According to Wikipedia, the deuterocanonical books include:

Canonical for the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church:

  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Baruch
  • Sirach
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • Wisdom
  • Additions to Esther, Daniel and Baruch

Canonical only for the Eastern Orthodox Church:

  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Esdras
  • Psalm 151
  • 3 Maccabees
  • 4 Maccabees as an appendix

According to Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, what are the strongest apologetic arguments for the divine inspiration of the deuterocanonical books?

Related and/or similar questions:

  • 2
    The idea of a deuterocanon is a Catholic concept, not an Orthodox concept. This question should be focused on Catholicism or Orthodoxy, and it brings a lot of assumptions not shared by Orthodoxy so I’d recommend focusing it on Catholicism. The Orthodox groups don’t have the same concept of a fixed canon, and even within Orthodoxy there are variations on the books.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 14:19
  • Historically speaking, Christianity was rejected by native Israeli Judaism (Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4, Luke 4:24, John 4:44), finding a more suitable home within the Hellenized Jewish diaspora and among gentile God-fearers; as such, the Greek Septuagint became its de facto Old Testament; see also this deleted post.
    – user46876
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 21:16
  • I would propose that you make this either a broad question to encompass all Christian churches (i.e. Lutherans, etc.) or make it shorter as the Eastern Orthodox Church does not view the deuterocannon being valued to the same extent as the other books of the O.T. (See my post below)
    – Jess
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


According to Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, what are the strongest apologetic arguments for the divine inspiration of the deuterocanonical books?

For one thing, the Early Church Fathers were much closer in time to the actual sources. Even St. Augustine listed the deuterocanonical books (and the other 66 books) as Scripture. Such a great Doctor of the Church surely believed in what he passed on to other generations.

Thus as for the Catholic Church:

How to Defend the Deuterocanon (or ‘Apocrypha’)

The Old Testament in Catholic Bibles contains seven more books than are found in Protestant Bibles (46 and 39, respectively). Protestants call them (inaccurately) the Apocrypha, while Catholics refer to them as the deuterocanon. These seven books are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or, Sirach), and Baruch.

They were included in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament from the third century B.C.). This was the “Bible” of the apostles and Church fathers. St. Augustine, for instance, even regarded the Septuagint as inspired.

The Church councils at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419) listed the deuterocanonical books (and the other 66 books) as Scripture, endorsing what had become the general belief of the universal Church. Pope Innocent I sanctioned the first two conciliar rulings in his Letter to Exsuperius in 405. The Council of Trent confirmed this canon in 1548.

The earliest Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament, such as Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century), and Codex Alexandrinus (c. 450) include these seven books mixed in with the others. The practice of collecting the into a separate unit dates back no further than 1520 (i.e., three years after the Protestant Revolt began). Thus, the separation of these books is the innovation or “novelty.”

Some have argued (I think with some force) that Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism rejected the deuterocanon at least in part because he felt that they taught theological error. Luther freely granted that 2 Maccabees 12:46 taught the doctrine of purgatory, stating, “The text in Maccabees . . . is quite plain” (Letter to Georg Spalatin, 7 November 1519).

Yet Luther appears to contradict his “hostile” view of the deuterocanon in many places in his writings (even relatively late in his life), where he refers to several of its books as “Scripture”:

God confirms all this with many excellent examples in the Scriptures. . . . when Joseph and Azariah wanted to fight to gain honor for themselves, they were beaten [I Mac. 5:55-60]. (Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved, 1526)

The Holy Scriptures also praise such good will, as in Ecclus. 25:2 f.: . . . (Selected Psalms III, this citation is from December 1531)

Thus Scripture reports of the patriarch Jacob (Wisd. of Sol. 10:12): . . . (Commentaries on 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15 / Lectures on 1 Timothy; this citation is from 1 Corinthians 15, April 1533)

It is proper for the first book [of Maccabees] to be included among the sacred Scriptures, . . . (Preface to the Second Book of Maccabees, 1534)

It should be noted that St. Jerome included the deuterocanonical books in the Bible.

Besides all this the Orthodox Churches accept the Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), which sanctioned these very books. This is well over a 1,000 years before Luther placed his doubts into Christendom’s mind and thus started the cleavage of Christendom itself.

In the Early Church, it must be remembered that both Catholics and Orthodox were united.

This Council (397) as I have already noted was much closer the commencement of Christianity and thus the influence of the Early Church would have been very strong. Remember that the Roman Persecutions (313) had just came to an end and the Church was then able to expand its doctrines and consolidate its beliefs without fear of shedding more blood.

The following may be of interest:

  • The quote you provide from Dave Armstrong assumes that Martin Luther "rejected the deuterocanon." But what is Armstrong's source for Luther rejecting 2 Maccabees as Scripture? It would be really odd to find out that Luther did not agree with Melachton about Maccabees being Scripture in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession.
    – Jess
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 18:51
  • @Jess who knows what he believed! ”So we find that Luther included the apocryphal books in his Die Bibel. He did not consider them equal in authority to canonical Scripture, and held they should not be used to define Christian doctrine. In other words, Luther saw them as secondary, yet still worthy of being read, as anagignoskomena.”
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 21:02
  • Ok, I found references where Luther states the deuterocannon are not equal to other books of Scripture. But he still considered them Scripture and part of the Bible. And if it is Scripture than it should have canonical authority to establish doctrine. A straightforward unconditional (quia) subscription to the Apology to the Augsburg Confession would require a belief that 2 Maccabees is canonical Scripture and thus able to be used to establish doctrine. kimberlinglutheran.com/2011/01/13/…
    – Jess
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 21:09
  • I have heard the same logic in conservative Lutheran circles about the disputed books in the New Testament (e.g. James, Hebrews, Revelation, etc.). Their apostolic attestation in the early church is good enough for their being in the Bible as Scripture, but not enough to warrant the view that they can be used to establish doctrine.
    – Jess
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 21:15
  • Putting them as an addition does not make them Scripture. Some Catholic Bible have other apocryphal writings at the end of their Bible simply “lest they parish”. I have for example the Book of Enoch in some editions.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 21:18

Actually, Jordan Bajis writes in his catechetical book, “Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian” (page 93) the following:

The Orthodox Church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, only recognized 49 books as belonging to the Old Testament canon. The Eastern Church assigns a “second” place of honor after the New Testament and Old Testament cannon, to these remaining pre-New Testament book (they are referred to as deuteron-canonical books). Although these books are not valued to the same extent as other books in the Biblical canon, the East admits that they do have historical and spiritual value. These books are: Esdras I, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Maccabees I, II, and III, and the Epistle of Jeremiah. For further discussion see John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p. 7-11.

On the other hand, in considering the spirit of the question, it is interesting to point out that while Lutherans are not bound by everything that Martin Luther writes, confessional Lutherans do unconditionally subscribe to what is called the Augsburg Confession & the Apology to the Augsburg Confession." Those confessions explicitly infer that, at least 2 Maccabees, is considered "Scripture." (Art. XXI (IX): Of the Invocation of Saints)

It's interesting to reflect that both the Greek Orthodox Church & the Lutheran Church reject the doctrine of purgatory and yet, at least the Lutherans, still considered 2 Maccabees to be Scripture. Some insight on why can be found by Lutheran theologian, Rich Futrell, here. See also his article on the Apocrypha here.

To add to what was written in the above articles, it should be pointed out that the early Lutherans did not want to dogmatically prohibit the intercession of saints. For example in the Roman Catholic contribution to “A Joint Commentary on the Augsburg Confession by Lutheran and Catholic Theologians” there is an interesting footnote on page 282. It states that according to the minutes of the discussion for the 16/17th of August:

They agree in the first place that all the saints and angels in heaven intercede for us with God. Secondly, that it is both pious and right to remember the saints and observe festivals on which we pray God to let the intercession of the saints avail for us. But whether the saints are to be invoked by us was not agreed on. Indeed, they say that they do not prohibit it, but since Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, they themselves do not wish to invoke them not only because Scripture does not teach it, but also because it seems to them to be a dangerous abuse. (F.W Schirrmacher, ed., Briefe und Arten zu der Geschichte des Religionsgespräches zu Marburg 1529 und des Reichstages zu Augsburg 1530 {Gotha: 1876; reprint, Amsterdam: 1968}, p. 222)

The big question is which books did Jesus put his stamp of approval upon? It appears that in the days of Jesus, Josephus writes the following:

We have but twenty-two [books] containing the history of all time, books that are justly believed in; and of these, five are the books of Moses, which comprise the law and earliest traditions from the creation of mankind down to his death. From the death of Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, the successor of Xerxes, the prophets who succeeded Moses wrote the history of the events that occurred in their own time, in thirteen books. The remaining four documents comprise hymns to God and practical precepts to men. (Contra Apion 1:7-8)

On the other hand, the book of Maccabees is the single source for how a Jewish person is to celebrate Chanukah. And Brant Pitre has a nice argument for why the council of Jamnia (if it did happen), in the first century, did not decide what should be included in the canon. He points out that in the Talumdic period the canon was not settled as closed, but included the deuterocanonical books like Sirach as Scripture. So, it is conceivable that Jesus & the disciples mights have considered the deuteron-canonical books as part of their canon. See here.

As was pointed out by another responder, the Church councils at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419) listed the deuterocanonical books (and the other 66 books) as Scripture. While it could be that the councils were in error, the Lutheran church (in their confessions) has given it the benefit of the doubt that the councils were in touch with an apostolic oral tradition of what Jesus used for the canon of his day.

And that would be the strongest Roman Catholic argument as well. The Holy Spirit worked on in the early church to bring them into an agreement on what was faithful to the apostolic witness related to what should constitutes the canonical Scriptures.


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