7 Books You Didn't Know Were Taken Out Of The Bible
One of the most fascinating areas of Biblical and Historical Theology is the Apocrypha controversy, over which books are divinely inspired by God and which are not. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church have 73 books in their Bible, whereas Protestant Bibles only consider 66 of these books to be divinely inspired. Both Bibles have the same New Testament Canon yet differ when it comes to the Old Testament Canon.
The Protestant Bible Does Not Include These 7 Deuterocanonical Books:
- 1 and 2 Maccabees
The issue arose since Jesus never gave us the Bible, He gave us a Church instead and it is through the influence of the Holy Spirit that the Church compiled the Bible in the 4th Century. In Jesus’ time, the Jews never had a definitive list of Scripture. For example, the Samaritans and Sadducees only accepted the 5 books of the Torah, rejecting the prophets and other literature found in the Old Testament today.
As a result, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and therefore, tried to trick Jesus using the example below, which is a direct reference to Sarah in the Book of Tobit.
“Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” – Mark 12:18-25
Notice how Jesus did not dismiss the reference to the Book of Tobit as a mere legend. The New Testament has many parallels and references to these 7 Deuterocanonical books. Although these books aren’t included in the Protestant Bible, the Early Church included them in the official list, drawn up in 382 AD at the Council of Rome. This was also reaffirmed in the synods of Hippo (393), Carthage I & II (397 & 419) and the Council of Florence (1442).
What we fail to realise is that in the first century, there were hundreds of fake gospels being spread. It’s not obvious which books belong in the Bible because Paul’s letter to Philemon doesn’t mention any specific doctrine and the 3rd Letter of John doesn’t even mention Jesus once.
Furthermore, other early Church writings such as the Letter of Clement and the Didache were not included as part of the Canon of Scripture. Yet, one thing the Church did agree on was that the 7 Deuterocanonical books should be included as they were divinely inspired. So, I guess the question is: why is the Protestant Bible smaller?
Primarily this is due to Martin Luther, who in 1534 grouped these 7 books under the title of the “Apocrypha”, which means ‘hidden’ as he believed these books were not divinely inspired.
There were a few reasons for this:
1. The Jews Did Not Accept These Books As Divinely Inspired:
After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Jewish Rabbis faced a crisis, as the threat of Christianity was growing. As a result, at the Jewish Council of Jamnia, the Jewish rabbis established what they considered to be Sacred Scripture. Not only did they reject Jesus and the New Testament Scriptures, but they also rejected these 7 books.
Yet, it does not make sense for us, as Christians, to trust the authority of the Jews, who crucified our Lord, over the authority of the already established first century Church. In fact, the first Christians did not reject the 7 Deuterocanonical books, evident in the writings of Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Cyprian, Augustine and many other Early Church Fathers. For the Bible is clear that the Church has the final say on matters of dispute.
“If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” – Matthew 18:17
2. The 7 Books Were Not Written In Hebrew:
Luther thought that this discredited the books from being the authoritative Word of God. Yet, the Early Church didn’t require all Scripture to be written in Hebrew, since the New Testament was written in Greek. The universal version of Scripture used by the Jews in Jesus’ time was the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible which included these 7 Books. Furthermore, in 1947: Hebrew fragments of Tobit and Sirach were discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls, thought to be part of the original Jewish manuscripts, proving that actually they were originally written in Hebrew.
3. Luther Did Not Agree With The Doctrine In These Books:
Luther shuffled these 7 books to the appendix of the Bible because he did not believe that they carried the same authoritative weight as the rest of divinely inspired Scripture. What is particularly fascinating is that he also attempted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the New Testament, however, he refrained as this would cause serious controversy. He referred to the Book of James as an “epistle of straw” and disagreed with Hebrews, as it supported the priesthood and 2 Maccabees which supported the doctrine of Purgatory.
The biggest myth is that the Catholic Church added these 7 books to the Bible at the Council of Trent, in 1546. Well if that's the case then Martin Luther beat us to it, as he had already included them in his first German translation. Moreover, the first King James Version (1611) included these 7 books and so did the first-ever printed Bible (The Gutenberg Bible) published in 1455. The Council of Trent was simply a reaffirmation of the definitive list of Scripture, that has been the same list ever since the 4th century.
So, Catholics did not add to Scripture rather Protestants took these books out. The Protestant Reformation was shaped by the idea of ‘Sola Scriptura’ – that the Bible alone is the only source of authority and that nothing should be added or taken away from it. Yet, history has proven how Protestants themselves have ripped apart their own doctrine through disregarding these books. Hence, by trusting the New Testament Canon of Scripture you are indirectly trusting the authority of the Catholic Church.
What blew my mind was that it was only in 1827 that the British and Foreign Bible Society removed the 7 Deuterocanonical books permanently from further publications. So, up until the 19th Century, these books still remained in most Bibles and therefore, were identical to what the Catholic Bible looks like today. Some Protestant versions still contain these books referring to them as the ‘King James Version with the Apocrypha’.
Whether you believe these books are inspired Scripture or not, they still are very significant pieces of Jewish literature to help us understand the New Testament more profoundly. The Book of Tobit is one of my all-time favourites. It’s an adventure story with great insight into love, marriage and family life. Wisdom and Sirach have rich insight on how to live, whilst 1 and 2 Maccabees is about the Maccabean revolt against the oppressors of Israel.
If you haven’t read any of these, I encourage you to. You can find them on the You Version Bible App!
I hope this gives you a bit of background Theology on the Early Church and how the Bible was compiled…