Why Catholics Have More Books in Their Bibles
The second topic in our question and answer series has to do with the additional books in the Catholic Bible and why we have those books to begin with.
Q: Why do Catholics have more books in their Bible?
A: The short answer is because the Catholic Church – following the historic Christian position – bases it’s Old Testament Scripture off of the Greek Septuagint which includes books that are not in Protestant versions of the Bible. They are not in Protestant Bibles because Martin Luther did not follow the historic Christian position of using the Greek Septuagint as his basis for the Old Testament, but rather the Jewish Council of Jamnia’s decision in 90 AD on Old Testament Scripture.
So what is the Greek Septuagint and why did the Early Church use it?
The date of the Greek Septuagint is the late 2nd century BC and it is a Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures. The translation was done so that Alexandrian Jews, who were no longer fluent in Hebrew, could read the Scriptures in the language they did speak: Koine (or common) Greek. This was also the translation that was quoted by the New Testament authors, particularly Paul, as well as the Church leaders who came right after the Apostles (Apostolic Fathers) and the other Early Church Fathers.
This is important because the Greek Septuagint contains the books of the Bible that Catholics have and Protestants do not. Since the Early Church used the Greek Septuagint most of those books came to be included in the Bible. The books are:
- Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon)
- Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (or Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira)
- including the Letter of Jeremiah
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Additions to Daniel:
- Prayer of Azariah (or The Song of the Three Holy Children¹)
- Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13, Septuagint prologue)
- Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14, Septuagint epilogue)
- Additions to Esther
These are the additional books and passages which are included in the Catholic Old Testament since they were determined to be inspired by the Church leaders at the Council of Hippo in 393 AD. This was the first time the Church pronounced definitively which books were to be considered inspired and which were not. This decision also included which Christian writings – and there were a lot of them – (including ones that were not Christian but claimed to be) belonged in the New Testament. This is what is called “The Canon of Scripture” and inspired books are called “Canonical” meaning they are included in the canon – or list – of inspired writings.
Martin Luther did not want to take the historic position of determining which books ought to be in the Bible and determined for himself which books were inspired and which were not. Therefore, he followed the decision made by the Jewish council of Jamnia to determine what belonged in the Old Testament. Their decision was based on anti-Greek language and anti-Christian sentiments which is why the parts of Esther and Daniel are not in Protestant Bibles because there was no known Hebrew original manuscript available at the time so those parts were discounted.²
It must also be mentioned that not every Church Father believed the books to be inspired. Most notably St. Jerome who did not feel they were inspired and should not be included in the Bible, however he did defer to the decision made by the Church which ruled they were inspired and thus he did include them.
Why do so many people feel the Catholic Church “added” the books to the “original” format of the Bible?
First and foremost it is because they are following an anti-Catholic teaching whether they know it or not which states the Church “added” the books to the Bible most people have. This is historically incorrect. I believe it is also because Protestantism has a much stronger presence here in the United States and in the multitude of denominations here not one of them includes these books in their Bibles. Therefore, I believe, that since the majority of the populace in the US is Protestant and, historically speaking, only goes back 500 years, then any variable contrary to the belief of what the majority has ever known is going to be looked at as suspect. The Protestant Bible version is the norm in the US and the Catholic one is not, therefore it is not the most commonly accepted version of the Bible here. Although, contrary to belief, the Catholic Church is not the only church to use the Greek Septuagint. The Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and the Church of the East recognize the books listed above as canonical.
*As a side note, the additional books are called Deuterocanonical by the Catholic Church and by the misnomer “Apocrypha” by Protestants.³
1. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah or by their more commonly known Chaldaean names: Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego.
2. Ironically, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls revealed that these books did exist in Hebrew. In fact, Martin Luther wanted to remove Revelation, Hebrews, James, and Jude but refrained from doing so only because of a threatened fallout from fellow reformers.
3. The term is used in contrast to the Protocanonical books, which are contained in the Hebrew Bible as it is known today. The word deuterocanonical comes from Greek which means ‘belonging to the second canon’. The term has been in use since the 16th Century. The term apocrypha meaning “hidden” to describe these books came from Luther’s 1534 Bible where he placed them at the end of the book to make a point that they were not canonical.