Why Protestants Reject 7 Books of the Bible – the Short Answer

by Steve Ray on August 19, 2016

Gary Michuta is an expert on the canon of Scripture, especially in regards to the Deutero-canonical books, what the Protestants call the Apocrypha. You can read his book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger to see what I mean.

Recently a friend asked Gary for the short answer as to why the Protestants removed seven books from the Bible. Here is his very helpful reply:

Why Protestants Reject the Deutero-canonical Books – Short Answer

By Gary Michuta

 The short answer is this: When Luther was cornered in a debate over Purgatory, his opponent, Johann Eck, cited 2 Maccabees against Luther’s position. Luther was forced to say that Second Maccabees could not be allowed in the debate because it wasn’t canonical. Later in the debate, Luther appealed to St. Jerome for rejecting Maccabees (the councils of Carthage, Hippo, and Florence all included Macabees as canonical Scripture). 

 By appealing to Jerome, he also rejected all the other books Jerome rejected (Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, Daniel 13, and sections of Esther).

From then on, Luther (and all Protestants) have been trying to justify this removal. Luther in 1534 thought Baruch was “too skimpy” and not lofty enough to be from the scribe of Jeremiah. He also had problems with certain historical elements in Baruch. But in the long run, it really came down to Jerome’s rejection.

 As a side note, Jerome rejected it because he thought that a Hebrew manuscript tradition, known as the Masoretic Text, was identical to the inspired originals and all other copies were made from this text. Since the Deuteros were not part of the MT, he rejected them as not being of the canonical Scripture. 

 What Jerome could not have known was that there were many different Hebrew manuscripts in circulation during the first century and that the Greek Septuagint, a translation made by the Jews around 200 BC, at least in parts, appears to be a very literal translation of a more ancient Hebrew text tradition that is now lost. 

This means that Jerome’s idea of “Hebrew truth” (I.e., only that which is found in the Hebrew MT is true) has been demonstrated to be an error. With Jerome’s position no longer tenable, Protestantism really doesn’t have a historical leg to stand on in regards to their OT canon.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank June 6, 2013 at 9:51 AM

I developed this site to highlight a few key points about the development of the canon. My aim was to simplify things as much as possible but also draw out some facts that I was not aware of until i did some research e.g there was no universally accepted Hebrew canon when Jesus lived, the Council of Jamnia was a theory – not fact, etc.

The site uses Adobie Flash so you will cannot open it in Apple products.

http://Www.scripturehistory.com

Dan June 10, 2013 at 10:59 PM

Frank, that is a very interesting site you’ve assembled. One thing that might be of interest are the dates when the books of scripture were divided into chapters and then, later, when the individual verses were determined and assigned numbers. I don’t know when these events occurred, but I believe I read that the chapters and verses were determined by monks as they copied the scriptures.

However, I think the work you’ve done is very helpful and nicely presented. God bless you!

Dan

David De Luna May 3, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Well done. I enjoy finding short posts like these, although I know it’s challenging to do theology posts in less than 400 words. You to it here! I manage content for my parish FB page and I evangelize on my own so this is exactly what I look for. Thank you.

Clifford Mainooh May 3, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Wonderful piece of work, Frank. Kindly research into the quest of Dan; and please, send me a copy.

Mike November 30, 2014 at 6:20 PM

I gotta get a copy of this book! :)

Daine September 19, 2016 at 9:45 AM

This is an excellent short answer. I too need to get this book!

Edelyn October 19, 2016 at 4:06 AM

Pardon me, but what is MT?

STEVE RAY HERE: MT is an abbreviation for Masoretic Text which was used in the sentence above.

James May 30, 2018 at 1:56 PM

I love this truth and I want more.

jomafro June 13, 2018 at 11:30 AM

STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks. For Catholics it is not a matter of scoring but a matter of authority. Someone has to close the canon – in other words, some authority has to say “these books are inspired and these books are not inspired.” It was the Catholic Church that made that determination. Without the authority of the Catholic Church, how does a Protestant know which books belong in the New Testament? Reformed theologian R. C. Sproul honestly admits that the Protestant position can at best claim “a fallible collection of infallible books” (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith [Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1992], 22).

This chart https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rFKBCDu7ob6QidUbioA5lhVS_GVf480yBxczNQkEj5A is a representation and interpretation, "in sum," of the information that I have compiled in this infographic https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xVzqAjGgixbxrQy5X1On8BhvhKeFhUnm which I created ©2018 after much reading, particularly of F.F. Bruce’s “The Canon of Scripture.”*
My position, based on the research presented here, is thus: both Protestant and Catholic Christians erred by adopting extreme positions relative to each other, spurred by the tension of the Counter-/Reformation. Catholics erred first, diverting from apostolic and church tradition, when they pronounced the deuterocanon inspired by God and suitable for doctrine. Similarly, Protestants erred by adopting anti-Catholic sentiment and removing the Apocrypha from the printed Bible entirely, diverting from 1600 years of church practice and abandoning the historical, liturgical, and edifying qualities of the deuterocanon. The church would do well to look at the example of Luther and Calvin to begin reassessing the status of the deuterocanon, who held in tension the edification and inspiration of books, since the early days of the church, adopted for use and instruction. My prayer is for the universal church, that it may find a way to reconcile a unified canon, based on Apostolic and traditional church practice, that neither over- or under-values, in doctrine and deed, those books since ancient times called Apocrypha.
*A note about the chart and infographic: it is not meant to absolutely prove anything, but is useful to summarize and provide context for the conclusion I outline above. My scoring methodology awards +2 points when a source affirms the canonicity of one of the deuterocanon, -2 points for explicitly excluding the deuterocanon, and -1 point when a book is excluded by absentia (an implied exclusion based on the assumption that they left it off the explicit list for a reason). Care was taken not to over- or under-represent sources of inclusion or exclusion, especially in cases where information is not complete (i.e. fragmented codexes) or when an author lists a book (i.e. Daniel) but does not clarify if the additions are included as well.
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