If anyone was going to have more books in their bibles, you’d think it would be bible-believing Protestants. If the Bible is brilliant, more Bible must be even better, right?
Yeah, it doesn’t quite work like that. (I think you knew that already.)
It was one of the odder things about returning to the Catholic Church. Suddenly I realised that I had seven more books, and a few extra chapters, in my Bible than I did as a Protestant. The Protestant Bible has 39 books in the Old Testament, while the Catholic Old Testament has 46.
Catholics call these extra books are called deuterocanonical, which means “second canon”. It’s second in terms of chronology, not in terms of authority. (In this, it’s kind of like the book of Deuteronomy which means “second law”.) Protestants, however, call them aprocryphal, which means hidden, and
The deuterocanonical books are:
- Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon)
- Sirach (or Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus)
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
There are also about four more chapters at the end of Esther (Esther 10:4 – 16:24), and additions to Daniel: Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Children (Daniel 3:24-90), Susanna (Daniel 13), and Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 14). (The Orthodox churches have a slightly different canon but I’ll get to that later.)
As a really (really, really, really) quick summary, these are the books of the deuterocanon:
Tobit tells the story of God’s providence in sending the archangel Raphael to help two faithful Israelites: Tobit who has gone blind and Sarah who has had 7 husbands. It reminds a fair bit of Ruth. Anyway, Tobit’s son Tobias goes on a journey, cuts out bits of a fish, marries Sarah and through prayer, succeeds in not dying. (Woo!) He returns home, heals his father with the fish’s liver, and we all live happily ever after.
Judith is brilliant because it’s the story of Judith, a young Jewish woman who manages to save the city of Bethuliah from the Assyrians. She gets on the good side of the General Holofernes (no, not like that!), sneaks into his tent and decapitates him. As one does…
Wisdom of Solomon and Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) are both classic wisdom literature. As such, they’re pretty awesome. Together with Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, they are known as the seven sapiental (or wisdom) books.
Baruch is basically the lament of Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch son of Neriah. It’s set in the time of the Jewish people’s exile in Babylon, and includes a letter from Jeremiah. Like Jeremiah, it’s all that “Repent, O Israel, and turn to the Lord!” stuff. It’s good stuff.
1 Maccabees tells the story of the Maccabeean Revolt (167 – 160 BC), when the Seleucid Empire controlled Judea, suppressed the Jewish law and enforced Hellenisation, including the worship of the Greek gods. Basically, Judas Maccabee and others led a revolt against them, took back the temple, celebrated the first Hanukkah (1 Maccabees 4), kicked out the Seleucids and established the Hasmonean dynasty under Roman auspices.
2 Maccabees follows and supplements the events covered in the first seven chapters of 1 Maccabees, with a more theological emphasis. It includes several awesome martyrdom stories, like that of the Eleazar the priest, and the woman with seven sons, who all died for refusing to transgress the Law, expressing their faith in God and their confidence in the future resurrection.
As for the additions to Esther, there is more stuff about Mordecai’s dreams, the decree against the Jews, and some prayers.
While the additions to Daniel includes:
- Song of praise from the “Three Holy Children”, the youths who were saved from the furnance by an angel (Daniel 3)
- Story of Susanna, a young Jewish woman who is falsly accused of adultery but is proved right by Daniel through some good old-fashioned cross-examination. (This is a particular favourite of artists for, uh, obvious reasons.)
- Narrative of Bel and the Dragon, where Daniel disproves the worship of idols. Oh, and he kills a “dragon”. (Cf. Isaiah 27:1, Isaiah 51:9)
So that’s (basically) the deuterocanon.
There are plenty of Protestant objections to the deuterocanon and over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing these.
Along the way, I hope I can show that the deuterocanon is a) awesome, b) reliable, and most importantly, c) definitely belongs in the Bible.
We’ll also get into the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Vulgate, and probably get quite frustrated at how thoroughly the Church Fathers managed to contradict themselves when it came to the canon of Scripture. (Seriously, you’d think this would be one of their biggest concerns — apparently not.)
Specifically, I’ll be responding to CARM’s Reasons why the Apocrypha does not belong in the Bible. CARM is the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Although they are quite anti-Catholic, their arguments against the deuterocanon are those used by most Protestants today. (I tried to use them too… but we all know how that turned out.)
There will be eight more posts (more or less depending on how concise I’m feeling).
- How did we end up with different Old Testament canons?
- Did the New Testament writers reject the deuterocanon?
- Did Jesus specifically reject the deuterocanon when He spoke of “the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah”?
- If the Jews rejected the deuterocanon, shouldn’t we do so too?
- Did the Early Church reject the deuterocanon?
- Did the Catholic Church only accept the deuterocanon in the 16th Century?
- Does the deuterocanon contain errors and false teachings?
- Is the deuterocanon prophetic, supernatural, or even useful?
Sound like a plan?