What Are The Deuterocanonical Books?

The deuterocanonical books are books and passages considered by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Assyrian Church of the East to be canonical books of the Old Testament, but which Protestant denominations regard as apocrypha. They date from 300 BC–100 AD, mostly from 200 BC–70 AD, before the definite separation of the Christian church from Judaism. While the New Testament never directly quotes from or names these books, the apostles most frequently used and quoted the Septuagint, which includes them. Some say there is a correspondence of thought, and others see texts from these books being paraphrased, referred or alluded to many times in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles, depending in large measure on what is counted as a reference.

Although there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Hebrew Bible canon was fixed, some scholars hold that the Hebrew canon was established well before the 1st century AD – even as early as the 4th century BC, or by the Hasmonean dynasty (140–40 BC). The modern Hebrew canon does not include the seven deuterocanonical books, and this was the basis for excluding them from the Protestant Old Testament.

The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which the early Christian church used as its Old Testament, included all of the deuterocanonical books. The term distinguished these books from both the protocanonical books (the books of the Hebrew canon) and the biblical apocrypha (books of Jewish origin that were sometimes read in Christian churches as scripture but which were not regarded as canonical).

The Council of Rome (382 AD) defined a list of books of scripture as canonical. It included most of the deuterocanonical books. Since the 16th century, most Protestant churches have accepted only works in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible as the canonical Old Testament, and hence classify all the non-protocanonical books from the Septuagint as apocrypha.

Hebrew Bible canon

Main article: Development of the Hebrew Bible canon

Judaism excludes the deuterocanonical books. It is commonly said that Judaism officially excluded the deuterocanonicals and the additional Greek texts listed here from their scripture in the Council of Jamnia (c. 70–90 AD), but this claim is disputed.

The Deutrocanonical Books

A) Books in the Roman (Catholic), Greek, and Slavonic Bibles: 1) Tobit. 2) Judith. 3) Additions to the Book of Esther. 4) Wisdom of Solomon. 5) Joshua the son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 6) Baruch. 7) Additions to the Book of Daniel : Prayer of Azaria and the song of the three youth. Susanna. Bel and the Dragon. 8) I Maccabees. 9) II Maccabees.

List of deuterocanonicals

The deuterocanonical texts held as canonical for the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are:

  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Baruch
  • Sirach
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • Wisdom
  • Additions to Esther, Daniel, and Baruch:
    • Esther:
        • Fulfillment of Mordecai’s Dream (Esther 10:4–13)
        • Interpretation of Mordecai’s Dream (Vulgate Esther 11)
        • Conspiracy of the Two Eunuchs (Vulgate Esther 12)
        • Letter of Aman and the Prayer of Mordecai to the Jews (Vulgate Esther 13)
      • The Prayer of Esther (Vulgate Esther 14)
      • Esther Comes into the King’s Presence (Vulgate Esther 15)
      • Letter of King Artaxerxes (Vulgate Esther 16)
    • Daniel:
      • The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (Septuagint Daniel 3:24–90)
      • Susanna and the Elders (Septuagint prologue, Vulgate Daniel 13)
      • Bel and the Dragon (Septuagint epilogue, Vulgate Daniel 14)
    • Baruch:
      • Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6)

Canonical only for the Eastern Orthodox Church:

  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Esdras
  • Psalm 151
  • 3 Maccabees
  • 4 Maccabees as an appendix

Dates of composition

Deuterocanonical books composition hide
Book Dating Original language (and location)
Letter of Jeremiah c. 300 BC Oldest versions Greek, probably originally Hebrew or Aramaic
Psalm 151 c. 300–200 BC Hebrew (Psalms 151a+b), later merged into Koine Greek Psalm 151
1 Esdras c. 200–140 BC Probably Greek in Egypt, possibly from a 3rd-century Semitic original
Sirach c. 180–175 BC Hebrew in Jerusalem
Tobit c. 225–175 or 175–164 BC Probably Aramaic, possibly Hebrew, possibly in Antioch
Wisdom of Solomon c. 150 BC Most probably Koine Greek in Alexandria
Judith c. 150–100 BC Oldest versions Greek, originally probably Hebrew, possibly Greek
2 Maccabees c. 150–120 BC Koine Greek
1 Maccabees c. 135–103 BC Oldest versions Greek, original probably Hebrew, probably in Jerusalem
Additions to Daniel c. 100 BC Oldest versions Greek, originally Semitic or Greek
Prayer of Manasseh c. 200 BC – AD 50 Oldest versions Greek, originally probably Greek, possibly Semitic
Baruch c. 200–100 BC (1:1–3:38)

c. 100 BC – AD 100 (3:39–5:9)

(1:1–3:38) Koine Greek, probably originally Hebrew

(3:39–5:9) Koine Greek, possibly originally Hebrew or Aramaic

3 Maccabees c. 100–50 BC Koine Greek, probably in Alexandria
Additions to Esther c. 100–1 BC Koine Greek in Alexandria
4 Maccabees c. AD 18–55 Koine Greek, probably outside Palestine
2 Esdras c. AD 90–100 (4 Ezra)
c. AD 100–300 (5 Ezra)
c. AD 200–300 (6 Ezra)
4 Ezra (2 Esdras 3–14): probably Hebrew by a Palestinian Jew
5 Ezra (2 Esdras 1–2): probably Latin by a Christian
6 Ezra (2 Esdras 15–16): probably Greek by a Levantine Christian
Odes c. AD 400–440 Codex Alexandrinus is the oldest version. Medieval Greek, prior history unknown
Stack Of Books Vintage Books Book Books Old

Stack Of Books

Historical background

Main article: Development of the Old Testament canon

Deuterocanonical is a term coined in 1566 by the theologian Sixtus of Siena, who had converted to Catholicism from Judaism, to describe scriptural texts considered canonical by the Catholic Church, but which recognition was considered “secondary”. For Sixtus, this term included portions of both Old and New Testaments (Sixtus considers the final chapter of the Gospel of Mark as ‘deuterocanonical’); and he also applies the term to the Book of Esther from the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The term was then taken up by other writers to apply specifically to those books of the Old Testament which had been recognised as canonical by the Councils of Rome (382 AD), Hippo (393 AD), Carthage (397 AD and 419 AD), Florence (1442) and Trent (1546), but which were not in the Hebrew canon.

Forms of the term deuterocanonical were adopted after the 16th century by the Eastern Orthodox Church to denote canonical books of the Septuagint not in the Hebrew Bible (a wider selection than that adopted by the Council of Trent), and also by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church to apply to works believed to be of Jewish origin translated in the Old Testament of the Ethiopic Bible; a wider selection still.

The acceptance of some of these books among early Christians was widespread, though not universal, and surviving Bibles from the early Church always include, with varying degrees of recognition, books now called deuterocanonical. Some say that their canonicity seems not to have been doubted in the Church until it was challenged by Jews after 100 AD, sometimes postulating a hypothetical Council of Jamnia. Regional councils in the West published official canons that included these books as early as the 4th and 5th centuries.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that:

At Jerusalem there was a renascence, perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly unfavourable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all books to be read privately which are not read in the churches. In Antioch and Syria the attitude was more favourable. St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and, like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received by all and the apocrypha. In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them, another one distinctly unfavourable to their authority and sacredness, while wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among those we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity. The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome’s depreciating Prologus.

Meanwhile, “the protocanonical books of the Old Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews, and the Old Testament as received by Protestants. The deuterocanonical (deuteros, “second”) are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters, but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the Catholic Church, though those of the Old Testament are classed by Protestants as the “Apocrypha”. These consist of seven books: Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to Esther and Daniel.”

Dead Sea scrolls

Sirach, whose Hebrew text was already known from the Cairo Geniza, has been found in two scrolls (2QSir or 2Q18, 11QPs_a or 11Q5) in Hebrew. Another Hebrew scroll of Sirach has been found in Masada (MasSir). Five fragments from the Book of Tobit have been found in Qumran written in Aramaic and in one written in Hebrew (papyri 4Q, nos. 196–200). The Letter of Jeremiah (or Baruch chapter 6) has been found in cave 7 (papyrus 7Q2) in Greek. It has been theorized by recent scholars that the Qumran library (of approximately 1,100 manuscripts found in the eleven caves at Qumran) was not entirely produced at Qumran, but may have included part of the library of the Jerusalem Temple, that may have been hidden in the caves for safekeeping at the time the Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD.

Influence of the Septuagint

Deuterocanonical and Apocryphal books included in the Septuagint

Greek name Transliteration English name
Deuterocanonical Books
Προσευχὴ Μανασσῆ Proseuchē Manassē Prayer of Manasseh
Ἔσδρας Αʹ 1 Esdras 1 Esdras
Τωβίτ Tōbit Tobit or Tobias
Ἰουδίθ Ioudith Judith
Ἐσθήρ Esthēr Esther with additions
Μακκαβαίων Αʹ 1 Makkabaiōn 1 Maccabees
Μακκαβαίων Βʹ 2 Makkabaiōn 2 Maccabees
Μακκαβαίων Γʹ 3 Makkabaiōn 3 Maccabees
Ψαλμός ΡΝΑʹ Psalmos 151 Psalm 151
Σοφία Σαλoμῶντος Sophia Salomōnios Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon
Σοφία Ἰησοῦ Σειράχ Sophia Iēsou Seirach Sirach or Ecclesiasticus
Βαρούχ Barouch Baruch
Ἐπιστολὴ Ἰερεμίου Epistolē Ieremiou Letter of Jeremiah
Δανιήλ Daniēl Daniel with additions
Apocryphal Books
Μακκαβαίων Δ’ Παράρτημα 4 Makkabaiōn 4 Maccabees
Ψαλμοί Σαλoμῶντος Psalmoi Salomōnios Psalms of Solomon

The large majority of Old Testament references in the New Testament are taken from the Koine Greek Septuagint (LXX), editions of which include the deuterocanonical books, as well as apocrypha – both of which are called collectively anagignoskomena (“Readable, namely worthy of reading”). No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocryphal, and the three earliest manuscripts of the LXX show uncertainty as to which books constitute the complete list of biblical books. Codex Vaticanus (B) lacks any of the books of Maccabees, while Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) omits Baruch and the letter of Jeremiah, but includes 1 and 4 Maccabees. Codex Alexandrinus includes the Psalms of Solomon and Maccabees 1–4. All three codices include Psalm 151 in addition to the canonical 150 Psalms; and all three codices include Greek Esdras as ‘Esdras A’, with the canonical Ezra–Nehemiah counted as ‘Esdras B’.

Greek Psalm manuscripts from the fifth century contain three New Testament “psalms”: the Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Nunc dimittis from Luke’s birth narrative, and the conclusion of the hymn that begins with the “Gloria in Excelsis”. Beckwith states that manuscripts of anything like the capacity of Codex Alexandrinus were not used in the first centuries of the Christian era, and believes that the comprehensive codices of the Septuagint, which start appearing in the 4th century AD, are all of Christian origin.

Some deuterocanonicals appear to have been written originally in Hebrew, but the original text has long been lost. Archaeological finds discovered both Psalm 151 and the Book of Tobit in Hebrew among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Septuagint was widely accepted and used by Greek-speaking Jews in the 1st century, even in the region of Roman Judea, and therefore naturally became the text most widely used by early Christians, who were predominantly Greek speaking.

In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:35 is understood by some as referring to an event that was recorded in one of the deuterocanonical books, 2 Maccabees. For instance, the author of Hebrews references oral tradition which spoke of an Old Testament prophet who was sawn in half in Hebrews 11:37, two verses after the 2nd Maccabees reference. Other New Testament authors such as Paul also reference or quote period literature which was familiar to the audience but that was not included in the deuterocanonical or the protocanonical Old Testament books.

Influence of early authors

The Jewish historian Josephus (c. 94 AD) speaks of there being 22 books in the canon of the Hebrew Bible, reported also by the Christian bishop Athanasius.

Origen of Alexandria (c. 240 AD) also records 22 canonical books of the Hebrew Bible cited by Eusebius; among them are the Epistle of Jeremiah and the Maccabees as canonical books.

The twenty-two books of the Hebrews are the following: That which is called by us Genesis; Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Jesus, the son of Nave (Joshua book); Judges and Ruth in one book; the First and Second of Kings (1 Samuel and 2 Samuel) in one; the Third and Fourth of Kings (1 Kings and 2 Kings) in one; of the Chronicles, the First and Second in one; Esdras (Ezra–Nehemiah) in one; the book of Psalms; the Proverbs of Solomon; Ecclesiastes; the Song of Songs; Isaiah; Jeremiah, with Lamentations and the epistle (of Jeremiah) in one; Daniel; Ezekiel; Job; Esther. And besides these there are the Maccabees.

Eusebius wrote in his Church History (c. 324 AD) that Bishop Melito of Sardis in the 2nd century AD considered the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon as part of the Old Testament and that it was considered canonical by Jews and Christians. On the other hand, the contrary claim has been made: “In the catalogue of Melito, presented by Eusebius, after Proverbs, the word Wisdom occurs, which nearly all commentators have been of opinion is only another name for the same book, and not the name of the book now called ‘The Wisdom of Solomon’.”

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350 AD) in his Catechetical Lectures cites as canonical books “Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle (of Jeremiah)”.

In Athanasius’s canonical books list (367 AD) the Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah are included and Esther is omitted. At the same time, he mentioned that certain other books, including four deuterocanonical books (the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Judith and Tobit), the book of Esther and also the Didache and The Shepherd of Hermas, while not being part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”. He excluded what he called “apocryphal writings” entirely.

Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 385 AD) mentions that “there are 27 books given the Jews by God, but they are counted as 22, however, like the letters of their Hebrew alphabet, because ten books are doubled and reckoned as five”. He wrote in his Panarion that Jews had in their books the deuterocanonical Epistle of Jeremiah and Baruch, both combined with Jeremiah and Lamentations in only one book. While Wisdom of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon were books of disputed canonicity.

Augustine (c. 397 AD) writes in his book On Christian Doctrine (Book II Chapter 8) that two books of Maccabees, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus are canonical books.

Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:— Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth; next, four books of Kings (the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings), and two of Chronicles, Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra [Ezra, Nehemiah]…one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, that is to say Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes… For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus… Twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel.

According to the monk Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 400 AD) the deuterocanonical books were not called canonical but ecclesiastical books. In this category Rufinus includes the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Judith, Tobit and two books of Maccabees. Rufinus makes no mention of Baruch or the Epistle of Jeremiah.

Pope Innocent I (405 AD) sent a letter to the bishop of Toulouse citing deuterocanonical books as a part of the Old Testament canon.

Which books really are received in the canon, this brief addition shows. These therefore are the things of which you desired to be informed. Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and Joshua the son of Nun, and Judges, and the four books of Kings [the two Books of Kings and the two books of Samuel] together with Ruth, sixteen books of the Prophets, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus], and the Psalms. Also of the historical books, one book of Job, one of Tobit, one of Esther, one of Judith, two of Maccabees, two of Ezra [Ezra, Nehemiah], two of Chronicles.

In the 7th century Latin document the Muratorian fragment, which some scholars actually believe to be a copy of an earlier 170 AD Greek original, the book of the Wisdom of Solomon is counted by the church.

Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned (or, bearing the name of) John are counted (or, used) in the catholic [Church]; and [the book of] Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour.


In later copyings of the canons of the Council of Laodicea (from 364 AD) a canon list became appended to Canon 59, likely before the mid fifth century, which affirmed that Jeremiah, and Baruch, the Lamentations, and the Epistle (of Jeremiah) were canonical, while excluding the other deuterocanonical books.

According to Decretum Gelasianum, which is a work written by an anonymous scholar between 519 and 553, the Council of Rome (382 AD) cites a list of books of scripture presented as having been made canonical. This list mentions all the deuterocanonical books except Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah as a part of the Old Testament canon:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Kings IV books Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings], Chronicles II books, 150 Psalms, three books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs], Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah with Cinoth i.e. his lamentations, Ezechiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habbakuk Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Job, Tobit, Esdras II books [Ezra, Nehemiah], Ester, Judith, Maccabees II books.

The Synod of Hippo (in 393 AD), followed by the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Carthage (419), may be the first councils that explicitly accepted the first canon which includes a selection of books that did not appear in the Hebrew Bible; the councils were under significant influence of Augustine of Hippo, who regarded the canon as already closed.

Canon XXIV from the Synod of Hippo (in 393 AD) records the scriptures which are considered canonical; the Old Testament books as follows:

Genesis; Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy; Joshua the Son of Nun; The Judges; Ruth; The Kings, iv. books Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings]; The Chronicles, ii. books; Job; The Psalter; The Five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus]; The Twelve Books of the Prophets [Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; Isaiah]; Jeremiah; Ezechiel; Daniel; Tobit; Judith; Esther; Ezra, ii. books [Ezra, Nehemiah]; Maccabees, ii. books.

On 28 August 397, the Council of Carthage confirmed the canon issued at Hippo; the recurrence of the Old Testament part is stated:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings  Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings], two books of Paraleipomena  Chronicles, 2 Chronicles], Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon [ Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus ], the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras [Ezra, Nehemiah], two Books of the Maccabees.

In 419 AD, the Council of Carthage in its canon 24 lists the deuterocanonical books except Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah as canonical scripture:

The Canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings  Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings], two books of Chronicles, Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus], the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras [Ezra, Nehemiah], two Books of the Maccabees.

The Apostolic Canons approved by the Eastern Council in Trullo in 692 AD (not recognized by the Catholic Church) states as venerable and sacred the first three books of Maccabees and Wisdom of Sirach.

The Roman Catholic Council of Florence (1442) promulgated a list of the books of the Bible, including the books of Judith, Esther, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch and two books of the Maccabees as Canonical books:

Five books of Moses, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings], two of Paralipomenon Chronicles, 2 Chronicles], Esdras [Ezra], Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, namely Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; two books of the Maccabees.

The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1546) adopted an understanding of the canons of these previous councils as corresponding to its own list of deuterocanonical books:

Of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings], two of Paralipomenon Chronicles, 2 Chronicles], the first and second of Esdras [Ezra, Nehemiah], Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter of 150 Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs], Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets, namely, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of Machabees, the first and second.

Influence of Jerome

See also: Vulgate § Prologues

Jerome in one of his Vulgate prologues describes a canon which excludes the deuterocanonical books. In these prologues, Jerome mentions all of the deuterocanonical and apocryphal works by name as being apocryphal or “not in the canon” except for Prayer of Manasses and Baruch. He mentions Baruch by name in his Prologue to Jeremiah and notes that it is neither read nor held among the Hebrews, but does not explicitly call it apocryphal or “not in the canon”. The inferior status to which the deuterocanonical books were relegated by authorities like Jerome is seen by some as being due to a rigid conception of canonicity, one demanding that a book, to be entitled to this supreme dignity, must be received by all, must have the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and must moreover be adapted not only to edification, but also to the “confirmation of the doctrine of the Church”.

J. N. D. Kelly states that “Jerome, conscious of the difficulty of arguing with Jews on the basis of books they spurned and anyhow regarding the Hebrew original as authoritative, was adamant that anything not found in it was ‘to be classed among the apocrypha’, not in the canon; later he grudgingly conceded that the Church read some of these books for edification, but not to support doctrine.”

Jerome’s Vulgate included the deuterocanonical books as well as apocrypha. Jerome referenced and quoted from some as scripture despite describing them as “not in the canon”. Michael Barber asserts that, although Jerome was once suspicious of the apocrypha, he later viewed them as scripture. Barber argues that this is clear from Jerome’s epistles; he cites Jerome’s letter to Eustochium, in which Jerome quotes Sirach 13:2. Elsewhere Jerome apparently also refers to Baruch, the Story of Susannah and Wisdom as scripture. Henry Barker states that Jerome quotes the Apocrypha with marked respect, and even as “Scripture”, giving them an ecclesiastical if not a canonical position and use. Luther also wrote introductions to the books of the Apocrypha, and occasionally quoted from some to support an argument.

In his prologue to Judith, without using the word canon, Jerome mentioned that Judith was held to be scriptural by the First Council of Nicaea.

Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found among the Hagiographa. …But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request.

In his reply to Rufinus, Jerome affirmed that he was consistent with the choice of the church regarding which version of the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel to use, which the Jews of his day did not include:

What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us. (Against Rufinus, II:33 02 AD])

Thus Jerome acknowledged the principle by which the canon would be settled—the judgment of the Church (at least the local churches in this case) rather than his own judgment or the judgment of Jews; though concerning translation of Daniel to Greek, he wondered why one should use the version of a translator whom he regarded as a heretic and judaizer (Theodotion).

The Vulgate is also important as the touchstone of the canon concerning which parts of books are canonical. When the Council of Trent confirmed the books included in the first canon, it qualified the books as being “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”. This decree was clarified somewhat by Pope Pius XI on 2 June 1927, who allowed that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute, and it was further explicated by Pope Pius XII’s Divino afflante Spiritu.

The Council of Trent also ratified the Vulgate Bible as the official Latin version of the Bible for the Roman Catholic Church.

Deuterocanonical and Apocryphal books included in the Latin Vulgate are:

Deuterocanonical and Apocryphal books included in the Latin Vulgate

Latin name English name
Deuterocanonical Books
Tobiae Tobit or Tobias
Judith Judith
Esther Esther with additions
Machabaeorum I 1 Maccabees
Machabaeorum II 2 Maccabees
Sapientia Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus Sirach or Ecclesiasticus
Baruch Baruch included the Epistle of Jeremiah
Daniel Daniel with additions
Apocryphal Books
3 Esdrae 1 Esdras
4 Esdrae 2 Esdras
Psalmi 151 Psalm 151
Oratio Manasse Prayer of Manasseh
Epistula Ad Laodicenses Epistle to the Laodiceans

In the Catholic Church

See also: Catholic Bible

The Catholic Church considers that in the Council of Rome in 382 AD, under the Papacy of Damasus I, was defined the complete canon of the Bible, accepting 46 books for the Old Testament, including what the Reformed Churches consider as deuterocanonical books, and 27 books for the New Testament. Based in this first canon, Saint Jerome compiled and translated the 73 books of the Bible into Latin, later known as the Vulgate Bible version, which has been considered during many centuries as one of the official Bible translations of the Catholic Church. The Synod of Hippo (in 393 AD), followed by the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Carthage (419), also explicitly accepted the first canon from the Council of Rome; these councils were under significant influence of Augustine of Hippo, who also regarded the Biblical canon as already closed. The Roman Catholic Council of Florence (1442) confirmed the first canon too, while the Council of Trent (1546) elevated the first canon to dogma.

Protestant theologian Philip Schaff states 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 (AD 414) repeated the same index of biblical books.” Schaff says that this canon remained undisturbed till the 16th century, and was sanctioned by the Council of Trent at its fourth session, although as the Catholic Encyclopedia reports, “in the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. … Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity,” but that the countless manuscript copies of the Vulgate produced by these ages, with a slight, probably accidental, exception, uniformly embrace the complete Roman Catholic Old Testament. Subsequent research qualifies this latter statement, in that a distinct tradition of large format pandect bibles has been identified as having been promoted by the 11th and 12th century reforming Papacy for presentation to monasteries in Italy; and now commonly termed ‘Atlantic Bibles’ on account of their very great size. While not all these bibles present a consistent reformed Vulgate text, they generally exclude the deuterocanonical books.


Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, appear in the canon lists of the Council of Laodicea, Athanasius (367 AD), Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350 AD), and Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 385 AD) they are not present in the canons done by Innocent I and Gelasius I, nor are present in any complete Vulgate Bibles earlier than the 9th century; and even after that date, do not become common in the Vulgate Old Testament until the 13th century. In the Old Latin version of the Bible, these two works appear to have been incorporated into the Book of Jeremiah, and Latin Fathers of the 4th century and earlier always cite their texts as being from that book. However, when Jerome translated Jeremiah afresh from the Hebrew text, which is considerably longer than the Greek Septuagint text and with chapters in a different order, he steadfastly refused to incorporate either Baruch or the Letter of Jeremiah from the Greek. In the 9th century these two works were reintroduced into the Vulgate Bibles produced under the influence of Theodulf of Orleans, originally as additional chapters to the Vulgate book of Jeremiah. Subsequently, and especially in the Paris Bibles of the 13th century, they are found together as a single, combined book after Lamentations.


For the Roman Catholic Church, Greek Esdras is now considered apocryphal, while the Orthodox Church considers it as canonical. The earlier canonical status of this book in the Western church can be less easy to track, as references to Esdras in canon lists and citations may refer either to this book, or to Greek Ezra–Nehemiah, or both together. In the surviving Greek pandect Bibles of the 4th and 5th centuries, Greek Esdras always stands as ‘Esdras A’ while the Greek translation of the whole of canonical Ezra–Nehemiah stands as ‘Esdras B’; and the same is found in the surviving witness of the Old Latin Bible. When Latin fathers of the early church cite quotations from the biblical ‘Book of Ezra’ it is overwhelmingly ‘First Ezra/Esdras A’ to which they refer, as in Augustine ‘City of God’ 18:36. Citations of the ‘Nehemiah’ sections of Old Latin Second Ezra/’Esdras B’ are much rarer; and no Old Latin citations from the ‘Ezra’ sections of Second Ezra/’Esdras B’ are known before Bede in the 8th century. Consequently Gallagher and Meade conclude “when the ancient canon lists, whether Greek or Latin, mention two books of Esdras, they must have in mind the books known in the LXX and Old Latin as Esdras A and Esdras B; i.e. our 1 Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah.”

In his prologue to Ezra Jerome refers to four books of Ezra in the Latin tradition. Jerome’s first and second Latin books of Ezra are those of the Old Latin Bible – corresponding to Greek Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah in the Septuagint; these two books he considers each to be a corrupt version of the single Hebrew book of Ezra, so he claims that his Vulgate version of Ezra from the Hebrew replaces both of them. Jerome condemns the third and fourth Latin books of Ezra as apocrypha; his third book must correspond to the Jewish Apocolypse of Ezra while the fourth book is likely to comprise other material from Latin Ezra.

From the 9th century, occasional Latin Vulgate manuscripts are found in which Jerome’s single Ezra text is split to form the separate books of Ezra and Nehemiah; and in the Paris Bibles of the 13th century this split has become universal, with Esdras A being reintroduced as ‘3 Esdras’ and Latin Esdras being added as ‘4 Esdras’. At the Council of Trent neither ‘3 Esdras’ nor ‘4 Esdras’ were accepted as canonical books, but were eventually printed in the section of ‘Apocrypha’ in the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate, along with the Prayer of Manasses.

The Council of Trent in 1546 stated the list of books included in the canon as it had been set out in the Council of Florence. In respect to the deuterocanonical books this list conformed with the canon lists of Western synods of the late 4th century, other than including Baruch with the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruc chapter 6) as a single book. While the majority at Trent supported this decision there were participants in the minority who disagreed with accepting any other than the protocanonical books in the canon. Among the minority, at Trent, were Cardinals Seripando and Cajetan, the latter an opponent of Luther at Augsburg.

In Orthodox Christianity

Outside the Roman Catholic Church, the term deuterocanonical is sometimes used, by way of analogy, to describe books that Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy included in the Old Testament that are not part of the Jewish Tanakh, nor the Protestant Old Testament. Among Orthodox, the term is understood to mean that they were compiled separately from the primary canon.

Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Churches have traditionally included all the books of the Septuagint in their Old Testaments. The Greeks use the word Anagignoskomena (Ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, “readable, worthy to be read”) to describe the books of the Greek Septuagint that are not present in the Hebrew Bible. When Eastern Orthodox theologians use the term “deuterocanonical”, it is important to note that the meaning is not identical to the Roman Catholic usage. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, deuterocanonical means that a book is part of the corpus of the Old Testament (i.e. is read during the services) but has secondary authority. In other words, deutero (second) applies to authority or witnessing power, whereas in Roman Catholicism, deutero applies to chronology (the fact that these books were confirmed later), not to authority.

The Eastern Orthodox canon includes the deuterocanonical books accepted by Roman Catholics plus Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Maccabees and 1 Esdras (also included in the Clementine Vulgate), while Baruch is divided from the Epistle of Jeremiah, making a total of 49 Old Testament books in contrast with the Protestant 39-book canon.

The Eastern Orthodox synod, the Synod of Jerusalem, held in 1672 receive as its canon the books found in the Septuagint, and in the Patristic, Byzantine, and liturgical tradition. The Synod declared the Eastern Orthodox canon as follows:

…specifically, “The Wisdom of Solomon,” “Judith,” “Tobit,” “The History of the Dragon” [Bel and the Dragon], “The History of Susanna,” “The Maccabees,” and “The Wisdom of Sirach.” For we judge these also to be with the other genuine Books of Divine Scripture genuine parts of Scripture. For ancient custom, or rather the Catholic Church, which has delivered to us as genuine the Sacred Gospels and the other Books of Scripture, has undoubtedly delivered these also as parts of Scripture, and the denial of these is the rejection of those. And if, perhaps, it seems that not always have all of these been considered on the same level as the others, yet nevertheless these also have been counted and reckoned with the rest of Scripture, both by Synods and by many of the most ancient and eminent Theologians of the Universal Church. All of these we also judge to be Canonical Books, and confess them to be Sacred Scripture.

Like the Roman Catholic deuterocanonical books, these texts are integrated with the rest of the Old Testament, not printed in a separate section.

Other texts printed in Orthodox Bibles are included as an appendix, which is not the same in all churches; the appendix contains 4 Maccabees in Greek-language bibles, while it contains 2 Esdras in Slavonic-language and Russian-language bibles.

Ethiopian Miaphysitism

Main article: Orthodox Tewahedo biblical canon

In the Ethiopic Bible used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (an Oriental Orthodox Church), those books of the Old Testament that are still counted as canonical, but which are not agreed upon by all other Churches, are often set in a separate section titled “Deeyutrokanoneekal” (ዲዩትሮካኖኒካል), which is cognate with “Deuterocanonical”. The Ethiopian Orthodox Deuterocanon, in addition to the standard set listed above, and with the books of Esdras and Prayer of Minasse, also includes some books that are still held canonical by only the Ethiopian Church, including Enoch or Henok (I Enoch), Kufale (Jubilees) and 1, 2 and 3 Meqabyan (which are sometimes wrongly confused with the “Books of Maccabees”).

In Christian Churches having their origins in the Reformation

Further information: Biblical apocrypha

Anabaptist Churches

Anabaptists use the Luther Bible, which contains the Apocrypha as intertestamental books, which has much overlap with the Catholic deuterocanonical books; Amish wedding ceremonies include “the retelling of the marriage of Tobias and Sarah in the Apocrypha”.

The fathers of Anabaptism, such as Menno Simmons, quoted “them [the Apocrypha] with the same authority and nearly the same frequency as books of the Hebrew Bible” and the texts regarding the martyrdoms under Antiochus IV in 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are held in high esteem by the Anabaptists, who faced persecution in their history.

Anglican Communion

There is a great deal of overlap between the Apocrypha section of the original 1611 King James Bible and the Catholic deuterocanon, but the two are distinct. The Apocrypha section of the original 1611 King James Bible includes, in addition to the deuterocanonical books, the following three books, which were not included in the list of the canonical books by the Council of Trent:

  • 1 Esdras (Vulgate 3 Esdras)
  • 2 Esdras (Vulgate 4 Esdras)
  • Prayer of Manasseh

These books make up the Apocrypha section of the Clementine Vulgate: 3 Esdras (a.k.a. 1 Esdras); 4 Esdras (a.k.a. 2 Esdras); and the Prayer of Manasseh, where they are specifically described as “outside of the series of the canon”. The 1609 Douai Bible includes them in an appendix, but they have not been included in English Catholic Bibles since the Challoner revision of the Douai Bible in 1750. They are found, along with the deuterocanonical books, in the Apocrypha section of certain Protestant Bibles (some versions of the King James, for example).

Using the word apocrypha (Greek: “hidden away”) to describe texts, although not necessarily pejorative, implies that the writings in question should not be included in the canon of the Bible. This classification commingles them with certain non-canonical gospels and New Testament apocrypha. The Society of Biblical Literature recommends the use of the term deuterocanonical books instead of Apocrypha in academic writing.

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England lists the deuterocanonical books as suitable to be read for “example of life and instruction of manners, but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine”. The early lectionaries of the Anglican Church (as included in the Book of Common Prayer of 1662) included the deuterocanonical books amongst the cycle of readings, and passages from them were used regularly in services (such as the Kyrie Pantokrator and the Benedicite).

Readings from the deuterocanonical books are now included in most, if not all, of the modern lectionaries in the Anglican Communion, based on the Revised Common Lectionary (in turn based on the post-conciliar Roman Catholic lectionary), though alternative readings from protocanonical books are also provided.

Lutheran Churches

Luther termed the deuterocanonical books “Apocrypha, that is, books which are not considered equal to the Holy Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.” These are included in copies of the Luther Bible as intertestamental books between the Old Testament and New Testament.

Methodist Churches and Moravian Churches

The first Methodist liturgical book, The Sunday Service of the Methodists, employs verses from the biblical apocrypha, such as in the Eucharistic liturgy.

The Revised Common Lectionary, in use by most mainline Protestants including Methodists and Moravians, lists readings from the biblical apocrypha in the liturgical kalendar, although alternate Old Testament scripture lessons are provided.

Presbyterian Churches

The Westminster Confession of Faith, a Calvinist document that serves as a systematic summary of doctrine for the Church of Scotland and other Presbyterian Churches worldwide, recognizes only the sixty-six books of the Protestant canon as authentic scripture. Chapter 1, Article 3 of the Confession reads: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

Reformed Churches

The Belgic Confession, used in Reformed churches, devotes a section (Article 6) to “the difference between the canonical and apocryphal books” and says of them: “All which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy as that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith or of the Christian religion; much less to detract from the authority of the other sacred books.”

New Testament deuterocanonicals

Main article: Antilegomena
See also: Development of the New Testament canon

The term deuterocanonical is sometimes used to describe the canonical antilegomena, those books of the New Testament which, like the deuterocanonicals of the Old Testament, were not universally accepted by the early Church. These books may be called the “New Testament deuterocanonicals”, which are now included in the 27 books of the New Testament recognized by almost all Christians. The deuterocanonicals of the New Testament are as follows:

  • The Epistle to the Hebrews
  • The Epistle of James
  • The Second Epistle of Peter
  • The Second Epistle of John
  • The Third Epistle of John
  • The Epistle of Jude
  • The Apocalypse of John (also known as the Book of Revelation)

Luther made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon (notably, he perceived them to go against the doctrines of sola gratia and sola fide), but this was not generally accepted among his followers. However, these books are ordered last in the German-language Luther Bible to this day.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leave a Reply