composed by merely human labor and afterwards approved by her authority; nor merely because they contain revelation without error; but because, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and have been transmitted to the Church as such.” 15

The Fathers

Exhortation to the Greeks 13 (inter 260-302 AD) Author Unknown

“Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, when he had constructed a library in Alexandria, and had filled it by collecting books from everywhere, afterwards learned that ancient histories written in Hebrew letters had been carefully preserved. Desiring to know these writings, he sent for seventy wise men from Jerusalem who knew both the Greek and the Hebrew languages, and appointed them to translate the books…He supplied attendants to care for their every need, and also to prevent their communicating with each other, so that it might be possible to know the accuracy of the translation, by their agreement one with another. When he found that the seventy men had given not only the same meaning, but even the same words, and had failed to agree with each other by not so much as a single word, but had written the same things about the same things, he was struck with amazement, and believed that the translation had been written with divine authority.” — This is the Aristean account, 3rd century BC, of the translating of the Septuagint accepted by many of the Fathers, e.g., St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Augustine.

Pope Damasus, Decree on the Canon of Sacred Scripture 2 (382 AD)

“Likewise it has been said: now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun … Likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus one book … Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books, Esther one book, Judith one book, Maccabees two books.”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Against the Letter of Mani 5, 6 (397 AD)

“If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the Gospel, what would you answer him when he says: ‘I do not believe?’ Indeed, I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”

St. Jerome, On the Three Solomonic Books Preface (c. 398 AD)

“There is also the book of Jesus, son of Sirach … and another book, Wisdom, attributed to Solomon … the second was never known in Hebrew, for its very style bespeaks Greek eloquence; and some of the older authors affirm that it is a work of Philo the Jew. Just as the Church reads Judith and Tobias and the Books of Maccabees, but does not accept them as belonging among the canonical Scriptures, so too let her read these two volumes for the edification of the people but not for the purpose of confirming the authority of the Church’s teachings.”

St. Rufinus of Aquileia, Explanation of the Apostles’ Creed 35 & 36 (404 AD)

“These are the writings which the Fathers included in the canon, and on which they desired the affirmations of our faith to be based. At the same time we should appreciate that there are certain books which our predecessors designated ‘ecclesiastical’ rather than ‘canonical.’ Thus, there is the Wisdom of Solomon, as we call it; and another Wisdom, ascribed to the son of Sirach … The Book of Tobias belongs to the same class, as do Judith and the books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament we have the little work known as The Book of the Shepherd, or Hermas, and the book which is named The Two Ways, and The Judgment of Peter. They desired that all these should be read in the Churches, but that appeal should not be made to them on points of faith.”

St. Jerome, Against Rufinus 11, 33 (402 AD)

“What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections 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, 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 they are wont to make against us.”

Pope Innocent I, Letter to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse 6, 7, 13 (405 AD)

“A short annotation shows what books are to be accepted as canonical. As you wished to be informed specifically, they are as follows: The five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; and Jesus Nave, one of Judges, four of Kingdoms, and also Ruth, sixteen books of Prophets, five books of Solomon, the Psalter. Likewise, of histories, one book of Job, one book of Tobias, one of Esther, one of Judith, two of Maccabees, two of Esdras, two books of Paralipomenon. Likewise, of the New Testament: four books of Gospels, fourteen Epistles of Paul, three Epistles of John, two Epistles of Peter, the Epistle of Jude, the Epistle of James, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apocalypse of John. Others, however, which were written under the name of Matthias or of James the Less, or under the name of Peter and of John, by a certain Leucius – or under the name of Andrew, by the philosophers Nexocharis and Leonidas – or under the name of Thomas, and such others as may be, are not only to be repudiated, but, as you know, are also to be condemned.”

Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566)

No reference was made in the Catechism of the Council of Trent to the Canon of the Bible; the question was addressed by the Council itself in the Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures, in 1546: “But if anyone receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992)

No. 120: It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New…

No. 121: The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.

No. 124: The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament which hand on the ultimate truth of God’s Revelation. Their central object is Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his acts, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance.

in “Jamnia” p. 861. 20/1/99. (inter 578-595 AD). 60. of the Hebrews, the Acts of Peter, the Acts of John, etc. 16, p. 304.


  1. Contra Apion., I, 8. [return]
  2. Ibid. [return]
  3. The Canon of the Old Testament (1892) p. 171 f. [return]
  4. Oxf. Dict. of the Christian Church, 3 rd ed., Oxford University Press, 1997, [return]
  5. James Akin, Defending the Deuterocanonicals, www.ewtn.com.library, [return]
  6. This list is taken from pp. 800-804 of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th edition (Novum Testamentum: Graece et Latine, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft). See Appendix E. [return]
  7. St. Jerome, On the Three Solomonic Books, Preface (c. 398 AD). [return]
  8. Pope St. Gregory the Great, Moral Teachings Drawn from Job, Bk 19, 34 [return]
  9. Early Christian Doctrines, 5 th ed. rev., Harper & Row, New York, 1978, p. [return]
  10. For example, the Gospel of Thomas, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel [return]
  11. The Canon of Scripture, p. 260. [return]
  12. Session IV, April 8, 1546. [return]
  13. Letter to Wenceslaus Link, 1530 [return]
  14. Luther’s Works: Sermons on the Gospel of John, 1537, Vol. 24, chaps. 14- [return]
  15. Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, 1870, chapter 2. [return]