top of page

Why Do Catholic Bibles Have "Extra" Books?

Q. Why does the Catholic Bible have seven more books than other Bibles?

A. Seven Old Testament books are found in Catholic Bibles but not in Protestant ones. Catholics call them the deuterocanonical (literally, “second canon”) books; Protestants call them the apocryphal (literally, “hidden,” thus “unknown, spurious”) books. These books include Baruch, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon), and Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus).

They were included in the Septuagint, a third-century-B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament, which served as the Scripture of the apostles and the generations that followed them. The earliest Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament, such as Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) and Codex Alexandrinus (c. 450), include the deuterocanonical books with the others.

Regional Church councils at Hippo (in the year 393) and Carthage (397 and 419) listed these books (and the other 66) as Scripture, endorsing what had become the general belief of the universal Church. The ecumenical Council of Trent confirmed this canon in the sixteenth century.

How did Protestant Christians lose these books from their Bibles? The influential Protestant Reformer Martin Luther deleted them. Though he insisted that Scripture must be the sole authority for the Christian faith, when scriptural texts did not support his teaching, he tended to deny the authority of the books in which those texts were found.

The deuterocanonical books include passages that support the practice of offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead — and by extension, the doctrine of purgatory as well (see 2 Mac 12:39–45). Luther rejected this ancient teaching and practice of the Church, so he denied the deuterocanonical books a place in the Protestant canon. He also dismissed the New Testament book of James as an “epistle of straw” (though he left it in the Protestant canon) because it clearly teaches — contrary to Lutheran doctrine — that both faith and works are necessary for salvation (see Jas 2:14–26).

bottom of page