The Protestant Bible has sixty-six texts. On the other hand, the Catholic Bible has seventy-three texts. As a Christian, one cannot help but wonder, did Protestants remove books from the Bible?
Protestants did not remove books from the Bible. They only omitted from their version of the Old Testament books, which Jews did not include in their version of the Holy Scripture (Hebrew Bible). The Hebrew Bible does not include the Apocrypha/seven deuterocanonical books included in the Greek Bible. This is so because the books were said to contain doctrines that contradict the teachings of other books in the Bible.
What books do Protestants take out of the Bible? What are deuterocanonical/ Apocrypha books? Why did Protestants remove the Apocrypha? Which bibles contain deuterocanonical books? Keep reading to learn more!
What books do Protestants take out of the Bible?
As mentioned above, Protestants did not take any books out of the Bible. They only decided to use the version of the Bible used by the Jews, the Hebrew Bible, instead of the Greek Bible used by the Catholic Church. This move was driven by the need by Protestants to differentiate their movement from Catholicism.
The books in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant Bible are called deuterocanonical texts. They include; Tobit, Judith, first Maccabees, and Second Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, and Sirach (or Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach).
These seven books were written in the period between when the Old Testament texts and New Testament texts were written. These books are said to be worthy of respect because they contain some essential and truthful Historical facts. However, Protestants do not consider them inspired.
However, Protestants can read these books to get some historical knowledge. However, they are advised that no doctrine is to be drawn from the books because, as I mentioned, Protestants do not consider them inspired.
These books are ancient and were part of the Jewish Septuagint until the First Jewish Revolt when the Roman military destroyed the second temple in Jerusalem under the command of Titus. After the Revolt, the Jewish considered reconsidering their way of life. An authoritative Jewish council met in Jamnia. One of the decisions arrived at in this meeting was the limit of the Jewish canon. For instance, deuterocanonical books were considered uninspired from that point forward.
During the protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and the other reformers who instigated the Protestant Reformation in 1517 decided that the deuterocanonical books were not inspired. This move was made in an attempt to promote their unique theology.
However, although Martin Luther considered the books uninspired, he did not remove them from his version of the Bible. He placed the seven texts in a separate section in German Luther Bible, between the Old and New Testaments. This was different from the previous Catholic Bibles, with deuterocanonical texts spread throughout the Old Testament. Also, Luther did not list the deuterocanonical books in the table of content of the German Luther Bible. According to him, these texts are not equal to the other texts in the Holy Bible. However, he considered them good to read.
The deuterocanonical (Apocrypha) books continued to be included in the Bible but in a separate section until the 19th century (1826). The National Bible Society of Scotland (NBSS) requested the British and Foreign Bible Society to remove the Apocrypha from the Bible completely. This move was driven by the need to reduce the cost of printing the Bible.
Since then, most versions of the modern Bible do not include deuterocanonical books. It is important to note that some Evangelical Protestant churches use the Bible with the deuterocanonical books. They believe that the seven books are a useful theological and historical background to the events of the New Testament. However, all Protestants consider the books as non-canonical (not inspired).
What are deuterocanonical/ Apocrypha books?
The deuterocanonical/ Apocrypha books are the seven texts in the Catholic Bible but are not in the Protestant Bible. Contrary to what most people believe, Protestants did not remove the books from the Bible. They decided to use the Hebrew version of the Bible, which omits the seven books because Judaists consider them as uninspired. The seven books are;
- 1st Maccabees
- 2nd Maccabees
- Wisdom of Solomon
However, apart from these seven books, other Apocrypha books have been removed from the Bible. The other Apocrypha books include; first Esdras, Second Esdras, Rest of Esther, Susanna, Bel, and the Dragon, Prayer of Manasses, Psalm 151, and more.
Why did Protestants remove the Apocrypha?
Protestants do not consider the seven deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha) inspired. However, Protestants can read these texts to get the historical knowledge therein.
However, they are advised not to draw any doctrines from these books because they contain some flawed doctrines that contradict the other books in the Bible.
An example is the doctrine of purgatory taught in the Books of Maccabees. This doctrine states that there is a place between earth and Heaven where all believers, except saints, will pass through to be cleansed of their sins before entering Heaven. This doctrine is against the teachings of the other books in the Bible, which only teach about two destinations after judgment, Heaven and hell.
Protestants believe that one will go either to Heaven or hell after judgment. All Christians who have faith in Jesus and pray for His forgiveness will go to Heaven, while those who are wicked will go to hell.
However, it is crucial to note that the Apocrypha were part of the original Jewish Bible but were removed after the Jewish Revolt. It is this new version of the Jewish (Hebrew) Bible that the Protestants adopted.
Initially, the Apocrypha was put in a separate section of the Bible; however, in the 19th century, the books were completely removed from the Bible to save on the printing cost. Since then, most modern Bibles do not include the Apocrypha.
Which bibles contain deuterocanonical books?
Roman Catholic Bibles contain deuterocanonical books. Even after the Jews decided to remove the seven deuterocanonical books from their Holy Scriptures, Roman Catholics kept them.
Roman Catholic leaders argued that the decision arrived at by the Jewish Council in Jamnia after the famous Jewish Revolt had binding authority on the Jewish community but not the Church. They stated that only the Roman Catholic Church had the power to decide the texts that make up the Bible because the Jewish community had openly rejected Christ.
Although there were disagreements on whether the texts should be part of the Bible because they did not meet the criteria of inspired books even before the council meeting in Jamnia, the Catholic Church has, throughout history, treated the Apocrypha as part of its Bible.
Later, the Catholic Church broke into Western and Eastern branches. However, the two branches of the Catholic Church still use the Bible, which includes the deuterocanonical books. In the 16th century, the Western branch of the Catholic Church broke into the Catholic and Protestant churches.
Protestant leaders decided churches in the Protestant movement would no longer use the Catholic Bible, citing doctrinal misalignment. Martin Luther pointed out that the seven deuterocanonical books were uninspired. Some of the doctrines in the seven deuterocanonical books went against the teachings of the other books in the Bible. This is why Protestant churches decided not to use these books.
Even after the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church still kept these books, arguing that if you read the books and understand them rightly, they complement the teachings of the other books in the Bible. Therefore, although the Jews and the Protestants consider these books uninspired, the Catholic Church deems them as part of the Bible. Catholics are advised to obey and believe in the doctrines in the deuterocanonical books.
blueletterbible.org. (2018). Why does the Roman Catholic Church accept the books of The old testament Apocrypha (the deuterocanonical books) as holy scripture? by Don Stewart. Retrieved January 16, 2023