The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha


William Webster


The canonical Scriptures are God’s inspired revelation to man. This is the testimony of the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, they alone are authoritative in all matters of faith. Rome claims that the Apocrypha should be considered a part of the Old Testament canon as inspired revelation because the Jews did not have a closed canon and this has been the overall view of the Church from the very beginning of the Church age. But Rome’s claims for the canon cannot be supported historically. The survey of the historical evidence can be summed up in the following points:

    1. 1. The Jews who were entrusted with the inspired Scriptures did not accept the Apocrypha as canonical.
    1. 2. Jesus, in particular, did not quote from the Apocryphal books and he stated that the canonical Scriptures were comprised of the three fold division of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.
    1. 3. Many of the early Church fathers followed the Jewish canon in rejecting the Apocrypha from canonical status.
    1. 4. The Councils of Hippo and Carthage were provincial Councils which did not have the authority to establish the canon for the Church as a whole.
    1. 5. The book of Septuagint I Esdras which was decreed by Hippo and Carthage to be canonical was later rejected by the Council of Trent.
    1. 6. The majority view of the leading theologians from the fifth century up to the time of the Reformation followed Jerome in denying the Apocrypha full canoniocal status.
    1. 7. Gregory the Great, as the bishop of Rome, taught that the Apocrypha was not canonical.
    1. 8. The official biblical commentary of the middle ages used for the training of all theologians taught that the Apocrypha, while useful for reading and edification, was notconsidered canonical and had no authority for establishing points of doctrine.
    1. 9. It was not until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century that the canon was officially and authoritatively established for the Roman Catholic Church.
    1. 10. The internal discrepancies which abound in certain books of the Apocrypha disqualify it as truly inspired and canonical.

The historical facts demonstrate that Rome’s claims for the Apocrypha are false. They provide convincing evidence that her decrees on the canon, rather than affirming the universal practice of the Church through the ages, were, in fact, given in contradiction to the practice of both the Jews and the majority view of the Christian Church throughout both the patristic and middle ages.