Given the Protestant motto semper reformanda and the doctrine of sola scriptura which in essence strives to purify Christian teaching to be based only on the Word of God interpreted through the lens of the 12 apostles, what is preventing Protestants today from including the Catholic deuterocanonical books back into the canon when it can be shown:

  1. How the NT writers did make allusions to those books

  2. How recent research showed how the NT writers relied on the Septuagint's version of the underlying Hebrew OT vs. the Masoretic text

  3. Appeal to what Judaism itself consider as canon (i.e. 39 books) is irrelevant because Christianity should have its own hermeneutic, especially when the Septuagint text could be shown as less tainted by errors now.

  4. How the two highly voted answers for the question "Why were Deuterocanonical books rejected in the Reformation?" fails to show a good reason for their exclusion from the Protestant canon because none of the reasons mentioned are derived from sola scriptura:

    • Luther and Calvin were motivated to either diminish or eliminate the deuterocanonical books to exclude scriptural support for Catholic doctrines
    • Appeal to St. Jerome's concern of the reliability of Septuagint has since been reversed after the discovery of the dead sea scrolls (see 2nd point above)
    • Synod decision post Luther & Calvin should in principle be re-evaluated when the apostles can be shown to rely on Septuagint more than what was known 400-500 years ago

500 years have passed since the violent and emotional schism. Both the Protestant and Catholic sides, especially in the academia, have since understood each other much better and became much less polemical. In the past 100 years the trend for both sides is to dig deeper into each NT author's 2nd temple Judaism worldview to better inform our understanding of the NT books, which is clearly also in the spirit of sola scriptura.

Of course, one obvious reason is because the Catholic church had developed doctrines unacceptable to Protestants based on those books, like Purgatory, indulgences, etc. But if Protestants use proper hermeneutic to guard against "overzealous" interpretation of those deuterocanonical books (such as by controlling interpretation to what only the 12 apostles taught in the 27 NT books), why not include them in the canon?

What makes this question different from previous questions such as this one is the 21st century context because in principle Protestants are not bound by past decisions (per semper reformanda principle), but bound only by what the NT authors taught (sola scriptura).

Therefore, my question asks for a 21st century argument for rejection based on those 2 principles (semper reformanda and sola scriptura) which should not include polemics and outdated Masoretic text / St. Jerome argument as in the answers of the previous question.

Another way of stating the question (positively): given 1) fresh discovery in the 20th century into Jesus and the 1st generation apostles's OT background (such as the texts they use) and 2) given Protestants's commitment to the semper reformanda and sola scriptura principles, what criteria does it take for Protestants to include back the deuterocanonical books that they rejected 500 years ago in order to fulfill their ad fontes ideal of being faithful to the original revelation?

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    Does this answer your question? Why were Deuterocanonical books rejected in the Reformation?
    – BYE
    Mar 23, 2020 at 16:14
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    I'd give two reasons: tradition (which in this case can be seen as a kind word for ignorance and stubbornness) and the fact that protestant churches don't quite have the grasp on these things that the catholic church does. Some individual protestant groups have their "councils", but they're nothing like the power of the councils the Catholics have called in the past.
    – user3961
    Mar 23, 2020 at 16:36
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    It might be useful to try to explain in greater detail the relevant changes that have taken place in the last 500 years since this is a vital premise of your question. For example, how widely accepted are Second Temple studies in Protestantism? How many NT allusions to deuterocanonicals were discovered only recently? How many Hebrew originals have been found? etc.
    – zippy2006
    Mar 23, 2020 at 16:47
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    @NigelJ I edited my question. I can add more if needed, but I'll need to do some more research. Mar 23, 2020 at 20:23
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    @jlaverde Isn't it about who made the call? I.e., the call on whether a book is inspired or not? Who are we to trust? Can you point to a concrete person(s), an objective standard, or a council to make that call? And when new evidence arose, can you ask those who made the previous call to reassess? Mar 24, 2020 at 20:33

3 Answers 3


Because Protestants do not believe that the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ have borne witness to them that those texts are inspired scripture.

The Westminster Confession (1646) has a fascinating paragraph where it lists off many of the characteristics that set scripture apart from other writings, before dismissing them all to say that the ultimate reason we are persuaded that the scriptures are inspired is the inward work of the Holy Spirit and Christ in the lives of believers, witnessing to us.

WCF 1.5: We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture;
 and the heavenliness of the matter,
 the efficacy of the doctrine,
 the majesty of the style,
 the consent of all the parts,
 the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God),
 the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation,
 the many other incomparable excellencies,
 and the entire perfection thereof,
are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God;
yet, notwithstanding,
our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof,
 is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit,
 bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

The same idea is present in the Belgic Confession (1559):

Article 5: We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical,
for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.

And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them—
not so much because the church receives and approves them as such
but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God,
and also because they prove themselves to be from God.

For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

Now of course as sinful humans we can ignore the work of the Spirit and Christ. But let's consider another example of an issue where I think the Spirit is surely trying to convince the Church about the truth of a matter: infant baptism. For centuries Protestantism has been divided over whether or not infant baptism is a good practice. Individual Christians sometimes switch from one camp to the other, in part I'm sure because of the work of God. It is the Spirit who helps us interpret the scriptures (WCF 1.6) and yet we have not come to an agreement over what the scriptures teach about baptism. Is that because we hold too tightly to our traditions to hear what the Spirit is saying? Perhaps for some people, but for others it appears that, if they are switching camp from falsehood to truth (whichever direction that really is), they are heeding the voice of the Spirit.

What about for the canon? There is no major group of Protestants who believe the dueterocanon is inspired, there is not even a minor group. I can't even think of any notable individuals who have said this. Over five centuries have hundreds of millions, possible billions, of Protestants all tuned out the Spirit's witness to the authority and inspiration of those texts? That does not seem plausible to me. We know that the Spirit has been a witness to the authority of the scriptures because we Protestants fully recognise James as scripture despite our founder Luther's reticence to do so. Instead I must conclude that the Spirit has not been witnessing because those texts are not inspired.

  • Church of England is interesting because she predated Reformation, albeit under another name (Roman Catholic). Between 1534 (formal separation) and 1646 (Westminster Assembly) how would presumably the same priests (who just changed allegiance from Rome to England) handled the transition? Did they just drop their usage of the deuterocanonical books from existing prayer books, liturgy, catechism, etc? Did this happen organically during the 102 year period? Mar 23, 2020 at 23:03
  • @GratefulDisciple That's a good question, but another one ;) But the 39 Articles of 1571 already excluded the Deuterocanon. However the lectionary of the 1662 BCP still included deuterocanonical books. So the exclusion was mixed.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 23, 2020 at 23:10
  • One could draw a similar conclusion, in reverse, for Catholicism and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox; doesn't that lessen the force of your argument? Mar 24, 2020 at 1:10
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    @MattGutting Indeed, that's an issue. But the other denominations are not claiming this as their doctrine, are they? Catholicism would claim the guidance is given to the magisterium, not to the regular lay Catholic member? I think the closer parallel is with LDS, who do say that God will show each individual. In any case, the question asks why Protestants still reject it, and this is the answer. Whether Protestants or Catholics are correctly understanding the witness of the Spirit is a question beyond what this site can handle.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 24, 2020 at 1:19
  • @GratefulDisciple We are talking about exclusion, but maybe the question is about inclusion. Maybe some felt that the inclusion of apocrypha was forced and not genuine. It was DEUTERO or second after all, and many felt these new teachings were not in line with what the original canon taught. Mar 24, 2020 at 15:21

I am summarizing some of the stronger points from this article: https://carm.org/reasons-why-apocrypha-does-not-belong-bible

  1. Jesus defined the Old Testament portion of the canon here:

“From the blood of Abel [Gen. 4:8] to the blood of Zechariah [2 Chron. 24:20], who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation (Lk. 11:51; cf. Mt. 23:35).”

The Jews (who did not include the deuterocanonical books) arranged their Bible differently. Genesis came first and Chronicles came last, listing Zechariah as the last martyred prophet. So this A-Z quote from Jesus defines the full scope of the Old Testament. Jesus argued with the Scribes, Pharisees and Saducees about how to interpret the Scriptures, but he never argued about the scope of the Scriptures, calling for them to add or remove any books.

  1. There are no authoritative statements from the Apostles or Jesus like "thus says the Lord," "as it is written," or "the Scriptures say" when making allusions to the Apocrypha, just as when Paul quoted a Roman poet, which did not therefore make that poet's corpus part of Scripture either.

  2. The Apocryphal books acknowledge that there were no prophets in Israel at their time (cf. 1 Macc. 9:27; 14:41). The Jews also admit that there were no prophets at that time.

  3. The Apocrypha contain a number of false teachings (see: Errors in the Apocrypha). (To check the following references, see http://www.newadvent.org/bible.)

    • The command to use magic (Tobit 6:5-7).
    • Forgiveness of sins by almsgiving (Tobit 4:11; 12:9).
    • Offering of money for the sins of the dead (2 Maccabees 12:43-45).

The article has other arguments, listing which church Fathers opposed including them, such as Jerome. (Roman Catholics and Protestants argue about whether Jerome changed his views later in life. Here is a strong article advocating for Jerome's holding onto a view that the Apocrypha are not inspired Scripture: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/06/guest-blogdid-jerome-change-his-mind.html )

From a more personal standpoint, I (and others) have found several places in the Old Testament that prophecy a time of silence prior to the coming of the Messiah, when there would be no word from God for a time. These writings come from that time period. See Is there any Biblical Basis for 400 years of silence between Old and New Testament?

  • Out of the arguments you mentioned, arguments from false teaching and prophetical silence are the strongest. But I think CARM's St. Jerome's reservation argument is lacking support (is it really true that "Many church Fathers rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture"?) or at least partly no longer valid because recent research shows how Septuagint seems to be more faithful to the Hebrew text used by the apostles (see previous C.SE answer saying "as it turns out, modern scholarship has found that Jerome was wrong on two counts.") Mar 25, 2020 at 15:56
  • From reading this, I now see that Protestants and Catholics have long argued over Jerome's views on these books: taylormarshall.com/2011/09/… Mar 25, 2020 at 16:03
  • I added a reference to another article that substantiates the claim that Jerome never changed his mind and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical. Mar 25, 2020 at 16:17
  • IMO it really comes down to which authority we trust for the canon list. If I put myself as a Protestant advocate, I would say that the value of St. Jerome's later testimony was "tainted" unless there are better reasons to accept the books as canon in addition to his later submission to the AD 382 canonization decision (which of course, Protestants don't accept). If instead I trust solely what the apostles themselves trust (which is what this question is about), then I would be on a more solid ecumenical ground. Later councils would then be true apostolic tradition. Mar 25, 2020 at 16:19
  • The "bookends" arguments for Abel to Zechariah is bunk - see this scholarly article: academia.edu/5460261/…
    – emeth
    Jun 5, 2021 at 5:42

Some protestants, especially those of us who believe in the Bible as infallible, could not add or subtract to what we believe is the Word of God, as it could add to, or even override what was originally written. Circumscision and the sacrificial system are two things that come to mind as being overridden with the advent of the New Testament. Introducing the deuterocanon would do the same, if included, and held in the same esteem as the original canon.

The question really is: Were these books inspired by the Holy Spirit? We don't know, but it is not likely, as many teachings are in direct contradiction with canon.

Jerome, when translating the Old Testament to Latin, could have used the Septuagint which contained apocrypha), but instead used the Hebrew Bible. In the final product he included the apocrypha, but "made it clear that those books should not be considered part of the inspired canon and should not be used to establish Christian beliefs."

Luther, when translating the Bible into German, also included the apocrypha, but "did not consider them equal in authority to the Scripture."

In regards to my specific denomination, some early Adventists leaders read an quoted the Apocrypha, nevertheless, as the Bible was futher studied, these were deemed to be unbiblical as well.


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    I understand the logic of your article which in turn used the authority of St. Jerome in spite of St. Augustine who believed the deutero books to be inspired. But now that St. Jerome's reservation of Septuagint is no longer valid, why keep relying on his judgment? Why not going back to St. Augustine's view? Or per sola scriptura why not go back to the apostles themselves who made allusions to those books to write NT books we consider sacred? Mar 24, 2020 at 17:02
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    @GratefulDisciple I don't believe that just because some apocryphal writings were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls automatically makes them canon. The reason behind this is that there were some writings that were found that weren't even part of the Deuterocanonical writings, eg: the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk, and The Rule of the Blessing. What we have is the content. Is the content, on par with the doctrines prescribed in canon? No, definitely not. Therefore, I believe they cannot be included as canon. Mar 24, 2020 at 17:59
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    "I don't believe that just because some apocryphal writings were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls automatically makes them canon" I agree with you. I'm talking about only the deuterocanonical books in the Catholic bible today that the Protestants took out 500 years ago. The significance of the dead sea scroll is older manuscript of OT books, older than the Masoretic which match better with Septuagint that the apostles used ! Plus never-found Hebrew original of some of the books of the Septuagint. Mar 24, 2020 at 18:33

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