Biblical Apocrypha are portions of Bible that are printed in some editions of Bible between Old and New Testament, sometimes called inter-testament. When Martin Luther was translating Latin bible into German language, he left the translation to other people, and labeled it as "Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read".

My Question is, why are they not included in the modern protestant Bible?

  • Maybe you can check out the book "Cheap Bibles: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society" by Leslie Howsam, there seems to be some relevant discussion there.
    – user1539
    Apr 10, 2012 at 10:22
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    ...Fiddler on the Roof music, ... "Tradition!" Apr 10, 2012 at 22:56
  • They were in the KJV in 1611 but were removed by Protestants (of the Calvinist variety) in the 1700s. Since then its rare to find Protestant Bibles with the Apocypha, in the US anyway, but you can find them in some translations like NRSV with Apocrypha. Mar 25, 2014 at 4:29
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    Because Sola Scriptura is a difficult doctrine to comprehend and follow. John Calvin noted about Catholics "that they provide themselves with new supports when they give full authority to the Apocryphal books. Out of the second of the Maccabees they will prove Purgatory". If the Deuterocanonical books are part of the Bible, then as Calvin notes you can prove purgatory from the bible. Still, the early reformers kept these books in the bible, but Sola Scriptura adherents confusion about their status led to the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1647 that fully removed them.
    – emeth
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:27
  • Ultimately because of the tremendous influence exercised by the famous fourth century Church Father Saint Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, upon the Roman Catholic faith, from which Protestantism historically broke off.
    – user46876
    Oct 30, 2019 at 10:35

6 Answers 6


These books of the Bible were accepted as part of the canon (part of the Bible). These books have been around for a long time. First of all, the books called apocrypha are related to the Old Testament. The New Testament is accepted with its 27 books among the major Christianity branches (Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals).

The Old Testament Canon was taken from the Jewish Bible. The Jewish recognized an historical value to the apocrypha, but not one of authority. The Catholics started to view the apocrypha as part of the Bible during the counter-reforme in 1546 (Concile of Trente). Principally to object the protestant attack on particular doctrine like the purgatory.

In fact, the protestants returned to the position of Jerome, who presented the Old Testament with the apocrypha separated to the Old Testament (Prologus galeatus) around 390.

--Source Magazine Theologie Systematique, Article : Apocryphes ou Deuterocanoniques by Henri Blocher. (Sorry for the French source) Here is the English transcript

Why are those books not included in the post-reformed Bible? Simply beacause for the Protestants these books were never part of the Old Testament. The New Testament does not quote them, as it does for most of the Old Testament. The Jewish people did not see those books on the same levels then the rest of the Old Testament Canon.

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    -1 St. Jerome may have had the position that they didn't really belong, but he was obedient to the magesterium and included them in the vulgate. The deuterocanonical books and parts of books were certainly not added to the Bible because of the counter reformation. And only one passage in Maccabees has anything whatsoever to do with purgatory.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 10, 2012 at 17:51
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    I'm not sure if the poster is looking for a long involved answer or a quick simple one. The simple answer is, Protestants and Catholics disagreed on whether these books should be included in the Canon. The long answer is to discuss why and debate which side is right.
    – Jay
    Apr 11, 2012 at 5:24
  • @PeterTurner, I did not entended to be mean in anyway. I tried to provided a simple/quick answer of the evangelical point of view. Most of the answer is a taken from the article of Henri Blocher. Apr 11, 2012 at 10:08
  • -1 to say that the Catholic church put in the deuterocanonical following the reformation simply to refute Protestantism is erroneous. The Catholic bible was official canonized in the late 4rth cent...over 1000 years before Trent catholic.com/tracts/the-old-testament-canon
    – user5286
    Mar 25, 2014 at 12:09
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    "The Catholics started to view the apocrypha as part of the Bible during the counter-reforme in 1546 (Concile of Trente)" - how does that reconcile with the Deuterocanon (which you call Apocrypha) being included in the bible used by Christians from around 400 AD until the Reformation (the Latin Vulgate)?
    – emeth
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:00

It should be noted that the Apocrypha is still included in the Catholic versions of the Bible. They are just omitted in Protestant Bibles. As David Laberge pointed out, these books were never recognized by the Jews as being authoritative or on the same level as Scripture.

The 1611 version of the King James Bible--which was widely used by Catholic and Protestant alike--did, in fact, include the Apocrypha.

So, in order to distinguish between canonical books and the Apocrypha, these books are not included in Protestant Bibles.

  • Yes, it's not "old" versus "new" as stated in the question, but "Catholic" versus "Protestant".
    – Jay
    Apr 11, 2012 at 5:23
  • Not the whole Apocryhpa. Catholic Bibles leave out 2 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, 3rd Macabees, and 4th Macabees. If you buy a NRSV with Apocrypha you get all of those (and the rest too). If you buy a NRSV Catholic Edition, you get none of those. Mar 25, 2014 at 4:31
  • Couple of minor precisions...the Catholic church has (and still does) refer to what protestants call the "apocrypha" as the" deuterocanonical books." It is clearly evident that these books where cited by many church fathers...which eventually led to their official canonical approval at the council of Carthage in 397. These books were later removed by the reformers and their descendants. this is evident as you point out in the fact that it took the Anglican church almost 100 years to remove what had been taken for granted as canonical for 1000+ years. I plan to elaborate with an answer later..
    – user5286
    Mar 25, 2014 at 13:12
  • catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/protestantism/… II
    – user5286
    Mar 25, 2014 at 13:14
  • "As David Laberge pointed out, these books were never recognized by the Jews as being authoritative or on the same level as Scripture." But which Jews? It's important to note you're referring to the Jews AFTER the time of Christ. The Jews you speak of which rejected the Deuterocanon (a subset of what you call the Apocrypha) also rejected the New Testament as inspired, and rejected Jesus as the Christ. Why would they have the authority to determine the canon of the Christian Old Testament?
    – emeth
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:03

Biblical Apocrypha was not part of Old Testament Canon used by Jews in First century Israel. Let me give evidence from Jewish Priest Josephus.

Jewish Priest Josephus clearly explains about the Old Testament Canon used in first century AD.

Against Apion, Book 1, Paragraph 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, 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."

The classification of Laws, Prophets, and Hymns to God in Old Testament (mentioned by Josephus) are also mentioned in Luke 24:44 -

"Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Jewish Priest Josephus mentions (above) why their history written since Artaxerxes are not part of Old Testament.

Josephus (Against Apion, Book 1, Paragraph 8) - "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;"

This is also agreed by 1 Maccabees. For Example, 1 Maccabees 4:46, 1 Maccabees 9:27, and 1 Maccabees 14:41 point out the lack of prophets during the Maccabean period.

1 Maccabees 4:46 - "And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to shew what should be done with them." (Source - www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/I%20Maccabees/index.htm)

1 Maccabees 9:27 - "So was there a great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen among them." (Source - www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/I%20Maccabees/index.htm)

1 Maccabees 14:41 - "Also that the Jews and priests were well pleased that Simon should be their governor and high priest for ever, until there should arise a faithful prophet;" (Source - www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/I%20Maccabees/index.htm)

Although Josephus mentions 1 Maccabees, still it comes from later period which is after the time period of Alexander the Great (Source - Antiquities of Jews XI, Chapter 8, Antiquities of Jews Book XII and Book XIII).

It must be noted that all of the minor prophets are listed as one book called "Twelve Prophets" by Melito in his canon (mentioned in Ecclesiastical History 4.26.13–14).

All of the minor prophets are listed as "Twelve Prophets" in Sirach 49:10 and also in Dead Sea Scrolls. "Book of Prophets" are also mentioned in Acts 7.

Josephus mentions Ezra and Nehemiah in Antiquities of Jews Book XI, Chapter 5 and Esther (during the rule of Artaxerxes) in Antiquities of Jews Book XI, Chapter 6. The canon of Old Testament is till the reign of Artaxerxes as mentioned by Josephus above in Against Apion Book 1, Paragraph 8.

When Josephus says 22 books, he is referring to 22 books in this order.

Law of Moses

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy = 5 books


Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Kings (1 Samuel - 2 Kings), Chronicles (Both books), Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah (includes Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel, Twelve Prophets = 13 books.


Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs = 4 books

For further details, you can check here - http://en.metapedia.org/wiki/Old_Testament.

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    But they were used by Jews in Alexandria. And Josephus clearly uses them as a source for his history of the period between Nehemiah and the birth of Jesus. Mar 25, 2014 at 4:32
  • Have you properly read what I wrote? Josephus does point out that the history was written from the period of Artaxerxes and he did use it for the purpose of Jewish history. But Josephus points out that they are not considered as part of the canon due to the lack of prophets. This is also agreed by 1 Maccabees as I mentioned above.
    – konwayk
    Mar 25, 2014 at 16:25
  • +1 Great use of sources. Absolutely great to hear the ancient jewish perspective on this! so informative.
    – L1R
    Aug 7, 2017 at 23:04
  • On the three-fold division mentioned in Josephus and Luke 24:44, this does not necessarily exclude the books of the Deuterocanon. The Jewish work Baba Kamma 92b proclaims the same three-fold division (Torah, Prophets, Hagiographa) but includes the Deuterocanonical book of Sirach with a quote right after as part of the Hagiographa.
    – emeth
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:17
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    Also, the argument from Josephus and Maccabees about the cessation of prophets proving the Deuterocanon is not inspired also has problems - because by that same logic, Psalm 74:8 and Lamentations 2:9 prove those books aren't inspired. Not to mention that Christians recognize John the Baptist as a prophet (Luke 7:26), and thus that prophets didn't cease since the time of Artaxerxes.
    – emeth
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:17


The deuterocanonical books are in the Old Testament. We are currently living under the teachings of the New Testament.

Since Luther and all the rest were the ones deciding what was to be included and not to be included it seems to me that it makes no difference. Some mortal men were making the decision of what to include and not to include.

If the dead sea scrolls had the deuterocanonical books seems to me they should include them and the Protestant hierarchy (whoever they may be) should revise the Old Testament.

FINAL POINT! It is nice that all this information is out there about the Bible. However, more important is that one follows what is taught in the Bible as Jesus taught.

If the same amount of time was spent telling others of the Gospel that was used to write all the different articles supporting or refuting the books of the Bible maybe our world would be a little different.


Dr. Bruce Shelley, in his book Church History in Plain Language, notes that the debate about these books goes back to the earliest years of the church. He addresses the history behind the inclusion of the Apocrypha in his chapter on the formation of the Bible:

The question is extremely complicated, but the debate centers around the fact that Jews in Palestine in the early years of Christianity had a canon corresponding to the thirty-nine books of the Protestant Old Testament. Jesus referred to this list when he spoke of the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:44). The evidence seems to indicate that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Beyond Palestine, however, Jews were more inclined to consider as Scripture writings not included in this list of books. The Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint was especially influential in making known certain books of the Apocrypha because it included these books along with the Old Testament books accepted in Palestine.

Early Christians also differed, then, over the question of the Apocrypha. Believers in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, nearest Palestine, tended to agree with the Jews in that area. In the West, however, Christians, under the influence of Augustine, the well-known bishop of Hippo, usually received the Apocrypha as part of the canon of Scripture. During the sixteenth-century Reformation most Protestants accepted the view of early eastern Christians and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical. The Roman Catholic church, following Augustine, accepted the books. And that is how the churches differ to this day.

By the way, I recommend Church History in Plain Language as a very insightful and easy to read book on the history of the church. It is written from the Protestant perspective, but in my opinion it is very fair to the Catholic and Orthodox churches as well.

  • This section from Shelley is reviewed here. In short, Shelley's claim that Protestants merely accepted the view of early eastern Christians and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical is false. The above link goes through a near exhaustive list of canon through history, and none match the modern Protestant canon until the 1640s.
    – emeth
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:52

Including anything in a Bible that we don't believe is inspired is always a risk. That includes chapter and verse numbers, section headings and even study notes in study Bibles. People tend to think everything printed in a Bible is right, but section headings and study notes are sometimes not more than guesses, which is why some Christians discourage regular use of study bibles.

The apocrypha is the same. While they may still be useful for serious Bible study, Protestants don't believe they are inspired. They belong in other books, just like commentaries, dictionaries, church histories, textbooks and all sorts of other study tools.

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