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In the Catholic tradition, several "apocryphal" books are used in addition to the same Old Testament canon used by Protestants.

  • What is the origin of these books and how do they differ from from the other books?
  • Do Catholics view them as infallible?
  • Are they considered to be on the same level with the rest of the Old Testament or do they have some second rate status such as some form of non-divine wisdom literature?
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2 Answers 2

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  1. The books known as "apocryphal" defined by Protestants are defined by Catholics as "Deuterocanonical" (a second canon) comes from Septuagint, a Greek translation (with these additional books) of Hebrew Tanakh. Which later around 4th century, was translated by St. Jerome to Vulgate, a Latin edition of the OT. Besides the Catholic Church, the Constantinople based Eastern Orthodox Church also received Deuterocanonical books as canonic

  2. Catholic Church consider Deuterocanonical on the same level as other books in OT and NT canon, it is not a separate list, as express in Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) article 120. Deuterocanonical also "infallible", as expressed in CCC article 107, it is without error

  3. From the beginning translation of Vulgate, this topic has been questionable by St. Jerome himself. He consider some of the books and text not found in Hebrew to be apocrypha, as expressed in his prologue to the book of Kings, Esdras, Solomon, Jeremias and Judith. But later through the Middle Ages, Vulgate is accepted to become official translation by the Church (Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox). After Luther's Germanic Bible in 1534, it becomes one of the differencing point between "Old Churches" (Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) and "Protestant and Reformed Churches" (Luther and Calvin)

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Parts of this answer is taken directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) which carries the seal of Imprimi Potest, by which the Catholic Church recognizes the publication to be free of doctrinal error (as I understand it).

On the Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture, attesting to divine authorship:

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

And attesting to inerrancy of all, including the deuterocanonical books (emphasis mine):

107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."

Therefore, the books in question are viewed as inerrant and on the same level as the rest of the Biblical canon, old and new testaments.

To speak to Irawan's point as to how Catholics view scripture, the relationship between scripture and "tradition" is as follows (CCC 80 ff):

One common source. . .

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."

"and [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."

Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. the first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.

Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.

The origins of the Catholic OT canon is rather a lengthy discussion, which can be found here. The gist of it is (emphasis mine):

It now seems more probable that at the time of Christianity's birth, closed collections of the Law and the Prophets existed in a textual form substantially identical with the Old Testament. The collection of “Writings”, on the other hand, was not as well defined either in Palestine or in the Jewish diaspora, with regard to the number of books and their textual form. Towards the end of the first century A.D., it seems that 22 books were generally accepted by Jews as sacred, but it is only much later that the list became exclusive. When the limits of the Hebrew canon were fixed, the deuterocanonical books were not included.


In the West, the use of a larger collection of sacred books was common and was defended by Augustine. When it came to selecting books to be included in the canon, Augustine (354-430) based his judgement on the constant practice of the Church. At the beginning of the fifth century, councils adopted his position in drawing up the Old Testament canon. Although these councils were regional, the unanimity expressed in their lists represents Church usage in the West.

From this information, assuming it's in fact accurate, it could be argued that the reformers rejected an OT canon which the Christian Church had used for well over a millennia; I have read arguments by Catholic writers which suggest that the Jewish canon was altered (or perhaps finalized) well after the Christian church was established, but I cannot find references to support that.

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