Were the Apocrypha books accepted as canon before the Council of Trent?


Again I question your dates. You say that the Catholic Church added the "Apocryphal" books to the Bible in 1546 AD. I'm assuming you are talking about the Council of Trent, the Church's response to the Reformation.

You are correct in saying that the Church affirmed that the "Apocryphal" books are Scripture. However, you are incorrect to say that these were not considered Scripture or were not in the Bible before this date. The Gutenberg Bible, which was printed in the 1450s, contained these extra books. The Council of Rome in 382 declared the Greek Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to be Scripture, this included those extra books. At this same council, they declared the 27 books of the New Testament that we have to be Scripture. Not to mention that the Orthodox Church uses the "Apocryphal" books, and they were separated from the Catholic Church a few hundred years before the Council of Trent in 1546. So how did they get the books? I also point to the evidence that the early Christian church used the Greek Septuagint as their scriptures. The Apostles and Christ quoted from the Septuagint. So did many Church fathers.

At the same time, the Jews of Jesus' day were not 100% certain on their own Scriptures. The Samaritans held to one set of books, the Essenes held to another, the Pharisees I believe had the most complete form but not always, the Sadducees held to a slightly different form than the Pharisees. The focus was on the Torah. Not until after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple did the Jews put together their "Hebrew" cannon in the form that Protestants have today.

So then I ask, who do we trust? Do we trust the Christ, the Apostles, and the Christian church, who was given the Holy Spirit and guidance of God? These guys had these "Apocryphal" books in their Bibles and quoted from them. Or are we going to trust a Jewish council after the fall of Jerusalem and after God no longer considered them to be the chosen race?


Interesting way to twist history and the article.

What we know about the Septuagint is mostly from The Letter of Aristeus. Six elders from each of the twelve tribes were commissioned by Ptolemy Soter (285-246 BC) to translated the Jewish law into Greek. [Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII.II.4-7]. The translation was completed in 72 days and then read to the Jews who approved of the translation [Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII.II.13]. It is fairly certain that the original translation was just the Torah or the books of Moses. The remainder of the Old Testament was added later. When the Apocrypha were added is unknown. However, the Apocrypha were not a part of the original translation since most of these books were not written at the time of the initial translation. Only I Esdras and Tobit date prior to the initial Septuagint translation. We don't know exactly when the Apocrypha were added to the Septuagint as our oldest copies date back to only the fourth century.

Jesus and the apostles did quote from the Septuagint, but it should be noted that they did not follow it precisely. The quotes in the New Testament do contain variations in wording from the Septuagint, showing that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit errors in the translation were corrected. However, you played a shell game. We find extensive quotes of the Old Testament which follows the Septuagint translation, but there are no quotes from any of the Apocrypha books. To claim that Jesus and the apostles accepted the Apocrypha as scripture is a misleading statement, especially given that they were making corrections in the parts that they did quote. I have studied with people from Bibles that contained the Apocrypha, I have quoted passages from those Bibles to prove my points, yet I do not believe the Apocrypha are inspired Scripture. I can only say the same for Jesus and the Apostles. A lack of information is not proof of approval.

When people claim to find the Apocrypha being used in the New Testament, they usually state that there is an allusion made -- not a direct quote. They find small phrases that are somewhat similar to something found in the Apocrypha and then exclaim, "See, a reference!" Yet, despite the desire, this isn't proof. It only means that similar topics might have been discussed. A common one is a mention in Hebrews 11 of an event found in II Maccabees. The books of Maccabees are historical accounts. While not inspired by God, they are history. All the reference in Hebrews 11 tells us is that this part of history is true. It doesn't prove that the writer of Hebrews thought the book of II Maccabees was inspired by God. I cite Josephus later in this reply, yet I don't think Josephus was inspired by God. A citation is not enough to prove canonicity.

One of the interesting points is that we don't have Hebrew manuscripts for the Apocrypha, they only appear in the Greek Septuagint. Scholars believe that at least some were originally written in either Hebrew or Aramaic, but unlike the rest of the Old Testament, we don't have copies in the original language. [Structure of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Apocrypha].

A point of interest is that Josephus, a Jew who lived about the time of Jesus and apostles stated that the Apocrypha were not accepted by the Jews.

"From Artexerxes to our own time the complete history has been written but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets. ... We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine ..." [Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, I.8]

The Manual of Discipline in the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating two hundred years before Christ, also rejected the Apocrypha as inspired [Dennis McCallum, The Canonicity Question].

You will find early Christian writers quoting from the Apocrypha, but they also quoted from other non-inspired works. Quotes alone are not proof of acceptance of a book as canonical. I'm sure there are a few people you can find, not knowing the distinction of the Apocrypha from the other books in the Septuagint, assuming that they were Scripture because they were mixed in with the true Scripture. This again isn't evidence by itself. What we find among early Christian writers is a mixed set of views regarding the Apocrypha with the more knowledgable, especially in Hebrew, taking strong stands against the Apocrypha.

"Philo, an Alexandrian Jewish teacher (20 B.C.- A.D. 40) quoted extensively from virtually every canonical book but never once quoted the Apocrypha as inspired." [Apocrypha].

Melito (AD 170) said, "I accordingly went to the East, and, coming to the very place where these things were preached and transacted, I have accurately learned the books of the Old Testament. Their names are as follows: five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Joshua Nave, Judges, Ruth. Four books of Kings [two of Samuel and two of Kings], two of Paralipomenon [Chronicles]. The Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon (which is also Wisdom), Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job. Of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; and of the twelve prophets, one book; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras" [including also Nehemiah, and perhaps Esther]." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 294]. Though Melito was aware of the Apocrypha books, he did not list them as a part of the Old Testament canon.

The Muratorian Canon, one of the oldest list of the books of the Bible, does not include the Apocrypha.

Amphilochius (AD 190) in a poem listed the books of the Bible. He followed the twenty-two books of the Hebrew Bible but expresses uncertainty regarding the book of Esther. None of the Apocrypha books are listed. [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 301-302].

Origen (AD 200), stated, "It should be observed that the collective books, as handed down by the Hebrews, are twenty-two, according to the number of letters in their alphabet. These twenty-two books, according to the Hebrews, are as follows ..." and he then lists the books as we know them from the Hebrew Bible. He did know about the Apocrypha because he said, "Separate from these are the Maccabees." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 296]

Athanasius (AD 330), stated, "The books of the Old Testament are twenty-two, which is the number of the letters among the Hebrews. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, of Kings four, two books; of Paralipomenon (Chronicles) two, one book; Esdras two, one book; Psalms, Proverbs; twelve prophets, one book; then Isaiah, Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and epistles; Ezekiel and Daniel. Then there are books uncanonical, but readable, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit." Though odd to add Baruch and reject Esther, it is still significant to note that a distinction was maintained between canonical books and books of interest. The Apocrypha, as a whole, were rejected as being inspired literature. [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 297]

"There is another passage from Athanasius, very valuable on account of the clear distinction which it makes between the canonical and the apocryphal books. It is in the Epist. Festal, quoted by Carey (Testimonies of the Fathers, p. 117): " Since some persons have attempted to set in order the books that are called apocryphal, and to mix them with the divinely inspired Scriptures, of which we have been fully certified, as those who saw them from the beginning, and who, being ministers of that word, handed them down from our fathers, it seemed fitting to me, being exhorted thereto by the orthodox brethren, and having learned the truth, to set in order the canonical Scriptures, which have been handed down, and are believed to be from God; that every one who has been deceived, may convict those who led him astray." Here follows the list. He adds: "It is true that, besides these, there are other books which are not put into the canon, but yet are appointed by the fathers to be read by those who first come to be instructed in the way of piety." He then gives the names of the most common apocryphal books." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 298-299].

Hilary of Poitier (AD 350), in his Prologue to the Psalms, section 15, said, "And this is the cause that the law of the Old Testament is arranged in twenty-two books, that they may correspond with the number of the Hebrew letters." He then goes on to list the books by name and then mentions, "Some are pleased to add Tobit and Judith, to make the number twenty-four, according to the letters of the Greek alphabet." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 299]. I found this quoted heavily by Catholic sources as "proof" of the legitimacy of their books, but I was suspicious because the quotes heavily used ellipses and commentary insertions. When I found the actual quote, as I had suspected, the left out parts told a different story than what was asserted. Hilary admits that the Old Testament only had 22 books. Some added two additional books for the absurd reason for keeping the number of books matching the number of letters in the currently used alphabet.

Epiphanius (AD 360), rejected all the Apocrypha. After listing the 22 books of the Hebrew Bible, he mentions the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach by name and says of them, "These indeed are useful books and profitable, but they are not placed in the number of the canonical." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 300].

Gregory Nazianzen (AD 390) set the books of the Bible in a poem. He gave the standard twenty-two books of the Hebrew Bible. "He then speaks of other books "separate from these," and "not among the genuine;" thus showing that he was acquainted with the apocryphal books, and intelligently rejected them." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 302].

Jerome (AD 400), a translator of the Latin Vulgate, rejected the Apocrypha, refusing to include them in his translation until he was overruled. It was Jerome who gave these books the name "Apocrypha."

Rufinus (AD 400), a translator of Origen's writings, said: "These are they which the Fathers concluded within the canon; of which they would have the assertions of our faith to consist. But we must know that there are other books, which are not called canonical, but ecclesiastical, by the ancients; such as the Wisdom, which is called of Solomon, and another Wisdom, which is called of the Son of Sirach; which book among the Latins is called by the general term 'Ecclesiasticus," by which word, no the author of the book, but the quality of the writing is designated. of the same order is the little book of Tobit, also Judith and the books of Maccabees." [Bibliotheca Sacra, p. 304-305].

The Jewish Council of Jamnia did debate the canonicity of some books, such as Ecclesiastes, but they did not change the Old Testament canon. They did not even see themselves as determiners of the canon. "The books which they decided to acknowledge as canonical were already generally accepted, although questions had been raised about them. Those which they refused to admit had never been included. They did not expel from the canon any book which had previously been admitted. 'The Council of Jamnia was the confirming of public opinion, not the forming of it.'" [F. F. Bruce, The Books and Parchments, p. 98].

"The most influential benefactor of the Apocrypha was Augustine (354-420 A.D.), the "Father of corrupt theology." He influenced the Councils of Hippo (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.) to declare the Apocrypha canonical. In his usual form, Augustine also saw to it that any opposition to the Apocrypha was suppressed." [Robert J. Sargent, Canonization: The Apocrypha].

The article, The Extra Catholic Books, does not say the Apocrypha was not used or accepted prior to the Council of Trent in 1546, it only notes that these books were not firmly declared as divine before that time. One of the reasons for the council was because of mixed stances on the Apocrypha in the Roman Catholic church generated in part by the Reformation Movement.

Prior to the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church had settled on using Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation. This translation is the one that included the Apocrypha despite Jerome's objections. The Council of Trent did not examine the validity of each of the books in the Bible being used. In the transcripts of the council, it is clear that many found the Apocrypha to be of questionable status and had argued for a three-tiered classification of the books. You also find arguments that it is the original language, the Hebrew and Greek that should be supported and not translations. In truth, the general question being addressed was whether the Roman Catholic Church ought to endorse just one translation and whether translations should be considered inspired or not. What was settled on was an approval of the Latin Vulgate as being an authentic text. Since it happened to include the Apocrypha, they were included as well. A decree was issued that the Latin Vulgate had to be accepted, so as to end the debates, especially those raised by the Reformation Movement.

Generally, prior to the Council of Trent, the Apocrypha were read and used, but they were always classified as Apocrypha, as Jerome called them, "doubtful writings." The Council of Trent essentially ordered the removal of the idea of "doubtful." That is why 1546 is marked as a major change in Roman Catholic belief. Two prior councils: the Council of Laodicea in AD 367 and the Fourth General Council Chalcedon in AD 451 both gave lists of the recognized books of the Bible and neither one included the Apocrypha.

In all these lists, it should be noted that there was never any question about which twenty-two books were accepted by the Jews, though their names varied a bit. Your argument that the Jews did not know which books belonged in their Bibles is blatantly false. I suspect it is an argument spread as an attempt to justify the Roman Catholic Church as being the sole authority to settle which books are accepted -- an argument that is also historically false.

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