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Q: #202. Why is there extra books in the Catholic Bible?

     A: These books which are found in the Catholic Old Testament are called “apocryphal” (Gr: “apokruphos”) books by Protestants, meaning “hidden” or “concealed.” Catholics generally call them “deuterocanonical” (2nd canon). “Protocanonical” is used to describe the books of the Old Testament (39 books) that all Christians throughout history have considered God-inspired. These are also the books that make up the Hebrew Bible or Jewish Canon. Deuterocanonical books, on the other hand, are books that were not originally considered to be inspired, but were later determined to be so by the Roman Catholic Church during the Council of Trent on April 8, 1546 (in part due to the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther in 1517, who coincidentally died on Feb 18, 1546). (Note: This council also declared that anyone who did not receive these books as scripture should be “anathema” [accursed]).

     There are 7 of these books included in the Catholic Bible: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom Of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees. Also, there are additions to the books of  Esther (Esther: chapters 10:4-16:24) and Daniel (3 books added: Song Of The Three Young Men [inserted between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24], Susanna [incorporated as Daniel chapter 13], and Bel And The Dragon [incorporated as Daniel chapter 14]).

     These books are generally believed to have been written during the intertestament period, which was the approximately 400 year period between the last book of the Protestant/Jewish Old Testament (Malachi) and the 1st book of the New Testament (Matthew).

     It is also important to note that these books were written in Greek, while the rest of the Old Testament books were written in Hebrew (a short part of Daniel was in Aramaic).

     So, why aren’t these books included in the Protestant Old Testament? There are a number of reasons given.

#1. The Jews, to whom care of the Old Testament was given by God (Rom 3:1-2)(Rom 9:4), never considered them to be God-inspired. They did not use them in their Old Testament. They did not attempt to preserve them. Jewish scholars, meeting at the Council Of Jamina in 90 A.D. (one of the most important Jewish Councils of all time) rejected the apocryphal books. Two of the most prominent writers in Jewish history; Josephus (37 A.D.- 100 A.D.) and Philo (20 B.C.- 50 A.D.), rejected them as scripture.

***Note: The events mentioned in the apocryphal books are also not mentioned at all in the book of Acts, which outlines Jewish history.

#2. Christ never quoted from these books during His time on Earth (nor did any other New Testament author). In fact, He seemed to make it clear where He considered the Old Testament to start and finish. In (Mt 23:34-35) He said: “Wherefore behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (35) that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”

     The Jewish Bible contains 24 books. They have exactly the same books that the Protestant Bible has, but some are combined (the minor prophets, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah). They also order their books differently. The first book is Genesis, the last book is 1 & 2 Chronicles. So, what Jesus seems to be saying in the above verses is, in essence, that from the very beginning of the Old Testament (Abel in Genesis) to the end of the Old Testament (Zechariah [Zacharias] in 2 Chr 24:21) “righteous blood (had been) shed upon the earth.” If Jesus had considered the apocryphal books to be canonical, He would not have ended with His example at 1 & 2 Chronicles, as the apocryphal books were written after the Hebrew/Jewish canon.

#3. In several apocryphal books, the writers clearly admit that they were not inspired or writing perfectly: (2 Macc 2:24-32)(2 Macc 15:38-39)(prologue to Sirach).

#4. Prophets of God wrote all of the Bible. In 1st Maccabees, the author admits on several occasions that there were no prophets during the time it was written: (1 Macc 4:46)(1 Macc 9:27)(1 Macc 14:41).

#5. Finally, the apocryphal books contain numerous errors. There are errors in doctrine, history, and geography amongst other things. In addition, there are many verses that contradict what is in the Protestant/Jewish canon (protocanonical books) of the Bible. God authored the Bible, and it is error free. These errors in the apocryphal books attribute error to God, and therefore CANNOT be God-inspired. Let me show a number of these errors.

(Tobit 1:15) says, “But when Shalmaneser died, Sennacherib his son reigned in his place…” Sennacherib was the son of Sargon II, not Shalmaneser.

(Tobit 6:5-8) An angel promotes magic saying to make smoke from the heart and liver of a fish and it will protect a person from demons and evil spirits.

(Tobit 9:1-6) The author seems to show the journey from Ecbatana to Rages took a day. This journey was app. 185 miles though. This obviously would take many days to travel. (Tobit 5:5/6:1-9) seems to say it was a 2 day journey. (The historian Arrian said it took Alexander’s army 11 days to travel [Anabasis III 19-20].)

(Tobit 12:11-15) speaks of 7 angels who present prayers to God.

(Tobit 14:15) says Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus (Es 1:1) captured Nineveh, but history shows us that Nabopolassar and Cyaxares captured it in (612 B.C.). (Note: Nebuchadnezzar was Nabopolassar’s son. Nabopolassar reigned from 626-605 B.C. and  Nebuchadnezzar from 605-562 B.C.

(Judith 1:1-7) says Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians in Nineveh. He was the king of the Babylonians, not the Assyrians, reigning from 605-562 B.C. As king of Babylon, he destroyed Jerusalem in 587-586 B.C. and carried the Jews into exile (1 Kin 24:1-25:26). (Also see: Josephus: Antiquities Of The Jews 8: ch 6-8)

(Judith 2:21) says Holofernes army made a 3 day march from Nineveh to Bectileth (near upper Cilicia). This is impossible, as it is 300 miles between the two.

(Judith 4:3) says while Nebuchadnezzar was king (4:1), the people of Judea returned from captivity. As stated above, Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Judeans in 587-586 B.C. and he reigned from 605-562 B.C. The Jews were in exile for nearly 50 years, thus they returned after his reign. The Jews returned during the Persian Empire under King Cyrus, who had overthrown the Babylonian Empire (See: Ezra 1:1-3).

(Judith 9:10,13) Judith prays for God’s help in practicing deceit.

(Wisdom Of Solomon 8:19-20) Promotes souls as pre-existent.

(Sirach 22:3) says “the birth of a daughter is loss.”

(Sirach 42:14) says, “Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; and it is a woman who brings shame and disgrace.”

(Sirach 33:26) says to use “racks and tortures” for a wicked servant (slave).

(1 Maccabees 6:8-16/2 Maccabees 9:19-29) King Antiochus appears to have died two different ways in two different places.

(2 Maccabees 12:42-45) Speaks of praying for the dead and redemption of souls after death. (This is used for the Catholic teaching on Purgatory.) (See: Q: #95 for more on Purgatory)

(2 Maccabees 14:42-46) Glorifies a man’s suicide and calls it “noble.”

(Tobit 4:10)(Tobit 12:9)(Sirach 3:30) say “almsgiving and charity” will deliver from death and atone for sin.

(Esther 15:7) says the king became very angry when he saw Esther. (Es 5:1-2) says he was not angry. (It is also worth noting that God is not mentioned at all in the Protestant canon of Esther, but numerous times in the apocryphal additions to Esther.)

(Bel And The Dragon 14:23-27) The Babylonians worshipped a live dragon and wanted Daniel to worship it too. Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, boiled them together and made them into cakes. He fed them to the dragon and it burst open and died. For this, the Babylonians threw Daniel in the lion’s den (verse 31) AGAIN (see: Dan 6:16-24) for 6 days, but he wasn’t eaten again (verses 40-42).

     Having said all of this, I do not believe that one should totally avoid reading these apocryphal books. They do make for interesting reading in some places. They also contain some accurate historical and cultural information from the “silent years” of the intertestament period. However, it is apparent that these books (and NUMEROUS other apocryphal books) are not God-inspired and this should be kept in mind if reading them.

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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