The Old And New Testament Canon – The Canon Used By Christ

A few books of the Catholic Bible are not in the Protestant Bible. Did the Catholic Church add things to the Bible?

No! In fact, the opposite is true: Protestant reformers rejected some parts of the Bible.

This article looks into the Conon used by Christ.

The Old Testament canon

The accepted list of books in the Bible is called the “canon.”

The canon of the Old Testament books of the Catholic Bible is based on history. The Catholic Church did not make up the list. In fact, at the time of Jesus, there was no official canon of the books of the Old Testament. The process of defining that canon was not yet complete. Due to this, there were a few different collections of Scripture in circulation among the Jews.

The two most widely accepted collections of Old Testament writings at that time were

The Septuagint

This was a Greek translation of the Old Testament and it contained 46 books namely:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.

Another collection of the Old Testament in Hebrew contained just 39 books and it omits the following books:

Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. It also omits chapters 10-16 of Esther, and three sections of Daniel: Daniel 3:24-90, Daniel 13, and Daniel 14. These books & chapters are called the deuterocanonical books, meaning “second canon.”

The Septuagint was known and used by Jesus and his Apostles most heavily. The New Testament’s authors also quoted directly from the Septuagint most of the time, since this version was the most commonly used in the early Church.

Mainly because the Septuagint was the version most used and accepted by Jesus and the Apostles. The Catholic Church uses the Septuagint’s canon of Old Testament books in the Roman Catholic Bible.

The list of the Old Testament books of the Catholic Bible is firmly grounded in history.

The New Testament canon

Defining the canon of the New Testament books of the Catholic Bible was somewhat different.

The question was not what ancient books of Jewish Scripture should be in the canon rather, it was a matter of what new books about Jesus and the Christian life were the accurate, inspired texts of Christianity.

Periods after Jesus’s death, a number of books and letters circulated that claimed to contain the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. In the early Church, it was the responsibility of the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, to determine which books accurately contained the true teachings. In fact, all of the New Testament books of the Catholic Bible were selected because the Church’s bishops agreed that those books alone were divinely inspired, accurate teachers of the true faith received from Jesus and the Apostles.

Some of the books and letters gained acceptance as being faithful, accurate, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. While some of the books circulating at the time were quickly rejected by the bishops because they contained obvious fabrications and inaccuracies. Few other books continued to be debated for some time.

Although ultimately accepted into the canon of Scripture, these are also called deuterocanonical because they were accepted later (although written at the same time as the other canonical books). The deuterocanonical books of the New Testament are Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation (the Apocalypse).

In addition, some parts of the Gospels are called deuterocanonical because they were not in all early manuscripts, and so were debated for a longer period than the rest of the Gospel sections. These are Mark 16:19-20, Luke 22:43-44, John 5:4, and John 8:1-11.

Roman Catholics believe that all of the books of the Catholic Bible — both Old and New Testament, both the deuterocanonical and “protocanonical” ones (first canon)  are Word of God that was divinely inspired to men.

This is the full list of the New Testament books of the Catholic Bible:

  • The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • The Letters of St. Paul to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon
  • The Letter to the Hebrews, the Letters of James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude
  • Revelation (the Apocalypse).

Luther and other Protestant leaders rejected many Church teachings and Traditions. Their rejection of the deuterocanonical books allowed them to claim that the disputed doctrines had no basis in Scripture — their new canon of Scripture.

The canon used by Christ

We Catholics do not see the deuterocanon as “extra” books of the Catholic Bible because, to us, it is all “the Bible.”

Our use of these books is historically based on the fact that Jesus and the Apostles used the Greek Septuagint most often. This is ultimately determined by the Church’s judgment that these books are all divinely inspired. This decision is one that we are confident was guided by the Holy Spirit during the first centuries of the Church.

The books of the Catholic Bible are the books that all Christians traditionally accepted. Therefore, we can not change that historical fact just because some reformers rejected parts of the Bible during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

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