Not All Church Fathers considered the Apocrypha to be inspired or canonical.

I have dealt with the issue of the apocrypha (or deuterocanonical books if you are catholic) before:

Some want to use the idea that Luther may have questioned the canonincity of certain books in the New Testament to show that his questioning the canonicity of apocrypha should not be considered. The problem with this idea is that whether Luther questioned if certain New Testament books were of apostolic origin has no bearing on whether other books belong in the canon. Regarding Luther and his view on the canonicity of certain books of the New Testament, while I don’t necessarily hold wikipedia as trustworthy, it is a good site with a lot of references. They say this about it:

Initially Luther had a low view of the books of Esther, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation. He called the Epistle of James “an epistle of straw,” finding little in it that pointed to Christ and His saving work. He also had harsh words for the book of Revelation, saying that he could “in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.”He had reason to question the apostolicity of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation because the early church categorized these books as antilegomena, meaning that they were not accepted without reservation as canonical. Luther did not, however, remove them from his editions of the Scriptures, but he placed them last in order. His views on some of these books changed in later years. (’s_canon#Hebrews.2C_James.2C_Jude_and_Revelation )

Eusebius listed both James and Jude in his list of disputed books ( ). “Even a few Catholic scholars of the Renaissance type, notably Erasmus and Cajetan, had thrown some doubts on the canonicity of the above-mentioned Antilegomena” ( ).

Regarding the Old Testament….

Martin Luther did not remove the apocrypha from the Bible. He simply moved them to a different section of the Bible, with this title, “Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read” ( ).

This is the same thing said about those books by the early church fathers.

The Protocanonical books of the Hebrew Bible have always been considered canonical by both the Jews and Christians.

The apocryphal books were known but not considered by all to be canon, even by those who used the Septuagint. In fact, the Latin Vulgate, was translated from the Hebrew text where ever possible, and not the Greek ( ). Jerome did not consider the Greek as trustworthy as the Hebrew and translated the Old Testament from the Hebrew. We know these were translated from the Hebrew because of St. Jerome’s Prologue to the Books of the Kings:

This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a helmeted [i.e. defensive] introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is outside of them must be placed aside among the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd [of Hermes?] are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees is found in Hebrew, but the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style…. although I am not in the least conscious of having deviated from the Hebrew original. At all events, if you are incredulous, read the Greek and Latin manuscripts and compare them with these poor efforts of mine, and wherever you see they disagree, ask some Hebrew in whom you can have more faith, and if he confirm our view, I suppose you will not think him a soothsayer and suppose that he and I have, in rendering the same passage, divined alike.” ( ).

Its obvious that Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate did not consider the Septuagint divinely inspired – as he SAID so. He only included the apocryphal books because he was asked to, but made it clear they were not canon, as is evidenced by the preface to Tobias ( ).

And Jerome was quite clear, that the apostles and evangelists used the Hebrew text, unless the Greek was in agreement with the Hebrew. In those cases, they used the Greek. In fact, Jerome contended that when Christ referred to scripture, He took his quotations from the Hebrew (

The Hebrew Scriptures are used by apostolic men; they are used, as is evident, by the apostles and evangelists. Our Lord and Saviour himself whenever he refers to the Scriptures, takes his quotations from the Hebrew; as in the instance of the words “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” and in the words used on the cross itself, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which is by interpretation “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” not, as it is given by the Septuagint, “My God, my God, look upon me, why hast thou forsaken me?” and many similar cases. I do not say this in order to aim a blow at the seventy translators; but I assert that the Apostles of Christ have an authority superior to theirs. Wherever the Seventy agree with the Hebrew, the apostles took their quotations from that translation; but, where they disagree, they set down in Greek what they had found in the Hebrew. And further, I give a challenge to my accuser. I have shown that many things are set down in the New Testament as coming from the older books, which are not to be found in the Septuagint; and I have pointed out that these exist in the Hebrew.

While Jerome might have referred to apocryphal works, this does not mean he considered them canon – when he explicitly stated he did not. In fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Canon of the Old Testament”, stated this about Jerome and the apocrypha ( ):

An analysis of Jerome’s expressions on the deuterocanonicals, in various letters and prefaces, yields the following results: first, he strongly doubted their inspiration; secondly, the fact that he occasionally quotes them, and translated some of them as a concession to ecclesiastical tradition,

Not only did the Hebrew version of the Old Testament not contain the apocrypha, neither did early translations of the Old Testament works. The Aramaic translation of the Old Testament, the Targums, does not have the apocryphal books.
One of the earliest Syriac translations of Old Testament, the Peshitta, does not have them either. “Only one Jewish translation, the Greek (Septuagint), and those translations later derived from it (the Italia, the Coptic, Ethiopic, and later Syriac) contained the Apocrypha”  (

Also, Melito of Sardis, bishop of Smyrna, in 170AD went to Palestine (Israel, and possibly even Jerusalem) and put together this list of canonical books, and they did NOT include the apocrypha:

The five books of Moses-Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua,76 Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, also called the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six books.

“Philo (20 B.C – 50 A.D.) a Hellenistic Jew, does not mention the apocryphal additions” ( ).

Origen’s list of books in the canon (as reported by Eusebius) did not include the apocrypha ( ).

While some church fathers said people should read the septuagint, that does not mean they felt the apocrypha should be. Such was the case for Cyril of Jerusalem ” Catechetical Lectures,” iv. 33-37, about A.D. 350 ( ):

Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings: 3 for why dost thou, who knowest not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble thyself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters.

Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench 6 thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, 7 and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings 8 are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth 8b one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras 8c are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; 9 then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.

The Council of Laodicia (AD 363) wrote this about the canon of the Old Testament ( ):

60. It is proper to recognize as many books as these: of the Old Testament, 1. the Genesis of the world; 2. the Exodus from Egypt; 3. Leviticus; 4. Numbers; 5. Deuteronomy; 6. Joshua the son of Nun; 7. Judges and Ruth; 8. Esther; 9. First and Second Kings [i.e. First and Second Samuel]; 10. Third and Fourth Kings [i.e. First and Second Kings]; 11. First and Second Chronicles; 12. First and Second Ezra [i.e. Ezra and Nehemiah]; 13. the book of one hundred and fifty Psalms; 14. the Proverbs of Solomon; 15. Ecclesiastes; 16. Song of Songs; 17. Job; 18. the Twelve [minor] Prophets; 19. Isaiah; 20. Jeremiah and Baruch, Lamentations and the Epistle [of Jeremiah]; 21. Ezekiel; 22. Daniel.

Rufinus of Aquileia (340-410) was a friend of Jerome, and had this to say about the Old Testament books ( ):

Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; then Joshua the son of Nun; the book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings, 2 which the Hebrews reckon two; Paralipomenon, 3 which is called the book of Days [Chronicles], and two books of Ezra, 4 which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the Twelve [minor] Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. These comprise the books of the Old Testament.

And he had this to say about the apocrypha:

38. But it should also be known that there are other books which are called not “canonical” but “ecclesiastical” by the ancients: 5 that is, the Wisdom attributed to Solomon, and another Wisdom attributed to the son of Sirach, which the Latins called by the title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book but its character. To the same class belong the book of Tobit and the book of Judith, and the books of Maccabees.

With the New Testament there is the book which is called the Shepherd of Hermas, and that which is called The Two Ways 6 and the Judgment of Peter. 7 They were willing to have all these read in the churches but not brought forward for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they named “apocrypha,” 8 which they would not have read in the churches.

I find it interesting that according to Rufinus, while there were some books which were not canon but were read in church, the apocrypha would not have been read in the churches. This position on the apocrypha is the same basic position held by Martin Luther, as well as Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem, the Jews of Palestine, including Josephus, as well as Philo ( ). In fact, we can see that Athanasius did not consider the apocrypha to be canonical ( ) – with the exception of Baruch, which he combined with Jeremiah – which is interesting because he said in the same letter that “some have taken in hand to reduce into order for themselves the books termed Apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture” ( ).

Hilary of Poitiers (300-368) was a bishop of Poitiers in Gaul and did not count the apocrypha as part of the canon ( ).

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) also did not include the apocrypha ( ).

Amphilochius of Iconium (about A.D. 380) also did not include the apocrypha ( ).

Epiphanius was bishop of Salamis (isle of Cyprus) from 367 to 402 did not include the apocrypha ( ).

While some might want to claim that Josephus believed the apocrypha to be inspired, his own words deny this. I say this because he was clear in his “Against Apion” that the Jews only had 22 books which they considered divinely inspired – none of which included the apocrypha ( ). Because of the different way Christians have of dividing the books of the Old Testatment, that 22 would correspond to the 39 books of the Old Testament we have today. This is what Josephus said regarding the canon:

8. For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, (8) which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in number, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws and the records that contain them; whereas there are none at all among the Greeks who would undergo the least harm on that account, no, nor in case all the writings that are among them were to be destroyed; for they take them to be such discourses as are framed agreeably to the inclinations of those that write them; and they have justly the same opinion of the ancient writers, since they see some of the present generation bold enough to write about such affairs, wherein they were not present, nor had concern enough to inform themselves about them from those that knew them; examples of which may be had in this late war of ours, where some persons have written histories, and published them, without having been in the places concerned, or having been near them when the actions were done; but these men put a few things together by hearsay, and insolently abuse the world, and call these writings by the name of Histories.

The Jewish Babylonian Talmud ( ) tells that the canon of the scripture does NOT include the apocrypha. This was compiled from 3rd century to 5th century ( ).

While some might think the Jesus has quoted the septuagint, there are no such lists which are not in disagreement. Some say He did. Others say He did not. I think its pretty safe to say He probably did – as Jerome said that where the Septuagint was in agreement with the Hebrew text, the apostles used the Septuagint and I imagine Christ would have likely done something similar. But even if He DID quote the Septuagint, this does not mean He considered all the books in it as scripture. The reason is that Jesus said, “this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah” (Luke 11:50-51, cp Matthew 23:35), thus referring to the first and last martyrs of the Old Testament. The first martyr of the Old Testament, of course, was Abel (Genesis 4:8 ) and the last martyr was Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). Since Chronicles is placed at the end of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus was giving evidence of the books of the Old Testament He considered canon. Jesus also spoke of “the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms” in Luke 24:44. So Jesus gave evidence of the contents of the canon of the Old Testament, and it did not include the apocrypha. Also, Paul said that the Jews were “entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1-2) ( ).

Now, some believe that Hebrews 11:35 is a direct reference to 2 Macabees 7. However, I don’t think so. It may have been or may not have been – but certainly no one received back their dead by resurrection in that book. Yes, people were tortured and killed and chose to not violate God’s law in 2 Macabees 7 – but this was not uncommon for faithful Jews even in the times of Daniel and in the time of Jesus – as is evidenced by what Josephus said. It seems to me that receiving back their dead from resurrection would be people like the woman whose son was brought back to life by Elisha (2 Kings 4:18-37), or Jairus’ and his wife’s daughter being brought back to life (Luke 8:30-56). Much of what is spoken of in verses 35-38 speaks of people who had been living in New Testament times. Nothing makes it clear that Hebrew 11:35 is a reference to 2 Macabees 7.

It is obvious from looking at the earliest translations of the Old Testament that the Jews did not consider the apocrypha to be inspired LONG before the hypothetical Council of Jamina. I say hypothetical because there is little evidence that such a council actually occurred ( ). But even so, it is said this council only examined a few books and did nothing to the canon itself.

It is easy to see that Jerome was NOT backing down on his belief that the apocrypha were not part of the canon, if one actually reads the “Against Rufinus” ( ). In fact, Jerome was clear that he did not consider the Septuagint, nor its translators, to be inspired by God (

I do not know whose false imagination led him to invent the story of the seventy cells at Alexandria, in which, though separated from each other, the translators were said to have written the same words. Aristeas,  the champion of that same Ptolemy, and Josephus, long after, relate nothing of the kind; their account is that the Seventy assembled in one basilica consulted together, and did not prophesy. For it is one thing to be a prophet, another to be a translator. The former through the Spirit, foretells things to come; the latter must use his learning and facility in speech to translate what he understands.

And its obvious that Origen did not consider the Septuagint nor its translators to be inspired either. Origen actually corrected the Septuagint from the Hebrew manuscripts ( ) – just as Jerome, the translator who composed the Latin Vulgate version, did.

Yes, some people considered the apocrypha books on the same level as the canonical books. But many church fathers did not. But even so, they were considered useful and good to read.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for providing this resource. I have learned a lot from it.

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