As a Protestant, I misunderstood the purposes and reasons behind the Catholic Bible having seven more books than the Protestant Bible. I was always given the impression by Protestantism that the Catholic Church added books that were “hidden” or “mysterious and unreliable” to the Bible and, as a result, we were not to believe it. Pastors and teachers often cited Revelation 22:18-19 as support for this belief. If we take a closer look at this passage, as well as the history of the Bible, we will see it was not the Catholic Church that changed the Bible.
The Catholic Bible contains 73 books, as opposed to the Protestant Bible which contains 66. The sole difference lies in the Old Testament. The Protestant Bible does not contain Baruch, Tobit, Judith, I and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, or Sirach. However, these sacred books were contained in the scriptures used by the apostles and early church. They were included in the Septuagint, which is a third-century B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is this translation which served as scriptures for the apostles and multiple generations of believers in the early Church.
They are also included in Codex Sinaiticus (4th century) and Codex Alexandrinus (c.450). These are the earliest Greek manuscripts known to be in existence. The totality of the Catholic Bible, including these seven sacred books, were endorsed and approved by the Church at the councils of Hippo, Carthage, and Trent. The change in the canonical books came when one man turned against the Catholic Church and chose to create his own belief system.
His name is Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King). He was an Augustinian friar, ordained priest, and a German scholar. He was ordained a priest in 1507 but quickly became disillusioned by the Church’s selling of indulgences for financial profit. Approximately 10 years later, he wrote the 95 Thesis, where he rejected many teachings of the Catholic Church (including purgatory and indulgences).
He originated the theology of sola scriptura, meaning the Bible alone is the sole authority for the Christian faith. As a result of his newly created belief about the Bible, Luther chose to reject anything in the Bible that opposed this faith. He tossed out the seven Old Testament books which spoke about praying for the dead and purgatory. (2 Mc 12:39-46) It was his decision to reject these books and remove them from the Bible that, in turn, created the Protestant Bible.
However, there are verses in the New Testament which appear to point to those books in the Old Testament. Protestants accept these passages as Sacred Scripture while simultaneously rejecting the books in the Old Testament which reflect the same thoughts. For example, Revelation 1:4 and 8:3-4 appear to reference Tobit 12:15.
“John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits, before his throne.” (Rev 1:4)
“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.” (Rev 8:3-4)
“I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” (Tobit 12:15)
( **Scriptures in italic and bold are those Protestants accept as scripture. The verses in italic without bold are those contained in the Catholic Bible but removed from the Protestant. The difference in format for these verses is intended to allow you to have a clearer visual of what was taken out and what was kept.)
It appears that we are told in Tobit that Raphael is one of the angels mentioned by St. John in the book of Revelation. The correlation between the two was ignored by Martin Luther and continues to be rejected by Protestants.
St. John is not alone in referring to the Old Testament scriptures that were refused by Luther. St. Paul refers to 2 Maccabees in his first letter to the Corinthians.
“Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?” (I Cor. 15:29)
“for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.” (2 Macc. 12:44)
St. Paul doesn’t elaborate on the teaching or practice of being baptized for the dead. He writes it as if it is something that the Corinthians have experience with and, as a result, proclaims and validates the belief in the resurrection. The same concept applies to 2 Maccabees. Luther rejected these references and connections. He denied them a place in the Protestant Bible because it went against his belief. Interestingly, Luther taught and proclaimed the Bible alone was the sole source of authority, but his actions declared something different. He, in fact, became the authority of what would be considered scripture (one of the things he had a problem with regarding the Church’s teachings) and gave himself the ability and power to choose the Scriptures that had “sole authority”.
He pushed back against the Church because of their abuse of teachings and hypocrisy. The teachings of the Church at the time did not match its actions. Luther, on the other hand, does the very same thing that he declared was wrong when he eliminated those seven books of the Bible but insisted on the Bible being the only source of truth.
Remember the verses at the beginning of this article that Protestants use to defend their Bible having less books?
“I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words in this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city described in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19)
If we understand the Bible is a compilation of many separate books, as we have established in this article, then we must grasp the fact that St. John is referencing anyone taking or eliminating anything contained in the book of Revelation alone. He is not referencing the entire Bible because the entire canon of Scripture had not even been formed when St. John wrote this.
However, when Protestants challenge this idea that it only applies to Revelation and not to the entire Bible, it is easy to counteract those arguments as well. If they tell you that it applies to all of Scripture then ask them “if you believe it applies to the totality of the Bible and not just Revelation, then based on historical fact…who really took away from Scripture?”