Today, we’re going to talk about why there are books missing from the Protestant Bible or perhaps we should start with the question, are there actually books missing from the Protestant Bible?
What you may not know is that there are actually different collections of books and in different orders around the world, so we have a very Western collection and order of books in our bible. There are places in the world, different cultures, different languages, where they have actually the same books. They’re just in different order, or maybe they have a First, Second, and Third Kings where it’s not like there’s more material. It’s just broken up differently. There are those sorts of considerations, but Roman Catholics actually have different books and different content in their bible than we do as Protestants, and why is that?
Well, the first thing I want to point out is I phrased the question a certain way because sometimes, that’s how it’s asked. Some people say, “Well, why are there books missing? Why are books removed from the Protestant Bible?” What’s actually being assumed there is that the correct list of books is in the Roman Catholic Bible or maybe those are original, but in any case, books have been removed, and that’s how we ended up with our bible.
There’s a parallel question that comes up in terms of why people will ask, “Well, why are there verses missing from my bible?” I might be reading along in John 5, and I read 5:1, 5:2, 5:3, and I come to 5:5, and it’s like, “Well, where is verse 4?” Well, some bibles don’t have it, and I’ll link to the episode where we talk about this, but the same question is asked. Why are there verses missing from my bible?
In both questions, “Why are there books missing?” And, “Why are there verses missing?”, they’re not actually missing. Now, it’s true that they’re not there. There’s no verse 4 in chapter 5, and there are not seven extra books in between the Old and New Testaments in the Protestant Bible, but they’re not missing. They haven’t been removed. They were never actually original to start with. They were added later on, and so while historically, if you look at the development of this, we may have gone from not having those seven books that are in the Catholic Bible to them then being included in the bible to now Protestants have removed them, but they’ve only removed them because they were never supposed to be there in the first place.
Now, what books are we talking about? Why do I say all of this? What are my reasons? If you’re asking any of those, those are good questions, so let’s talk about them. Catholics have seven books in their bible between the Old and New Testament called the apocrypha that Protestants do not have, and those books are Tobit, Judith, First and Second Maccabees, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch. Seven different books that are in the Protestant Bible. Not just things broken up differently, different additional content.
Now, why do I say that they’re not missing from the canon, from the Protestant Bible? Because they’re not actually original to start with. They’re not actually Holy-Spirit-inspired scripture, and I’ll link to a previous episode that we’ve done on a related matter here of who determines what the canon is, and what we said in that episode is it’s God who determines the canon. By inspiring a collection of books, God created a canon. It is we as people who recognize it.
The church does not create the canon. The canon created the church. If the church creates the canon, the church stands over scripture, and it’s actually the other way around. The church stands under scripture, scripture created the church by its teaching, and its proclamation, and its actual existence, and its content.
Why Are They Not Included?
These seven books are not original, and they shouldn’t be included in the canon, so why? Why do I say that? What are my reasons?
The Apocryphal Books Are Not Quoted In The New Testament
Some of these reasons are determinative, and some are pointers. The first reason is-
and this is just a pointer-The apocryphal books are not quoted in the New Testament. The New Testament quotes the Old Testament. The New Testament quotes the New Testament. The New Testament does not quote, does not treat as scripture the apocryphal books. That puts them in a different category.
Now, are there parts of scripture that are not quoted in the New Testament? Yes, that’s definitely true, but the whole category of books that are in the apocrypha are not quoted in the New Testament. That should tell us something. The writers, when leveraging scripture, the Old Testament, to make their point, they do not quote the apocrypha.
Jesus Didn’t Consider It Scripture
Related to that, when Jesus talks about what the scriptures were in his day, before the New Testament documents, he’s looking backwards, and the apocryphal works had been written by the time of Jesus.
He doesn’t reference them, but he does reference the law, the prophets, and the psalms. That is actually what comprises our Old Testament today. It is entirely comprised of law, prophets, and psalms as the Jews would have considered them and characterized them. We actually see this in Luke 24:44. Jesus says to his disciples, “These are my words, which I spoke to you while I was still with you that all the things written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled,” and then he opens their mind to understand those scriptures…not the apocrypha.
The apocrypha is missing there, so when referencing all of the scripture that talked about Jesus, he does not talk about the apocrypha. That’s incredibly telling, but it’s not just that they’re not quoted in the New Testament.
The Apocrypha Teaches Bad Doctrine
It’s not just that Jesus excludes them from his list of authoritative Old Testament scriptural documents, they actually teach bad doctrine, and that is definitely a disqualifier for being scripture. God spoke and scripture was created. Scripture is the very breath out of God. It’s his word to us, and since it comes from God, it does not err. It contains no mistakes or errors, and so if there is something that teaches something false, then it is not from God.
Now, that’s not to say that everything described in scripture is actually good. Right? We’ve got examples of people driving tent pegs through other people’s heads, and adultery, and all of that sort of thing, and that’s not good. It’s described in a historical sense to have happened. That’s different than teaching that something should be the case. The bible describes a lot of things. It describes immorality. It does not prescribe immorality. That’s a very key difference, so what is the bad doctrine in the apocrypha?
Well, it teaches that you can give money for the forgiveness of sins of the dead, and this is actually partly where some of the Roman Catholic doctrine around indulgences, and purgatory, and different things come from. It’s related to this, but that you can give money for the forgiveness of sins of the dead. That is taught nowhere else in scripture. It’s only taught in this set of documents. That’s incredibly suspect, but it also fits in no way with an understanding of what Jesus did on the cross with an understanding that it’s appointed unto man once to die and then to face judgment.
Now, Catholics will have answers for these, but we have to ask the question, “How compelling are those answers in light of the rest of scripture?” We must interpret scripture by scripture, and the New Testament does not speak this way about sin or the death. That’s incredibly important for us to understand.
The apocrypha also gives positive teaching on the use of magic, so Tobit actually teaches that magic should be used. That’s definitely out of line with the New Testament and the Old Testament. Christianity is not a magical religion.
Now, some people will say, “Well, maybe this is just a way of using Jesus’ power,” but once again, we must ask the question, “How compelling is that in light of what the New Testament teaches about who Jesus is, and how he works, and how the Spirit works?” It does not work by magic, so not money for the forgiveness of sins of the dead, not magic certainly, and not the forgiveness of sins by giving money. This is what’s behind partially the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences where you can do certain things, you could give money, in order to have temporal punishment remitted or done away with for your sin.
What we see here, at least in Tobit in part, is that people could give money, they could give alms, and have their sins forgiven. Once again, this is a gross misunderstanding of what sin actually is in the face of God. That somehow we could give money, that the wealth are in better position to have their sins dealt with than the poor, is actually a radical upending of what Jesus teaches where the kingdom of God belongs to the poor (the pious poor that is, not just the poor that don’t have money). The wrath of God was only satisfied in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the application of that to a certain people to atone for their sin. Money cannot do that.
Now, the Catholic may say when using this passage that, “Well, it’s only the temporal punishment for sin that’s dealt with.” In other words, yes, the eternal consequences of your sin were dealt with by Jesus on the cross. The catholic will also say that the lesser sins we do, the venial sins we do contribute to us racking up temporal punishment that we pay for in purgatory, that we go to this place for a finite period of time to pay off and be purified for our sin, so you could actually give money to get out of that temporal punishment, but it’s Jesus who’s required to get you to eternal life in heaven after you’ve been purified in that temporal punishment.
Once again, we have to ask the question, “Where is this idea of temporal punishment in the New Testament?” What could it possibly mean when Paul says there’s no condemnation for those who were in Christ? Purgatory has no place in a correct understanding of the gospel. No place in the New Testament. If purgatory doesn’t fit, then giving money for the forgiveness of the temporal punishment of sins does not fit. Of course, giving money for sins doesn’t fit either, but that’s a different topic.
All of that to say for these three reasons and more that apocryphal works teach false doctrine, and so they should be rejected. They’re not scripture if they teach false doctrine. They’re not quoted in the New Testament. Jesus references the law, the prophets, and the psalms. He does not include the apocrypha. It’s bad doctrine that it contains, and it’s not also universally accepted.
The Early Church Handled Them Differently From Scripture
Now, it’s interesting. When we find early collections of manuscripts, sometimes, they’re collections of scrolls. Sometimes, they’re in a codex where you hav multiple manuscripts put together with a binding. Christians were actually somewhat inventive in this way where they needed to put large numbers of documents together, and so we started using things that more resemble our books, but when we find collections of these, if they contain the apocryphal works, they’re in a separate category. They’re put in the back, often labeled saying that these are less authoritative.
The early church, even if they found devotional benefit in some of these apocrypha works did not consider them scripture. They didn’t read from them or treat them the same way in their worship services. They didn’t bundle them the same way with the books they considered to be authoritative scripture.
Now, you might be saying, “Well, why did they have these things if they weren’t scripture?” Well, don’t you have non-biblical books that are about the bible at home or on your Kindle or your phone? Yeah, we’ve got devotionals. We’ve got Tim Keller books, or Kevin D. Young books, or whatever, and there are errors in some of those. There are things we would disagree with, but we still find them beneficial. We still have devotionals.
Now, devotionals are a topic for another day. I have rather defined thoughts on devotionals, but anyways, all of that to say we have spiritual books today. Not spiritual as in inspired, but books about spiritual things, and they’re not scripture, and we’re not confused about that. It was exactly the same way with the early church. They had non-canonical, non-scriptural books that they found to be beneficial to their Christian and religious practice, and the apocryphal works, some of them were those. Not all always, not consistently, but the apocrypha did not have universal church acceptance the same way that scripture did over time.
It was not written by apostles. It was not recognized by Jesus. It was not quoted in the New Testament, so it’s a very different type of collection of works, and even when we find it, once again, in a collection of other documents that contain scripture, it’s in a different category. It’s in a different place. It’s in the back. It’s labeled separately. The early church was not confused about if it was scripture. It just seems to be us today that are.
A Pope Didn’t Think The Apocrypha Was Scripture (At Least In Part)
It’s not until 1546 at the council of Trent that the Catholic Church officially says that the apocrypha is scripture, and what they actually do is say that if you reject those books or their parts, then you should be anathematized. The curse of God should be upon you.
This is actually what they said at Trent.
“If any one receives not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition, and knowingly and deliberately condemn the traditions aforesaid, let him be anathema.”
Well, that’s a pretty tall order, so it’s not just the Protestant that’s “picking on the Catholic” if we talk about this and say the Catholic is wrong. The Catholic actually takes a very strong stance, at least historically Catholic doctrine has, against the Protestant who disagrees with the inclusion of these books. Remember, they have not been removed from the Protestant Bible. They were added to the Catholic Bible.
Now, why do I bring up what Catholic say here? Because there was a pope, Pope Gregory the Great who was pope from 590 to 604 A.D., and what he actually said when writing a commentary on an Old Testament book was that one of the books the Catholics consider today to be scripture actually was not canonical, and here’s what he says, “It is not irregular to quote for the church’s edification the books of the apocrypha as long as it is understood that they are not canonical.” Let me read that again. “It’s not irregular to quote for the church the books of the apocrypha as long as you understood they are not canonical.” He’s referencing First Maccabees there. He’s referencing a book that Catholic church considers today to be scripture.
Now, Catholics will say, “Well, canonical meant something different. It meant really, really divine” but there’s not good evidence for that. Sometimes, they’ll say, “Well, he wasn’t speaking in his official position as the pope.” It’s like, “Well, he was still the pope, and he was wrong about what scripture was.” That’s a pretty big thing, don’t you think?
Well, all of that to say there are many reasons to reject the apocrypha. They weren’t accepted early on. They don’t quote the New Testament. They don’t fit Jesus’ definition or list of what was scripture. They teach bad doctrine. The church considered them and dealt with them differently. They didn’t put them alongside scripture in the same way or used them in their worship services in the same way, and even an early pope in the 500 and 600’s said that at least one of them was not actually canonical. It was not actually scripture.
For those reasons and more, we should reject them, and we should understand that they haven’t been removed for the Protestant Bible. They should never been included in anyone’s bible to start with because they’re not Holy-Spirit-inspired scripture. I hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to talking with you next week on Unapologetic.