Alternatively: How many books were included in early Bible compilations and then later removed?

A book in the bible, to my understanding, is one of the many named divisions in the Old and New Testament. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John would be 4 different books, and each of Paul's letters to the churchs in the different cities would each be a 'book'

There are a certain number of Books in the King James Version, but how many other 'books' or writings did scholars/historians/religious leaders have access to but for one reason or another, were never included in the more modern Bible compilations. (perhaps due to controversy, or translation disputes, or issues in verifying the author)

If we could go back and add all of these books and letters to the Old and New Testament today, how many books would the Bible have?

This questions comes out of curiousity after seeing books in a Catholic printing of the bible that did not exist in the King James version.

I'm assuming the Apostles or whoever compiled the Bible books, didn't have the whole structure and order down in the exact way they printed now.

  • If there is someone that could suggust a better wording for my question, please do. Every time I read the question, the wording sounds awkward.. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 19:45
  • I think the problem is that you need to define "what was it removed from?" Also the council of Nicaea may be of interet to you. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 19:55
  • Ah, I guess i need a breakdown of the compiling history of the Bible.. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 20:02
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    Quick answer: Thousands of books that death with the interaction of morality and 1st century Judean religious belief were not added. Many were purported as fiction (e.g. The Acts of Perpetua) many more were simply Gnostic Gospels (e.g. Gospels of Thomas, Judas), and still others were just plain silly (e.g.Gospel of Peter). These were neither "banned" nor suppressed. They simply never came to mind when Christians asked other Christians "What are the best books to read?". If you search canon tag, you'll find I've written a lot about the process and criteria already. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 20:11
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    You can find a wide selection of these books online at the Early Christian Writings website. Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


The "books" of the Bible are just that- they are separate works by separate authors in separate contexts. Yes, Luke wrote 2, Moses wrote 5, and Paul wrote somewhere between 7 and 13, but Stephen King has written more than one book, too :)

Matthew, for example, was written by the Apostle Matthew. Luke, by Paul's traveling companion. Mark was written by Peter's close friend. The point is, these are different books by different authors that are just assembled into a library of what, by consensus, has been agreed to be the best of the best.

To ask, "what books dind't make it in?" is answered by a simple statement: everything else.

There were all sorts of Gnostic Gospels at the time, but, of course, the main stream of Christianity rejected that. As such, there was never a "conspiracy" to keep out, say, the 115 proverbs that are the Gospel of Thomas, or the Epistle of Barnabas, or the Gospel of Peter, or Judas, or any of the lot. There was simply a general agreement that all of these books had no more place in the Christian canon than Mitt Romney would in the Democratic Convention.

Additionally, there were several fictional works, in the same way that today people write historical fiction. Google "New Testament Apocrypha" for details.

Finally, one accepted criteria for canonicity was an apostolic claim. As such, important Christian works such as 1 Clement, the martyrdom of Polycarp, The Shepherd of Hermas, or the Didache are highly important and good theology in them. They are worthy of study by Christians, but never made the criteria of canonicity.

In short, the Bible is really a lot like, say, the New York Times best seller list. It is a compilation of what's "best". What's not included isn't trash- its just not in the same league. The same is true of the canon. C.S. Lewis is amazing, but he isn't the agreed upon historical consensus.

  • Dumb question on my part: when Luke wrote Luke, had Paul been converted? Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 3:55
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    Not dumb. But the answer is yes-Luke met Paul after his conversion, wrote Luke and Acts. Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 7:27
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    To add that great list. "The Shepherd of Hermas" was consider for a while as well. Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 10:34
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    @IgnatiusTheophorus - from a Protestant point of view, why would you want to add 7 to the Bible? :)
    – warren
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 18:15
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    @jackweinbender - they weren't viewed as canonical, though - indeed, the Catholic church calls it deuterocanonical
    – warren
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 20:33

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