Many people ask, “Why does the Protestant Bible have 66 books in its canon, but the Catholic bible has 73 books?”
The fact is, the Catholic church added seven more books to their canonical books at the Council of Trent in April 1546.
These additional books are called “Apocrypha” books or “Deuterocanonicals.” They are: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom [of Solomon], Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, supplements to Esther, and three additions to Daniel: The Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna and the Elders and Destruction of Bel and the Dragon.
The word “apocrypha” came from the Greek word “abscondita” which refers to writings that are carefully concealed or heretical.
They were spurious books that attempted to imitate the books of the Bible. Some of them can be traced to second -third centuries after Christ. They were not part of the Bible because:
1. They were not inspired or God-breathed.
While the Bible tells us it’s the “expression of God” (Dt. 8:3) “words of God” (Jos. 24:27) “commandment of the Lord” (Ezra 7:11) or “reminder of the Lord” (Ps. 19:8), nowhere would you find the statement “thus says the Lord” in the apocrypha.
2. The Lord Jesus and His disciples quoted many times from the Old Testament but never from any apocryphal book. In fact, almost every statement of Jesus in the Gospels is a direct quote from the Old Testament.
3. The apocryphal books were never part of the Hebrew canon. God specifically used the Jews to preserve His Word (Rom. 2:1-2) whereas the apocrypha were written in Greek.
Though some parts of these writings have certain historical value, evidence points to a closing of the Hebrew canon following the writing of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi in the 5th century BC.
First century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote:
“We do not possess myriads of inconsistent books conflicting with each other. Our books, those which are justly accredited, are but two and twenty [the equivalent of the 39 books of the OT according to modern division] and contain the record of all time” (Against Apion I, 8, 38).
4. Many of the early church fathers didn’t consider the apocrypha writings as part of Scripture. According to a Catholic work:
“Melito of Sardis (ca. 170) gives our earliest Christian list of OT books, a list much like the one that eventually became the standard Hebr list (Est is omitted). Origen mentions that the Hebrews have 22 books; Athanasius who had Jewish teachers, insists that the Christians should have 22 books just as the Hebrews have … Jerome did his best to propagate the Hebr canon in the Western church … Those who prefer the shorter canon and express some doubts about the full canonical status of the deuterocanonicals include Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Ephiphanus, Rufinus, Gregory the Great, John Damascene, Hugh of St. Victor, Nicholas of Lyra and Cardinal Cajetan” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer, Englewood Cliff: NJ, 1996, 2:523).
5. Many teachings in the apocrypha contradict the inspired record.
For example, the book of Maccabees teaches prayers for the dead:
“It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they might be loosed from their sins” (2 Macc. 12:45).
This contradicts the Word of God which says “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Heb. 9:27).
The Wisdom of Solomon reflects pagan Gnostic beliefs about the pre-existence of human souls and the physical body being an impediment to the soul (8:19, 20). This contradicts the Bible teaching on creation.
Though this writing presents Solomon as its author (9:7-8), it cites passages from Bible books from the Greek Septuagint which were written centuries after Solomon’s death (998 BC).
6. Many of the stories found within the apocryphal books are legends plagued with historical, moral and geographical errors.
The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. I, 166) declares: “Many of them are trivial, some are highly theatrical, some are disgusting, even loathsome.”
For example, there is the story of Judith, a beautiful woman who seduces Nebuchadnezzar’s officer and beheads him in order to liberate her people. The book says that Nebuchadnezzar “reigned over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh” (Judith 1:1,7). This is an error.
History shows that Nebuchadnezzar ruled over Babylonia and never Nineveh because his father, Nebopolassar, had earlier destroyed Nineveh. Even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible says: “The book of Judith in particular shows a bland indifference to history and geography.”
The book of Tobit is a story of a pious Jew who was deported to Nineveh and becomes blind when bird’s dung dropped on both of his eyes.
An angel impersonating a human appeared to his son, Tobias, who obtains the heart, gall and liver of a fish for magic rituals. With this, he drove away a demon, Asmodeus, who had killed the husbands of a virgin widow seven times. Tobias marries the widowed virgin and then cures his father’s blindness with his fish gall.
Another fairy tale comes from The Destruction of Bel and the Dragon. This story is about Daniel being required by king Cyrus to worship an idol named Bel.
Daniel exposed the priests as the ones eating the food offered to the idol and they were killed. Daniel then smashes the image of Bel and destroys a dragon he was told to worship.
For this, he was thrown in a lion’s den and during his seven-day confinement, an angel picks up Habakkuk by his hair and a bowl of stew from Judea to Babylon to feed Daniel.
Bible scholars point out that apocrypha books “have been the fruitful source of sacred legends and ecclesiastical traditions. It is to these books we must look for the origin of some dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church” (Funk and Wagnalis New Standard Bible Dictionary, 1936, 56).
Many Catholics are told that “Martin Luther removed the apocrypha from the Protestant Bible.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Martin Luther DID include the apocrypha in his German Bible translation (1534), but he wrote:
“These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.”
According to Alexander McClure: “the Apocryphal books in those times were more read and accounted of than now, though by no means placed on a level with the canonical books of Scripture” (Translators Revived, p 185).
There wasn’t any need for someone to expunge these false writings from the Bible, they had already done that by themselves.