It may surprise you to know that I don’t have much of a problem with the Apocrypha. I enjoy reading them. As well, as a Protestant, accepting or rejecting them does not really affect my standing in my tradition (nor should it). Granted, I don’t know of any magisterial Protestant churches which have ever accepted them as canonical; if there is one, accepting the Apocrypha would not make them non-Protestant, and it certainly would not make them Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. My point is that I have never felt pressure to fall in line with the Protestant tradition of rejecting them outright. I have often been intrigued by their acceptance among other Christ-fearing traditions. However, while I don’t have much of a problem with the Apocrypha, I do agree with my Protestant tradition and reject them as being a part of the Scripture.

It is hard to define the Apocrypha. Sometimes they are termed “Deuterocanonical” books. This is a more politically correct or theologically neutral way to refer to them coined by Sixtus of Siena, the Jewish convert to Catholicism, in 1566. This semantic distinction has a history and rationale behind it that I will not have time to get into. I will just use the terms Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical books interchangeably.
It is interesting to note, too, that different Christian traditions have different Apocrypha. We can be safe for the moment and say that we are discussing the books accepted into the Bible by Roman Catholics but rejected by Protestants. In the Catholic Bible, the Apocrypha comprise seven unique books (or six, if Baruch is combined with Jeremiah), plus additions to two other books:

Additions to Esther
Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon)
Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (or Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira)
Additions to Daniel
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

These works are generally believed to have been originally written in Greek (sometimes called the “Greek Canon”) and to have been composed between the writing of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Protestants wrongly assume that these works are only accepted due to the institutionalized church’s reaction to the Protestant Reformers, just as Roman Catholics wrongly assume that they were only rejected due to the Reformation. The issues are more complex than any of the usual sound-bite explanations would lead us to assume. There are very good reasons to accept the Deuterocanonical books and there are very good reasons to reject them. Let me start with a brief defense of their acceptance.

Arguments for their inclusion:

1. Inclusion in the Septuagint (LXX)

These works seem to have been included in the LXX (B.C. 300–150), the Greek translation of the Old Testament from which the New Testament writers drew significant amounts of material. Evidence for this is found in the great Alexandrian manuscripts Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, and the great Codex Sinaiticus. Truth be told, Evangelical Protestants are more than willing to venerate these manuscripts for their value in establishing the text of the New Testament, but would probably not like their voice being heard when it comes to the canon of Scripture.

This, to me, is the most compelling reason to accept the works in question as canonical.

2. Inclusion in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Several Deuterocanonical works were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. This evidences an early respect for and, possibly, acceptance of the Deuterocanonical books.

3. Early Christian usage

Some early Christians used these works authoritatively, sometimes even quoting them as Scripture (e.g., Clement of Alexandria used Tobit, Sirach, and Wisdom, and Irenaeus used Wisdom).

4. Acceptance by early Church councils

Many early Church councils included these works as part of the accepted canon of Scripture (Rome 382; Carthage 393; Hippo 397). These are the same church councils that Protestants often refer to in support of the New Testament canon, but we rarely realize that the Old Testament canon of these councils included much of the Apocrypha.

Both #3 and #4 evidence, at the very least, a deep tradition within the church that accepted these books as canonical.

Protestant Response

1. It is disputed whether or not these books were included in the LXX

The earliest copies of the LXX that we have are Christian in origin and were not copied until the fourth century. It is hard to tell if the original Alexandrian Jews had this wider canon. Philo, a first century Jewish scholar in Alexandria who used the LXX extensively, did not mention the Apocrypha, even though he commented on virtually all the Protocanonical books (the 66 books universally accepted as canonical). The same can be said for Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian who used the LXX extensively, who explicitly states that the apocryphal books were never accepted as canonical by the Jews.

More importantly, the three major extant copies of the LXX listed above do not agree concerning the canon of the Apocrypha. They all have different lists with different Apocrypha. As well, each contains Psalm 151, which the Roman Catholic Church rejects. Therefore, these lists are not even necessarily authoritative to Roman Catholics.

2. Many works found among the Dead Sea Scrolls are not canonical

The overwhelming majority of the works found among the Dead Sea community and contained in the “Dead Sea Scrolls” are not Scripture, either Protocanonical or Deuterocanonical. While it is interesting that some are present, it only evidences their respect in this community, which Protestants recognize.

3. The earliest Christians seem to have rejected them

While early Christians did quote from the Deuterocanonical books from time to time, the earliest Christians showed no evidence of their accepting them as Scripture. It may have been when the early Christian community began to break ties with the Jews that their inclusion became an issue. The earliest Christian list of books in the Old Testament is that of Melito, bishop of Sardis (A.D. 170), and it contains only the Protocanonical works (although it does seem that this canon is incomplete and the Deuterocanonical works may have been placed at the end—but this could also serve the Protestant cause).

4. The early councils were not universal councils

Hippo, Rome, and Carthage were all North African or Roman church councils that did not have the authority to declare the canon. Augustine, the North African bishop of Hippo, accepted the Apocrypha (although slightly different than the Roman Catholic version) and had heavy influence upon these councils. This may explain these particular councils’ acceptance.

Arguments for their Exclusion

1. Church tradition is too divided about their acceptance to evidence the voice of God

While most of the church prior to the Reformation did accept the Apocrypha as canonical, there is still significant contention about its status. It would seem that most of the laity accepted it due to its inclusion in the Vulgate (the accepted Latin translation of the Bible), but a significant number of scholars and theologians rejected it. The controversial nature of the Apocrypha’s acceptance, compared to the universal acceptance of the Protocanonical works, leads one to believe that the “voice of God” heard by his sheep is not so evident in these works. As well, the disagreement means that these works fall outside the Vincention standard of orthodoxy: “Everywhere, always, and by all.” While acceptance of the Apocrypha was rather widespread, it was not “everywhere, always, and by all.” Can they represent the inspired voice of God with such a history in the church?

Here is a list of some Church leaders throughout history who rejected part or all of the deuterocanonical/Apocrypha books:

  • Origen, a second-century theologian, rejected the Apocrypha, listing the canon to be 22 books (equivalent to the Jewish and Protestant canon).
  • Athanasius, the fourth-century bishop of Alexandria, rejected most of the Apocrypha, holding to a 22-book Old Testament canon.
  • Jerome, who was commissioned by the Church in the fifth century to translate the Scriptures into Latin, produced the Latin Vulgate, which was the Church-approved translation for over a thousand years. He did not accept the Apocrypha but adhered to a Jewish canon of 22 books.
  • Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, rejected the book of 1 Maccabees.
  • The Venerable Bede, historian and doctor of the Church, in his commentary on Revelation, listed the Old Testament books to be 24 in number (the same as the Jewish and Protestant canon).
  • Ambrose of Autpert, a ninth-century theologian, rejected all or part of the Apocrypha.
  • Hugh of St. Victor, a leading theologian of the twelfth century had problems with it.
  • John of Salisbury, one of the leading scholars of the twelfth century who became the Bishop of Chartres also rejected all or part of it.
  • Rupert of Deutz, an early twelfth century theologian rejected it.
  • Hugh of St. Cher (Hugo Cardinalis), a Dominican cardinal of the thirteenth century rejected it.
  • Nicholas of Lyra, one of the most highly regarded and influential theologians of the Middle Ages, surpassing even Thomas Aquinas in authority as a biblical commentator, rejected it.
  • William of Ockham, in his Dialogues, wrote that the Church did not receive the books of the Apocrypha as canonical.
  • Cardinal Cajetan, the opponent of Martin Luther, wrote a commentary on all the books of the Bible and even dedicated it to the Pope, saying that the Apocrypha was not canonical in the “strict sense.” Therefore, the deuterocanonical books were not included in his commentary and he fought against their canonization at Trent.
  • Glossa ordinaria, the standard commentary of the late Middle Ages studied and respected by all in the Church, says that the Church did not believe the deuterocanonical books were inspired. Here is the preface: “The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into doubt or contention, or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogma, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them.”

2. The New Testament does not directly recognize them as Scripture

The NT never directly quotes any apocryphal book as Scripture with the common designation “it is written.” Often, when people claim that it does, quite a stretch is required to get the references to match the Deuterocanonical books.  At best, they are mere allusions that demonstrate knowledge of the Deuterocanonical books. And if there are genuine allusions to certain Deuterocanonical books, this does not mean that the writer believed them to be inspired any more than Paul’s quotation of Aratus (ca. 310–245 B.C.) in Acts 17:28 means that he believed Phaenomena was part of the canon. (See also where Jude quotes from the apocryphal book Enoch in Jude 1:9, which Roman Catholics do not include).

3. The Palestinian Jews rejected the Apocrypha

The most significant data we have available supports the rejection of the works in question by Palestinian Jews (those who lived in Israel at the time of Christ). This was the key argument for the Reformers. The basic idea is that if Christ did not recognize them, they are not canonical. Again, Josephus (born c. 37 A.D.), a primary Jewish historian, plainly writes about the accepted canon of his day which is the same as the current Protestant canon. He makes no mention of the Apocrypha and does not hint at a canon controversy in his day (Against Apion 1.41). The Talmud makes a similar point: “After the later prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.” Philo, who lived in Alexandria in the first century, did not accept the Apocrypha either.

This, along with the historic controversy about these books, are the most significant reasons for my rejection of the Apocrypha.

4. Bad Theology and History

From the perspective of many Protestants, there are significant theological inaccuracies in the Deuterocanonical books (e.g., works-based salvation, Tobit 12:9; cruelty, Sirach 22:3; 42:14, 2; doctrine of purgatory, 2 Maccabees 12:41–45). What is more, these books seem to have some significant historical errors. It is claimed that Tobit was alive when the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 B.C. and also when Jeroboam revolted against Judah in 931 B.C., which would make him at least 209 years old; yet according to the account, he died when he was only 158 years old. The Book of Judith speaks of Nebuchadnezzar reigning in Nineveh instead of Babylon.

Now, personally, I don’t want to overstate the “Bad Theology” issue. While many passages in the Apocrypha make me raise an eyebrow or two, I need to be careful here. After all, if I can accept Ecclesiastes and the book of James and fit them into my theology, I probably could with most of the troublesome passages in the Apocrypha as well.

And I guess tat this is a good place to note that the Roman Catholic contention that Protestants rejected the Apocrypa in order to support the theology of the Reformation is, in my opinion, manipulative and does not have much logic behind it. After all, there is really nothing in the Apocrypha that is too bad, or militates conclusively against Protestant theology. If Protestants had felt that they could play so loose with the canon to fit it to their agenda, it is highly probable that James also would have been rejected.

5. Self-attestation of cessation of canonical books

The Apocrypha itself attests to the absence of prophets in its own time.

1 Macc. 9:27
“Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.”
Although I don’t think this is the greatest argument, it does hold some value.


I read the Apocrypha. I enjoy it very much. While I don’t think it should be part of your “through the Bible in a year” program,” I do think all Christians should study and read it. Some of it brings personal enrichment and great historical value. However, due to its rejection by the Jews at the time of Christ, and the continued dispute throughout all of church history, I don’t see its acceptance as part of the regula fide of tradition. I understand why Roman Catholics (and sometimes Eastern Orthodox) accept it and I respectfully disagree. With such a history, it is simply too hard for me to say that it is the voice of God.

Jn. 10:27
“My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    35 replies to "Why Do I Reject the Apocrypha?"

    • John

      – Some of these books are actually “generally believed” to have been written in Hebrew. I’m pretty sure we have bits of some of them in Hebrew, but I can’t be bothered digging out my books right now to refresh my memory which ones. Yes, some, or most of them were definitely written in Greek.

      – I’m pretty sure it is only the Pentatuch LXX that is generally thought to be an Alexandrian work. The rest of the LXX (as it is generally labelled) is of uncertain, various and organic origin. There is no point referring to some “original” LXX.

      – Rome dropped Psalm 151 because of Jerome and his decision to use Hebrew. The decision of one man isn’t really that great a reason to omit it.

      – There is little reason to treat all the so-called deteros as one block. Therefore, that the various LXX manuscripts omit some, is certainly no argument to omit them all.

      – Josephus’ canon is not completely clear, even though it is certainly closer to the Protestant canon.

      – Most people think Josephus was only one opinion among many. (Barber, Michael (2006-03-04). “Loose Canons: The Development of the Old Testament (Part 1)”)

      – It’s all very well to talk about Melito and the “earliest canon”, but the same criteria would mean Protestants ought to omit Esther. There isn’t a consistent way for Protestants to arrive at a precise 39 books.

      – Yes tradition is divided. But it is more united about some of the deteros than it is for Esther. Inconsistency again.

      – Vincentian again? I’d love to know what arbitrary cut off date there is for Vincent, since the maturing church, east and west was in favour, even if the early church was divided.

      • Joe King

        Just on your point re Melito, Protestants don’t rely on him alone as evidence against including the Deutero books. He is collaborated by other significant evidence for rejecting the Deutero books. His omission of Esther however, is not supported by other evidence. It makes it likely that his omission of Esther was a mistake. Hope that helps.

    • John

      – I have a big problem with your list of church fathers, because ALL of them with the exception of Jerome accepted some deuteros. Even Jerome is ambiguous because he can be seen quoting them as scripture. I mean I could say “Athanasius accepted the deteros”. It’s true – he accepted some of them. Glass half empty or half full? All of them save Jerome and his sidekick Rufinius accepted some.

      – I forget the exact numbers, but something like only 10 OT books are definitely recognised by the NT as scripture and inspired. Certainly it’s nowhere near 39.

      – And also, nowhere near the full 39 are quoted in the NT.

      – Josephus represents only one sect of Palestinian Jews. His works are preserved because they were the successful sect in following centuries (albeit, obviously an unChristian sect).

      – And Palestinian Jews are obviously not the only Jews.

      – Jews, Rabbis and Talmud can be seen quoting the occasional deutero as scripture.

      – “Bad theology” begs the question.

      – Read some scholarly works. The “prophesy ceased” thing only applied to a very limited time point. In any case, John the Baptist was a prophet from the OT times, so its an un-Christian viewpoint.

      • Joe King

        Just re the list of church fathers, it seems clear that the vast majority of theologians, bishops and cardinals throughout the Middle Ages followed Jerome in rejecting ALL the Deutero books. Here is a helpful layout of the primary sources. Worth reading them for yourself:

        Jerome is unambiguous re his views on any book outside what Protestants hold to today. However, he still thought highly of the Deutero books and often quoted them for edification purposes. This is the principle Jerome followed, as did most of the western church after him:

        “As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Eccesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church”.

    • C Michael Patton

      John, for the most part, you have done nothing more than restate my arguments with similar footnotes. However, unlike me I think you fail to be intellectually honest and admit that there is legitimacy to both sides.

    • C Michael Patton

      And it may surprise you to know that I think St Vimcent was a borderline heretic! I just like his expression of the regula fide.

    • James Dowden

      On the language issue, generally they were clearly written in Hebrew, with the following exceptions:
      1) Parts of 1 Esdras were written in Aramaic, much as is the case with Ezra, of which it is a variant recension with a long addition (1 Esdras 2:30b-5:6). Other Hebrew books have different recensions in the LXX, but they tend to be the shorter of the two (e.g. Job, Jeremiah).
      2) 2 Esdras has a Hebrew core of chapters 3-14, with the rest being composed in Greek at a very late date, probably in the West.
      3) Wisdom, 2 Maccabees, and the Prayer of Manasseh are very obviously originally Greek.
      4) Baruch has generally been considered rather ambiguous. 1:1-3:8 is undisputedly Hebrew, whilst the poetic sections 3:9-4:4 and 4:5-5:9 were subject to a lot of dispute until D.G. Burke’s the Poetry of Baruch made most people lean toward the Hebrew side.
      5) The Additions to Esther are mixed: Additions B and E are Greek, whilst the rest are Semitic of some variety.
      6) The Additions to Daniel are similarly mixed: Susanna is a Greek work; Bel and the Dragon is Semitic of disputed variety; and the Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three (and probably the narrative fragments linking them) are clearly Hebrew, probably being liturgical texts that got inserted in a convenient place.

      But one more general point I would seek to make is that this rich composition history, dubious theology, and variations in when they were accepted and by whom are not confined to the so-called Apocrypha, although it is easier for modern Protestants to admit it when it occurs in these books.

    • Marv

      The thing I find interesting is how many people take not authoritative scripture to mean totally worthless and to be avoided at all costs.

    • Irene

      This is a great post –different arguments nicely laid out.

      I’d like to take a swing at your “Argument for Exclusion #3: The Palestinian Jews Rejected the Apocrypha”.
      You even say this was “key” for the reformers. However, why should the reformers (or anyone) accept the canon as set forth by Jews who did not recognize the divinity of Christ? Moreover, why should anyone accept the Jewish canon over and instead of the Christian canon? A few threads ago, I was told more than once that, yes, Protestants too recognize Jesus as THE Word of God. If these Jews couldn’t recognize THE Word of God, why in the world would you trust their judgement on recognizing Scripture? How is it that the canon of nonbelieving Jews would be authoritative for Christians, while the canon of the recognized Church of the time is nonauthoritative?
      Jn. 10:27
      “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
      This leads me to believe that “This is the Jewish canon.” is more of a manufactured excuse by the reformers…..and that your “Argument for Exclusion #4:Bad Theology” has much more weight than you are saying here.

    • C Michael Patton


      It is not merely that the Jews accepted it, it is that the Palestinian Jews of Christ’s time accepted it. The idea is Whatever canon Christ used is the one we should use.

    • Irene

      Are you telling me there was a “set” Jewish canon at the time of Christ?

    • C Michael Patton

      Well, your idea of “set” and mine will be quite different. Recognition of the canon can be organic rather than needing to be officially canonized. So, was there an official setting of the books? No. Was there a standard organic recognition of the books? Definitely. The New Testament itselt attests to such.

      The books of the OT were as stable as the NT now. I believe that the recognition of the entire canon is organic and is thereby never officially “closed” in any way, even though I don’t believe any books will ever be added to it.

    • Irene

      I should rephrase my question…
      You said, “The idea is Whatever canon Christ used is the one we should use.”
      If there was a fixed canon for Christ to endorse, by what means did he endorse that canon and “deauthorize” the other Jewish canons?

    • Irene

      (Something is wrong with my email, and I’m not getting the email alerts for new comments, so I missed your last comment. Now I’ll have to digest that )

    • Francis

      I too like the apocrypha. In particular I like to read Daniel and Esther with their additions, as well as 1 Esdras side by side with Ezra (I like how it fleshes out the character of Zerubbabel). 1&2 Maccabees give context to the NT which is really nice as well.

      @John, are you suggesting that there is illegitimacy re. Christian canon on both sides (historical vs. post-reformation)?

    • Irene

      I’m not sure what “standard organic recognition” means, and I have a feeling it can’t be nailed down, so I’ll just reapproach your first comment that said,

      “It is not merely that the Jews accepted it, it is that the Palestinian Jews of Christ’s time accepted it. The idea is Whatever canon Christ used is the one we should use.”

      So your criterion for the Christian Old Testament is not whatever the current day Jewish Scriptures are, but the Scriptures used by Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ, and the reason for this is that these were the Scriptures used by Christ? Do I have it?

    • Irene

      About Argument for Exclusion #1: Church History Too Divided

      If you call the Catholic tradition, with its multiple decrees at various times and places, too divided, then how do you cram the Protestant OT through St Vincent’s Rule? Where is this universal acceptance of the Protestant OT? It was demonstrably not held at all times and all places by all, or even by close to “most”.
      It makes no sense to say, “Yes, the New Testament writers quoted from this canon, and, yes, the early church held the deuterocanonicals to be inspired, and explicitly said so in multiple councils, and, yes, historically Bibles have contained these books for hundreds and hundreds of years…….but, no, the Catholic canon is controversial and doesn’t pass the Rule of St Vincent, so we’re going with the Jewish canon, which hasn’t been promulgated by any authoritative church councils, and is a novelty in the history of Christendom. Much less controversial.”

    • Casey


      I think the answer to your question is that if you look at each book individually the 39 books of the Jewish canon are almost universally attested to in Christian tradition, but the individual books of the Deutero-canon (and as a whole group to a lesser extent) are controversial and not universally attested to. This puts the the books agreed upon in both canons (RC and Prot) in solid footing and the other in a less solid setting, perhaps evidenced by what the RC labels them (deutero).

    • Dr. David Tee

      “2. Inclusion in the Dead Sea Scrolls
      3. Early Christian usage
      4. Acceptance by early Church councils”

      I find these points to be misleading. Just because they were found in a library doesn’t mean they were accepted as scripture by the library’s owner. Just because someone quotes them doesn’t mean they were thought to be scripture by the person making the quote. Then just because human councils accepted them s’t mean those councils were correct.

      I have many books in my library that are not proper christian books, does that mean I accept their words? NO. But you would not know that simply by looking at the library alone

      In the many papers and responses I make I often quote from works that have positions contrary to the Bible, does that mean I accept those words as scripture or even christian? NO. It means I am trying to make a point.

      Then, many church organizations acept books written by non-christian people doe that mean that those works are now scripture? NO. It means that the church organization was deceived or misguided.

      I think your criteria for acceptance or non-rejection of the Apocrypha are too superficial and do not delve deeply enough into the reality of life and why certain books are present where one would not expect them to be.

    • […] other day, Michael Patton posted on why he rejects the Apocrypha. I like Patton’s posts because he does is research and […]

    • Classic and historic Anglicanism, from the Thirty-Nine Articles, reads but does not see the Apocrypha as canonical…

      And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

      The Third Book of Esdras, The rest of the Book of Esther,
      The Fourth Book of Esdras, The Book of Wisdom,
      The Book of Tobias, Jesus the Son of Sirach,
      The Book of Judith, Baruch the Prophet,
      The Song of the Three Children, The Prayer of Manasses,
      The Story of Susanna, The First Book of Maccabees,
      Of Bel and the Dragon, The Second Book of Maccabees.

      Personally, I like and read the Wisdom Books there, but they are not canon for me, simply.

    • Glen Davis » …

      […] Why Do I Reject the Apocrypha? […]

    • Francis Beckwith

      It’s my understanding that the Palestinian Jews rejected the New Testament as well.

      It is not clear how a divided Church tradition helps the Protestant case, since by employing this argumentative strategy you seem to concede the central point of Catholicism: the Church is logically prior to the Scriptures. That is, if the Church, until the Council of Trent’s definitive declaration, can live with a certain degree of ambiguity about the content of the OT canon, that means that sola scriptura was never a fundamental principle of authentic Christianity . After all, if Scripture alone applies to the Bible as a whole, then we cannot know to which particular collection of books this principle applies until the Bible’s content is settled. Thus, to concede an unsettled canon for Christianity’s first 15 centuries, as you do, seems to make the Catholic argument that sola scriptura was a 16th century invention, and thus not an essential Christian doctrine.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dr Beckwith,

      Great to see you my brother.

      The way I process what you have said is first to see it as a situation of apples and oranges. Belief about The contents of the canon compared to the epistemological norm for the church are going to play out much different in ones personal life and in church history. The contents of the canon are a much more definite and objective issue than making a broad statement about what has the final authority in the life of a Christian. In other words, even now, a Protestant can profess the doctrine of sola Scriptura and subjectively find it difficult to apply as the Scripture does not speak to every issue. However, one cannot really profess a particular canon and then subjectively wrestle with the implication and even fail to live by it.

      This is why it would be easy to see how the doctrine of sola Scriptura can have less of a need to articulate than the canon in history. Even now, both Protestants and Catholics do not have a fully unified understand on authority, even internally. Dual-source and sola/solo/prima Scriptura are more dynamic than the canon in this sense.

      So, in the end, we would expect to see a cleaner application of the Vincentian to the canon than to authority. Apples and oranges.

    • John I.

      Am i the only one that has no clue what CMP just wrote in #23? (sorry CMP, maybe I’m just a little dense today).

      Is it that sola scriptura / scriptures alone is not a principle for the determination of canon and that therefore Beckwith’s critical comments about s.s. are not relevant to the issue of canonicity?

    • C Michael Patton

      No John. That was not what Dr Beckwith was arguing. It has relation to the seeming inconsistency of using the Vincention canon for one issue (canon) and not the other (authority). But there is a significant difference in what Protestants need to have warranted belief and what Carholics require. Catholics link infallibility so closely with authority and all doctrine so close with dogma that we begin arguing from different islands with incredible assumptions that have yet to be justified.

      For a full year of my theological life, I swam the waters of the Tiber, destined never to cross. But while wading, I realized that this fundamental difference in epistemology had to be dealt with before any productive dialogue can take place. I have yet to see apologists on either side take a pastoral approach to overcome the mutual lisp that prevents anything other than a dialogue that is a sinful waste of time.

    • John I.

      It seems to me that the Spirit must be given priority, not the capital “C” church of a particular bureaucratic tradition. Since it is the Spirit of God who produced the Word of God by working through people who indwelt by that same Spirit, it is the Spirit and His Word that has priority.

      Upon the indwelt production of letters on paper, the Word is incarnate. Now the issue is how does it become recognized for what it is. Here again it seems that the Spirit has priority. Only those indwelt by the Spirit can recognize it for what it is (in the NT era). To the rest of the world, it remains foolishness because they are blinded by the negative noetic effects of sin.

      Any believer can experience the power of God upon reading his Word incarnated as letters on paper, and the Spirit within him will move him / his Spirit as he reads what the Spirit created. All believers are still affected by sin before the resurrection and can make mistakes, but believers together are a self-correcting body because of their joint communal experience of the Spirit and His leading.

      This began with the disciples, before there ever existed the bureaucracy of the Roman church and its exclusive organizational claims.

      So, even though the body of Christ is what is necessary to recognize the Word that has authority for the body, a specific bureaucracy is not. The manifestation of some members of the body in a particular organizational structure, and declarations by that bureaucracy, are not required for a canon to be recognized. That is, that particular organizational structure does not precede the recognition of canon.


    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “Dr Beckwith,

      Great to see you my brother.”

      Dr. Beckwith, for the sake of (hopefully) edifying discussion and debate, Steve Hays has provided an in-depth reply to your comment in #22 that’s a bit different than CMP’s in #23.

      Here it is: Canonical Confusions

    • Marv

      Many people seem almost proud of “rejecting” the Apochrypha but many of them have sung hymns based on it. I guess ignorance really is bliss.

    • […] Why Patton rejects the Apocrypha… […]

    • […] writers Tweet older blog pieces: Michael Patton on reasons for and against the inclusion of the Apocrypha. (December, […]

    • kittyhugs

      This is a very interesting article. I’m also really enjoying the comments. Such a studious and passionate group. =) It’s obvious I’m going to have to do some of my own studying if I want to come to some sort of intelligent conclusion on this issue. (As one who is venturing into orthodoxy.)

    • Matthew Wright

      Thank you for a balanced and fair introduction. I have read several introductions to this debate, and they serve to illuminate the approach of the different groups putting out their arguments. The discussion above gives a good impression. Thank you for coming to a conclusion! It is the best way to evaluate your reasons and approach, and shows your biases in the best way. I must say that the Catholic Education Resource Centre’s, “5 Myths about 7 Books,” also helped, as it pursues a similar approach from it’s point of view. The reasoning to a conclusion allowed me to see what what was being proposed, and weigh the approach. (Although in that case, I have to confess, the reasoning sometimes had the opposite effect to the intended one.)
      With so much opinion, and relatively little evidence, this is refreshing.
      Most importantly, thank you for keeping a loving and gentle spirit in all of this.

    • John Barone

      Thank you for your respectful and thoughtful analysis of the various arguments for and against. I have had very mixed feelings about these books. I don’t particularly agree that they are canon, but I am sad that these books are often utterly ignored. For instance, 1 Maccabees fills in part of the history between the Old and New Testaments. And Susanna is one of my favorite pieces of “Biblical literature” (cannon + Apocrypha). I would certainly hate to throw it in the trash!

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