Why Do Catholics Believe that the Bible Has 73 Books? *


Baruch is one of seven Old Testament Books found in Catholic Bibles but not in Protestant ones. Catholics call them the “deuterocanonical” (literally, “second canon”) books; Protestants call them the “apocryphal” (literally, “hidden – thus “unknown, spurious”) books. In addition to Baruch, these books include Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon), and Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus). Click Deuterocanonical Books for a short summary of each of these books.


These deuterocanonical texts were included in the Septuagint, a third-century B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament, which served as the Scriptures of the apostles and the generations that followed them. The earliest Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament – such as Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) and Codex Alexandrinus (c. 450) – include the deuterocanonical books mixed in with the others.


Church councils at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397 and 419) listed these books (and the other sixty-six) as Scripture, endorsing what had become the general belief of the universal Church. The Council of Trent confirmed this canon in the sixteenth century.


How did Protestant Christians lose these books from their Bibles? The influential Protestant reformer Martin Luther deleted them. Though he insisted that Scripture must be the sole authority for the Christian faith, when scriptural texts did not support his teaching he tended to deny the authority of the books in which those texts were found.


The deuterocanonical books include passages that support the practice of offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead – and by extension, the doctrine of purgatory as well (see 2 Mc 12:39-46). Luther rejected this ancient teaching and practice of the Church, so he denied these books a place in the Protestant canon.


The books of the “second canon” are similar in style to other Old Testament books. Wisdom and Sirach are much like Proverbs. Tobit is in somewhat the same literary category as the Book of Job. Judith is comparable to Esther (two heroic Hebrew women who helped save their people). First and Second Maccabees are historical narratives like the Books of Kings and Chronicles. And Baruch is prophetic literature, akin to Jeremiah.


The New Testament closely reflects the thought of the deuterocanonical books in many passages. For example, Revelation 1:4 and 8:3-4 appear to make reference to Tobit 12:15. St Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:29, seems to have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind, and Hebrews 11:35 mirrors the thought of 2 Maccabees 7:29. (See also “Why Don’t Catholics Believe in the Bible Only?")


Catechism of the Catholic Church: 120; 138


*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com


Excellent explanation also at:


Back to: Bible