Monday, March 15, 2010

Did Martin Luther Remove Books From the Bible?

When reading books by theological liberals it is often common practice to avoid any areas of disagreement between opposing denominations. Fuzzy language is used that can sound appealing but has no real substance. The writer often doesn't even really even agree with his own theological heritage--he views it as primitive and archaic.

Ecumenical conversations are much more helpful when conducted by people who actually subscribe the original intent of their respective confessions and are actually willing to discuss the core issues that separate them. Unfortunately, different traditions have their own vocabulary and assign different meanings to words. There are also many misunderstandings about what other groups actually teach and often even when people are trying really hard there is even misunderstanding about what a person's own tradition actually teaches.

I've been reading a book by an Eastern Orthodox writer that I have some respect for. I enjoy her writing even though I disagree with her synergistic understanding of salvation. She made the claim that Christian throughout history accepted the Apocrypha but that Martin Luther removed books from the Bible and that's why Protestants don't have the Apocrypha in their Bibles. This is a common statement made by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Generally Protestants respond by saying that Martin Luther did not remove books, the Roman Catholic church added them. Then the argument usually involves two people who really don't know what they are talking about arguing about which books should be included and why. I've heard some Protestants even use strange mathematical formulas to prove that they have the correct number of books.

But the Reformation did not occur because of a dispute over the canon. If we spend our time arguing about the canonical books we miss an opportunity to discuss the real issues. There were always Christians who questioned the canonicity of various Biblical books. It wasn't until the Council of Trent that any formal declaration was made as to which books were canonical by the Roman Catholics, no such list was made by Lutherans. There has always been widespread belief in the canonicity of the Gospels, the letters of Paul, and the books contained in the Hebrew Bible, but there was disagreement about other books and people were not excommunicating one another over it.

Did Martin Luther remove books? Nope. He questioned the canonicity of the books but he did not remove them. He put them in a separate section but he did not take them out. Did his descendants? Nope. Did the translators of the KJV? Nope. One of the bishops who translated the KJV made it illegal to print KJV Bibles without the Apocryhpa. It wasn't until the 1880's that Protestants began printing Bibles without the Apocrypha. The Apocryphal books should not occupy the same place in our theology that the Gospels do but they should not become the chief article that divides us. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans all hold up the Gospel Book and give it a special place in the service. The same is not done with the Apocrypha in any of the churches. All make some use of the Apocrypha in the liturgy.


Anonymous said...

what are your qualifications?

Chuck Wiese said...

I'm just a lay person with a BA in Greek. I've spent some time in various denominations and read quite a bit. If you are looking for references in regards to my statements from a more scholarly source, please let me know and I will provide them. You can read Luther's translation of the Bible here:

Joyful Catholics said...

Love your blog header image! I just found this after reading your post. Thoughts?

Chuck Wiese said...


The statements made in the first link simply are not true. You can read Luther's translation of the Bible on-line and it contains the apocryphal books. It wasn't until the late 1800s that Protestant Bibles started to be printed without the Apocrypha. Even after this time, German Bibles published by Concordia still included the Apocrypha. For various reasons the more recent English versions did not but Concordia is publishing a volume that contains the Apocrypha with study notes.

The second link deals with quite a few different issues. I'll give you a general response. If there is something you are interested in particularly, let me know and I can be more specific. Overall, the general problem with the article is that it sets up Roman Catholicism up against American Evangelicalism in each instance and so most of what it says does not apply specifically to Lutherans.

The article begins with the claim that the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church has not changed in the past 2000 years and then goes on to speak specifically in regards to the Eucharist. If a person only conceives of two possibilities--the Zwinglian memorial view or Roman Catholic transubstantiation, then when a person reads the church fathers it is going to look like the church fathers all support transubstantiation. The problem is that transubstantiation was not really a dogma of the Roman Catholic church until the middle ages. The church fathers taught the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist just like Lutherans do but just like Lutherans they did not attempt to explain how the bread and wine become the body and blood through a philosophical construct like transubstantiation. The Scriptures are silent on the issue and so the church fathers were silent. Even today, the best of the Eastern Orthodox theologians leave it as a mystery and reject transubstantiation.

The article also mentions papal infallibility. But you will not find this teaching in the church fathers. It was invented by some Franciscan monks in the 13th century. There was a pope who was not in favor of the Franciscans at the time and wanted to do away with their order. The Franciscan appealed to the decision of a previous pope and started teaching papal infallibility in order to maintain their order. But the current pope rejected the doctrine. Even as late as the 19th century in Ireland two catechisms were published by the Catholic church that explicitly rejected papal infallibility and said it was something falsely said about Roman Catholics by Protestants. It was not until 1870 that the Roman Church declared papal infallibility.

In regards to the canon of Scripture the argument really only applies to evangelicals who subscribe to the 66 book canon. Lutherans have followed the older tradition which is found in Eusebius. Eusebius wrote: "It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed [αντιλέγεσθαι] by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul...Among the disputed writings, [των αντιλεγομένων], which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books [των ντιλεγομένων]."

Chuck Wiese said...

The Lutheran allows for the same freedom in regards to the disputed books that existed in the early church. In practice, most would accept the books as part of a multi-tiered canon. No doctrine should be derived solely from the disputed books and these books should be interpreted through the lens of the undisputed books. When arguing with Roman Catholics I notice that they almost always go running to the book of James or other disputed books but I always point out that the historic liturgy shows us that preference should always be given to the Gospels. Even the canonical order provides guidance in interpretation.

It is also pretty clear that the section on Sola Scriptura is directed against modern evangelicals who teach that it means you and your Bible in a closet. But that is not what the teaching meant historically.

The early church fathers and Lutherans teach that the Scriptures are to be interpreted within and by the church within the context of the regula fidei (rule of faith). But neither the church nor the regula fidei were regarded as second sources of revelation. The church was the interpreter and the regula fidei was the hermeneutical context but only Scripture was the source of authoritative revelation.

In the fourth century church fathers began to speak of Scripture and tradition as being two sources of revelation. But this position did not really start to catch on until the 12th century. Both the one and two source positions continued to develop within the church. Luther defended the one source position and his opponents adopted the two source position as official dogma at the Council of Trent. Since the time of Trent Rome has departed from this position and now holds to what might be a considered a one source "magisterium of the moment" position.

As far as the "The Early Church Was Catholic" section goes, it once again only makes sense in the Rome vs. evangelical scenario. The fact is that the Roman Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran church each have their favorite church fathers and favorite sections that support their respective positions and certain sections that they avoid. You won't find Rome quoting Augustine in his "Retractions" where he says that interpreting the "rock" as Peter's confession of faith is a real possibility or any of the other fathers who say this. You can find some of the Lutheran's favorite quotes here:

In many ways I regard the excommunication of Luther as the excommunication of the Gospel from the Roman church with the result that the Roman Church excommunicated herself and the church of the Augsburg Confession became the true continuation of the Western Church. There were all kinds of people teaching all kinds of heresies at the time of Luther including denying the virgin birth. But these people were not excommunicated. Luther was excommunicated because he took a stand against indulgences. This is even admitted by modern Catholic biographers of Luther. Luther attacked a source of income for the church. All Luther wanted was a debate and they refused to even discuss it with him. Later the Roman church would admit that the sale of indulgences was wrong but say that Luther was wrong to attack it which seems like a very odd position.

patdee said...

Chuck Wise is absolutely correct concerning the apocrypha and other books. The first KJV had 80 books that was published in 1611.

It was NOT until 1885, when the 14 books called the Apocryha were removed; leaving 66 books, because protestants believed they were not divinily inspired. But this was purely abitrary. They had NO proof of this.

There is NO credible evidence that ANY book in the bible belongs in there OR out of there.

For it was always man deciding what was in there from the onset. In fact, there were many OTHER books that could have been in there.

Jesus himself said that Deuteronomy 24:1 was wrong in Mathew 19: 2-8, especially in verse 8. This then could be used to remove the entire book of Deuteronomy. But this would be wrong, since Jesus never said any other verse was wrong. So why throw out the baby with the bath water!

I agre with Martin Luther about his angst against the book of James. For James proved he did not agree with Jesus when it came to faith ALONE; as is clearly spelled out in John 3:16.

The book of Hebrews is the dumbest book I have ever tried to read. NO wonder no one really knows who wrote it for sure. And why I also agree with ML for wanting it removed.

My point of the above is this: Jesus NEVER said the bible was the Way, the truth and the life". He said HE was!

Sadly MOST Christians AND Jews have always worhsiped a book much more than they worshipped Jesus/God.

And why there are soo many silly sects and denominations. And why there are soo many bibles that do not agree with each other, includinding the three versions of the KJV. Including the 4 gospels.

If we would put ALL of our faith IN Jesus and pray for wisdom, then He will lead us to THE truth wherever it may be; AND also the lies wherever they are.

And the lack of most Christians NOT doing that and assuming a particular version of a particular bible is the "inerrent infallible" word of God, when there is NOT one shread of evidence to this notion, is why satan has caused Christianity AND Judaism to have soooo many sects all arguing with each other rather than to being in one accord worshipping the ONLY true God Jesus Christ.

May Jesus forgive us for such hypocricy when all truth is revealed on judgement day.


Chuck Wiese said...

patdee: The decisions made about the canon are not arbitrary. There have been disputes about the Apocryphal books since the time that they were written and there have always been certain books which were not disputed by the church. Jesus does not deny Deuteronomy 24:1. He denies the way that it was being applied. Deuteronomy 24:1 is descriptive but people were applying it in a prescriptive way. The prescription does not come until verse 4 where it says that the man may not take back his wife who has been divorced and remarried. Deuteronomy 24:1 says nothing about the rightness or the wrongness of the divorce itself.

Infinity Racing said...

He did remove them in the sense that he removed them from what he considered divinely inspired. It was his action that started the landslide of heresies within Christianity (another word for this heresy is protestantism). In the late 300's during the councils of Rome, Carthage, and Hippo the complete cannon of scripture was determined. The funny thing is that by being a protestant your rejecting/protesting the authority of the Catholic Church yet at the same time you are unknowingly accepting the authority of the Catholic Church whenever you accept the authority of the Scriptures. Was the Holy Spirit guiding those men during a single time in that council when they were deciding the cannon and then did it leave? Of course not, the Spirit of Truth has been with the church from the beginning and always will be just as it says in John 14 and 15 and the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth because of this (because the spirit of truth, the paraclete came upon the Apostles at Pentacost).

"See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." - St. Ignatius of Antioch - Disciple of St. John the Apostle.

Look at the fruit of Luther's work... a divided body of Christ, 40,000 different denominations. Christ prayed for unity, Luther brought separation.

‎"Religion changes man, man does not change religion" - How the Archbishop of Mainz signed all of his correspondance to Martin Luther.

Infinity Racing said...

Man is rootless once he "frees" himself from the authority of the Catholic Church. Protestantism convinces man that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ did not found a visible, hierarchical society to teach, to govern and to sanctify all men on the face of this earth until He comes in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Each man, therefore, is his own "pope" or "popessa," free to interpret Sacred Scripture, which is seen as the only source of Divine Revelation (Apostolic or Sacred Tradition being thus rejected as it needs the authority of a visible hierarchy to pronounce and explicate), leading quite inevitably to mutually contradictory conclusions as to the meaning of various passages, which is why there are today over 33,000 different Protestant sects, most of them right here in the United States of America. One who believes this framework of lies will come to believe that he is "saved' by making his "profession of faith" in the Name of the Lord or that the fact of his predestination to Heaven is proved by his worldly success. The Lutheran strain of Protestantism is founded on the sin of Presumption; the Calvinist strain is founded on the belief that material success is a sign of divine election. Both lead to the ruin of men and their societies.

FOUNDERS of Christianity, Denominations, Sects and Cults
with the date founded and adherents

Christianity: 33AD: By Jesus Christ, made public in Pentecost - 2.5 billion - Jesus Christ - Pentecost
Catholics: 33AD- By Jesus Christ, made public in Pentecost 1.5 billion
Orthodox: Michael Cerularius - 1054- 219 million
United Brethren (Moravians): 1457- Huss.-
Lutherans: Martin Luther-1517- 75 million.
Anabaptists: Grebel (after Ulrich Zwingli)-1519- 50 million
Church of England: Henry VIII - 1534- 70 million.
Calvinism: John Calvin -1536- 50 million
Presbyterians: J. Knox (Calvin)-1560- 35 million.
Puritans: T. Cartwright:- 1570- 800,000
Congregationalism: R. Brown: 1582- 900,000
Baptists: John Smith (Zwingli): 1605-- 45 million
Episcopalians: S. Seabury (Henry VIII)- 1620-- 3 million
Quakers: Fox- 0.2 million -1654- 2,000
Shakers: Ann Lee1741- 3,000
Methodists: J and C. Wesley - 1744-- 29 million.
Unitarians: T. Lindsay1774-.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)-1800- 2 million.
Mormons: Joseph Smith - 1830- 8 million.
Adventists: W. Miller - 1846-- 8 million.
Jehovah's Witnesses: C. Russell - 1852- 6 million.
Salvation Army: M. Jones-1865- 1 million.
Christian Science: Mary Baker-1879- 1 million.
Pentecostals: C.F. Parham-1900- 58 million.
Worldwide Church,. of God: Armstrong-1934- 50,0000
Moonies: Sun M. Moon- 1954- 2 million.
United Church of Christ- 1957- 2 million.
Children of God: David "Mo" Berg-1969-.008.

As a "Rule of Thumb":
- If it was founded by God, it is a "Religion".
- If it was founded or started by a "man" or a "woman with a known date, it is a "Sect" or a "Cult"
(These numbers are a little out of date but it gets the point across)

"Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves." Romans 13:1-2

Chuck Wiese said...


There was no ecumenical council that determined the canon of Scripture. Various books were debated from the beginning. Lutherans follow the older tradition of recognizing that there are disputed and undisputed books as found in Eusebius. Lots of prominent church fathers held different opinions on different disputed books of the Bible. Jerome opposed the inclusion of the OT Apocrypha.

Ignatius was writing at a time when the bishops were actually teaching what the Apostles were teaching.

Let's say that National Right to Life started supporting Planned Parenthood and the person in charge of the organization claimed to be able to trace themselves back through succession of leadership back to the founder of National Right to Life. Then somebody stands up and says that they don't believe the current administration is being faithful to the tradition that was handed down to them and they are shown the door. They start their organization based upon the original principles of the founders but this also results in some splinter groups. Is the person who was kicked out the true successor or is the leader that now supports abortion the true successor?

Martin Luther did not cause all the splinter groups we see today. The Pope caused all the splinters we see today by excommunicating Martin Luther and in so doing excommunicated the Gospel and ultimately excommunicated himself. There were all kinds of people teaching all kinds of things in Luther's day, some in the universities even denied the virgin birth. But they didn't go after these people. They went after Luther because Luther attacked indulgences. It was about money as even some Roman Catholic historians acknowledge.

I take tradition to seriously to convert to Rome. The early church fathers understood the importance of Apostolic tradition in interpreting the Scriptures. In Luther's day there was some who were teaching that tradition provided another source of authority and that's what Trent decided contrary to the early church fathers. With the gradual development of all the doctrines concerning the Pope, he has become the single source of authority for the papists.

There is a great deal of disagreement among the church fathers on a great many issues but when they taught the Scriptures they found Jesus everywhere. When I read the Roman Catholic apologists on the internet, all they find in the Bible is the Pope. When I listen to the new agey Roman Catholic priest on TV all I hear about is moral lessons. I can get moral lessons at any random evangelical church.

I need Jesus. I need Jesus in the liturgy, Jesus in the preaching, and Jesus in my mouth. I'm a real sinner who needs the forgiveness of sins. I don't need a pope. I need Jesus.

Anonymous said...

You ignore the major point. That Luther considered this books Apocryphal. No takes issue as to when the Protestant bible was printed without the 7 books listed as Apocryphal by Luther. The issue was as to why those 7 books were considered Apocryphal by Luther in the first. The way you can twist the issue makes your explanation suspect at best.

Also the following statement contains logical fallacies: " then when a person reads the church fathers it is going to look like the church fathers all support transubstantiation." But you give no clear evidence of as to why the appearance of support for transubstantiation was not true or valid. You do not cite any facts, research, or historical data to lend credibility as to why the church fathers support of transubstantiation is only superficial. The logic you use is the equivalent of saying, "It may appear there is sun shining in the room but that's not the case." Then giving no proof if sun lamps, or special lighting was being used.

Your attempted explanation is also of false logic, "The problem is that transubstantiation was not really a dogma of the Roman Catholic church until the middle ages". So you are in effect saying that Communion was no "dogma" until the middle ages, in spite of the fact that Catholic Mass has always centered around Holy Communion, even prior to the Middle Ages. However, the fact that it was practiced as the center for Mass for centuries to you does not show relevance to the Church? This assertion requires an explanation that you do not provide. The logic you use is the same as saying that say a woman has spent every Saturday at the hairdressers for 40 years, but that her hair is not truly the center of her grooming.

This next statement I find especially slanted, "The church fathers taught the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist just like the Lutherans do." Now here you use the words "church fathers" again. However, in the previous statement the words "church fathers" referred to the Catholic Church since they were the only Christian Church in Western Civilization during the middle ages. But her you seem to use church fathers as referring to those church fathers of the Protestant faith. Yet, you do not inform your reader that you have made this shift. I say it refers to church fathers of the Protestant faith because it refers to finding "the real presence of body and blood". Unless of course you are unaware that the church fathers of the Catholic faith believed that the Eucharist and wine ARE the body and blood of Christ, not just contain it.

Yet even if you in fact do mean that these church fathers are from the Catholic Church then you misrepresent historical order of facts. "The church fathers taught the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist just like the Lutherans do." Here you imply that it was the Catholic who followed the practice of the Lutherans which cannot be true. Because the Lutheran religion did not appear until the 16th century and the Catholic Church had already been practicing transubstantiation for centuries.

In sum, Mr Wiese, I have attempted to read your statement hoping to gain knowledge. But what I find is skewed and flawed logic, historical misrepresentations, and even attempts to mislead the reader. This tells me that you are insecure of the origins of your religion and not above slight of hand to convince your readers to believe in fictions.

Chuck Wiese said...


I wrote my post after reading a book by an Eastern Orthodox writer put out by a major publisher that made the claim that Luther removed books from the Bible. I've heard Roman Catholic apologists say the same thing on the radio. I've seen people make that claim all over the internet. I'm glad that you are aware that he did not remove books from his translation but many are not aware of this.

Just do an internet search. You can find Roman Catholic apologists all over the place who make the claim that because the church fathers say that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ the church fathers are teachings transubstantiation. But Lutherans would say the exact same thing that these church fathers say and do not teach transubstantiation. Transubstantiation was a theory that developed in the middle ages and was the popular position at the time of Luther. Just because there is light in the room doesn't mean that the sun is shining in the room. It could mean there's a light bulb. The early church fathers did not engage in speculations about essential and accidental properties in the Lord's Supper as later theologians did. Lutherans, with the early church fathers, refuse to impose an Aristotelian system on to the Lord's Supper.

The Sacrament of the Altar where we receive Christ's true body and blood was certainly at the center of the worship of the early church just as it is in Lutheran churches. But transubstantiation was a later development. You're assumption is that because the woman went to the hairdresser every day for the last forty years she must have a beehive hairdo.

I wasn't making any switch at all. The early church fathers taught that the bread is the body of Christ and the wine is the blood of Christ and that's what the Lutherans teach too.

As demonstrated by Chemnitz in his Examination of the Council of Trent, the faith of the Lutheran church is the same as what is found in the early church fathers. The Lutheran church is the true continuation of the Western church. The Roman Church is the result of medieval theological fads.

Unknown said...

I found this on the same search that brought me to your blog:

Is this correct in your judgment or not? If you disagree, can you discuss what parts you see as flawed?

I'm not a scholar or theologian, but it seems to me the answer to the question, "Did Luther remove books from the Bible" the Answer is - in "form", no, not exactly; but in substance, yes.

Just my opinion, but when you move something from the body of a book to an Appendix, you are changing its stature and relevance.

Also, as to the proposition that the Lutheran Church is the "True" continuation of the Western Church, I am a bit confused. To which particular Lutheran Sect are you referring?
ECLA? Missouri Synod? WELS? AALC? CLC? ELS? AFLC?
All of them?
Some but not others?
Or some other Lutheran Sect altogether?

Not trying to be horsey, I'm just a layman trying to understand.

Chuck Wiese said...


The article you linked to refers to the books as "Deuterocanical" as is typical current Roman Catholic scholarship. The term "Deuterocanonical" places these books on a second tier of the canon and that's really what Lutheran were arguing for. The Eastern Orthodox use the term "Anagignoskomena." They should be read in the churches but no doctrine should be derived exclusively from them. Trent placed all the books on the same level but Roman Catholic scholarship since that time has made a "Lutheran" move and now refers to these books as Deuterocanonical. The church has universally accepted some books of the Bible and others were debated throughout history up to and including at the time of the Reformation. Some of Luther's Roman Catholic opponents agreed with Luther that these books should not be considered canonical. A table of contents never fell out of the sky.

When I say "Lutheran" I refer to those who subscribe to the Book of Concord.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your kind response. I hope I too can express my thoughts without being rude!

FWIW, my name is Tom. (fitting, I suppose, as I find myself "Doubting" much these days!) :-)
I thought I was identifying myself the first time, but, Oh well.

Like I said, I'm not a scholar & FWIW I'm not a Catholic OR a Lutheran, & don't pretend to understand the finer points of either.

Seems to me the argument about books of the Bible is probably well over my head, and thus best left to scholars such as yourself.

But here's my (admittedly) layman's outlook:

First off, I can't translate Greek, but I can read a dictionary, and I see that the term "Deutro" means second, not "fake" or "untrustworthy". I'm no expert on Catholic theology, but I can find no source in Catholic literature that defines Deutrocanonical as anything less that "Cannon" - this appears to be a PURELY Protestant supposition.

Regarding Luther's action of sticking certain Bible books in an Appendix (& thus relegating them to "second class" status) this has clearly been judged by history as Mixed AT BEST.

Luther's relegation of certain NT books has been wholly rejected by pretty much every Christian sect out there, as they are now in the main body of every major version of the Bible.

Do you disagree?

So, Since we know Luther erred with his revision of the NT, what are we to think of his revision of the OT?

Re. the OT, there's clearly a split between Roman & Orthodox vs. Protestant sects - And I can't help but see it as a Classic case of the old "US vs. THEM" syndrome.

Best I can tell (again, admitting I'm not a theologian), at least some, if not most, Jews prior to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. included all or nearly all the disputed books in their "Bible", and thus early Christians (almost all Jews themselves) understood the same larger Jewish "Cannon" as their "Bible".

This is reflected in the Catholic and Orthodox view of Christian Cannon, as well as in Jewish practice at the time of Jesus. (See John 10:22-23)

But once the Christians grew in number to the point they were deemed a threat to mainstream Judaism, the Jews sought to separate themselves as the "True" faith from those they considered "Apostate", and pared back their accepted "Cannon" to the level accepted by the Pharisees. (and Jesus gave us pretty clear commentary about the Pharisees, didn't he!?!?)

Then some 11-1200? years later Martin Luther repeated the same "maneuver" for the same purpose: to distance himself (as an adherent to his concept of "True" faith) from a Roman Church that he viewed (with some justification) as "Apostate", by likewise paring down the Christian "Cannon".

Same deal - One group/person seeking to distance themselves from another. Thus, pretty easy to deduce that in both cases POLITICAL issues were likely at least as much at play as Doctrinal motivations.

Much has changed with scholarship since the 16th century, and particularly with recent finds like the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc. (which seem to largely SUPPORT the Septuagint). But IMO, NOTHING has changed with human nature.

I see various groups doing the same junk Today - NL vs. AL in MLB; or the TEA Party vs. Establishment GOP; or even countless Baptist congregations "separating" themselves because they don't like something (or someone) the Pastor is doing. ;-)

That may be a laughable opinion to a scholar, but it's what I see.

At the same time, I find it difficult to fathom St. Peter turning me away from the Pearly Gates and telling me, "Sorry Tom, but the 'Answer' was in 2 Macabees, and you missed it!!!" LOL!!!

And since I'm being cut off by the red warning sign, I'll stop here!

No offense intended. Again, I'm just a layman looking at the world around me.

Thank you for your thoughtful blog.

Chuck Wiese said...

The word Deuterocanonical distinguishes these books from the protocanonical books. They are second tier when it comes to the canon and this basically the position of the Lutheran church. In Lutheranism it doesn't mean that their fake. It means that they are appropriate to be read in church but that no doctrine should be derived solely from them. The German Luther Bible still contains the Apocrypha. You can buy an English Study Bible of the Apocrypha. They were considering publishing this as a single volume with the rest of the Lutheran Study Bible but were worried this might lead to confusion and would also make the Lutheran Study Bible larger than it already is. For quite a while in America, most Lutheran churches used the German language and they used Luther's German Bible with the Apocrypha. You can find sermons from this time period that are based on texts from the Apocrypha. But as Lutheran congregations began to speak English they lost the Apocrypha because the English Bible publishers had dropped it in the late 1800s.

I don't see how the questioning of the canonicity of these books can be seen as a political move. Luther quotes from James in his Small Catechism. Some of Luther's Roman Catholic opponents also questioned the canonicity of some of the NT books such as Erasmus. Cardinal Cajetan questioned the authority of some of the same books Luther questioned. Today, we're in a rather strange situation in evangelical circles. Whether or not the book of Hebrews was regarded as canon in the early church depended upon whether or not the people in that region believed Paul wrote it. But today, most evangelical scholars will tell you Paul did not write it but that it's canonical.

I fail to see how what English Bible publishers produce proves Luther right or wrong about the canon. The canonical order is actually a pretty helpful guide in interpreting the Scriptures. If you understand Matthew as the lens through which you read the other Gospels and to how you read the NT as a whole and use the canonical order as the lens through which you read the books going Matthew through Revelation and then Genesis through whatever the last book you want to include in the OT then you don't run into too many problems. It's when you go backwards that you run into problems--if you try to interpret Romans through the lens of James or use Maccabees as the sole source for establishing some doctrine. You'll notice a shift if you read some of the newer Catholic Study Bibles. They tend not to make some of the same arguments that they used to from these books to establish the doctrine of purgatory.

Unknown said...


Thanks again for your perspective.

FWIW, I feel a bit odd in this conversation because I really don't have a great grasp of all the details. - There ARE subjects I can speak authoritatively on, so I feel funny yapping on topics where I'm not well versed! so I appreciate your tolerance!

I don't question the Lutheran position on the Deutrocanonical books. I take you at your word! All I'm saying is, I don't see where the Roman Catholics or Orthodox churches currently share that view. (again, maybe I'm just ignorant of their doctrine?)

I also certainly understand the reluctance to attribute human motivations to events we choose to view as "Supernatural" or "Spiritual" in nature. Its certainly our prerogative to view historical events through the prism of faith and I respect that some choose to do so.

Personally, I believe that GOD hasn't changed, and People haven't either. AND - Reality is, Politics has been a part of the practice of "Religion" since the beginning of time.

- Why did GOD direct Joshua to utterly destroy the city of Jericho? (they could have just marched around it, or could have spared women and children, etc) Perhaps it was only spiritually motivated, but (Coincidentally?) Jericho and its inhabitants Also posed a POLITICAL problem for the Israelites.

- Saul loved David - UNTIL David's popularity caused a POLITICAL problem for Saul.

- The Jews of Jesus' time were content with a larger cannon UNTIL the growth of the Christian Sect caused a POLITICAL problem for the 2nd and 3rd century Jewish leaders.

- Out of respect, I won't give an example from time of the Reformation! ;-)

As for publishers - lets don't be coy! Publishers print what CUSTOMERS buy. If the Protestant churches insisted on following Luther's edict, the OT and NT books he put in the Appendix would have remained there, or both sets omitted entirely.

Why did the NT books return, despite Luther's edict? And IF Luther was "Wrong" on the NT, why was he still "Right" on the OT?

Again, I see the human element - Politics - in all this. I suppose Luther saw Augsburg as "Divinely Inspired", but the Councils of Hippo, Carthage, Damascus and Trent as merely the works of men. Catholics I suppose would say just the reverse. 1st century Jews (Other than Saducees and Pharisees) would agree with the Catholics & Orthodox on the OT, but from the 3rd century on Jews would agree with the Protestants on the OT.

Why? I have my opinions. You have yours.


Unknown said...

It's obvious that the author will accept no evidence to contradict his notions. Luther originally omitted more than 7 books of the Bible. His decision was debated for decades however, the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls ended the debate. Luther omitted the sacred books, and did so wrongly. Furthermore, we mustn't forget the influence of the relativists like Rousseau on Luther's thinking.

Comment regarding he Catholic reference by the author is telling of the author's inherent bias vs exposing the truth. He states; " typical Catholic" perspective... very sad.... One thing the Catholic Church does very well is documentation. Hands down the evidence and history is clear. Luther had an agenda. Even his own people ignored his early omissions returning New Testament Scripture to its rightful place.

To the author: it's time for all Christians to put down their ego and come together as one people of God. It's time for you to stop the very insidious bigotry against the oldest Church founded by Christ when He handed Peter the keys to the kingdom. At least learn untainted history if you can't stop eclipsing the truth.

Truth seeker said...

It's obvious that the author will accept no evidence to contradict his notions. Luther originally omitted more than 7 books of the Bible. His decision was debated for decades however, the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls ended the debate. Luther omitted the sacred books, and did so wrongly. Furthermore, we mustn't forget the influence of the relativists like Rousseau on Luther's thinking.

Comment regarding he Catholic reference by the author is telling of the author's inherent bias vs exposing the truth. He states; " typical Catholic" perspective... very sad.... One thing the Catholic Church does very well is documentation. Hands down the evidence and history is clear. Luther had an agenda. Even his own people ignored his early omissions returning New Testament Scripture to its rightful place.

To the author: it's time for all Christians to put down their ego and come together as one people of God. It's time for you to stop the very insidious bigotry against the oldest Church founded by Christ when He handed Peter the keys to the kingdom. At least learn untainted history if you can't stop eclipsing the truth.