The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Deuterocanonicals

Was at a bed and breakfast this past weekend and found the Jerome Biblical Commentary on the bookshelf! Flipped through it and read the section on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

One fascinating find was the book of Tobit: four manuscripts of the original Aramaic text of Tobit were found, and one in Hebrew. Recall that one of the most common Protestant arguments against the deuterocanonical books were that none were written in Hebrew (or Aramaic), but only Greek. Well, that argument is sunk by Tobit alone, but of course Protestants couldn’t know that until the 1950s when the scrolls began to be discovered. Judith, Sirach, and 1 Maccabees were also thought to be originally composed in Hebrew.

Also interesting: Sirach was read and copied by the Jews even after 90 AD, and it was recorded by Tosephta in Yadaim that it was a book that “did not soil the hands,” indicating reverence for it.

Esther was not in the Qumran collection, but deuterocanonical books as well as Apocryphal books (like Enoch, Jubilees, etc.) were also found, more evidence that the the “Jewish canon” was not a fixed collection at this time. Baruch 6 and Sirach manuscripts were also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So the early Church did not have a fixed OT canon to use, which is evidenced by the diversity of quotations and references that the Fathers made to protocanonical and deuterocanonical books. It is true that several Fathers wanted to remain closer to the Jewish canon (that was settling out in the 2nd century), but there was no universally accepted definition of the boundaries of the OT canon until centuries later.

We come to the time of Trent, and questions still remain about the deuterocanonicals. Cardinal Cajetan did not want to accept them as Scripture. But the prelates at Trent ended up accepting the wider canon–not because they knew all the historical arguments, as indeed it seems like they were not the most historically knowledgeable group of clergy–but on the theological basis of which books had been most consistently used by the Church over the centuries.

But the Reformers and Cardinal Cajetan, perhaps influenced by Erasmus, also questioned many NT books. Cajetan shared Erasmus’ reservations about Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2  and 3 John, and Revelation. That’s right, Cajetan, the Catholic whom Protestants celebrate as proof that the deuterocanonicals should be rejected, wanted to reject books that all Protestants accept in the NT. Hmmm, maybe he’s not such a great witness for Protestantism?

Luther and Carlstadt also doubted some of those same NT books, as I and others have written about before. They placed them in a second position, lower than the rest of the NT, the “canon within the canon” that to most Protestants today sounds so ludicrous. (Though some Lutherans still hold to that belief.)

In the end, mere historical analysis was not enough to unambiguously know the true canon. The many opinions about both the OT and NT canon demonstrates that. Which is more evidence for the Catholic claim that God preserves His truth by guiding His Church–even men who are less historically knowledgeable than others–into all truth on faith and morals. He guided the prelates at Trent to get the canon right, in spite of the historical ambiguity.

The more I learn about the development of the canon, the more I am grateful to God for His providence in guiding the Church. Without that guidance, we would all be like the Christians at the time of the Reformation: endlessly debating the vague and conflicting evidence for or against this or that book. Never being able to come to conscience-binding certainty on it, and thus not knowing what God’s Word is with confidence.

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33 thoughts on “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Deuterocanonicals”

  1. I love it…thanks for this…I will link this article on my site.

    I am Orthodox, and for us the Apocryphal books are part of the OT because they are part of the Septuagint.

    I recently taught through the books for our Adult Sunday class at our parish and compiled my notes into a book entitled “The Rest of the Bible”

    Good stuff, thanks, and God Bless,


  2. I didn’t know Cajetan also had reservations on some NT books, but it makes sense and is a very important fact to know when talking with Protestants! Thanks for that!

    It is very important when talking with Protestants to bring up the fact Luther doubted certain NT books, because this pulls the rug from out under most of their objections, especially in regards to the DeuteroCanon. It shows that Luther had a much more radical agenda in play, one which would throw out a book at the whim of the individual, which rightly frightens most Protestants but can also help them to see how truly consistent Luther was to the Protestant “I’m my own magisterium” ethos because Luther was one of the few Protestants to be frank about his ‘authority’.

    1. Nick,

      No prob. Yeah the part about Cajetan was new to me. I wished the Jerome Biblical Commentary had put a reference for that particular bit of information, but it didn’t have one, so I trust it was accurate.

  3. Can I ask you, would you mind clarifying for me something?

    Is it more important ultimately to believe there are 7 more ‘true’ books than the protestants have in their cannon or;
    that what is written in the books is Gods final and to be believed and followed Word?

    Through your site I have seen comments expressing beliefs that I personally have not seen foundation for in the Word.

    Seen as you are a learned man in this area, could you help me out with scriptural(RC or P Bible) basis for some of these beliefs to help me weigh it up?

    in particular;

    1. believing – or having “freedom” to believe the science theory of evolution as our creation story
    2. praying to Mary as an intercessor/mediator between man and God
    3. believing Mary was born free of original sin
    4. Praying and devoting to saints
    5. the papal infallibility

    I am very interested in this, have followed your site for months now and genuinely mean the questions to settle some queries rather than start an argument or be disrespectful.

    Thank you

    1. Dear Lisa,

      Welcome to the blog, and thank you for reading it these past months.

      I think I understand the thrust of your questions, so allow me to respond and hopefully clarify the purpose of my posts.

      Is it more important ultimately to believe there are 7 more ‘true’ books than the protestants have in their cannon or; that what is written in the books is Gods final and to be believed and followed Word?

      Through your site I have seen comments expressing beliefs that I personally have not seen foundation for in the Word.

      Okay, so let’s take your last statement first. You have seen beliefs expressed by me(?) that you do not think have foundation “in the Word.” And that troubles you, because, if I understand the implication of the first part of your statement, you think it is most important that someone believes that “what is written in the books is God’s final and to be believed and followed Word.”

      But how can we judge whether some statement has a foundation in the Word? It stands to reason that we first must know which books rightfully belong in the Word, and which do not. The books that belong in the Word are those books that God inspired to be written. Therefore we must know with conscience-binding certainty which books those are. Otherwise we don’t know what is God’s Word and what isn’t!

      This then is why I focus so strongly on the canon of Scripture. It’s God’s table of contents for the Bible. And that is the reason for this post, examining from one angle the difference between the Protestant and Catholic “table of contents” of the Bible.

      Catholics have an incredibly high view of Scripture, its divine inspiration and inerrancy, as Dei Verbum states:

      11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

      Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

      With that background, which I hope clarifies the purpose and intent of my posts, let me offer answers to your questions:

      1. believing – or having “freedom” to believe the science theory of evolution as our creation story

      Catholics cannot believe in “evolution as our creation story.” God created us. And through a special act of creation, He imbued us with a soul, making us in His own image. Evolution had nothing to do with that, could have nothing to do with it, as it was a supernatural act that only God could do.

      Now, Catholics do have leeway in believing (or refusing to believe) in the various evolutionary theories of one kind of creature evolving over time. But God created the Heavens and the earth and all matter and energy in it.

      2. praying to Mary as an intercessor/mediator between man and God

      Christ is the mediator between man and God in a salvific way that no one else ever could or will ever be. However, just as we in a subordinate way can mediate between God and man–praying for each other–Mary also has a role of mediation (secondary to and entirely dependent upon Christ’s mediation):

      3. believing Mary was born free of original sin

      No explicit Bible prooftext exists for this. It is found more clearly in the Apostolic Tradition. But the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary as “full of grace” as her title is unique and extraordinary. God created Adam and Eve free of original sin, so there is no reason He could not preserved Jesus’ mother from it.

      4. Praying and devoting to saints

      The saints who have passed away are still alive in God, as the Bible says. So they are not dead, they are alive. That means that, united as one body in Christ, we can ask them to pray for us as I would ask a saint here on earth to pray for me.

      5. the papal infallibility

      Again, no explicit biblical prooftext exists. Instead, the understanding of this truth grew over time. It is part of the infallibility Christ has given His Church. He has guided her into all truth as He said in John 16:13. The Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). And He gave to Peter the keys to Kingdom, to bind and loose, etc. So even in the Bible it is clear that Christ gave His divine authority to man, and that Peter had a special role among the Apostles, being singled out again and again.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have comments or questions.

      1. Thank you so much for your answers and for engaging in the discussion with me.

        I am a protestant by my Church’s denomination however I don’t like to align myself with a denomination – I study the Word and follow Jesus as the Lord of my life as He teaches me through his Spirit and His Word to be His hands and feet while I’m here, to learn to know Him better, to be filled with His Love and to life from that place… I too believe the Word is vital and so I’m searching out the details of the canons and so on, that is why I enjoy your blog.

        My concern is as you perceived it to be; that regardless of which books are ‘right’ – tradition or dogma ultimately plays more of a role in forming the main doctrines believed and followed.

        I think that all denominations do this in some area or another and so I am not trying to knock you or your faith at all –
        Please understand that.
        We have all strayed from the black and white of the text at times or in areas and now this person or that persons word has become higher.(although we may not notice and if we do we may not want to admit!) Sometimes what sounds good or is more suitable to our life is the nicer option than hard hitting biblical truth.

        2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you
        accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

        Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death

        We are told many times to search the scriptures, to weigh words and to test spirits for this very reason.
        Testing (against the Word) even that which our ministers from God teach us.

        Jesus speaks in similar language to one of the 7 churches in the book of Revelation (Test those who claim to be apostles but
        are not )

        1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many
        false prophets have gone out into the world.

        Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with
        great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

        Jesus warned – do not be offended by me – so not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion…(Matt 11.6, Luke 7.23,Heb
        3.8)why? Because the people did not want to hear the Truth He was speaking… a lot fell away because of Him.

        Seen as you so graciously answered my 4 questions, let me stay there for a minute.

        As much as the answers may sound nice or even plausible to a human mind – if it does not have scriptural basis what does it
        matter? We live in the worlds system, in a fleshly and carnal body so we will not always have thoughts that line with God and so we have to daily put on Christ… renew our minds with the Word of God is what we are told to do so that we can discern God’s will. (Rom 12.2) and as we have just looked at above(and I know-only briefly at that) that doesn’t settle the matter. It must have scriptural basis even somewhere. You yourself explained so well in your answer to me – why it is so important to uphold the Truth of the text and faithfully teach it “it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings ” therefore would he not have included such important things as that which we discussed in those 4 questions

        1. My apologies if I am wrong in the question on evolution. I know many Catholics who believe in an old earth and basically
        God stamped a soul on us after we evolved but He got the ball rolling-not a big bang as it was His design idea!! which is
        such a muddle of beliefs – trying to believe in the worldly view of evolution but still having their belief in God. They
        don’t see – once they believe God gets the glory and our souls didn’t happen by chance – that it contradicts their faith,
        they feel allowed to hold to this by the church, so I was wondering if that was widespread. I think the, at times, mixed
        messages from the Vatican over the years have helped in my confusion, while trying to not appear anti-science they have at
        Times almost endorsed the evolution view with their comments; I think there is a lot of confusion at large on this subject these days! we’ll move on!

        2. Can you back this up with ANY scripture? I read that blog post, thank you. but again it was just conjecture, not biblically
        backed at all. He does mention “However, in an absolute sense, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ
        Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).” but then goes on to say “Christ is fully God and fully man and thus He is the only absolute mediator
        between God and humanity. The Blessed Virgin Mary is human and not divine. Since Christ is the only mediator between God and humans, He is therefore the mediator between God and Mary.” completely unscriptural and negates Christ’s ‘fully man’ part of His character that made His sacrifice for us relevant… this sentence goes against his above quote. plus he then says “If Christ is the Head of the Body of Christ, Mary is the neck.” in all the mention of the body of Christ in scripture you would
        imagine God would tell us of this extremely important fact? yet he doesn’t. He never mentions the neck being Mary…only
        Christ being the head and we the body!(eph 1,Romans 12, 1 Cor 12)

        3. “No explicit Bible proof text exists for this” there is no scriptural basis for this, even in the books in the RC cannon?
        (KJV&NKJV) John 1.14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
        (NIV) Acts 6.8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
        (NIV) Colossians4.6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer
        On a quick search with these translations these are the only sentences ‘full of grace’ and they refer not to Mary but to
        Stephen and to the rest of us.
        I searched the online Catholic Bible and that title doesn’t appear in the accounts. Can you direct me to that scripture where
        She is titled Full of Grace and how it points to her being sinless?
        You said “God created Adam and Eve free of original sin, so there is no reason He could not preserved Jesus’ mother from it.”
        but that is no more than a nice idea, it negates Jesus if she was sinless…she could have just been the sacrifice then? If
        we misunderstand this, we misunderstand Jesus and the cross in my opinion.

        Am I way out? Can you share any scripture with me on this seen as I am having trouble myself and you are learned in this
        area? thanks.

        Luke 1:46-50 Mary’s Song And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
        She called herself Gods servant. she recognized her own need for a savior, which she would not need if she was without sin
        as we only need saving from our sin nature.
        I respect and love Mary, I think we can over look her in my denomination as we do not want to worship her… but she should be called blessed for sure!… however that does not in any way mean I think she is without sin or is my mediator, as the Lord does not say such things. in fact Jesus did not give her such high status himself in Mark 3:31-35

        Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

        maybe you could clarify this?

        4. Does this not also go against the one mediator in heaven scripture we already covered? we can pray for each other here yes – of course! but to and through the name of Jesus our only mediator in heaven.

        5. I think there is much in History to refute this however I have not studied it in depth obviously and so I will stick to
        the scriptural bit again – as I agree with your statements that God put in there(scriptures) what He wanted us to know and live by!

        You tell me however that there is no scripture to back this up, again only tradition.
        John 16 talks of the Holy Spirit coming to His followers to guide them?! not the infallibility of an institution through one
        1 Tim 3 explains how they are to conduct themselves – not that they are a pillar of Truth on their own but only when
        following the Truth and the Teachings Paul set out as he states in 14 and goes on to talk of the spring we draw from – God, in verse 16. I don’t see how it shows the church to be inerrant – especially one man?

        Thank you for allowing me to tease out my thoughts on this in response. I wanted to see on what biblical basis you could
        confirm to me Gods wanting of these doctrines and practices.
        It kind of answered my concern inadvertently. My concern being that regardless of what books are in our Bibles we pick
        and chose and add to God’s Word – our own doctrines.

        He tells us in Deut and in Rev not to take away or add. a lot of people say that’s just books… I would be more concerned about it being mans truths rather than just other books.

        Reading Mark 7 would put some of this in perspective. but I will quote just verse 9

        And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
        Maybe you could clarify this also for me?

        wow that was a long answer – my apologies! I don’t wish to debate; more try finding some answers to the questions which you could not provide for me. If you have more info to direct me to the biblical basis for any of it, I would be delighted to look at it.

        Thanks again. God Bless.

        1. Lisa,

          Thank you for your response. Firstly let me say I understand where you are coming from, as I myself used to believe quite similarly to you.

          Here’s the rub: The Bible you hold in your hands contains books that were discerned by the Church’s bishops and theologians from roughly 100 AD to 400 AD, using the Apostolic Tradition and guided by the Spirit.

          But Protestants don’t believe in this sacred Tradition–they think all tradition are traditions of men (using verses you listed in your reply)–so they cannot accept the Church’s discernment of the books that belonged in the Bible. Yet they unconsciously or unknowingly do, as they accept the books in their Bible. This is a contradiction within Protestantism that has no solution.

          Realize that what you did in your response was to ignore the question of how you know the books in your Bible are inspired, and just dove right into your interpretation of various verses of those books. But we haven’t yet figured out how you know those books are inspired apart from the Church’s Tradition, which you don’t believe in.

          But I understand: the doctrine of sola Scriptura has been deeply embedded in your beliefs, as well as the assumption that the Bible has sixty-six particular books, so you want to operate on that basis, using the Bible alone, disregarding as untrustworthy anything else as the opinions or traditions of men.

          For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

          But the very question is, how do we know what the gospel is, and who Jesus is? The testimony of the Apostles. But that testimony, whether written or oral or both, could have been corrupted unless the Holy Spirit preserved it from error. Do you believe that He did? If so, how?

          We are told many times to search the scriptures, to weigh words and to test spirits for this very reason. Testing (against the Word) even that which our ministers from God teach us.

          But how are you testing them? You use your interpretation of the Bible. What if you are wrong. I should test what you say. What if I find it is wrong? Now we have a problem: everyone is their own ultimate interpretive authority. The pope and the Catholic Church are replaced by every individual Christian.

          Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with
          great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

          Notice that the Bereans were more noble because they received Paul’s message. Some of the Thessalonicans rejected his message. So their nobility was not necessarily that they looked to the (Old Testament) Scriptures to see if Jesus was the Messiah, but that they accepted his message that it was so and then found support in the Scriptures. Other Jews looked to the OT Scriptures and found (what they thought were) incompatible messages between the apostles’ words and the OT.

          God did not include everything in the Bible. It is an assumption of sola Scriptura that everything important should be written in the Bible. But the New Testament is short; it includes a small snapshot of Jesus’ life and then the life of the early Church for a few decades.

          Going into the rest of the questions and your responses does us no good until we are clear on the more basic ideas. Is sola Scriptura true? What books belong in the Bible? Who has the authority to accurately interpret the Bible?

          God bless,

          1. The canon is the set of inspired books that make up the Holy Scriptures, the written Word of God. They are called ‘canonical’ because they are the rule, the standard of faith. ‘Canon’ is derived from a Greek word, kanon, meaning a measuring-rod. No matter how valuable and useful, other human writings are not canonical because they are not inspired. Human writings are fallible (can be mistaken) and could not be called the Word of God.

            The canon is not ‘determined’ by the church or church leaders. The church did not give us the Bible. Rather, God gave the Bible to His people, the church, and not the other way around. Every book written by the inspiration of God is, by definition, canonical. It is canonical because it is the Word of God, not because of any human decision to regard it as such. Therefore the canon of the Scripture was completed when the last book of the New Testament was written, even though all Christians did not yet possess all the canonical books collected in one book.

            The New Testament books were given to the churches as sacred Scripture. During the apostolic age, Christians were aware that new books were being added to the Scriptures, which were of equal authority to the Old Testament scriptures. These books and epistles were copied, circulated among the churches, and passed on to succeeding generations. There was a general consensus among Christians on most books of the New Testament, though there were some doubts about a few. By the fourth century, there was a general agreement on all books of the New Testament, both in the eastern and the western church. The Eastern Orthodox Church was the first to formally identify the 27 books of the New Testament in A.D. 367. The canonical books were listed in Athanasius’ Easter letter from Alexandria. Later on the Western church accepted the same books at the councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) and Carthage (A.D. 397). Having received from the Jews the books of the Old Testament and from our Christian forefathers the books of the New, today we possess the complete Bible.

            Catholic apologists often argue about the canon either to discredit Sola Scriptura (the Bible is the sole, infallible rule of faith), or to elevate the authority of the magisterium and tradition by employing three basic arguments, all of which are fallacious.

            [1. The canon cannot be ascertained from Scripture alone]
            No, we cannot, but we don’t have to either. The Bible is not a doctrine to be determined from the Bible itself. Rather, Scripture was given by God to His people as the infallible rule of faith, and as such it has been recognized and handled to succeeding generations. There is no inspired table of contents in the Bible, but there is something even better. Our confidence that we possess all the correct books of the Bible rests in the goodness and omnipotence of our God who both gave and preserved His Word for His children. In His wise providence, God has so directed His people (fallible and imperfect as they are) to recognize for certain His Holy Word. The Good Shepherd had promised that His sheep would hear His voice, and that they will not be mislead by the voice of a stranger – and that is exactly what happened, and what continues to happen to this day. “My sheep hear my voice!”

            [2 The canon cannot be known apart from church tradition]
            In a sense, this is true. Our forefathers cherished and preserved the sacred writings, and the Lord directed the church to a general consensus on all the books. We have received from their hands the 27 books of the New Testament. We may call this ‘tradition’ – a heritage that is passed on from one generation to the next. This ‘tradition’ has nothing to do with the concept of ‘Sacred Tradition’ of the Roman Catholic Church. The ‘table of contents’ was not passed orally from one bishop to the other, until somebody decided to publish it! Rather, the books that were already regarded as Scripture by the churches were included in the list of canonical books- and passed on to us.

            [3.The canon cannot be known with certainty apart from the infallible magisterium.]
            We are told that unless we rely on the decision of the infallible Church magisterium, we have no sure basis for knowing the extent of the canon. How can we be sure that the early Christians did not exclude an inspired book, or included a book that is not inspired?

            It would be nice to have an infallible magisterium to declare infallibly the list of canonical books. Unfortunately, there are two big problems with this fantasy. First, historically it did not happen that way. Secondly, how can we know that the magisterium is infallible to start with?

            From the Roman Catholic standpoint, it was not until the sixteenth century at the Council of Trent, that a general council declared ‘infallibly’ the books of the Bible. (The councils of Hippo and Carthage were local synods, and could not be considered infallible, since the list of Old Testament books was different from that given by Trent. Indeed, if Trent is correct, then Hippo and Carthage were not merely fallible, but actually mistaken). Yet for fifteen hundred years and more, Christians had built their life and hope on the teaching of those books, being fully confident that they are the Word of God, even though there was no declaration by an infallible magisterium. Today, Evangelicals continue to walk in the steps of their forefathers, having full assurance of the authenticity of the books of the Bible, apart from any ‘infallible’ declaration by a group of bishops.

            Similarly, the Jewish people recognized a corpus of books that they called ‘sacred Scriptures’ (which we now call the Old Testament). The Lord Jesus and His apostles reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures, implying of course that there was a canon that was generally recognized by God’s people. Yet, it is clear that the same Jews that recognized the canonical books were not themselves ‘infallible.’ Jesus does not attribute infallibility to the leaders whose forefathers had first acknowledged the books of the sacred Scriptures. As a matter of fact, they were mistaken on many issues of doctrine and morals, to the extent that they crucified the Messiah prophesied in the same Writings. We can be confident that God has providentially worked in history so that we now possess in our hands the inspired writings. Moreover, we would be wise to follow Jesus and His apostles not to attribute infallibility to the church He used to that end.

            Secondly, the need for an infallible magisterium creates an additional logical problem. If we cannot know for certain the canon of Scripture apart from an infallible authority, how can we know for certain that the Roman claim to infallibility is certainly true? To say that the magisterium teaches that the magisterium is infallible is begging the question. Nor is it possible to argue from the Bible that the magisterium is infallible, for that presupposes that the canon of the Bible is known for certain (apart from the infallible declaration by the magisterium).

            [The Authority of the Bible]
            I also don’t see how the church ‘gives authority’ to the Bible by witnessing to its veracity. The Bible is authoritative because it is the inspired Word of God, whatever anyone says about it. I do not impart beauty to the Mona Lisa by my admiration and praise. Nor do I add value to the crown jewels by recognizing their worth. In the same way, we do not give authority to the books of the Bible by recognizing them as the Word of God.

            It is true that during the first centuries, Christians endeavoured to identify the canon of the New Testament (i.e. the books that make up the Holy Bible). Previously, God by His Holy Spirit enabled the Jews to recognize the canonical books of the Old Testament. God, who inspired the Scriptures, made sure that His people would possess and acknowledge His Book. Though Christians and their leaders are fallible and liable to make mistakes, yet God’s providence guaranteed that their decisions were correct.

            [1. The Catholic Church does not have authority over the Bible]
            Since the Bible is the Word of God (whether we believe it or not), how can mere men give authority to the Word of their Creator and Lord? Even the Roman Catholic Church does not assume this proud position in its official writings. ‘Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 86). Can a servant give authority to his master? Of course not! Neither can the church give authority to the Word of her Lord.

            [2. The Bible was not given by any Church, Catholic, Protestant or any other]
            The Bible is inspired by God: is not given by the church, but to the church. Catholic apologists are so eager to elevate the authority of their church, that they even flatly contradict the teaching of their own church.

            The First Vatican Council declared:
            The books the church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the church.

            The Scriptures are the rule of faith because they are the Word of God and not because they were approved by the authority of the church. So much for the idea that the church gives authority to the Bible, or that the church gave the Bible!

            Even Jerome was persuaded, against his original inclination, to include the deuterocanonicals/apocyrpha in his Vulgate edition of the Scriptures. Yet he classed the Apocrypha in a separated category. He differentiated between the canonical books and ecclesiastical books, which he did not recognize as authoritative Scripture.

            The practice of the Church up to the time of the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome who rejected the Old Testament Apocrypha on the grounds that these books were never part of the Jewish canon and the Jews themselves did not recognise them as authoritative/inspired books. These were permissible to be read in the churches for the purposes of edification but were never considered authoritative for establishing doctrine. The Protestants did nothing new when they rejected the apocrypha as authoritative Scripture. It was the Roman church that rejected this tradition and ‘canonized’ the ecclesiastical books. In fact the GOOD NEWS BIBLE (GNB), a Catholic Bible that includes the Deutrocanons mentions in its preface page: “The first series of books is accepted by Roman Catholics as part of the canon of the OLD TESTAMENT; and both series are regarded … as worthy of at least private reading, though they are not regarded as a basis for imparting/teaching/preaching as the word of God.

            Please be aware that the copies of OLD TESTAMENT manuscripts were (originally written and preserved on scrolls of“parchment” paper) in Hebrew, with some portions of the Book of Daniel written in Aramaic. Likewise copies the NEW TESTAMENT manuscripts were written in Koine Greek. What is available are copies of the original manuscripts. The “Originals” have been deemed lost. Copies were also recently found in the Qumran caves (“Dead Sea Srcolls) giving further proof or circumstantial evidence that the Bible manuscripts were “secretly” written and preserved by “Holy Men” who were moved by the power of the Holty Ghost. Certainly no Church gave us the Bible, be it a Catholic, Protestant or any of those 25,000+ denominations out there. Because the source manuscripts were already in existence. The VATICAN Council I statement I’ve mentioned herein above testifies to the fact.

          2. Sameer,

            Your statements seem to be cut-and-pasted in a way that doesn’t address the comment of mine you are replying to.

            For instance, I did not say that the Church “determined” the canon but that the Church “discerned” it. I am very careful with my words in this regard. Much of your comments are a rehash of straw-men arguments John Calvin made against the Catholic Church. (The Church claims authority over the Bible, the Church makes the Bible authoritative, etc. etc.).

            In any event, welcome to my blog. We discuss the canon a lot, so don’t feel you have to cut and paste the kitchen sink in right away. Tailor your comments to the particular argument of the post or of the comments on the post.

            God bless,

          3. Hi Sameer,

            In your post you said:

            “The practice of the Church up to the time of the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome who rejected the Old Testament Apocrypha on the grounds that these books were never part of the Jewish canon and the Jews themselves did not recognise them as authoritative/inspired books. ”

            Why do you write this? The deuterocanonicals were quoted extensively as scripture from the first century and up through the Protestant Reformation. Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, popes, and others quoted from the deuterocanonicals as scriptures. At the councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage in the late 4th century AD, the Christian faithful were taught that the deuterocanonical books are Scripture.

            Even the New Testament quotes from, or refers to, or is foreshadowed by deuterocanonical verses in over 50 places. Check out this link:


            If the deuterocanonicals were not scripture, then Jesus, the apostles, and the Church were using a corrupt Old Testament for 1500 years.

  4. Wasn’t the bit about the Deuterocanonicals supposedly not being written in Hebrew one of Jerome’s initial objections to their inclusion in the canon?

  5. Hi Lisa,

    If you are looking for scriptural basis for Catholic beliefs, you might try:

    Protestant denominations and individuals all differ on how to interpret scripture. I don’t know if you have encountered this yourself, but I have personally attended quite a few Protestant denominations. The differences are innumerable: instrumental music or not (you know there’s no record of instrumental music being used in the New Testament), infant or adult baptism, baptismal regeneration or symbolic baptism, what it means to take the Lord’s supper in an “unworthy” manner, whether the 7 days in Genesis are seven literal days, etc. etc.

    Each of these differences have contributed to the sad divisions in Protestantism, divisions which have made it difficult for the Church to be a witness to the world.

    These differences over how to interpret scripture are not new. Even before the incarnation of our Lord, there were differences in how Jews interpreted the Old Testament. There were Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes, all divided on which books should be used as scripture and how to interpret these books.

    After the resurrection, there were immediately divisions in Christians – the Judaizing Christians (mentioned in Acts) and soon to follow, groups like the Docetists, the Gnostics, the Marcionites, the Arians, and more. There was one thing uniting all these groups. It was the belief in sola scriptura, that they could create their own interpretations of scripture. Did the apostles warn against this? Yes!

    Well, God also knew this would be a problem. That is why He didn’t leave us with JUST scripture. Rather, He established a Church on the foundation stones of the apostles, and He promised a true guide for this Church (the Holy Spirit), that this Church would be the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15), and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against Her. So when Christ prayed to the Father that there would be unity, and no divisions between “them”, his prayer was answered and fully realized in the Church which He established through the apostles. For that Church was built in a special way, that it would be of one faith: a holy and indivisible Body in mystical union with Our Lord.

    So, all this is to say that Catholics rely on the Church as the authentic interpreter of scripture. For we all know that scripture is good and helpful, and we should test all against the scriptures. But we also know we are human, and we make mistakes in understanding scripture. If we rely on the Church as our guide, we know we are not being misled by our own misunderstandings and the teachings of men, because what the Church has received is received by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and it is the Truth.

    What does this mean in practice? When Catholics interpret scripture, they interpret it WITH the Church. Catholics read not just scripture, but also the apostolic tradition, which is the deposit of faith received by the Holy Spirit and passed on to the Church.

    Do you think the apostles passed on more than was written down in scripture? Yes, more was passed on than was written down, and the Churches were asked to hold fast to this faith they received. 2 Thess 2:15 says: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

    So what is this “tradition” referred to by Paul? (Note: most Protestant Bibles translate this word as “teachings” because the editors didn’t understand why Paul was recommending “tradition”, but in the original Greek it is ). This tradition Paul refers to is the apostolic tradition. It is NOT a “tradition of men” – we know Paul and Christ condemned those kinds of traditions. The apostolic tradition is the opposite, it is a tradition that comes from God Himself, revealed through the Holy Spirit beginning at Pentecost.

    Would you like to have been there when the apostles spoke to their congregations and told them what was revealed through the Holy Spirit? Would that help clarify what they wrote down? Well, I would have liked to be there. Paul was certainly not very clear in parts of his letters. Well the good news is that there were men who actually heard teaching of the apostles from the mouths of the apostles, AND received the Holy Spirit from them. These men are known as the “apostolic fathers”, and, thanks be to God, despite the persecution of Christians in the early church, we have a few letters written from at least 3 of the apostolic fathers: Ignatius, Clement, and Polycarp. Can we trust these letters? Well the Church has not determined that these letters are inerrant, but, we do know these men, without exception, died as martyrs for our Lord. That is the kind of faith they had and professed. I can highly recommend reading these inspiration letters of faith.

    But there’s more. The apostolic fathers passed down what they heard. And it was passed on and on through the oral tradition in the same way that the Torah was passed down as oral tradition before it was written down. In the 2nd century, we have writings from men named Justyn Martyr and Irenaeus. These men were students of the apostolic fathers, and we can know by reading their writings what they believed.

    Going on from there, you can read the decisions of the Church councils, starting with the Council of Jerusalem (in Acts), and the Council of Nicaea, up to the last council, which was the 2nd Vatican Council. You can read Augustine, Aquinans, and Therese of Lisieux, the “Doctors of the Church” . Each step of the way, you will find that the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church, clarifying and deepening the understanding of the faith.

    So, why do Catholics (like some Protestant groups) believe in baptismal regeneration? Because this was the apostolic tradition that was passed down. Which means the early church believed in baptismal regeneration. And by no coincidence, Justin Martyr writes about the baptismal regeneration of new Christians in his Apology.

    And, why do Catholics (like the Orthodox) believe that the bread and wine really and truly becomes the body and blood of our Lord? Because of apostolic tradition. And we have the evidence of Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus that the early church believed this very same thing.

    Protestants read Luke 1:28 and might ask what it means that Mary was “highly favored”? Well, when Catholics read this scripture, their Bibles say “full of grace” (because in the Latin it reads “gratia plena”). And Catholics can know what this means by asking the Church. What the Church says is that this means Mary was, by God’s grace, conceived immaculately, without sin, such that her womb might be a pure ark of the New Covenant, which is Our Lord.

    Finally, since Christ is the one intercessor between God and Man, does this mean He is the intercessor not only for the living on Earth but also for the saints in Heaven? Catholics can surely say Yes. That is why I can ask both you AND Mary to pray for me. And I know because of grace of God given to the saints, that Mary, the Mother of our Lord, will hear my request and ask her Son to hear my prayer. Another Wow!

    I hope this helps explain some things about Catholics. Best wishes to you and your journey with our savior!


  6. sorry i am only getting to read these responses now. Thank you for your answers. Unfortunately they still are not answers to my question to you. My canon aside – as I told you I am researching all that myself now – but with YOUR canon I wanted the scriptural backing for some of these beliefs. I know you adressesed me as a prodestant with no understanding of Catholisim but I am an Irish Catholic by birth and rearing and my entire family are catholic except none devout – and my parents are no out of the church also. Nobody can give me scriptural backing for some of these beliefs and the history/tradition seems to be selective too.
    however we shall leave it there for now. I remain unconvinced. I appreciate your time and your words, I will continue on my studies anyway 🙂
    thanks again

    1. Lisa, your mindset assumes sola Scriptura is true. Catholicism doesn’t believe in sola Scriptura, nor does Orthodoxy. Only Protestants do. You should study whether sola Scriptura is true or not, and pray also. God bless!

  7. Hi,

    I was raised Protestant (“non-denominational”) and have recently been challenged by a Catholic friend about many of my beliefs and what the basis is for them. One of the main things I’ve been struggling with is the Apocrypha! I had never even heard of it until I met him so it is incredibly new to me, and I have had a hard time finding resources that explain or answer the questions I have on it. Your site has been very helpful so far, though, thank you 🙂

    I was looking up reasons Protestants give for not considering these books to be inspired, and one of the ones I came across said that it teaches things that go against what the rest of the Bible teaches. The main one I’ve been having some issues with is in Judith chapter 9, in which, according to Protestants, God assists Judith in a lie.

    “Smite by the deceit of my lips the servant with the prince, and the prince with the servant: break down their stateliness by the hand of a woman. For thy power standeth not in multitude nor thy might in strong men: for thou art a God of the afflicted, an helper of the oppressed, an upholder of the weak, a protector of the forlorn, a saviour of them that are without hope. I pray thee, I pray thee, O God of my father, and God of the inheritance of Israel, Lord of the heavens and earth, Creator of the waters, king of every creature, hear thou my prayer: And make my speech and deceit to be their wound and stripe, who have purposed cruel things against thy covenant, and thy hallowed house, and against the top of Sion, and against the house of the possession of thy children.” (vs. 9-13)

    I realize that she is praying here, but reading on in Judith I’m pretty sure she succeeds in, after talking with him for some time, killing Holofernes.

    I know Catholics believe lying is sin, so I was just wondering how Catholics interpret these verses?

    1. Hi Katie,

      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I haven’t looked in detail about this particular issue, but in many places in the Old Testament, events occur which seem to have God’s sanction that we would find problematic today.

      In Esther, after she overthrows the plot against the Jews, they slaughter 75,000 Persians. Elsewhere in the OT, God seems to order that even the women and children be killed of the Israelites enemies (see for example). Also in Psalm 137 where it talks about dashing the heads of the enemy’s babies against the rocks.

      So there’s a greater OT difficulty, regardless of accepting the deuterocanonicals, of how we reconcile these actions, which in light of Christ and the New Testament, seem out of character with God. Personally, I reconcile these events as being in line with human history during those ages. Today we can live (relatively) peacefully with one church or even religion right next door to another. But back then it was either “them or us.” Peaceful coexistence with these other peoples, who often were committing horrible sins, was not possible, and so at times all of them had to be killed.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Thank you, that does help! And thanks for responding so quickly. I didn’t know about those particular instances in the Old Testament. Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me in light of those. I was wondering if you might answer another question I have concerning the Apocrypha?

    “The books of the Apocrypha were written during the four hundred silent years between the Book of Malachi and the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. Jewish and New Testament sources both agree that no divinely inspired prophetic utterance occurred during this time.” (

    I watched your video about the Apocrypha which also cleared up a lot of things for me, including about the Jews saying they’re not inspired. It may be that it’s obvious and I’m failing to see it, but do you know what it means by New Testament sources? So many of the arguments I’ve seen by Protestants have been so vague, and this is the one subject I’ve been having the most trouble finding information on.

    Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Hi Katie,

      Yes this topic is confusing, and it can be hard to find clear information on whether or not the deuterocanonicals should be included.

      The claim that the deuterocanonicals (which they implicitly include above in “apocrypha”) were all written after 400 BC is by no means certain. Nor is it certain that none of the OT books we all accept were not written after 400 BC.

      Nonetheless, it doesn’t really matter when the books were written. Nowhere did God reveal that “inspiration of the OT will end around 400 BC.” Instead, we would expect the opposite. Consider that the Jews were waiting for “the Prophet,” “the new Elijah,” and “the new Moses,” who may or may not be the same person or persons. See for example the Jews asking John the Baptist who he was in John 1:19 and on. How could the Israelites close the OT canon while still waiting for another great prophet and “the new Moses” who may very well have been inspired by God to write letters or books that would belong in the Scriptures?

      Further, an amazing prophecy is found in Wisdom 2, which Matthew’s gospel quotes almost verbatim when recounting Christ’s Passion. You can read more about that (and other good things in the deuterocanonicals) here:

      Of course, the first century Jews would not have wanted to accept Wisdom which included such a strong prophecy to Jesus (whom they had rejected).

      For many allusions (and possible allusions) that the New Testament makes to verses in the deuterocanonicals, see this page:

      The thing is, most of the quotes of Jesus and the Apostles in the NT were to “the” Septuagint, the Greek translation of OT books. The Septuagint was not a fixed collection but rather had books added to it overtime, including deuterocanonical books. So in fact it is not clear cut at all which books the Jews considered inspired in the centuries leading up to Christ. From all appearances it seems they had no fixed canon and only closed it after Christ came (and they rejected Him). Further evidence of this is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which as this blog post talks about shows the Jews there had tons of writings, inspired and non-inspired without any distinction between them. Deuterocanonicals were included in that collection, and Esther was not.

      Protestantism needs to be able to borrow wholesale a closed canon from the Jews, otherwise they have to rely on the agency of the early Church who discerned the Old and New Testaments, but they do not trust the early Church (due to false teachings they believe she held), so they can’t rely on her for her discernment of the canon. This is why Protestant apologists argue that the Jews had closed their canon centuries before Christ and it was an open and shut case. But as I’ve mentioned here there’s a lot of evidence against that claim.

      God bless!

      1. Thank you for your response! I think I understand now, and I’m not really sure that the Protestant argument is convincing to me. I’ve been reading through the links you gave (and the rest of those sites) and I’ve found a lot of helpful things. Am prayerfully considering them all. Thanks again for your help! I may be back with more questions in the future:)

  9. Hi Devin,

    I have another question for you on this subject if you don’t mind!

    “The Apocrypha also contains demonstrable errors. For example, Tobit was supposedly alive when Jereboam staged his revolt in 931 B.C. and was still alive when the Assyrians captured the Northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. This means that he lived over two hundred years! However, the Book of Tobit says he lived only 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11). This is an obvious contradiction. Other examples could be cited. Those who believe in an inerrant Scripture cannot accept the Apocrypha as God’s Word.”

    “Another example [of and error] can be found in the opening verse of the Book of Judith.

    It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days Arphaxad ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana (Judith 1:1).

    There are two historical errors in this verse. Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of the Babylonians, not the Assyrians, and he ruled from Babylon, not Nineveh.”

    (both from blueletterbible)

    How are these explained?


    1. Hi Katie,

      The first thing is to realize that different stories and books in the Bible are in different genres, tailored to their purpose. So, for example, the two (apparently self-contradicting) creation accounts in the first chapters of Genesis are not intended to be biologically accurate (or historically literal in every sense). Same thing with people living to be 900 years old. People today don’t live that long. Is it a scribal error? Did people used to live that long? Or perhaps there’s another purpose in the inspired author describing them as having long years?

      There are also historical and other “errors” in Esther, which you can read about. But Esther, like Judith or Tobit, is not intending to be a precise historical account. Tobit in particular is set in a fictional or mythical setting. Nothing wrong with that. But we have to realize the genre and purpose. It would be like trying to read Revelation in a way that didn’t understand it was Apocalyptic writing.

      Atheists and others take the same tactic used here by blue letter bible and other Protestants and use it against all the Bible. Rabbits chewing the cud in Leviticus 11? But rabbits aren’t ruminants (we know now) and so don’t chew the cud, even though it looks like they do sometimes. Hebrew midwives lying to Pharaoh about Moses, etc. etc.

      So either we have to be consistent in using the atheists’ tactics and apply it to the whole Bible, or we take the approach of docility in seeking to understand the Bible, in the different genres and senses (allegorical, moral, anagogical, literal).

      God bless!

  10. Katie & Devin,

    Let me jump in on part of this question.

    At the time both these books were written, historical fiction was a popular genre among the Jews. One could dip into OT themes and generate compelling drama that would be enjoyable to read, but could communicate wisdom.

    I believe Judith fits this category, and I believe that original readers would have as well. From the first chapter, the author throws together such a mishmash of historical anachronisms, as if to tip off the reader that this is fiction, or perhaps a better decriptor–an extended parable. Read from this perspective, the themes are incredibly instructive regarding courageous faith, chastity, temperance, prayerful living, etc.

    I will have to look into to the comments on Tobit. When reading and studying the book, I somehow missed those details. However, we would be in good standing if we lumped it into the same category as Judith. The Venerable Bede (672-735) considered Tobit Scripture, wrote an excellent commentary on the book, and also thought it was a parable and not a historical story.

      1. Devin and Theron,

        I see what you’re saying. I had noticed those tactics in other arguments against these books at blueletterbible, so I’m not surprised to see that again. I for one didn’t even know these books existed until mid last year; their contents are totally new to me, so I hadn’t even thought of how the genres would come into play and how they’re used in other parts of the Bible.

        Devin, I am curious as to what is seemingly self-contradictory about the Creation accounts in Genesis? I’m not sure what you’re referring to there exactly.

        Theron, I have never heard of the Venerable Bede, but your comment about how he considered Tobit to be a parable brought another question to mind… I can’t think of any parables that use specific dates like in the beginning of Tobit, if that is indeed a parable. There could be ones that I just can’t remember/am not aware of – I’m certainly no Bible scholar! If there are, then this question is irrelevant, but if there aren’t, then is there something to be said about the use of dates in Tobit’s parable? That maybe it isn’t a parable, but is just incorrect? I’m not sure that I would take that view myself, since I think saying “well it doesn’t appear in these parables so it can’t be in this one because of that” isn’t a very good argument, so I’m not sure what exactly I think about this, but it was a thought that popped into my head so I thought I’d ask about it. 🙂


        1. Whoops, it looks like Judith is the book that used specific dates while Tobit talked about Tobit’s age. Sorry about that!

          1. Pardon my total confusion, it looks like I was right the first time, with the dates and ages being used in Tobit. Don’t mind me!

        2. Hi Katie,

          In Genesis 1:25-27, man is created after the animals. But in Genesis 2, he’s created before them.

          Also, in the same passages, Genesis 1 says Adam and Eve were created simultaneously but then in Genesis 2 first Adam is created, then the animals, then Eve from his rib.

          The first story is often called the Elohist account and the second the Yahwist based on the names used for God. These have to be reconciled, and it’s impossible to do if we take them as literally, chronologically describing the creation. But that’s not their purpose; instead they are trying to communicate (in a mythical, but real way) how God created man and how man fell.

          Note also that even in the gospels, there’s a big (apparent) contradiction between the time-line the synoptic gospel authors use for the events of Holy Week (Jerusalem entry, Last Supper, trials, etc.) vs. St. John’s account. Pope Benedict actually spends a good deal of time on this in his latest book on Jesus, working to show how they might be reconciled, a difficulty that theologians and other Christians have wrestled with for a long time.

          Regarding the parable-like writing of certain books, see this article, especially Myth #3:

          God bless!

          1. Thanks Devin! It’s funny, I was speaking to a Catholic priest here a while back and he gave me that same link. Very helpful!

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