Biblical Canon

biblical canon or canon of scripture is a set of texts (or “books”) which a particular Jewish or Christian religious community regards as authoritative scripture. The English word canon comes from the Greek κανών, meaning “rule” or “measuring stick”. Christians were the first to use the term in reference to scripture, but Eugene Ulrich regards the notion as Jewish.

Most of the canons listed below are considered by adherents to be “closed” (i.e., books cannot be added or removed), reflecting a belief that public revelation has ended and thus some person or persons can gather approved inspired texts into a complete and authoritative canon, which scholar Bruce Metzger defines as “an authoritative collection of books”. In contrast, an “open canon”, which permits the addition of books through the process of continuous revelation, Metzger defines as “a collection of authoritative books”.

Inspirational Stocks Of large print kjv bible

Inspirational Stocks Of large print KJV bible

These canons have developed through debate and agreement on the part of the religious authorities of their respective faiths and denominations. Christians have a range of interpretations of the Bible; ranging from taking it completely as literal history dictated by God, to divinely inspired stories that teach important moral and spiritual lessons, or to human creations recording encounters with or thoughts about the divine. Some books, such as the Jewish–Christian gospels, have been excluded from various canons altogether, but many disputed books are considered to be biblical apocrypha or deuterocanonical by many, while some denominations may consider them fully canonical. Differences exist between the Jewish Tanakh and Christian biblical canons, though the majority of manuscripts are shared in common. In some cases where varying strata of scriptural inspiration have accumulated, it becomes prudent to discuss texts that only have an elevated status within a particular tradition. This becomes even more complex when considering the open canons of the various Latter Day Saint sects and the scriptural revelations purportedly given to several leaders over the years within that movement.

Different religious groups include different books in their biblical canons, in varying orders, and sometimes divide or combine books. The Jewish Tanakh (sometimes called the Hebrew Bible) contains 24 books divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah (“teaching”); the eight books of the Nevi’im (“prophets”); and the eleven books of Ketuvim (“writings”). It is composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew. While the Septuagint, a collection of manuscripts written in Greek that closely resembles the Tanakh but includes additional texts, is the main textual source for the Christian Greek Old Testament.

Christian Bibles range from the 73 books of the Catholic Church canon, the 66 books of the canon of some denominations or the 80 books of the canon of other denominations of the Protestant Church, to the 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church canon. The first part of Christian Bibles is the Greek Old Testament, which contains, at minimum, the above 24 books of the Tanakh but divided into 39 (Protestant) or 46 (Catholic) books and ordered differently. The second part is the Greek New Testament, containing 27 books; the four canonical gospels, Acts of the Apostles, 21 Epistles or letters and the Book of Revelation.

The Catholic Church and Eastern Christian churches hold that certain deuterocanonical books and passages are part of the Old Testament canon. The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Christian churches may have minor differences in their lists of accepted books. The list given here for these churches is the most inclusive: if at least one Eastern church accepts the book it is included here. The King James Bible—which has been called “the most influential version of the most influential book in the (English) world, in what is now its most influential language” and which in the United States is the most used translation, is still considered a standard among Protestant churches and used liturgically in the Orthodox Church in America—contains 80 books: 39 in its Old Testament, 14 in its Apocrypha, and 27 in its New Testament.

Jewish canons

Main article: Development of the Hebrew Bible canon

Rabbinic Judaism

Rabbinic Judaism (Hebrew: יהדות רבנית) recognizes the twenty-four books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ”ךְ) or Hebrew Bible. Evidence suggests that the process of canonization occurred between 200 BC and 200 AD, and a popular position is that the Torah was canonized c. 400 BC, the Prophets c. 200 BC, and the Writings c. 100 AD perhaps at a hypothetical Council of Jamnia—however, this position is increasingly criticised by modern scholars. According to Marc Zvi Brettler, the Jewish scriptures outside the Torah and the Prophets were fluid, different groups seeing authority in different books.

The Book of Deuteronomy includes a prohibition against adding or subtracting (4:2, 12:32) which might apply to the book itself (i.e. a “closed book”, a prohibition against future scribal editing) or to the instruction received by Moses on Mt. Sinai. The book of 2 Maccabees, itself not a part of the Jewish canon, describes Nehemiah (c. 400 BC) as having “founded a library and collected books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings” (2:13–15).

The Book of Nehemiah suggests that the priest-scribe Ezra brought the Torah back from Babylon to Jerusalem and the Second Temple (8–9) around the same time period. Both I and II Maccabees suggest that Judas Maccabeus (c. 167 BC) likewise collected sacred books (3:42–50, 2:13–15, 15:6–9), indeed some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty. However, these primary sources do not suggest that the canon was at that time closed; moreover, it is not clear that these sacred books were identical to those that later became part of the canon.

The Great Assembly, also known as the Great Synagogue, was, according to Jewish tradition, an assembly of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets, in the period from the end of the Biblical prophets to the time of the development of Rabbinic Judaism, marking a transition from an era of prophets to an era of Rabbis. They lived in a period of about two centuries ending c. 70 AD. Among the developments in Judaism that are attributed to them are the fixing of the Jewish Biblical canon [source required], including the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, and the Twelve Minor Prophets; the introduction of the triple classification of the oral Torah, dividing its study into the three branches of midrash, halakot, and aggadot; the introduction of the Feast of Purim; and the institution of the prayer known as the Shemoneh ‘Esreh as well as the synagogal prayers, rituals, and benedictions.

In addition to the Tanakh, mainstream Rabbinic Judaism considers the Talmud (Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד ) to be another central, authoritative text. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs, and history. The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (c. 200 AD), the first written compendium of Judaism’s oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 AD), an elucidation of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Tanakh. There are numerous citations of Sirach within the Talmud, even though the book was not ultimately accepted into the Hebrew canon.

The Talmud is the basis for all codes of rabbinic law and is often quoted in other rabbinic literature. Certain groups of Jews, such as the Karaites, do not accept the oral Law as it is codified in the Talmud and only consider the Tanakh to be authoritative.

Beta Israel

Ethiopian Jews—also known as Beta Israel (Ge’ez: ቤተ እስራኤል—Bēta ‘Isrā’ēl)—possess a canon of scripture that is distinct from Rabbinic Judaism. Mäṣḥafä Kedus (Holy Scriptures) is the name for the religious literature of these Jews, which is written primarily in Ge’ez. Their holiest book, the Orit, consists of the Pentateuch, as well as Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. The rest of the Ethiopian Jewish canon is considered to be of secondary importance. It consists of the remainder of the Hebrew canon—with the possible exception of the Book of Lamentations—and various deuterocanonical books. These include Sirach, Judith, Tobit, 1 and 2 Esdras, 1 and 4 Baruch, the three books of Meqabyan, Jubilees, Enoch, the Testament of Abraham, the Testament of Isaac, and the Testament of Jacob. The latter three patriarchal testaments are distinct to this scriptural tradition.

A third tier of religious writings that are important to Ethiopian Jews, but are not considered to be part of the canon, include the following: Nagara Muse (The Conversation of Moses), Mota Aaron (Death of Aaron), Mota Muse (Death of Moses), Te’ezaza Sanbat (Precepts of Sabbath), Arde’et (Students), the Apocalypse of Gorgorios, Mäṣḥafä Sa’atat (Book of Hours), Abba Elias (Father Elija), Mäṣḥafä Mäla’əkt (Book of Angels), Mäṣḥafä Kahan (Book of Priests), Dərsanä Abrəham Wäsara Bägabs (Homily on Abraham and Sarah in Egypt), Gadla Sosna (The Acts of Susanna), and Baqadāmi Gabra Egzi’abḥēr (In the Beginning God Created).

In addition to these, Zëna Ayhud (the Ethiopic version of Josippon) and the sayings of various fālasfā (philosophers) are sources that are not necessarily considered holy, but nonetheless have great influence.

Samaritan canon

Main article: Samaritan Pentateuch

Another version of the Torah, in the Samaritan alphabet, also exists. This text is associated with the Samaritans (שומרונים; السامريون), a people of whom the Jewish Encyclopedia states: “Their history as a distinct community begins with the taking of Samaria by the Assyrians in 722 BC.”

The Samaritan Pentateuch’s relationship to the Masoretic Text is still disputed. Some differences are minor, such as the ages of different people mentioned in genealogy, while others are major, such as a commandment to be monogamous, which only appears in the Samaritan version. More importantly, the Samaritan text also diverges from the Masoretic in stating that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Gerizim—not Mount Sinai—and that it is upon Mount Gerizim that sacrifices to God should be made—not in Jerusalem. Scholars nonetheless consult the Samaritan version when trying to determine the meaning of text of the original Pentateuch, as well as to trace the development of text-families. Some scrolls among the Dead Sea scrolls have been identified as proto-Samaritan Pentateuch text-type. Comparisons have also been made between the Samaritan Torah and the Septuagint version.

Samaritans consider the Torah to be inspired scripture, but do not accept any other parts of the Bible—probably a position also held by the Sadducees. They did not expand their canon by adding any Samaritan compositions. There is a Samaritan Book of Joshua; however, this is a popular chronicle written in Arabic and is not considered to be scripture. Other non-canonical Samaritan religious texts include the Memar Markah (“Teaching of Markah”) and the Defter (Prayerbook)—both from the 4th century or later.

The people of the remnants of the Samaritans in modern-day Israel/Palestine retain their version of the Torah as fully and authoritatively canonical. They regard themselves as the true “guardians of the Law.” This assertion is only re-enforced by the claim of the Samaritan community in Nablus (an area traditionally associated with the ancient city of Shechem) to possess the oldest existing copy of the Torah—one that they believe to have been penned by Abisha, a grandson of Aaron.

Christian canons

Main Articles: Christian biblical canons and Development of The Christian Biblical Canon

With the potential exception of the Septuagint, the apostles did not leave a defined set of scriptures; instead the canon of both the Old Testament and the New Testament developed over time. Different denominations recognize different lists of books as canonical, following various church councils and the decisions of leaders of various churches.

For mainstream Pauline Christianity (growing from proto-orthodox Christianity in pre-Nicene times) which books constituted the Christian biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament was generally established by the 5th century, despite some scholarly disagreements, for the ancient undivided Church (the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, before the East–West Schism). The Catholic canon was set at the Council of Rome (382), the same Council commissioned Jerome to compile and translate those canonical texts into the Latin Vulgate Bible. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent (1546) affirmed the Vulgate as the official Catholic Bible in order to address changes Martin Luther made in his recently completed German translation which was based on the Hebrew language Tanakh in addition to the original Greek of the component texts. The canons of the Church of England and English Presbyterians were decided definitively by the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), respectively. The Synod of Jerusalem (1672) established additional canons that are widely accepted throughout the Orthodox Church.

Various forms of Jewish Christianity persisted until around the fifth century, and canonicalized very different sets of books, including Jewish–Christian gospels which have been lost to history. These and many other works are classified as New Testament apocrypha by Pauline denominations.

The Old and New Testament canons did not develop independently of each other and most primary sources for the canon specify both Old and New Testament books. For the biblical scripture for both Testaments, canonically accepted in major traditions of Christendom, see Biblical canon § Canons of various traditions.

Early Church

Earliest Christian communities

The Early Church used the Old Testament, namely the Septuagint (LXX) among Greek speakers, with a canon perhaps as found in the Bryennios List or Melito’s canon. The Apostles did not otherwise leave a defined set of new scriptures; instead, the New Testament developed over time.

Writings attributed to the apostles circulated among the earliest Christian communities. The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected forms by the end of the 1st century AD. Justin Martyr, in the early 2nd century, mentions the “memoirs of the Apostles”, which Christians (Greek: Χριστιανός) called “gospels”, and which were considered to be authoritatively equal to the Old Testament.

Marcion’s list

Marcion of Sinope was the first Christian leader in recorded history (though later considered heretical) to propose and delineate a uniquely Christian canon (c. AD 140). This included 10 epistles from St. Paul, as well as a version of the Gospel of Luke, which today is known as the Gospel of Marcion. By doing this, he established a particular way of looking at religious texts that persists in Christian thought today.

After Marcion, Christians began to divide texts into those that aligned well with the “canon” (measuring stick) of accepted theological thought and those that promoted heresy. This played a major role in finalizing the structure of the collection of works called the Bible. It has been proposed that the initial impetus for the proto-orthodox Christian project of canonization flowed from opposition to the list produced by Marcion.

Apostolic Fathers

A folio from P46, an early 3rd-century collection of Pauline epistles.

A folio from P46; an early 3rd century collection of Pauline epistles.

A four-gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus in the following quote: “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four-quarters of the earth in which we live, and four universal winds, while the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the ‘pillar and ground’ of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh … Therefore the gospels are in accord with these things … For the living creatures are quadriform and the gospel is quadriform … These things being so, all who destroy the form of the gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious; those [I mean] who represent the aspects of the gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid, or, on the other hand, fewer.”

By the early 3rd century, Christian theologians like Origen of Alexandria may have been using—or at least were familiar with—the same 27 books found in modern New Testament editions, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of some of the writings (see also Antilegomena) Likewise by 200, the Muratorian fragment shows that there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to what is now the New Testament, which included four gospels and argued against objections to them. Thus, while there was a good measure of debate in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the major writings were accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the 3rd century.

Eastern Church

Alexandrian Fathers

Origen of Alexandria (184/85–253/54), an early scholar involved in the codification of the Biblical canon, had a thorough education both in Christian theology and in pagan philosophy, but was posthumously condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 since some of his teachings were considered to be heresy. Origen’s canon included all of the books in the current New Testament canon except for four books: James, 2nd Peter, and the 2nd and 3rd epistles of John.

He also included the Shepherd of Hermas which was later rejected. The religious scholar Bruce Metzger described Origen’s efforts, saying “The process of canonization represented by Origen proceeded by way of selection, moving from many candidates for inclusion to fewer.” This was one of the first major attempts at the compilation of certain books and letters as authoritative and inspired teaching for the Early Church at the time, although it is unclear whether Origen intended for his list to be authoritative itself.

In his Easter letter of 367, Patriarch Athanasius of Alexandria gave a list of exactly the same books that would become the New Testament–27 book–proto-canon, and used the phrase “being canonized” (kanonizomena) in regard to them. Athanasius also included the Book of Baruch, as well as the Letter of Jeremiah, in his Old Testament canon. However, from this canon, he omitted the Book of Esther.

Fifty Bibles of Constantine

Main article: Fifty Bibles of Constantine

In 331, Constantine I commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Bibles for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constans. Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are examples of these Bibles. Those codices contain almost a full version of the Septuagint; Vaticanus is only lacking 1–3 Maccabees and Sinaiticus is lacking 2–3 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Baruch and Letter of Jeremiah. Together with the Peshitta and Codex Alexandrinus, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.

There is no evidence among the canons of the First Council of Nicaea of any determination on the canon, however, Jerome (347-420), in his Prologue to Judith, makes the claim that the Book of Judith was “found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures”.

Eastern canons

Main article: Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible

The Eastern Churches had, in general, a weaker feeling than those in the West for the necessity of making sharp delineations with regard to the canon. They were more conscious of the gradation of spiritual quality among the books that they accepted (for example, the classification of Eusebius, see also Antilegomena) and were less often disposed to assert that the books which they rejected possessed no spiritual quality at all. For example, the Trullan Synod of 691–692, which Pope Sergius I (in office 687–701) rejected (see also Pentarchy), endorsed the following lists of canonical writings: the Apostolic Canons (c. 385), the Synod of Laodicea (c. 363), the Third Synod of Carthage (c. 397), and the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius (367). And yet, these lists do not agree. Similarly, the New Testament canons of the Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian Churches all have minor differences, yet five of these Churches are part of the same communion and hold the same theological beliefs. The Revelation of John is said to be one of the most uncertain books; it was not translated into Georgian until the 10th century, and it has never been included in the official lectionary of the Eastern Orthodox Church, whether in Byzantine or modern times.

Peshitta

Main article: Peshitta

The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition. Most of the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament are found in the Syriac, and the Wisdom of Sirach is held to have been translated from the Hebrew and not from the Septuagint. This New Testament, originally excluding certain disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation), had become a standard by the early 5th century. The five excluded books were added in the Harklean Version (616 AD) of Thomas of Harqel.

The standard United Bible Societies 1905 edition of the New Testament of the Peshitta was based on editions prepared by Syriacists Philip E. Pusey (d.1880), George Gwilliam (d.1914) and John Gwyn. All twenty seven books of the common western New Testament are included in this British & Foreign Bible Society’s 1905 Peshitta edition.

Western Church

Main articles: Latin Church and Catholic Bible

Latin Fathers

The first Council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent of 1546) may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius, held in North Africa in 393. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Council of Carthage (397) and also the Council of Carthage (419). These Councils took place under the authority of St. Augustine (354–430), who regarded the canon as already closed. Their decrees also declared by fiat that Epistle to the Hebrews was written by Paul, for a time ending all debate on the subject.

Augustine of Hippo declared without qualification that one is to “prefer those that are received by all Catholic Churches to those which some of them do not receive” (On Christian Doctrines 2.12). In the same passage, Augustine asserted that these dissenting churches should be outweighed by the opinions of “the more numerous and weightier churches”, which would include Eastern Churches, the prestige of which Augustine stated moved him to include the Book of Hebrews among the canonical writings, though he had reservation about its authorship.

Philip Schaff says that “the council of Hippo in 393, and the third (according to another reckoning the sixth) council of Carthage in 397, under the influence of Augustine, who attended both, fixed the catholic canon of the Holy Scriptures, including the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, … This decision of the transmarine church however, was subject to ratification; and the concurrence of the Roman see it received when Innocent I and Gelasius I (A.D. 414) repeated the same index of biblical books. This canon remained undisturbed till the sixteenth century, and was sanctioned by the council of Trent at its fourth session.” According to Lee Martin McDonald, the Revelation was added to the list in 419. These councils were convened under the influence of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed.

Pope Damasus I’s Council of Rome in 382 (if the Decretum issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above). Likewise, Damasus’ commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, c. 383, proved instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West.

In a letter (c. 405) to Exsuperius of Toulouse, a Gallic bishop, Pope Innocent I mentioned the sacred books that were already received in the canon. When these bishops and Councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but instead “were ratifying what had already become the mind of the Church”. Thus from the 4th century there existed unanimity in the West concerning the New Testament canon (as it is today, with the exception of the Book of Revelation). In the 5th century the East too, with a few exceptions, came to accept the Book of Revelation and thus came into harmony on the matter of the New Testament canon.

As the canon crystallised, non-canonical texts fell into relative disfavour and neglect.

Reformation era

Before the Protestant Reformation, there was the Council of Florence (1439–1443). During the life, and with the approval of this council, Eugenius IV issued several Bulls, or decrees, with a view to restore the Oriental schismatic bodies to communion with Rome, and according to the common teaching of theologians these documents are infallible statements of doctrine. The “Decretum pro Jacobitis” contains a complete list of the books received by the Church as inspired, but omits, perhaps advisedly, the terms canon and canonical. The Council of Florence therefore taught the inspiration of all the Scriptures, but did not formally pass on their canonicity.

It was not until the Protestant Reformers began to insist upon the supreme authority of Scripture alone (the doctrine of sola scriptura) that it became necessary to establish a dogmatic canon.

Luther’s canon and apocrypha

Main article: Luther’s canon

Martin Luther (1483–1546) moved seven Old Testament books (Tobit, Judith, 1–2 Maccabees, Book of Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch) into a section he called the “Apocrypha, that are books which are not considered equal to the Holy Scriptures, but are useful and good to read”. Because the word “apocrypha” already referred to ancient Christian writings that the Catholic Church did not include in its set canon, the term deuterocanonical was adopted at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) to refer to those books that Luther moved into the apocrypha section of his Bible.

Luther removed the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon partially because some were perceived to go against certain Protestant doctrines such as sola scriptura and sola fide), while defenders of Luther cite previous scholarly precedent and support as the justification for his marginalization of certain books, including 2 Maccabees Luther’s smaller canon was not fully accepted in Protestantism, though apocryphal books are ordered last in the German-language Luther Bible to this day.

All of these apocrypha are called anagignoskomena by the Eastern Orthodox per the Synod of Jerusalem.

The Anglican Communion accepts “the Apocrypha for instruction in life and manners, but not for the establishment of doctrine”, and many “lectionary readings in The Book of Common Prayer are taken from the Apocrypha”, with these lessons being “read in the same ways as those from the Old Testament”. The Protestant Apocrypha contains three books (3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) that are accepted by many Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches as canonical, but are regarded as non-canonical by the Catholic Church and are therefore not included in modern Catholic Bibles.

Council of Trent

Main article: Canon of Trent

In light of Martin Luther’s demands, the Council of Trent on 8 April 1546 approved the present Catholic Bible canon, which includes the Deuterocanonical Books, and the decision was confirmed by an anathema by vote (24 yea, 15 nay, 16 abstain). The council confirming the same list as produced at the Council of Florence in 1442, Augustine’s 397-419 Councils of Carthage, and probably Damasus’ 382 Council of Rome. The Old Testament books that had been rejected by Luther were later termed deuterocanonical, not indicating a lesser degree of inspiration, but a later time of final approval. Beyond these books, the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate contained in the Appendix several books considered as apocryphal by the council: Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Esdras, and 4 Esdras.

Protestant confessions

See also: Protestant Bible

Several Protestant confessions of faith identify the 27 books of the New Testament canon by name, including the French Confession of Faith (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647). The Second Helvetic Confession (1562), affirms “both Testaments to be the true Word of God” and appealing to Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, it rejected the canonicity of the Apocrypha. The Thirty-Nine Articles, issued by the Church of England in 1563, names the books of the Old Testament, but not the New Testament. The Belgic Confession and Westminster Confession named the 39 books in the Old Testament and, apart from the aforementioned New Testament books, expressly rejected the canonicity of any others.

The Lutheran Epitome of the Formula of Concord of 1577 declared that the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures comprised the Old and New Testaments alone. Luther himself did not accept the canonicity of the Apocrypha although he believed that its books were “Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read”.

Other apocrypha

Main articles: Biblical apocrypha and New Testament apocrypha

Various books that were never canonized by any church, but are known to have existed in antiquity, are similar to the New Testament and often claim apostolic authorship, are known as the New Testament apocrypha. Some of these writings have been cited as scripture by early Christians, but since the fifth century a widespread consensus has emerged limiting the New Testament to the 27 books of the modern canon. Thus Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches generally do not view these New Testament apocrypha as part of the Bible.

Canons of various traditions

Final dogmatic articulations of the canons were made at the Council of Trent of 1546 for Roman Catholicism, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 for the Eastern Orthodox. Other traditions, while also having closed canons, may not be able to point to an exact year in which their canons were complete. The following tables reflect the current state of various Christian canons.

Old Testament

Main article: Development of the Old Testament canon
See also: Reception of Enoch in antiquity

The Early Church primarily used the Greek Septuagint (or LXX) as its source for the Old Testament. Among Aramaic speakers, the Targum was also widely used. All of the major Christian traditions accept the books of the Hebrew protocanon in its entirety as divinely inspired and authoritative, in various ways and degrees.

Another set of books, largely written during the intertestamental period, are called the biblical apocrypha (“hidden things”) by Protestants, the deuterocanon (“second canon”) by Catholics, and the deuterocanon or anagignoskomena (“worthy of reading”) by Orthodox. These are works recognized by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches as being part of scripture (and thus deuterocanonical rather than apocryphal), but Protestants do not recognize them as divinely inspired. Orthodox differentiate scriptural books by omitting these (and others) from corporate worship and from use as a sole basis for doctrine. Some Protestant Bibles—especially the English King James Bible and the Lutheran Bible—include an “Apocrypha” section.

Many denominations recognize deuterocanonical books as good, but not on the level of the other books of the Bible. Anglicanism considers the apocrypha worthy of being “read for example of life” but not to be used “to establish any doctrine.” Luther made a parallel statement in calling them: “not considered equal to the Holy Scriptures, but…useful and good to read.”

The difference in canons derives from the difference in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint. Books found in both the Hebrew and the Greek are accepted by all denominations, and by Jews, these are the protocanonical books. Catholics and Orthodox also accept those books present in manuscripts of the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament with great currency among the Jews of the ancient world, with the coda that Catholics consider 3 Esdras and 3 Maccabees apocryphal.

Most quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, differing by varying degrees from the Masoretic Text, are taken from the Septuagint. Daniel was written several hundred years after the time of Ezra, and since that time several books of the Septuagint have been found in the original Hebrew, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Cairo Geniza, and at Masada, including a Hebrew text of Sirach (Qumran, Masada) and an Aramaic text of Tobit (Qumran); the additions to Esther and Daniel are also in their respective Semitic languages.

The unanimous consensus of modern (and ancient) scholars consider several other books, including 1 Maccabees and Judith, to have been composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. Opinion is divided on the book of Baruch, while it is acknowledged that the Letter of Jeremiah, the Wisdom of Solomon, and 2 Maccabees are originally Greek compositions.

Some books listed here, like the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs for the Armenian Apostolic Church, may have once been a vital part of a Biblical tradition, may even still hold a place of honor, but are no longer considered to be part of the Bible. Other books, like the Prayer of Manasseh for the Roman Catholic Church, may have been included in manuscripts, but never really attained a high level of importance within that particular tradition. The levels of traditional prominence for others, like Psalms 152–155 and the Psalms of Solomon of the Syriac churches, remain unclear.

In the Oriental Orthodox Tewahedo canon, the books of Lamentations, Jeremiah, and Baruch, as well as the Letter of Jeremiah and 4 Baruch, are all considered canonical by the Orthodox Tewahedo Churches. However, it is not always clear as to how these writings are arranged or divided. In some lists, they may simply fall under the title “Jeremiah”, while in others, they are divided in various ways into separate books. Moreover, the book of Proverbs is divided into two books—Messale (Prov. 1–24) and Tägsas (Prov. 25–31).

Additionally, while the books of Jubilees and Enoch are fairly well known among western scholars, 1, 2, and 3 Meqabyan are not. The three books of Meqabyan are often called the “Ethiopian Maccabees”, but are completely different in content from the books of Maccabees that are known or have been canonized in other traditions. Finally, the Book of Joseph ben Gurion, or Pseudo-Josephus, is a history of the Jewish people thought to be based upon the writings of Josephus. The Ethiopic version (Zëna Ayhud) has eight parts and is included in the Orthodox Tewahedo broader canon.

Additional books accepted by the Syriac Orthodox Church (due to inclusion in the Peshitta):

  • 2 Baruch with the Letter of Baruch (only the letter has achieved canonical status)
  • Psalms 152–155 (not canonical)

The Ethiopian Tewahedo church accepts all of the deuterocanonical books of Catholicism and anagignoskomena of Eastern Orthodoxy except for the four Books of Maccabees. It accepts the 39 protocanonical books along with the following books, called the “narrow canon”. The enumeration of books in the Ethiopic Bible varies greatly between different authorities and printings.

  • 4 Baruch or the Paralipomena of Jeremiah
  • 1 Enoch
  • Jubilees
  • First, Second and Third Books of Ethiopian Maccabees
  • The Ethiopian broader Biblical Canon

Protestants and Catholics use the Masoretic Text of the Jewish Tanakh as the textual basis for their translations of the protocanonical books (those accepted as canonical by both Jews and all Christians), with various changes derived from a multiplicity of other ancient sources (such as the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.), while generally using the Septuagint and Vulgate, now supplemented by the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts, as the textual basis for the deuterocanonical books.

The Eastern Orthodox use the Septuagint (translated in the 3rd century BCE) as the textual basis for the entire Old Testament in both protocanonical and deuteroncanonical books—to use both in the Greek for liturgical purposes, and as the basis for translations into the vernacular. Most of the quotations (300 of 400) of the Old Testament in the New Testament, while differing more or less from the version presented by the Masoretic text, align with that of the Septuagint.

Diagram of the development of the Old Testament

The books of the Old Testament, showing their positions in both the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, shown with their names in Hebrew) and Christian Bibles. The Deuterocanon shown in yellow and the Apocrypha shown in grey are not accepted by some major denominations; the Protocanon shown in red, orange, green, and blue are the Hebrew Bible books considered canonical by all major denominations.

The books of the Old Testament, showing their positions in both the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, shown with their names in Hebrew) and Christian Bibles. The Deuterocanon shown in yellow and the Apocrypha shown in grey are not accepted by some major denominations; the Protocanon shown in red, orange, green, and blue are the Hebrew Bible books considered canonical by all major denominations.

Table

The order of some books varies among canons.

Western tradition Eastern Orthodox tradition Oriental Orthodox tradition Assyrian Eastern tradition
Books Protestant
[O 1]
Roman Catholic Greek Orthodox Slavonic Orthodox Georgian Orthodox Armenian Apostolic
[O 2]
Syriac Orthodox Coptic Orthodox Ethiopian Orthodox
[O 3]
Assyrian Church of the East
Pentateuch
Genesis Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Exodus Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Leviticus Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Numbers Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Deuteronomy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
History
Joshua Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Judges Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ruth Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Samuel Yes
(as 1 and 2 Samuel)
Yes
(as 1 and 2 Samuel)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Kings Yes
(as 1 and 2 Kings)
Yes
(as 1 and 2 Kings)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 and 2 Chronicles Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Prayer of Manasseh No
(Apocrypha)[O 4]
No – inc. in some mss. Yes
(part of Odes)[O 5]
Yes
(part of Odes)[O 5]
Yes
(part of Odes)[O 5]
Yes Yes Yes Yes
(part of 2 Chronicles)
Yes
Ezra
(1 Ezra)
Yes Yes
1 Esdras
Yes
Esdras B
Yes
1 Esdras
Yes
1 Ezra
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nehemiah
(2 Ezra)
Yes Yes
2 Esdras
Yes
Esdras B
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Esdras
(3 Ezra)
No
3 Esdras
(Apocrypha)
No
3 Esdras
(inc. in some mss.)
Yes
Esdras A
Yes
2 Esdras
Yes
2 Ezra
Yes
3 Esdras
No – inc. in some mss. No – inc. in some mss. Yes
2 Ezra
No – inc. in some mss.
2 Esdras 3–14
(4 Ezra)
[O 6]
No
4 Esdras
(Apocrypha)
No
4 Esdras
(inc. in some mss.)
No – inc. in some mss. No
3 Esdras
(appendix)
Yes (?)
3 Ezra
Yes
4 Esdras
No – inc. in some mss. No – inc. in some mss. Yes
Ezra Sutu’el
No – inc. in some mss.
2 Esdras 1–2; 15–16
(5 and 6 Ezra)[O 6]
No
(part of 4 Esdras apocryphon)
No
(part of 4 Esdras)
No
(Greek ms.)[O 7]
No No No No No No No
Esther Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Additions to Esther No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tobit No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Judith No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Maccabees No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
2 Maccabees No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
3 Maccabees No
(Apocrypha)[O 8]
No – inc. in some eds.[O 9] Yes Yes Yes Yes No – inc. in some mss. No – inc. in some mss. No No – inc. in some mss.
4 Maccabees No No – inc. in some eds.[O 9] No
(appendix)
No
(appendix)
Yes No No – inc. in some mss. No No No – inc. in some mss.
Enoch No No No No No No No No Yes No
Jubilees No No No No No No No No Yes No
1, 2, and 3 Meqabyan No No No No No No No No Yes No
Ethiopic Pseudo-Josephus No No No No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Josephus’s Jewish War VI No No No No No No No – inc. in some mss.[O 10] No No No – inc. in some mss.[O 10]
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs No No No No No No – inc. in some mss. No No No No
Ascension of Isaiah No No No No No No
(liturgical)
[O 11]
No No No – inc. in some mss.[O 12] No
Wisdom
Job Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Psalms 1–150 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Psalm 151 No No – inc. in some mss. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Psalms 152–155 No No No No No No No – inc. in some mss. No No No – inc. in some mss.
Psalms of Solomon[O 13] No No No – inc. in some mss. No No No No – inc. in some mss. No No No – inc. in some mss.
Proverbs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
(in 2 books)
Yes
Ecclesiastes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Song of Songs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Wisdom No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sirach (1–51) No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Prayer of Solomon
(Sirach 52)[O 14]
No No – inc. in some mss. No No No No No No No No
Major prophets
Isaiah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jeremiah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lamentations Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Baruch No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Letter of Jeremiah No
(Apocrypha)
Yes
(chapter 6 of Baruch)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
(rest of Jeremiah)
Yes
Syriac Apocalypse
of Baruch
(2 Baruch 1–77)[O 15]
No No No No No No No – inc. in some mss. No No No – inc. in some mss.
Letter of Baruch
(2 Baruch 78–87)[O 15]
No No No No No No No (?) – inc. in some mss.[O 16] No No Yes (?)
[O 16]
Greek Apocalypse
of Baruch
(3 Baruch)[O 17]
No No No
(Greek ms.)
No
(Slovonic ms.)
No No No No No No
4 Baruch No No No No No No No No Yes
(rest of Baruch)
No
Ezekiel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Daniel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Additions to Daniel[O 18] No
(Apocrypha)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Minor prophets
Hosea Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Joel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Amos Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Obadiah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jonah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Micah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nahum Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Habakkuk Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Zephaniah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Haggai Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Zechariah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Malachi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Table notes

  1. The term “Protestant” is not accepted by all Christian denominations who often fall under this title by default—especially those who view themselves as a direct extension of the New Testament church. However, the term is used loosely here to include most of the non-Roman Catholic Protestant, Charismatic/Pentecostal, Reformed, and Evangelical churches. Other western churches and movements that have a divergent history from Roman Catholicism, but are not necessarily considered to be historically Protestant, may also fall under this umbrella terminology.
  2. The growth and development of the Armenian Biblical canon is complex. Extra-canonical Old Testament books appear in historical canon lists and recensions that are either exclusive to this tradition, or where they do exist elsewhere, never achieved the same status. These include the Deaths of the Prophets, an ancient account of the lives of the Old Testament prophets, which is not listed in this table. (It is also known as the Lives of the Prophets.) Another writing not listed in this table entitled the Words of Sirach—which is distinct from Ecclesiasticus and its prologue—appears in the appendix of the 1805 Armenian Zohrab Bible alongside other, more commonly known works.
  3. Adding to the complexity of the Orthodox Tewahedo Biblical canon, the national epic Kebra Negast has an elevated status among many Ethiopian Christians to such an extent that some consider it to be inspired scripture.
  4. The English Apocrypha includes the Prayer of Manasseh, 1 & 2 Esdras, the Additions to Esther, Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, the Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the Additions to Daniel. The Lutheran Apocrypha omits from this list 1 & 2 Esdras. Some Protestant Bibles include 3 Maccabees as part of the Apocrypha. However, many churches within Protestantism—as it is presented here—reject the Apocrypha, do not consider it useful, and do not include it in their Bibles.
  5. The Prayer of Manasseh is included as part of the Book of Odes, which follows the Psalms in Eastern Orthodox Bibles. The rest of the Book of Odes consists of passages found elsewhere in the Bible.
  6. 2 Ezra, 3 Ezra, and 3 Maccabees are included in Bibles and have an elevated status within the Armenian scriptural tradition, but are considered “extra-canonical.”
  7. In many eastern Bibles, the Apocalypse of Ezra is not an exact match to the longer Latin Esdras–2 Esdras in KJV or 4 Esdras in the Vulgate—which includes a Latin prologue (5 Ezra) and epilogue (6 Ezra). However, a degree of uncertainty continues to exist here, and it is certainly possible that the full text—including the prologue and epilogue—appears in Bibles and Biblical manuscripts used by some of these eastern traditions. Also of note is the fact that many Latin versions are missing verses 7:36–7:106. (A more complete explanation of the various divisions of books associated with the scribe Ezra may be found in the Wikipedia article entitled “Esdras”.)
  8. Evidence strongly suggests that a Greek manuscript of 4 Ezra once existed; this furthermore implies a Hebrew origin for the text.
  9.  An early fragment of 6 Ezra is known to exist in the Greek language, implying a possible Hebrew origin for 2 Esdras 15–16.
  10. Esther’s placement within the canon was questioned by Luther. Others, like Melito, omitted it from the canon altogether.
  11. 2 and 3 Meqabyan, though relatively unrelated in content, are often counted as a single book.
  12. Some sources place Zëna Ayhud within the “narrower canon.”
  13. A Syriac version of Josephus’s Jewish War VI appears in some Peshitta manuscripts as the “Fifth Book of Maccabees,” which is clearly a misnomer.
  14. Several varying historical canon lists exist for the Orthodox Tewahedo tradition. In one particular list found in a British Museum manuscript (Add. 16188), a book of Assenath is placed within the canon. This most likely refers to the book more commonly known as Joseph and Asenath. An unknown book of Uzziah is also listed there, which may be connected to the lost Acts of Uziah referenced in 2 Chronicles 26:22.
  15. Some traditions use an alternative set of liturgical or metrical Psalms.
  16. In many ancient manuscripts, a distinct collection known as the Odes of Solomon is found together with the similar Psalms of Solomon.
  17. The book of Sirach is usually preceded by a non-canonical prologue written by the author’s grandson.
  18. In some Latin versions, chapter 51 of Ecclesiasticus appears separately as the “Prayer of Joshua, son of Sirach.”
  19. A shorter variant of the prayer by King Solomon in 1 Kings 8:22–52 appeared in some medieval Latin manuscripts and is found in some Latin Bibles at the end of or immediately following Ecclesiasticus. The two versions of the prayer in Latin may be viewed online for comparison at the following website: BibleGateway.com: Sirach 52 / 1 Kings 8:22–52; Vulgate
  20. The “Martyrdom of Isaiah” is prescribed reading to honor the prophet Isaiah within the Armenian Apostolic liturgy (see this list). While this likely refers to the account of Isaiah’s death within the Lives of the Prophets, it may be a reference to the account of his death found within the first five chapters of the Ascension of Isaiah, which is widely known by this name. The two narratives have similarities and may share a common source.
  21. The Ascension of Isaiah has long been known to be a part of the Orthodox Tewahedo scriptural tradition. Though it is not currently considered canonical, various sources attest to the early canonicity—or at least “semi-canonicity”—of this book.
  22. In some Latin versions, chapter 5 of Lamentations appears separately as the “Prayer of Jeremiah.”
  23. Ethiopic Lamentations is not included in the current printed bibles.
  24. The canonical Ethiopic version of Baruch has five chapters, but is shorter than the LXX text.
  25. Some Ethiopic translations of Baruch may include the traditional Letter of Jeremiah as the sixth chapter.
  26. The “Letter to the Captives” found within Säqoqawä Eremyas—and also known as the sixth chapter of Ethiopic Lamentations—may contain different content from the Letter of Jeremiah (to those same captives) found in other traditions.
  27. The Letter of Baruch is found in chapters 78–87 of 2 Baruch—the final ten chapters of the book. The letter had a wider circulation and often appeared separately from the first 77 chapters of the book, which is an apocalypse.
  28. Included here for the purpose of disambiguation, 3 Baruch is widely rejected as a pseudepigraphon and is not part of any Biblical tradition. Two manuscripts exist—a longer Greek manuscript with Christian interpolations and a shorter Slavonic version. There is some uncertainty about which was written first.
  29. Bel and the Dragon, Susanna, & The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children.

New Testament

Main articles: Development of the New Testament canonNew Testament apocrypha, and Antilegomena

Among the various Christian denominations, the New Testament canon is a generally agreed-upon list of 27 books. However, the way in which those books are arranged may vary from tradition to tradition. For instance, in the Slavonic, Orthodox Tewahedo, Syriac, and Armenian traditions, the New Testament is ordered differently from what is considered to be the standard arrangement. Protestant Bibles in Russia and Ethiopia usually follow the local Orthodox order for the New Testament. The Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East both adhere to the Peshitta liturgical tradition, which historically excludes five books of the New Testament Antilegomena: 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. However, those books are included in certain Bibles of the modern Syriac traditions.

Other New Testament works that are generally considered apocryphal nonetheless appear in some Bibles and manuscripts. For instance, the Epistle to the Laodiceans was included in numerous Latin Vulgate manuscripts, in the eighteen German Bibles prior to Luther’s translation, and also a number of early English Bibles, such as Gundulf’s Bible and John Wycliffe’s English translation—even as recently as 1728, William Whiston considered this epistle to be genuinely Pauline. Likewise, the Third Epistle to the Corinthians was once considered to be part of the Armenian Orthodox Bible, but is no longer printed in modern editions. Within the Syriac Orthodox tradition, the Third Epistle to the Corinthians also has a history of significance. Both Aphrahat and Ephraem of Syria held it in high regard and treated it as if it were canonical. However, it was left-out of the Peshitta and ultimately excluded from the canon altogether.

The Didache, The Shepherd of Hermas, and other writings attributed to the Apostolic Fathers, were once considered scriptural by various early Church fathers. They are still being honored in some traditions, though they are no longer considered to be canonical. However, certain canonical books within the Orthodox Tewahedo traditions find their origin in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers as well as the Ancient Church Orders. The Orthodox Tewahedo churches recognize these eight additional New Testament books in its broader canon. They are as follows: the four books of Sinodos, the two books of the Covenant, Ethiopic Clement, and the Ethiopic Didascalia.

Table

Books Protestant tradition Roman Catholic tradition Eastern Orthodox tradition Armenian Apostolic tradition
[N 1]
Coptic Orthodox tradition Ethiopian Orthodox tradition Syriac Christian traditions
Canonical gospels
Matthew Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mark[N 2] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Luke Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
John[N 2] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Apostolic history
Acts[N 2] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Acts of Paul and Thecla
[N 3][50][51]
No No No No
(early tradition)
No No No
(early tradition)
Pauline epistles
Romans Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Corinthians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Corinthians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Corinthians to Paul and
3 Corinthians
[N 3][N 4]
No No No No − inc. in some mss. No No No
(early tradition)
Galatians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ephesians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Philippians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Colossians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Laodiceans No − inc. in some eds.[N 5] No − inc. in some mss. No No No No No
1 Thessalonians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Thessalonians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Timothy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Timothy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Titus Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Philemon Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
General epistles
Hebrews Yes[N 6] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Yes[N 6] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Peter Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Peter Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[N 7]
1 John[N 2] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 John Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[N 7]
3 John Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[N 7]
Jude Yes[N 6] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[N 7]
Apocalypse[N 8]
Revelation Yes[N 6] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[N 7]
Apostolic Fathers and Church Orders[N 9]
1 Clement[N 10] No
(Codices Alexandrinus and Hierosolymitanus)
2 Clement[N 10] No
(Codices Alexandrinus and Hierosolymitanus)
Shepherd of Hermas[N 10] No
(Codex Siniaticus)
Epistle of Barnabas[N 10] No
(Codices Hierosolymitanus and Siniaticus)
Didache[N 10] No
(Codex Hierosolymitanus)
Ser`atä Seyon
(Sinodos)
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Te’ezaz
(Sinodos)
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Gessew
(Sinodos)
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Abtelis
(Sinodos)
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Book of the
Covenant 1
(Mäshafä Kidan)
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Book of the
Covenant 2
(Mäshafä Kidan)
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Ethiopic Clement
(Qälëmentos)[N 11]
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No
Ethiopic Didescalia
(Didesqelya)[N 11]
No No No No No Yes
(broader canon)
No

Table notes

  1. The growth and development of the Armenian Biblical canon is complex. Extra-canonical New Testament books appear in historical canon lists and recensions that are either distinct to this tradition, or where they do exist elsewhere, never achieved the same status. Some of the books are not listed in this table. These include the Prayer of Euthalius, the Repose of St. John the Evangelist, the Doctrine of Addai (some sources replace this with the Acts of Thaddeus), a reading from the Gospel of James (some sources replace this with the Apocryphon of James), the Second Apostolic Canons, the Words of Justus, Dionysius Aeropagite, the Acts of Peter (some sources replace this with the Preaching of Peter), and a Poem by Ghazar. (Various sources also mention undefined Armenian canonical additions to the Gospels of Mark and John, however, these may refer to the general additions—Mark 16:9–20 and John 7:53–8:11—discussed elsewhere in these notes.) A possible exception here to canonical exclusivity is the Second Apostolic Canons, which share a common source—the Apostolic Constitutions—with certain parts of the Orthodox Tewahedo New Testament broader canon. The correspondence between King Agbar and Jesus Christ, which is found in various forms—including within both the Doctrine of Addai and the Acts of Thaddeus—sometimes appears separately (see this list). It is noteworthy that the Prayer of Euthalius and the Repose of St. John the Evangelist appear in the appendix of the 1805 Armenian Zohrab Bible. However, some of the aforementioned books, though they are found within canon lists, have nonetheless never been discovered to be part of any Armenian Biblical manuscript.
  2. Though widely regarded as non-canonical, the Gospel of James obtained early liturgical acceptance among some Eastern churches and remains a major source for many of Christendom’s traditions related to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
  3. The Diatessaron, Tatian’s gospel harmony, became a standard text in some Syriac-speaking churches down to the 5th century, when it gave-way to the four separate gospels found in the Peshitta.
  4. Parts of these four books are not found in the most reliable ancient sources; in some cases, are thought to be later additions; and have therefore not historically existed in every Biblical tradition. They are as follows: Mark 16:9–20, John 7:53–8:11, the Comma Johanneum, and portions of the Western version of Acts. To varying degrees, arguments for the authenticity of these passages—especially for the one from the Gospel of John—have occasionally been made.
  5. Skeireins, a commentary on the Gospel of John in the Gothic language, was included in the Wulfila Bible. It exists today only in fragments.
  6. The Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul, and the Third Epistle to the Corinthians are all portions of the greater Acts of Paul narrative, which is part of a stichometric catalogue of New Testament canon found in the Codex Claromontanus, but has survived only in fragments. Some of the content within these individual sections may have developed separately, however.
  7. The Third Epistle to the Corinthians often appears with and is framed as a response to the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul.
  8. The Epistle to the Laodiceans is present in some western non-Roman Catholic translations and traditions. Especially of note is John Wycliffe’s inclusion of the epistle in his English translation, and the Quakers’ use of it to the point where they produced a translation and made pleas for its canonicity (Poole’s Annotations, on Col. 4:16). The epistle is nonetheless widely rejected by the vast majority of Protestants.
  9. These four works were questioned or “spoken against” by Martin Luther, and he changed the order of his New Testament to reflect this, but he did not leave them out, nor has any Lutheran body since. Traditional German Luther Bibles are still printed with the New Testament in this changed “Lutheran” order. The vast majority of Protestants embrace these four works as fully canonical.
  10. The Peshitta excludes 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation, but certain Bibles of the modern Syriac traditions include later translations of those books. Still today, the official lectionary followed by the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, present lessons from only the twenty-two books of Peshitta, the version to which appeal is made for the settlement of doctrinal questions.
  11. The Apocalypse of Peter, though not listed in this table, is mentioned in the Muratorian fragment and is part of a stichometric catalogue of New Testament canon found in the Codex Claromontanus. It was also held in high regard by Clement of Alexandria.
  12. Other known writings of the Apostolic Fathers not listed in this table are as follows: the seven Epistles of Ignatius, the Epistle of Polycarp, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Epistle to Diognetus, the fragment of Quadratus of Athens, the fragments of Papias of Hierapolis, the Reliques of the Elders Preserved in Irenaeus, and the Apostles’ Creed.
  13. Though they are not listed in this table, the Apostolic Constitutions were considered canonical by some including Alexius Aristenus, John of Salisbury, and to a lesser extent, Grigor Tat`evatsi. They are even classified as part of the New Testament canon within the body of the Constitutions itself. Moreover, they are the source for a great deal of the content in the Orthodox Tewahedo broader canon.
  14. These five writings attributed to the Apostolic Fathers are not currently considered canonical in any Biblical tradition, though they are more highly regarded by some more than others. Nonetheless, their early authorship and inclusion in ancient Biblical codices, as well as their acceptance to varying degrees by various early authorities, requires them to be treated as foundational literature for Christianity as a whole.
  15. Ethiopic Clement and the Ethiopic Didascalia are distinct from and should not be confused with other ecclesiastical documents known in the west by similar names.

Latter Day Saint canons

Main article: Latter Day Saint Canons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Main articles: Revelation (Latter Day Saints) and Standard works

The standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) consists of several books that constitute its open scriptural canon, and include the following:

  • The King James Version of the Bible – without the Apocrypha
  • The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
  • The Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • The Pearl of Great Price

The Pearl of Great Price contains five sections: “Selections from the Book of Moses”, “The Book of Abraham”, “Joseph Smith–Matthew”, “Joseph Smith–History” and “The Articles of Faith”. The Book of Moses and Joseph Smith–Matthew are portions of the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew (respectively) from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. (The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is also known as the Inspired Version of the Bible.)

The manuscripts of the unfinished Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) state that “the Song of Solomon is not inspired scripture.” However, it is still printed in every version of the King James Bible published by the church.

The Standard Works are printed and distributed by the LDS church in a single binding called a “Quadruple Combination” or a set of two books, with the Bible in one binding, and the other three books in a second binding called a “Triple Combination”. Current editions of the Standard Works include a bible dictionary, photographs, maps and gazetteer, topical guide, index, footnotes, cross references, excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible and other study aids.

Other Latter Day Saint sects

Canons of various Latter Day Saint denominations diverge from the LDS Standard Works. Some accept only portions of the Standard Works. For instance, the Bickertonite sect does not consider the Pearl of Great Price or Doctrines and Covenants to be scriptural. Rather, they believe that the New Testament scriptures contain a true description of the church as established by Jesus Christ, and that both the King James Bible and Book of Mormon are the inspired word of God. Some denominations accept earlier versions of the Standard Works or work to develop corrected translations. Others have purportedly received additional revelation.

The Community of Christ points to Jesus Christ as the living Word of God, and it affirms the Bible, along with the Book of Mormon, as well as its own regularly appended version of Doctrines and Covenants as scripture for the church. While it publishes a version of the Joseph Smith Translation—which includes material from the Book of Moses—the Community of Christ also accepts the use of other translations of the Bible, such as the standard King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version.

Like the aforementioned Bickertonites, the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) rejects the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, as well as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, preferring to use only the King James Bible and the Book of Mormon as doctrinal standards. The Book of Commandments is accepted as being superior to the Doctrine and Covenants as a compendium of Joseph Smith’s early revelations, but is not accorded the same status as the Bible or Book of Mormon.

The Word of the Lord and The Word of the Lord Brought to Mankind by an Angel are two related books considered to be scriptural by certain (Fettingite) factions that separated from the Temple Lot church. Both books contain revelations allegedly given to former Church of Christ (Temple Lot) Apostle Otto Fetting by an angelic being who claimed to be John the Baptist. The latter title (120 messages) contains the entirety of the former’s material (30 msgs.) with additional revelations (90 msgs.) purportedly given to William A. Draves by this same being, after Fetting’s death. Neither are accepted by the larger Temple Lot body of believers.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) considers the Bible (when correctly translated), the Book of Mormon, and editions of the Doctrine and Covenants published prior to Joseph Smith’s death (which contained the Lectures on Faith) to be inspired scripture. They also hold the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible to be inspired, but do not believe modern publications of the text are accurate. Other portions of The Pearl of Great Price, however, are not considered to be scriptural—though are not necessarily fully rejected either. The Book of Jasher was consistently used by both Joseph Smith and James Strang, but as with other Latter Day Saint denominations and sects, there is no official stance on its authenticity, and it is not considered canonical.

An additional work called The Book of the Law of the Lord is also accepted as inspired scripture by the Strangites. They likewise hold as scriptural several prophecies, visions, revelations, and translations printed by James Strang, and published in the Revelations of James J. Strang. Among other things, this text contains his purported “Letter of Appointment” from Joseph Smith and his translation of the Voree plates.

The Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite) accepts the following as scripture: the Inspired Version of the Bible (including the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith–Matthew), the Book of Mormon, and the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (including the Lectures on Faith). However, the revelation on tithing (section 107 in the 1844 edition; 119 in modern LDS editions) is emphatically rejected by members of this church, as it is not believed to be given by Joseph Smith. The Book of Abraham is rejected as scripture, as are the other portions of the Pearl of Great Price that do not appear in the Inspired Version of the Bible.

Many Latter Day Saint denominations have also either adopted the Articles of Faith or at least view them as a statement of basic theology. (They are considered scriptural by the larger LDS church and are included in The Pearl of Great Price.) At times, the Articles have been adapted to fit the respective belief systems of various faith communities.

Table

The order of some books varies among canons.

 
Books The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(LDS Church) Community of Christ (RLDS) Church of Jesus Christ (Brickertonite) Church of Christ (Temple Lot) Church of Christ (Fettingite) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite)
Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
First Nephi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Second Nephi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Jacob Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Enos Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Jarom Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Omni Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Words of Mormon Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Mosiah Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Alma Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Helaman Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Third Nephi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fourth Nephi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Mormon Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Ether Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Book of Moroni Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Doctrine and Covenants
Book of Commandments Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes
Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith Yes No No No No No Yes
Conferral of Aaronic priesthood by John the Baptist Yes No No No No No Yes
To Three Witnesses Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Property division Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Location of Zion at Jackson County, Missouri Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Prayer of Joseph Smith; keys of the kingdom Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To William E. McLellin Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Testimony of the Book of Commandments Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. McLellin; bishops; parents Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Assignments for John Whitmer Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Stewardship; equality Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon called to preach Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Bishops Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Explanation of 1 Corinthians 7:14; salvation of children Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Missionary work; families of missionaries Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Jesus Christ; resurrection; degrees of glory; origin of Satan Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Explanation of certain verses in Revelation Yes No No No No No Yes
United Order; equality Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Jared Carter Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Stephen Burnett and Eden Smith Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Jesse Gause; on 18 Mar 1833 its application was transferred to Frederick G. Williams Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Obedience; United Order; equality Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Husbands and fathers; widows and orphans Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Priesthood Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Letter from Joseph Smith to W. W. Phelps; United Order; One Mighty and Strong; equality Yes No No No No No Yes
Parable of the Tares explained Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Prophecy of war and calamity Yes No No No No No Yes
The “olive leaf”; “Lord’s message of peace” Yes Yes No No No No Yes
A “Word of Wisdom” Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Keys of the kingdom; First Presidency Yes Yes No No No No Yes
The Apocrypha Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Frederick G. Williams Yes Yes No No No No Yes
John’s record of Christ; intelligence; innocence of children Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter; construction of various buildings commanded Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Kirtland Temple to be built; purpose of temples Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Division of property Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Saints in Jackson County, Missouri; temple to be built in Jackson County Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Promises and warnings; martyrs; when war is justified; forgiving enemies Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To John Murdock Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to preach gospel; Rigdon to be Smith’s spokesman; welfare of Orson Hyde and John Gould Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Redemption of Zion; parables; United States and the U.S. Constitution; Saints to seek redress Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Minutes for first high council meeting Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Redemption of Zion; organization of Zion’s Camp Yes Yes No No No No Yes
United Order Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Redemption of Zion; purpose of Kirtland Temple; peace Yes Yes No No No No Yes
To Warren A. Cowdery; Second Coming Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Priesthood; quorums Yes Yes No No No No No
To Lyman Sherman Yes No No No No No Yes
Dedicatory prayer for Kirtland Temple Yes No No No No No Yes
Visitation of Jesus Christ to accept Kirtland Temple; conferral of priesthood keys; coming of Moses, Elias, and Elijah Yes No No No No No Yes
temporal needs of the church Yes No No No No No Yes
To Thomas B. Marsh; Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; First Presidency Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Answers to questions on the Book of Isaiah Yes No No No No No Yes
Concerning David W. Patten Yes No No No No No Yes
Name of the church; takes; temple to be built at Far West, Missouri Yes No No No No No Yes
Adam-ondi-Ahman Yes No No No No No Yes
Concerning William Marks, Newel K. Whitney, and Oliver Granger; property; sacrifice Yes No No No No No Yes
Vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles filled Yes No No No No No Yes
Tithing Yes Yes No No No No No
Council on the Disposition of the Tithes Yes No No No No No Yes
Prayer and prophecies of Joseph Smith; why many are called but few chosen Yes No No No No No Yes
Destiny of Joseph Smith Yes No No No No No Yes
Letter to church; duty in relation to their persecutors Yes No No No No No Yes
Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House to be built; baptism for the dead Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Saints in Iowa Yes No No No No No Yes
To Brigham Young Yes No No No No No Yes
Letter to church; baptism for the dead Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Letter to church; baptism for the dead Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Distinguishing the nature of angels and disembodied spirits Yes No No No No No Yes
Various items of instruction; corporeal nature of God and Jesus Christ; intelligence; seer stones Yes No No No No No Yes
Various items of instruction; celestial marriage; eternal life Yes No No No No No Yes
Plural marriage; celestial marriage; sealing power; exaltation Yes No No No No No Yes
Original “Appendix”; Second Coming; missionary work Yes Yes No No No No Yes
secular governments and laws in general Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Organization of Mormon pioneer westward journey Yes No No No No No Yes
Salvation for the dead; salvation of little children Yes No No No No No Yes
Jesus Christ preached to spirits in prison; salvation for the dead Yes No No No No No Yes
Cessation of plural marriage Yes No No No No No Yes
1978 Revelation on Priesthood: cessation of priesthood restrictions based on race Yes No No No No No Yes
God’s words to Moses Yes
(Pearl of Great Price)
Yes No No No No No
Prophecy of Enoch Yes
(Pearl of Great Price)
Yes No No No No No
General meeting of the quorums of the church to consider the labors of the committee charged with organizing publication of the revelations into a book No Yes No No No No No
Declaration on marriage; one spouse only No Yes No No No No No
Tithing No Yes No No No No No
Calling of William Marks No Yes No No No No No
Priesthood ordination of other races No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Foreign missions No Yes No No No No No
Instructions to the elders No Yes No No No No No
Branch and district presidents No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Duties of quorums No Yes No No No No No
Lamoni College; church publications; relations with the LDS Church; doctrinal tracts; interpretation of various scriptures; gospel boat; branch in Detroit No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Patriarchs; foreign missions No Yes No No No No No
Quorums No Yes No No No No No
Sanitarium No Yes No No No No No
Organization and colonization No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Presiding Bishopric No Yes No No No No No
Presiding Bishop No Yes No No No No No
Missionary work No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; unity No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; work toward Zion No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; Zion No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; counsel No Yes No No No No No
Commendation; urge to work No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; counsel No Yes No No No No No
New President of the Church named No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; unity commended No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; stewardship No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; counsel No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; relationship between ministerial programs; prepare to build temple at Independence No Yes No No No No No
Clarification of 149 No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; counsel on culture; Independence Temple preparation; ecology No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; reconciliation No Yes No No No No No
New precedent on presidential succession; presidential successor named; changes in leadership positions; reconciliation No Yes No No No No No
New President of the Church; changes in leadership positions; counsel on outreach No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; counsel on outreach No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; counsel on witness No Yes No No No No No
Purpose of Independence Temple; priesthood opened to women; changes in leadership positions No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; unity; humility No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; the spiritual life No Yes No No No No No
Changes in leadership positions; trusting the Spirit; Independence Temple accepted No Yes No No No No No
New President of the Church named No Yes No No No No No
Proclaim peace; reach out; patience; embrace differences; respect tradition No Yes No No No No No
Be a prophetic people; diversity; tithing No Yes No No No No No
Strive for peace; missionary work; use and misuse of scripture; equality; generosity No Yes No No No No No
Effects of baptism, confirmation, and sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; cultural awareness and sensitivity; flexibility in number of quorums of seventy; accelerate evangelism No Yes No No No No No
Expand community, promote peace, and end poverty; tithing; unity in diversity; act in accordance to beliefs No Yes No No No No No
Pearl of Great Price
Book of Moses Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes
Book of Abraham Yes No No No No No No
Joseph Smith–Matthew Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes
Joseph Smith–History Yes No No No No No No
Articles of Faith Yes Inspired No No No Inspired Inspired
Latter Day Saint movement other religious text
The Word of the Lord No No No No Yes No No
The Word of the Lord Brought to Mankind by an Angel No No No No Yes No No
Lectures on Faith No No No No No Yes Yes
Book of Jasher No No No No No No – not considered canonical No
The Book of the Law of the Lord No No No No No Yes No
Letter of Appointment No No No No No Yes No

See also

Bibliography

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia