Deuterocanonical books

From New World Encyclopedia

Books of the

Hebrew Bible

The Deuterocanonical books of the Bible are books considered by the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy to be canonical parts of the Christian Old Testament but are not present in the Hebrew Bible. The word deuterocanonical comes from the Greek meaning 'belonging to the second canon'. The etymology of the word is misleading, but it does indicate the hesitation with which these books were accepted into the canon by some. Note that the term does not mean non-canonical; despite this it has sometimes been used as a euphemism for the Apocrypha.

Protestant Christians usually do not classify any texts as "deuterocanonical"; they either omit them from the Bible, or include them in a section designated Apocrypha. The similarity between these different terms contributes to the confusion between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox deuterocanon and the texts considered non-canonical by other groups of Christians.


Deuterocanonical is a term first coined in 1566 by the converted Jew and Catholic theologian Sixtus of Siena to describe scriptural texts of the Old Testament whose canonicity was defined for Catholics by the Council of Trent, but which had been omitted from some early canons, especially in the East. Their acceptance among early Christians was not universal, but regional councils in the West published official canons that included these books as early as the fourth and fifth centuries.[1]

The deuterocanonical scriptural texts are:

There is a great deal of overlap between the Apocrypha section of the 1611 King James Bible and the Catholic deuterocanon, but the two are distinct. The Apocrypha section of the King James Bible includes, in addition to the deuterocanonical books, the following three books, which were not declared canonical by Trent:

  • 1 Esdras (also known as 3 Esdras)
  • 2 Esdras (also known as 4 Esdras)
  • Prayer of Manasses

These three books alone make up the Apocrypha section of the Clementine Vulgate, where they are specifically described as "outside of the series of the canon." The 1609 Douai Bible includes them in an appendix, but they are not included in recent Catholic Bibles. They are found, along with the deuterocanonical books, in the Apocrypha section of Protestant bibles.

Influence of the Septuagint

The large majority of Old Testament references in the New Testament are taken from the Greek Septuagint—which includes the deuterocanonical books, as well as apocrypha—both of which are called collectively anagignoskomena. Several appear to have been written originally in Hebrew, but the original text has long been lost. Archaeological finds in the last century, however, have provided a text of almost two-thirds of the book of Sirach, and fragments of other books have been found as well. The Septuagint was widely accepted and used by Jews in the first century, even in the region of Roman Iudaea Province, and therefore naturally became the text most widely used by early Christians.

In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:35 refers to an event that was only explicitly recorded in one of the deuterocanonical books (2 Maccabees 7). Even more tellingly, 1 Cor 15:29 "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?," is an allusion to 2 Maccabees 12: 44, "for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death." 1 Cor 15:29 is an obvious reference to suffering to help the dead be loosed from their sins.

However, Josephus (a Jewish historian) completely rejected the deuterocanonical books,[3] while Athanasius believed that they were useful for reading, but that, except for Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, they were not in the canon.[4]

Influence of the Vulgate

Jerome in his prologues[5] describes a canon that excludes the deuterocanonical books, possibly accepting Baruch.[6] However, Jerome's Vulgate did include the deuterocanonical books as well as apocrypha. He referred to them as scriptural and quoted from them despite describing them as "not in the canon." In his prologue to Judith, without using the word canon, he mentioned that Judith was held to be scriptural by the First Council of Nicaea.[7] In his reply to Rufinus, he stoutly defended the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel even though the Jews of his day did not:

What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the Story of Susanna, the Song of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us. (Against Rufinus, 11:33 (402 C.E.)).

Thus Jerome acknowledged the principle by which the canon was settled—the judgment of the Church, rather than his own judgment or the judgment of Jews.

The Vulgate is also important as the touchstone for concerning which books are canonical. When the Council of Trent listed the books included in the canon, it qualified the books as being "entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition".[8]

Term used outside of Catholicism

Using the word apocrypha (Greek: "hidden away") to describe texts, although not necessarily pejorative, implies to some people that the writings in question should not be included in the canon of the Bible. This classification associates them with certain other gospels and New Testament Apocrypha. The Style Manual for the Society of Biblical Literature recommends the use of the term deuterocanonical literature instead of Apocrypha in academic writing.

Outside of Roman Catholicism, the term deuterocanonical is sometimes used, by way of analogy, to describe books that Eastern Orthodoxy, and Oriental Orthodoxy included in the Old Testament that are not part of the Jewish Tanakh, nor the Protestant Old Testament. Among Orthodox, the term is understood to mean that they were composed later than the Hebrew Bible.

In the Amharic Bible used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (an Oriental Orthodox Church), those books of the Old Testament that are still counted as canonical, but not by all other Churches, are often set in a separate section titled '"Deeyutrokanoneekal"', which is the same word. These books include, in addition to the standard set listed above, some books that are still held canonical by only the Ethiopian Church, including Henok (I Enoch) and Kufale (Book of Jubilees). However, the "Books of Maccabees" found there are entirely different works from those used by any other Church, with no resemblance apart from the titles.

Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Church has traditionally included all the books of the Septuagint in its Old Testament. Regional differences have generally been based on different variations of the Septuagint.

The Greeks use the word Anagignoskomena to describe those books of the Greek Septuagint that are not present in the Hebrew Tanakh. These books include the entire Roman Catholic deuterocanon listed above, plus the following additional texts:

Like the Catholic deuterocanonical books, these texts are integrated with the rest of the Old Testament, not printed in a separate section. Most Protestant Bible versions exclude these books. It was once widely believed that Judaism officially excluded the deuterocanonicals and the additional Greek texts listed here from their Scripture in the Council of Jamnia around the year 100 C.E., but today this claim is disputed.[9]

The various Orthodox churches generally include these (originally Greek) texts, and some add the Psalms of Solomon. In these churches, 4 Maccabees is often relegated to an appendix, because it has certain tendencies approaching pagan thought.

In Ethiopian Orthodoxy, a denominational family within Oriental Orthodoxy, there is also a strong tradition of studying the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. Enoch is mentioned by the author of the New Testament book Jude (1:14-15).

New Testament

The term deuterocanonical is sometimes used to describe the canonical antilegomena, those books of the New Testament which, like the deuterocanonicals of the Old Testament, were not universally accepted by the early Church, but which are now included in the 27 books of the New Testament recognized by almost all Christians. The deuterocanonicals of the New Testament are as follows:


  1. Canon of the Old Testament, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 Retrieved February 15, 2008.
  2. Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, Cambridge University Press, 1914, Part II, Chapter III, Section 6, (Link), "Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah were regarded by the Church as adjuncts of Jeremiah, much in the same way as Susanna and Bel were attached to Daniel. Baruch and the Epistle occur in lists which rigorously exclude the non-canonical books; they are cited as 'Jeremiah' (Iren. v. 35. I, Tert. scorp. 8, Clem. Alex. paed. i. 10, Cypr. testim. ii. 6); with Lamentations they form a kind of trilogy supplementary to the prophecy."; The Canon of Trent specifies "Ieremias cum Baruch" (Jeremiah with Baruch). Retrieved February 15, 2008.
  3. Josephus writes in Against Apion, I, 8: "We have not 10,000 books among us, disagreeing with and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books which contain the records of all time, and are justly believed to be divine." These 22 books make up the canon of the Hebrew Bible.
  4. Athanasius of Alexandria, Excerpt from Letter 39 Retrieved February 15, 2008.
  5. Prologues of St. Jerome, Latin text Retrieved February 15, 2008.
  6. In his Prologues, Jerome mentions all of the deuterocanonical and apocryphal works by name as being apocryphal or "not in the canon" except for Prayer of Manasses and Baruch. He mentions Baruch by name in his Prologue to Jeremiah and notes that it is neither read nor held among the Hebrews, but does not explicitly call it apocryphal or "not in the canon." Since some ancients counted Baruch as part of Jeremiah, it is conceivable though unlikely that Jerome counted Baruch under the name of Jeremiah when he enumerated the canon in his Prologus Galeatus.
  7. Jerome’s Prologue to Judith.
  8. Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, The Fourth Session, 1546. Retrieved February 15, 2008.
  9. Albert C. Sundberg, Jr., "The Old Testament of the Early Church" Revisited 1997 Retrieved February 15, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Anonymous. Deuterocanonical Books of the Bible Apocrypha. Hard Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1406941807
  • Metzger, Bruce. Apochrypha/Deuterocanonical Books of the Revised Standard Version. William B. Eerdmans, 1983.
  • Reiterer, Friedrich V. (ed.). Deuterocanonical And Cognate Literature: Yearbook. Walter De Gruyter Inc., 2004. ISBN 978-3110180183
  • Xeravits, Geza and Jozef Zsengeller (eds.). The Book of Tobit: Text, Tradition, Theology. Brill Academic Publishers, 2005. ISBN 978-9004143760

External links

All links retrieved January 29, 2024.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.