Why Does the Catholic Bible Have 73 Books?

The Catholic Church has 73 books in its Bible. Protestants only have 66. Some Protestants think that it was the Catholic Church that “added” to the Bible, and that the seven books they don’t accept are “apocryphal.” The truth of the matter is that those seven books were always accepted by Christians, and that Martin Luther dropped the books because they did not correspond with his theology. These books are referred to by Catholics as the “deuterocanonicals.”

First what does apocrypha mean? It comes from the Greek word, “apocryphos” which means, “obscure.” To call a book apocryphal means that the book has dubious or “obscure” origins. The word has also developed the connotation of a book having heretical or false content.

The first Christians used the Greek Old Testament called the “Septuagint,” which includes the seven books that Protestants don’t have. The Septuagint has its origins ca. 70BC in Alexandria, Egypt. The Jewish diaspora lived scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and spoke Greek as their main language. So in Alexandria seventy Jewish scholars gathered. According to tradition they separated themselves each into their own room to translate the scriptures from Hebrew to Greek. After seventy days they each finished, to find that they had all translated the text with exactly the same Greek words. The work was considered miraculous. Septuagint means “seventy,” because in 70 BC, 70 scholars translated the Old Testament in 70 days.

For centuries critics in Protestantism, Judaism, and secular academia, held the Septuagint suspect because it had phrases and text not found in the Jewish Masoretic texts of the middle ages, which were assumed to be more faithful to the ancient Hebrew. But the Septuagint was largely vindicated by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Hebrew texts found among the Dead Sea scrolls pre-date Christ, and more closely match the Greek Septuagint than the medieval Masoretic texts.

(At the bottom of this page there are a series of links to a documentary about the history of the Bible, which discusses the Septuagint in detail.)

Martin Luther did not like seven books in the Catholic Old Testament, so he dropped them from his Bible. One of the reasons he dropped the books is because the books of Macabees record Jewish practices that have been continued by Catholics, such as praying for dead, which is strong evidence for the doctrine of Purgatory. Luther justified dropping the books by appealing to the Jewish tradition. The Jewish canon, likely codified around the year 100 at the Council of Jamnia, does not have the seven books rejected by Luther. They were rejected by the Jews either because they were not written in Hebrew, or because ancient Hebrew texts were no longer extant. It also very well may have been because they so clearly pointed to Christianity.

Who can read Wisdom chapter 2, written in 300 BC, and not see a clear prophecy of Christ. What Christian can deny it was inspired by the Holy Spirit?

“Let us therefore lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life. He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the son of God. He is become a censurer of our thoughts. He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different. We are esteemed by him as triflers, and he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and he preferreth the latter end of the just, and glorieth that he hath God for his father. Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be.  For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies.  Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words. These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them.”  (Wisdom 2:12-21)

We can also know that Christians should accept the Deuterocanonical books because Paul refers to them. In Hebrews 11 Paul refers back to the miracles of the Old Testament.

” Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.” Hebrews 11:35

The first part of this which speaks of the dead being raised to life again refers to instances in 1Kings 17:22, and 2Kings 4:36.

But the second part of the verse refers to events recorded in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.” Hebrews 11:35

 “So bending herself towards him, mocking the cruel tyrant, she said in her own language: My son, have pity upon me, that bore thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age. I beseech thee, my son, look upon heaven and earth, and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also: So thou shalt not fear this tormentor, but being made a worthy partner with thy brethren, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren. While she was yet speaking these words, the young man said: For whom do you stay? I will not obey the commandment of the king, but the commandment of the law, which was given us by Moses.”  (2 Maccabees 7:27-30)

 Another Catholic website has a great compilation of verses which show parallels or references to the deuterocanonical books in the New Testament.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, go check out Scripture Catholic’s list.

Now as promised a great documentary on the History of the Bible we found posted at gloria.tv

Where Did We Get the Bible?

Part I http://gloria.tv/?media=37209

Part II http://gloria.tv/?media=37260

Part III http://gloria.tv/?media=37262

Part IV http://gloria.tv/?media=37268

Part V http://gloria.tv/?media=37269

Part VI http://gloria.tv/?media=37296

Part VII http://gloria.tv/?media=37299

Part VIII http://gloria.tv/?media=37506

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