At what date (and/or event) was the Old Testament canon currently recognized by most Protestants finalized? What is the earliest occurrence we have of it being referenced in it's current form and who (or what event) announced it as finalized?

  • What Protestants do you have in mind, exactly, and what precisely do you mean by finalized ? Lutherans and Anglicans, for instance, do not really (dis)regard the Apocrypha in quite the same manner as modern Evangelicals.
    – user46876
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 6:11
  • @Lucian I think it's reasonable to expect a good answer to cover this as it is currently scoped and note those non-core differences along the way.
    – Caleb
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 7:25

2 Answers 2


According to Talmud, the Tanakh canon (Protestant OT) was compiled in 450 BC, but modern scholars describe the development of the canon as a process occurring between 200 BC to 200 AD. First the Torah, then the Nevi'im, and then the latest is the Ketuvim.

  • 3
    The Canon recognized by Jews and most non-catholic churches are same. Some of the books came to light in 3rd Century gets added to catholic old testament. All the books and all content found in OT canon recognized by Protestants are found in Catholic OT canon as well.
    – Jamess
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 5:19
  • @Jamess Could you define 'came to light'? Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 22:38

For a short answer to the question,

in 1647 the Westminster Confession of Faith was issued which decreed a 39-book OT and 27-book NT, the others commonly labelled as "Apocrypha" were excluded.

You can see the statement in http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs.

For the long explanation, you can look at this wiki article:


In Jesus' time there was no one universal canon for all Jews, but two competing ones, which I list below.

The Masoretic Text (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masoretic_Text) formed the basis for the Protestant Bible, for example, and is what the Jews use as authoritative.

The Septuagint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint) includes the deuterocanonical books, and was quoted by the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers, but that does not imply they they took it as being inspired, but they were familiar with them.

During Luther's time there were disagreements as to what to include in the OT, and this continued until 1647 when it appears the final change to the OT canon for the Protestant church was put to rest.

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    Was there a change in 1647 or some other close date that needed to be ratified? If so what was it? What specifically were the disputed books in Luther's time, who was doing the disputing, and did anything end up changing?
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 19:26
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    @Caleb - If you read the wiki article, they point out that in 1611 the King James version included at least parts of the Apocrypha, so it wasn't still a settled issue. In 1647 seems to be the final word on what would be included, though Lutheran and Anglican bibles still had the Apocrypha, until the 20th century, according to the article. You can read about Luther's Canon (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther%27s_canon) to get more background on what Martin Luther wanted. Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 19:41
  • "decreed...the OT canon for the Protestant church was put to rest" How is that different than a dogmatic Council, in that its judgement is simply identical with the truth about Scripture, and nothing less than infallible? Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 22:43

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