Bible Question:

I am a Christian Coptic Orthodox and I seek the truth. Is this following statement true, “The Deuterocanon books are a part of the Holy Bible. ” The Protestants removed them from the Bible saying they were not the word of God, although there are many evidences and historical proofs to verify them. Please read the attached document and give me your opinion. I have read this document that I have attached and the PDF you have provided on your site, “How Accurate Is the Bible?' if i submit my life to God, I need to follow Him correctly. I need to make sure the Bible is the truth so that I can clear my doubts and move on.

Bible Answer:

The Deuterocanon is a collection of eleven books that are sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Apocrypha. “Deutero” means “second” and so the deuterocanonical books refer to a second canon, the first canon being the Old and New Testaments. The deuterocanonical books include: Tobit, Judith, Esther 10:4-16:24, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch (Letter to Jeremiah), Song of the Three Children, History of Suzanna, Bel and the Dragon, and 1-2 Maccabees. These books are considered to be inspired by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches.

The Apocrypha is a collection of fifteen books which also includes 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses. The Apocrypha was included in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Tanakh and the 1611 King James Bible. It has been included in a variety of other Bibles for educational purposes. Modern versions of the King James Bible no longer include the Apocrypha. The Tanakh is the Hebrew Old Testament accepted by Jews. It does not include the Apocrypha. Both the Jews and Protestants consider the apocryphal books to be secular books and not inspired by God. Consequently, they reject all of the books as scripture. There is another group of books called the Pseudepigrapha which the vast majority of Christian scholars also reject.

Author’s Document

The author of the document that you submitted for my review believes that the deuterocanonical books are inspired and should be accepted by everyone. The author has assumed that he understands why Protestants have rejected the deuterocanonical books and then attempts to show where they are wrong. The author raises some important questions and so we will address each one.

First Statement

The author’s first assumption is that Protestants have blindly accepted the thirty-nine books of the Tanakh as inspired because the Jews believe they are inspired. Consequently, Protestants have included them in the Old Testament. This point is important to the author because the Jews do not believe that the deuterocanonical books are inspired and therefore reject them. He claims that the Jews have rejected them because they contain “many Christian prophecies and allusions to the New Testament [that] the Jews could not stand at all!” He then asks why should Protestants trust the Jews, who rejected Jesus, to determine which books are inspired and therefore should be included in our Bible?

Jesus and the Apostles

In response, it is important to note that Protestants have not trusted our Jewish friends to determine which books are inspired or sacred. We have trusted Jesus Christ and His apostles. The article that you refer to, “How Accurate Is The Bible?,” shows that Jesus referred to every major section of the Old Testament. Together Jesus and the apostles quoted from many of the Hebrew books (Old Testament or Tanakh) and every major division. It is clear that Jesus and the apostles considered the Hebrew scriptures of their day to be inspired. They referred to them as the “scriptures” and treated them as being authoritative. At one point the author states that just because someone quotes from a book does not prove that the book is inspired. That is true, but the Apostle Paul states that all of scripture is inspired.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness . . . (NASB) 2 Tim. 3:16

To what scriptures was the Apostle Paul referring? We discover that Jesus called the book of Psalms scripture (Matt. 21:42). Jesus, our God, said that the scriptures contained prophecies about Himself (Matt. 26:54). In Luke 4:18-21 Jesus quoted from Isaiah and called it scripture. Then in Luke 24:27, 32 it is clear the books of Moses and the prophets were called scripture. In Luke 24:44-45 the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus considered the three major divisions of the Tanakh to be scripture. That means that every book in the Hebrew Bible of Jesus’ day was considered to be inspired by Him. When our God, Jesus Christ, and His Apostles call something scripture then it is authoritative.

Flavius Josephus’ Twenty-Two Books

So to what Hebrew scriptures were Jesus and the Apostles referring? Flavius Josephus (A.D. 30-11) comes to our rescue in his book “Against Apion” ( p. 1038-1041) when he says that the Hebrew scriptures contained twenty-two books. Upon careful examination of the books, we discover that he combined Ezra and Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Judges and Ruth, Jeremiah and Lamentations, and all of the twelve minor prophets into one book. That is, he included all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. The Babylonian Talmud lists twenty-four books in Baba Bathra 14b-15a. The list includes the same books referred to by Josephus. The Babylonian Talmud separates Judges from Ruth and Jeremiah from Lamentations.

Jamnia Council

The author refers to a council that occurred at Jamnia in A.D. 90. He states that the council attempted to determine which books belonged in the Hebrew scriptures. However, historians have concluded recently that the purpose of the meeting was a casual gathering during which a discussion occurred about only two books: Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. In the end, the group of rabbis affirmed the books as being inspired. It was not a formal meeting to determine which books were scripture. The Hebrew scriptures had already been determined. Flavius Josephus makes this very clear. The apocryphal books were not included in Flavius Josephus’ list, nor were they included in the Babylonian Talmud list. Jamnia did not determine a list of books called scripture. The Hebrew canon had already been decided, and Jesus and the apostles affirmed it.

The Septuagint

The author also states that the Septuagint (LXX) was accepted by Jesus and the Apostles as inspired scripture since they quoted from it. The author’s point is that since the LXX contained the Apocrypha, Jesus and the apostles considered it to be inspired. However, they never quoted from the LXX and never called it scripture. Most of the quotes found in the gospels and the New Testament are not exact quotes of either the Hebrew scriptures (Masoretic text) or the LXX. This has been an issue among theologians. It is important to note that the LXX was intended for general, informal reading.

The LXX was not designed to have the purpose of the Hebrew text, as it would be primarily used publicly in the synagogues, while the latter would be used for more scholarly purposes. (Geisler, Norman L. Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press., Chicago. 1973., p. 308)

To say that Jesus and the apostles considered the apocryphal books to be inspired is inaccurate and ignores the fact that neither Flavius Josephus nor the Babylonian Talmud include them.

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves near the ancient site of Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in Israel. Nearly 900 manuscripts were discovered. The oldest manuscripts were created in about 250 B.C. and the latest dates to A.D. 70. The Dead Sea Scrolls include every book of the Hebrew scriptures, except for Esther. The book of Isaiah dates between B.C. 335 and B.C. 122.

Only thirteen manuscripts of the deuterocanonical books were found among the Dead Sea scrolls. The manuscripts included only three books: Tobit, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch (Letter to Jeremiah). It is important to note that the Dead Sea Scrolls included almost 650 extra-biblical manuscripts which included songs, prayers, commentaries, and many secular works. It is clear that the content of the Hebrew scriptures was well known at the time of Jesus. The deuterocanonical books were not as highly regarded – most of them are missing.

How shall we respond to Jude 9 which appears to refer to an event that can also be found in the Assumption of Moses (A.D. 7-30), a non-inspired book? Some have concluded that Jude quoted the Assumption of Moses and treated it as inspired. But it is also possible that both the Assumption of Moses and the book of Jude, which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, referred to a true event. Just because a book is not inspired does not mean that everything in it is false. Books on mathematics are not inspired, but they teach that one-plus-one is two. So both the book of Jude and the Assumption of Moses could have referred to a true event, but only the book of Jude is inspired.

Second Statement

The author’s second statement was that the Council of Trent added the Deuterocanon to the Bible in the belief that it was inspired scripture. He states that the books had been informally accepted by the Councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage, and finally the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546 adopted them as inspired. Then he states that Martin Luther spoke out against them because they contained “lots of scriptural truth” for Roman Catholic doctrine.

But the Council of Trent occurred after Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis. Once the Deuterocanon was adopted as scripture, it was used against Martin Luther. Why was it formally adopted after Martin Luther left the church? Why did the Roman Catholic church reject the other apocryphal books? Why should a group of books that neither Jesus nor His apostles ever referred to as scripture be accepted 1,500 years later?

Third Statement

The author’s last point is that we cannot say “Jesus never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, so they aren’t inspired.” The author then presents almost sixty quotes from the deuterocanonical books that he claims appear in the New Testament.

His first example is that Matt.2:16 quotes Wisdom 11:7. Here are the passages,

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. (NASB) Matt. 2:16

For instead of of a perpetual running river troubled with foul blood, or a manifest reproof of that commandment, whereby the infants were slain, thou gavest unto them abundance of water by a means which they hoped not for: declaring by that thirst then how thou hadst punished their adversaries. Wisdom 11:6-8

The first passage was about Herod sending his soldiers to kill every two year-old baby in Bethlehem in order to kill Jesus. The Wisdom passage is about infants dying due to thirst.

His second example is that Matt.2:16 quotes Wisdom 11:7. Here are the passages,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal . . (NASB) Matt. 6:19-20

Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold. Shut up alms in thy storehouses: and it shall deliver thee from all affliction. Sirach 29:11-12

In the Matthew passage, Jesus encourages us to lay up treasure in heaven. In the Wisdom passage, the author tells us that we can get rich by following God’s command and wealth will deliver us from affliction. But Jesus’ statement was not about personal wealth or freedom from affliction

What is clear is that the author has matched phrases such as “store up . . . treasure” and “lay up treasure” and words between the Deuterocanon and the New Testament. However, the concepts of the passages are completely different. Anyone can match short phrases and words. Given a collection of eleven books and the Bible, one can only imagine how many short phrases and words can be matched. But matching full sentences and concepts is another issue.

Conclusion:

No documents exist which prove that the Septuagint included the deuterocanonical books. But a large amount of evidence exists that the Hebrew scriptures Jesus and the apostles accepted and called scripture did not include the Deuterocanon.

Reference Links:

What is the Bible?
How accurate is the Bible?