Answers to the Catholic Arguments.
The New Testament and the Apocrypha.
There may be New Testament allusions to the
Apocrypha, but not once is there a definite quotation from any
Apocrypha book accepted by the Roman Catholic church. There are
allusions to Pseudepigraphical books (false writings) that are
rejected by Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, such as the
Bodily Assumption of Moses (Jude 9) and the Book of Enoch
(Jude 14-15). There are also citations from Pagan poets and
philosophers (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12). None of these
sources are cited as Scripture, nor with authority.
The New Testament simply refers to a truth contained
in these books which otherwise may (and do) have errors. Roman
Catholic scholars agree with this assessment. The New Testament never
refers to any document outside the canon as authoritative.
The Septuagint and the Apocrypha.
The fact that the New Testament often quotes from other
books in the Greek Old Testament in no way proves that the
deuterocanonical books it contains are inspired. It is not even
certain that the Septuagint of the first century contained the
Apocrypha. The earliest Greek manuscripts that include them
date from the fourth century A.D.
Even if these writings were in the Septuagint
in apostolic times, Jesus and the apostles never once quoted from
them, although they are supposed to have been included in the very
version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) that the
Lord and apostles usually cited. Even notes in the currently used
Roman Catholic New American Bible (NAB) make the revealing admission
that the Apocrypha are "Religious books used by both Jews and
Christians which were not included in the collection of inspired
writings." Instead, they "…were introduced rather late into the
collection of the Bible. Catholics call them ‘deuterocanonical’
(second canon) books" (NAB, 413).
Use by the Church Fathers;
Citations of church fathers in support of the
canonicity of the Apocrypha is selective and misleading. Some
fathers did seem to accept their inspiration; other fathers used them
for devotional or homiletic (preaching) purposes but did not accept
them as canonical. An authority on the Apocrypha, Roger
When one examines the passages in the early Fathers which are
supposed to establish the canonicity of the Apocrypha, one
finds that some of them are taken from the alternative Greek text of
Ezra (1 Esdras) or from additions or appendices to Daniel, Jeremiah
or some other canonical book, which... are not really relevant; that
others of them are not quotations from the Apocrypha at all;
and that, of those which are, many do not give any indication that
the book is regarded as Scripture. [Beckwith, 387]
Epistle of Barnabas 6.7 and Tertullian, Against Marcion
3.22.5, are not quoting Wisd. 2.12 but Isa. 3:10 LXX, and
Tertullian, On the Soul 15, is not quoting Wisd. 1.6 but Ps.
139.23, as a comparison of the passages shows. Similarly, Justin
Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 129, is quite clearly not
quoting Wisdom but Prov. 8.21-5 LXX. The fact that he calls Proverbs
"Wisdom" is in accordance with the common nomenclature of the
earlier Fathers. [Beckwith, 427]
Frequently in references, the fathers were not
claiming divine authority for any of the eleven books infallibly
canonized by the Council of Trent. Rather, they were citing a
well-known piece of Hebrew literature or an informative devotional
writing to which they gave no presumption of inspiration by the Holy
The Fathers and the Apocrypha.
Some individuals in the early church held the
Apocrypha in high esteem; others were vehemently opposed to them.
J. D. N. Kelly’s comment that "for the great majority [of early
fathers]… the deuterocanonical writings ranked as scripture in the
fullest sense is out of sync with the facts. Athanasius, Cyril of
Jerusalem, Origen, and the great Roman Catholic biblical scholar and
translator of the Latin Vulgate, Jerome, all opposed inclusion of the
Apocrypha. In the second century A.D. the Syrian Bible (Peshitta)
did not contain the Apocrypha (Geisler, General Introduction,
chs. 27, 28).
Catacomb Art Apocrypha Themes.
As many Catholic scholars admit, scenes from the
catacombs do not prove the canonicity of the books whose events they
depict. Such scenes indicate little more than the religious
significance the portrayed events had for early Christians. At best,
they show a respect for the books containing these events, not a
recognition that they are inspired.
Books in the Greek Manuscripts.
None of the great Greek manuscripts (Aleph, A,
and B) contain all of the apocryphal books. Tobit, Judith,
Wisdom, and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) are found in all of them, and the
oldest manuscripts (B or Vaticanus) totally exclude the
Books of Maccabees. Yet Catholics appeal to this manuscript in support
of their view. What is more, no Greek manuscript has the same list of
apocryphal books accepted by the Council of Trent (1545-63; Beckwith,
Acceptance by Early Councils.
These were only local councils and were not binding on
the whole church. Local councils often erred in their decisions and
were later overruled by the universal church. Some Catholic apologists
argue that, even though a council was not ecumenical, its results can
be binding if they were confirmed by a Pope. However, they acknowledge
that there is no infallible way to know which statements by Popes are
infallible. Indeed, they admit that other statements by Popes were
even heretical, such as the monothelite heresy of Pope Honorius I (d.
It is also important to remember that these books
were not part of the Christian (New Testament period) writings. Hence,
they were not under the province of the Christian church to decide.
They were the province of the Jewish community which wrote them and
which had, centuries before, rejected them as part of the canon.
The books accepted by these Christian Councils may
not have been the same ones in each case. Hence, they cannot be used
as proof of the exact canon later infallibly proclaimed by the Roman
Catholic church in 1546.
Local Councils of Hippo and Carthage in North Africa
were influenced by Augustine, the most significant voice of antiquity
who accepted the same apocryphal books later canonized by the Council
of Trent. However, Augustine’s position is ill-founded: (1) Augustine
himself recognized that the Jews did not accept these books as part of
their canon (Augustine, 19.36-38). (2) Of Maccabees, Augustine said,
"These are held to be canonical, not by the Jews but by the Church, on
account of the extreme and wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs"
(Augustine, 18.36). On that ground Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
should be in the canon. (3) Augustine was inconsistent, since he
rejected books not written by prophets, yet he accepted a book that
appears to deny being prophetic (1 Macc. 9:27). (4) Augustine’s
mistaken acceptance of the Apocrypha seems to be connected with
his belief in the inspiration of the Septuagint, whose later
Greek manuscripts contained them. Augustine later acknowledged the
superiority of Jerome’s Hebrew text over the Septuagint’s Greek text.
That should have led him to accept the superiority of Jerome’s Hebrew
canon as well. Jerome utterly rejected the
The later Council of Rome (382) which accepted
Apocryphal books did not list the same books accepted by Hippo and
Carthage. It does not list Baruch, thus listing only six, not seven,
of the Apocrypha books later pronounced canonical. Even Trent
lists it as a separate book (Denzinger, no. 84).
Acceptance by the Orthodox Church.
The Greek church has not always accepted the
Apocrypha, nor is its present position unequivocal. At the synods
of Constantinople (1638), Jaffa (1642), and Jerusalem (1672) these
books were declared canonical. But even as late as 1839 their Larger
Catechism expressly omitted the Apocrypha on the grounds that
they did not exist in the Hebrew Bible.
Acceptance at the Councils of Florence and Trent.
At the Council of Trent (1546) the
infallible proclamation was made accepting the Apocrypha as
part of the inspired Word of God. Some Catholic scholars claim that
the earlier Council of Florence (1442) made the same pronouncement.
However, this council claimed no infallibility and neither council’s
decision has any real basis in Jewish history, the New Testament, or
early Christian history. Unfortunately, the decision at Trent came a
millennium and a half after the books were written and was an obvious
polemic against Protestantism. The Council of Florence had proclaimed
the Apocrypha inspired to bolster the doctrine of Purgatory
that had blossomed. However, the manifestations of this belief in the
sale of indulgences came to full bloom in Martin Luther’s day, and
Trent’s infallible proclamation of the Apocrypha was a clear
polemical against Luther’s teaching. The official infallible addition
of books that support prayers for the dead is highly suspect, coming
only a few years after Luther protested this doctrine. It has all the
appearance of an attempt to provide infallible support for doctrines
that lack a real biblical basis.
Apocryphal Books in Protestant Bibles.
Apocryphal books appeared in Protestant
Bibles prior to the Council of Trent, and were generally placed in a
separate section because they were not considered of equal authority.
While Anglicans and some other non-Roman Catholic groups have always
held a high regard for the inspirational and historical value of the
Apocrypha, they never consider it inspired and of equal
authority with Scripture. Even Roman Catholic scholars through the
Reformation period distinguished between deuterocanon and canon.
Cardinal Ximenes made this distinction in his Complutensian
Polyglot (1514-17) on the very eve of the Reformation. Cardinal
Cajetan, who later opposed Luther at Augsburg in 1518, published a
Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament
(1532) after the Reformation began which did not contain the
Apocrypha. Luther spoke against the Apocrypha in 1543,
including its books at the back of his Bible (Metzger 181f.).
Apocryphal Writings at Qumran.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran
included not only the community’s Bible (the Old Testament) but their
library, with fragments of hundreds of books. Among these were some
Old Testament Apocryphal books. The fact that no commentaries
were found for an Apocryphal book, and only canonical books
were found in the special parchment and script indicates that the
Apocryphal books were not viewed as canonical by the Qumran
community. Menahem Mansoor lists the following fragments of the
Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha: Tobit, in Hebrew and Aramaic;
Enoch in Aramaic; Jubilees in Hebrew; Testament of
Levi and Naphtali, in Aramaic; Apocryphal Daniel
literature, in Hebrew and Aramaic, and Psalms of Joshua (Mansoor,
203). The noted scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Millar Burroughs,
concluded: "There is no reason to think that any of these works were
venerated as Sacred Scripture" (Burroughs, 178).
The Catholic Arguments in Summary.
At best, all that the arguments urged in favor of
the canonicity of the apocryphal books prove is that various
apocryphal books were given varied degrees of esteem by various
persons within the Christian church, usually falling short of claims
for the books’ canonicity. Only after Augustine and the local councils
he dominated pronounced them inspired did they gain wider usage and
eventual infallible acceptance by the Roman Catholic church at Trent.
This falls far short of the kind of initial, continual, and full
recognition among Christian churches of the canonical books of the
Protestant Old Testament and Jewish Torah (which exclude the
Apocrypha). True canonical books were received
immediately by the people of God into the growing canon of
Scripture (see Geisler, General Introduction, chap. 13). Any
subsequent debate was by those who were not in a position, as was the
immediate audience, to know whether they were from an accredited
apostle or prophet. Hence, this subsequent debate over the
antilegomena was over their authenticity, not canonicity. They
were already in the canon; some in subsequent generations questioned
whether they belonged there. Eventually, all of the antilegomena
(books later questioned by some) were retained in the canon. This is
not true of the Apocrypha, for Protestants reject all of them
and even Roman Catholics reject 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and The Prayer of