Without intending to be an anti-Protestant fault-finder, I want to share with Protestants some historical facts that I have learned since my conversion to Catholicism three years ago.
As a Nondenominational Evangelical Protestant Christian for over 30 years, I firmly and unquestionably believed all the things that I was taught about the Bible. But when I became a Catholic, I discovered that the Protestants – namely, Martin Luther — had removed 7 books from the Old Testament. Luther also removed 4 books from the New Testament that were later reinstated in the New Testament by the Protestants — after Luther.
This intrigued me. Why would Martin Luther remove 13 books from the Bible that had been made official by the Church in 382 and reiterated at church councils in 393, 397, 405 419, 787 and 1442? And, in response to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, the Church, again, reiterated the canonicity and inspired content of these 13 books at the Council of Trent in 1546.
Books in Question:
The 7 Old Testament books in question (the “Deuterocanonical” books) were:
1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, and sections of Daniel and Esther.
The 4 New Testament books that were removed from the Bible and then put back after Luther were:
Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation.
Protestants and Catholics also differ on the correct translation of the Old Testament. The Protestants use the Hebrew version of the Old Testament that the Jews made official in 90 A.D. at the Council of Javneh. This Hebrew translation of the Old Testament threw out the 4 Gospels and the other portions of the New Testament. It also got rid of the 7 books of the Old Testament that Martin Luther later removed from his Reformation Bible.
Needless to say, the Church disregarded the results of Javneh because they did not believe that a Jewish counsel was binding on the followers of Christ. The Church also disregarded the results of Javneh because it rejected those books and documents that were foundational for the Christian Church.
The last reason that the Church rejected Javneh’s changes was because Jesus and his apostles used an earlier edition of the Bible – the Septuagint. This was the Greek translation and Bible that the apostles used in everyday life.
The Christian acceptance of the deuterocanonical books was logical because the deuterocanonicals were also included in the Septuagint, the Greek edition of the Old Testament which the apostles used to evangelize the world. Two-thirds of the Old Testament quotations in the New are from the Septuagint. Yet the apostles nowhere told their converts to avoid seven books of it. Like the Jews all over the world who used the Septuagint, the early Christians accepted the books they found in it. They knew that the apostles would not mislead them and endanger their souls by putting false scriptures in their hands—especially without warning all the early Christians about those books.
The New Testament contains roughly 300 quotes from the Old Testament. Two-thirds of them came from the Septuagint. Jesus quoted from the Septuagint. Nowhere did he say that the books that he was quoting from were invalid.
Some of the Deuterocanonical Books Cited in the New Testament:
6:14 cites Ecclus. 28:2, 3 & 5
7:12 cites Tobit 4:16
18:15 cites Ecclus. 19:13
25:36 cites Ecclus. 7:39
27:39-42 cites Wisdom 2:18
6:24 cites Ecclus. 31:8
12:16 cites Ecclus. 11:19
14:12 cites Tobit 4:7
17:3 cites Ecclus. 19:13
18:1 cites Ecclus. 18:22
6:36 cites Ecclus. 24:29
10:22 cites 1 Mach. 4:56 & 59
Acts of the Apostles:
10:34 cites Ecclus. 35:15
St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
1:20-32 cites Wisdom 13 – 14
2:4 cites Wisdom 9:24
2:11 cites Wisdom 6:8; Ecclus 35:15
9:21 cites Wisdom 15:7
11:34 cites Wisdom 9:13
12:19 cites Ecclus. 28:1; 2:3
13:1 cites Wisdom 6:4 1
2:16 cites Wisdom 9:13 & Isaiah 40:13)
10:26 cites Ecclus. 17:31 (& Psalms 23)
15:32 cites Wisdom 2:6 (& Isaiah 22:13)
6:13-17 cites Wisdom 5:8-20
1:3 cites Wisdom 7:26
11:35 cites 2 Mach. 6:18, 7:42
1:19 cites Sirach 5:13
The Missing Books:
I want to get back to the books that Martin Luther removed from the Old and New Testament during the Protestant Reformation. The reason that they were removed was because they teach Catholic Apostolic doctrines that the Protestant Reformers chose to reject.
The New Testament book of James didn’t line up with Luther’s doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Another example was the Catholic practice of praying for the dead to deliver them from the consequences of their sins (2 Macc 12:41-45) – purgatory. Luther chose to reject the historic teaching of purgatory which dates before the time of Christ, as 2 Maccabees indicates. Luther also removed Hebrews from the New Testament because it cites 2 Maccabees.
Protestant Justification for Removing Books from the Bible:
To justify this rejection of books that had been in the Bible since before the days of the apostles (for the Septuagint was written before the apostles), the early Protestants cited as their chief reason the fact that the Jews of their day did not honor these books, going back to the council of Javneh in A.D. 90. But the Reformers were aware of only European Jews; they were unaware of African Jews, such as the Ethiopian Jews who accept the deuterocanonicals as part of their Bible. They glossed over the references to the deuterocanonicals in the New Testament, as well as its use of the Septuagint. They ignored the fact that there were multiple canons of the Jewish Scriptures circulating in First Century, appealing to a post-Christian Jewish council which has no authority over Christians as evidence that “The Jews don’t except these books.” In short, they went to enormous lengths to rationalize their rejection of these books of the Bible.
There are many other Protestant claims for justifying the ultimate removal of the 7 deuterocanonical books from their Bible. But, this is enough for now.
The Catholic Church in its apostolic wisdom has preserved the canon of scripture since the First Century. None of Luther’s reasoning on this subject holds water. The Catholic Bible was referred to by the early Church and the Church Fathers. Even the few who questioned it ultimately accepted it as inspired scripture – because it was . . .
More to come. . . .