I understand that both the Eastern Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church accept the Deuterocanonical books as scripture. However, since their founding (I understand that they would both claim to begin with Jesus, I'm referring to their coming to power in a way) happened later in the 3rd century, I'm curious if any citations exist that suggest the 1st Century Church (or 2nd) supported the Deuterocanon.

  • Related: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/86011/50422
    – user50422
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 19:38
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator related but different question.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 19:43
  • Somebody could quote the content here in an answer, and it would be a good one: cin.org/users/james/files/deutero2.htm
    – qxn
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 20:12
  • @ken considering its from Jimmy Akin, it would be quite good!
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 20:12
  • The problem to some extent with this question as phrased and thus with many of the answers which conclude no is what does "accept" mean, what does the "church" mean and what does "canon" mean. The more Protestant answers conclude no for the deutrocanonicals while assuming a uniform consistent acceptance of the rest of Scripture (OT and NT) but is that what history shows?
    – eques
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 17:21

5 Answers 5


Did the 1st Century Church Accept the Deuterocanonical books?

The actual answer to this riddle is unknown, but some have quoted these sources. Even the apocryphal Book of Enoch is referenced to in the New Testament. The Book of Enoch is now regarded as scripture only by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The Catholic canon was set at the Council of Rome (382), the same Council commissioned Jerome to compile and translate those canonical texts into the Latin Vulgate Bible. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent (1546) affirmed the Vulgate as the official Catholic Bible in order to address changes Martin Luther made in his recently completed German translation which was based on the Hebrew language Tanakh in addition to the original Greek of the component texts.

I honestly do not know what books where accepted by the Church in the first two centuries and I doubt anyone can confirm a known Bible Canon to have existed at that time period, one way or another.

Due to the lack of historical documentations it is not clearly known. But glimmers seems to point in a positive way of affirmation, at lest for me.

It seems only natural that the Biblical Canon would be defined after the Age of Persecutions had ended and the Church could devote more time to Doctrine and Scriptural subjects instead of fighting for her safety.

Some Deuterocanonical books seemed to have been held up in higher esteem than some of the Apocrypha books; but no known Canon is known to have existed, until the fourth century.

During the Reformation, for largely doctrinal reasons Protestants removed seven books from the Old Testament (1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Tobit, and Judith) and parts of two others (Daniel and Esther), even though these books had been regarded as canonical since the beginning of Church history.

For example, Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130 – c. 202 AD) makes note of Dan. 13 in his Against Heresies 4:26:3 [A.D. 189]. Dan. 13 is not in the Protestant Bible!

"Those . . . who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts and do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt toward others and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat [Matt. 23:6] and work evil deeds in secret, saying No man sees us,' shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance, nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words to be found in Daniel the prophet: O you seed of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust perverted your heart' [Dan. 13:56]. You that have grown old in wicked days, now your sins which you have committed before have come to light, for you have pronounced false judgments and have been accustomed to condemn the innocent and to let the guilty go free, although the Lord says, `You shall not slay the innocent and the righteous' [Dan. 13:52, citing Ex. 23:7]" (Against Heresies 4:26:3 [A.D. 189]; Dan. 13 is not in the Protestant Bible). - The Old Testament Canon

Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 – c. 235 AD) also quotes Dan. 13.

"What is narrated here [in the story of Susannah] happened at a later time, although it is placed at the front of the book [of Daniel], for it was a custom with the writers to narrate many things in an inverted order in their writings. . . . [W]e ought to give heed, beloved, fearing lest anyone be overtaken in any transgression and risk the loss of his soul, knowing as we do that God is the judge of all and the Word himself is the eye which nothing that is done in the world escapes. Therefore, always watchful in heart and pure in life, let us imitate Susannah" (Commentary on Daniel [A.D. 204]; the story of Susannah [Dan. 13] is not in the Protestant Bible). - The Old Testament Canon

The Didache:

"You shall not waver with regard to your decisions [Sir. 1:28]. Do not be someone who stretches out his hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving [Sir. 4:31]" (Didache 4:5 [A.D. 70]).

One could go on.

Thus the Early Church made use of the Deuterocanonical books in her teachings, even though a fixed Canon was still in the makings.


The Deuterocanonicals belong to an era before Christ was born. The text of the OT was written over about 1,000 years. The last prophetic book, Malachi, was written a little before 400 B.C. None of the writings during the 400 year period from then till Christ was born were accepted as Scripture by Judaism, but accepted as valuable for understanding Jewish history and culture. They came to be known as "the Deuterocanonical books".

Let me quote from this site: http://www.bible.ca/b-canon-council-of-jamnia.htm re. Jewish views on such matters:

"In 90 AD, the council of Jamnia was unimportant in determining the Jewish Canon. It was not a major council like Nicea, but a small collection of rabbinic Jewish leaders. They did not gather to determine the canon of the Old Testament, but rather limited their discussion to the books of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. Roman Catholics and Orthodox leaders misrepresent history when they make claims that the Canon of the Old Testament was not fixed until the council of Jamnia in 90 AD... There was clearly a fixed canon long before Jesus was born."

So, what would that fixed canon be? Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai managed to escape Jerusalem before its destruction in A.D. 70 and received permission to rebuild a Jewish base in Jamnia. It was there that discussion of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon in the Hebrew Bible was discussed and those books formally accepted, although we have no complete surviving record of these debates. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/

But here is what Philo says:

"Flavius Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, a priest and a nobleman, wrote an important treatise in defence of the Jews. It was entitled 'Contra Apionem', and is dated circa AD 100" and quotes parts related to the canon [of Hebrew scriptures]. It deduces from this that "There are several things to note from these remarks of Josephus. (i) For him the canon whose verbal form was inviolable was closed and in fact had been closed from the time of Artaxerxes (465-425 BC) - essentially the time of Malachi. "The number of 'reliable' books which allow for no alteration and are the code on which Jewish life is based... is final... and a sharp line is drawn between them and the numerous records of the period after Artaxerxes which cannot be fully trusted" (Katz, p.76). (ii) This closed canon was a canon of 22 books arranged in three parts - 5 books of Moses, 13 of the prophets and 4 of hymns and practical precepts... his OT canon would be identical with ours irrespective of how he arranged the books within it." (p.28).

This is the historic evidence before the Catholic church was established, and long before the canon of the NT was sorted. The Protestant view includes as canonical those Hebrew books that were quoted from in the NT. This is another reason for the Protestant OT canon differing from the Catholic OT canon, for the Catholics were happy to use material that was never referred to in the NT. In a nutshell, Flavius Josephus's writing about the Hebrew [OT] canon, circa AD 100, is what Protestants go by.

That canon was closed by the time of Jesus. The only issue is whether post-Malachi writings should be included - Catholicism says 7 of them should. But neither Catholics nor Protestants decided the original canon of the OT. The Jewish nation had that sorted before Christianity ever began! Two Church Councils (Hippo, AD 393 & Carthage, 397) had a canon of 46 books for the OT and 27 for the NT, just what the later Protestants had in 1529, though the 7 Deuterocanonicals were put by Luther into an Appendix at the end of the Bible. The settled canon was exactly the same back then as for the much later Council of Trent in 1563. Only from around 1826 the Protestants stopped including the Apocrypha, even as an Appendix. But the Council of Nicaea in 325 had nothing to do with the canon of scripture. See also http://www.ntcanon.org/ http://www.letusreason.org/rc15.htm

The Deutercanonicals belong to the era before Christ was born. The 1st Century Church did not accept them as sacred scripture, though they knew about them.

  • 1
    Correct that Nicea had nothing to do with the OT or NT Canon of Scripture. Eusebius records Constantine asking for 50 copies of Scripture. ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iv.vi.iv.xxxvi.html So, by then, even though the specific books are not mentioned, the Canon itself must have been well established.
    – SLM
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 18:32
  • 5
    This answer claims (dubiously) that 1st-century Jews had rejected the Deuterocanon, but it doesn't say anything about 1st-century Christians. This is an important distinction because, among other reasons, the Jews read their canon differently than a Christian would read her Bible. For the Jews of history and today, the Torah is the only "Word of God". The rest of the Tanach is inspired commentary, history, etc.
    – qxn
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 21:13
  • 3
    We have no historical proof that "the 1st Century Church did not accept them as sacred scripture, though they knew about them." Knew about them yes, but did not accept them is an open question.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 6:34
  • 1
    How does this answer actually address that the early Church didn't use them? You cite only modern post-Reformation sources and Jewish sources. You don't cite a single 1st-3rd century Christian writer (of which there were many whose writings are extant), hence this is mostly an argument from presumed silence.
    – eques
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 17:06

There are a number of verses in the NT that are believed to be references to OT verses from the deuterocanonical books. It may be difficult for the average reader to see this, but biblical scholars do. A good example is Hebrews 11:35 "Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection." referring to the account in 2 Maccabees 7.

So, if some writers of the NT referred to to deuterocanonical books, do you think it would be safe to say that the early church considered them scriptural?

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On the idea of quoting or referencing books as proving they are or should be part of the canon, this is a very weak argument. We all know about Paul quoting from non-scriptural books, but no one argues that an Athenian or Cretian book was somehow not included as God-breathed scripture.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Acts 17:28

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. Titus 1:12

What are they missing? Here's Peter.

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 NLT

The OT prophets spoke from God. This is what set the OT canon apart from all other books, even the ones that might have been used within the books of the OT canon.

But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Acts 3:18

Do we find this idea in the very early church? If we do, it will be clear that the very early church rejected what came to be called the Deuterocanonical books.

The Muratorian Fragment written about 170 CE says this, delineating how to tell the difference; that is, the OT prophets were completed and the NT apostles was also the only accepted books based on their timeframe.

But Hermas wrote the Shepherd (74) very recently, [7c] in our times, in the city of Rome, (75) while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair (76) of the church of the city of Rome. [7d] (77) And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but (78) it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among (79) the Prophets, whose number is complete, [8] or among (80) the Apostles, for it is after [their] time. Muratorian Fragment

Melito about the same time also picks up this definition of what is and what is not scripture. Note how Melito refers to these as "our ancient books" about "our whole faith".

“Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting. Since you have often earnestly requested of me, in consequence of your love of learning, a collection of the Sacred Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets, and what relates to the Saviour, and concerning our whole faith; and since, moreover, you wish to obtain an accurate knowledge of our ancient books, as it respects their number and order, I have used diligence to accomplish this, knowing your sincere affection towards the faith, and your earnest desire to become acquainted with the word; and that striving after eternal life, your love to God induces you to prefer these to all other things. Wherefore, going into the East, and to the very place where these things were published and transacted, and having made diligent search after the books of the Old Testament, I now subjoin and send you the following catalogue:—“Five books of Moses, viz., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, or Wisdom,18 Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Twelve [prophets] in one book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.” Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained, Part I, Section IV. Alexander, Archibald. Quoting from Eusebius.

Melito's OT canon is the same as the protestant canon, sans Esther, which, since he mentions it elsewhere, is merely an overlook.

We back up further to Josephus who again for the OT defines what is valid and to which Melito in the early church will define.

“We have not, therefore, a multitude of books disagreeing and conflicting with one another; but we have only twenty-two, which contain the record of all time and are justly held to be divine. 2. Of these, five are by Moses, and contain the laws and the tradition respecting the origin of man, and continue the history down to his own death. This period embraces nearly three thousand years. 3. From the death of Moses to the death of Artaxerxes, who succeeded Xerxes as king of Persia, the prophets that followed Moses wrote the history of their own times in thirteen books.678 678 [footnote] These thirteen books were:—

  1. Joshua.
  2. Judges and Ruth.
  3. Samuel.
  4. Kings.
  5. Chronicles.
  6. Ezra and Nehemiah.
  7. Esther.
  8. Isaiah.
  9. Jeremiah and Lamentations.
  10. Ezekiel.
  11. Daniel.
  12. Twelve Minor Prophets.
  13. Job. As will be seen, Josephus divided the canon into three parts: first, the Law (five books of Moses); second, the Prophets (the thirteen just mentioned); third, the Hagiographa (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles). The division of the canon into three such parts is older than Josephus; at the same time, his division is quite different from any other division known. Jerome’s is as follows:—
  14. Law: five books of Moses.
  15. Prophets: Joshua, Judges and Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, Twelve Minor Prophets (eight books).
  16. Hagiographa (Holy writings): Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra, Esther (nine books). The division which exists in our Hebrew Bibles differs from this of Jerome’s only in transferring Ruth and Lamentations to the third division, and thus making twenty-four books. This is held by many to be a later form, as remarked above, but as Strack shows, it is rather the original. In the LXX., which is followed in our English Bible, the books are arranged, without reference to the three divisions, solely according to their subject-matter. The peculiar division of Josephus was caused by his looking at the matter from the historical standpoint, which led him to include in the second division all the books which contained, as he says, an account of events from Moses to Artaxerxes. The other four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the regulation of the life of men.
  17. From the time of Artaxerxes to our own day all the events have been recorded, but the accounts are not worthy of the same confidence that we repose in those which preceded them, because there has not been during this time an exact succession of prophets.679 679 The Artaxerxes here referred to is Artaxerxes Longimanus who reigned b.c. 464 to 425. It was under him that Ezra and Nehemiah carried on their work and that the later prophets flourished. Malachi—the last of them—uttered his prophecies at the end of Artaxerxes’ or at the beginning of Darius’ reign. It was commonly held among the Jews that with Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi the prophetical spirit had departed from Israel, and the line was sharply drawn, as here by Josephus, between them and the writers of the Apocrypha who followed them.
  18. How much we are attached to our own writings is shown plainly by our treatment of them. For although so great a period has already passed by, no one has ventured either to add to or to take from them, but it is inbred in all Jews from their very birth to regard them as the teachings of God, and to abide by them, and, if necessary, cheerfully to die for them.” The Church History of Eusebius, Book III, Chapter X. Commentaries 678 and 679 (indented) by Philip Schaff.

For Peter, Melito, and others, the key distinction to determine the OT canon is to ask if it was written during the time of a valid prophetic line? Indeed, Maccabees itself will reference this and thus define itself as non-canonical.

It was a time of great trouble for Israel, worse than anything that had happened to them since the time prophets ceased to appear among them. 1 Maccabees 9:27

“So they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.” (1 Maccabees 4:45b-46).

“And the Jews and their priests decided that Simon should be their leader and high priest for ever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise…” (1 Maccabees 14:41).

So, to answer the OP, no the early church did not accept the Deuterocanonical books as scripture. They are not, like what is scripture, God-breathed, written during a time of a valid prophetic line.

  • 1
    There are several issues here. The claim about Athenian or Cretan not being included is fallacious -- no one would claim that because Paul quotes it is necessarily scriptural and the argument is predicated on assuming the deutrocanonicals are not inspired (hence assuming the conclusion in the argument of sorts). "Do we find this idea in the very early church?" Which idea? Is 100% of the OT prophecy? What about the historical books? Who is Melito and why is his authority trustworthy? Are there no other contemporary accounts? What was the early Church view of the scriptural canon generally?
    – eques
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 17:17
  • An argument is made that various non-canonical books are quoted by early church fathers or within the accepted canon of 66 books. So, folks do make that claim. The idea we find in the very early church is the need to be God-breathed to be included in the OT canon. Josephus mentions it. Peter mentions it. The historical books were written during times of a valid prophetic voice. Even Maccabees affirms this necessity. Luke 24:44 defines the necessity.
    – SLM
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 18:43
  • 1
    Quoting is evidence that they are used by the Christians as an authority not that quoting makes them inspired; hence the comparison fails. In other words, it's not that the NT only quotes inspired sources (your comparison counters that) but that given they are inspired, we would expect them to be quoted (the more usual defense of Deutrocanonicals). Josephus is last I check not a Christian so why should his opinion on Scripture matter?
    – eques
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 19:00
  • You've put the cart (they are inspired) before the horse (they are quoted). Again, no one argues that quoting makes it inspired. Instead, various sources tell us why something was inspired, regardless if it is ever quoted. As to Josephus, again, he's telling us what other sources also say about what makes a book inspired. The others during the 400 year silence period are useful, but not inspired.
    – SLM
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 20:23
  • 1
    That's not the cart before the horse. That expression implies something that follows is done first but my point was that no one was claiming that quoting means inspiration (as you agree) hence logically what is prior is being inspired. Josephus was a Jew who lived after Christ was crucified and resurrected and after the early Church started hence his opinions on scripture are by definition NOT Christian.
    – eques
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 20:27

I'm curious if any citations exist that suggest the 1st Century Church (or 2nd) supported the Deuterocanon.

Jesus and the NT Authors never explicitly quote from the Deuterocanonical books... nor do they explicitly quote from Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. However, as shown in another question/answer, even the King James Bible showed numerous New Testament passages referencing Deuterocanonical passages.

Additionally, one must consider that the Bible for the early church was the Septuagint, which includes Deuterocanonical books.

The Masoretic Text (which excludes the Deuterocanonical books) has numerous minor textual differences from the Septuagint. And yet, throughout the New Testament we see many examples of where the inspired authors quote the Old Testament explicitly from the Septuagint, where the Masoretic Text gives a divergent reading.

  • In Matthew 21:16, Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2 saying "Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have ordained praise". In the Septuagint translation, Psalm 8:2 also says "ordained praise". However the Hebrew Scriptures (Masoretic Text) says "ordained strength".
  • 1 Peter 4:18 quotes the Septuagint Proverbs 11:31 as "If the truly righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?". The Hebrew says, "If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!"
  • Hebrews 11:21 quotes the Septuagint Genesis 47:31 with Jacob bowing in worship over the head of his staff, while the Hebrew has Jacob bowing over the head of his bed.
  • Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes the Septuagint Psalm 40:6-8 as "a body have you prepared for me", while the Hebrew reads as "you have given me an open ear".
  • Acts 13:41 quotes the Septuagint Habakkuk 1:5 starting with "Look, you scoffers", while the Hebrew starts with "Look among the nations".
  • Acts 7:42-43 quotes the Septuagint Amos 5:25-27 as "You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan", while the Hebrew reads as "You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god".
  • Acts 8:32-33 quotes the Septuagint Isaiah 53:7-8 as "In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.", while the Hebrew reads as "By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living".
  • James 4:6 quotes the Septuagint Proverbs 3:34 as "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble", while the Hebrew reads similarly but with different underlying word-concepts as "scorns the scornful but he gives grace to the lowly".

Finally, we can also look at how the early church fathers quoted from these books themselves. Did they treat them the same as other scripture? In a word - yes.

(AD ~80) Clement of Rome

(AD ~135) Polycarp of Smyrna

(AD ~189) Irenaeus

(AD ~198) Clement of Alexandria

Given that your question explicitly states only the 1st or 2nd century, I'll stop here - just know that the examples continue multiplying as you continue on, there's many from Hippolytus (AD ~204), Origen (AD ~240), Tertullian (AD ~240), Cyprian of Carthage (AD ~250), and so on.

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