Skip to content
Home » Why Were Books Removed From The Bible

Why Were Books Removed From The Bible

Why were books removed from the bible. This is an interesting question for nearly everyone who considers themselves religious and has heard parables that are in both the Bible and the Apocrypha. The implications of these books being removed are vast and significant, yet the process of this removal remains to be a largely mysterious topic, even among many religious scholars themselves. In order to discuss this issue with a better understanding of it, let’s review some of the basics of how Christianity emerged as well as how some of its leaders sought to craft certain tenets regarding churches and their doctrines.

The books of the Bible were removed for several reasons, but mostly because of their content. For example, The Gospel of Thomas is a book that was not included in the canon because it does not have any stories about Jesus Christ or his apostles and does not include any teachings from Jesus.

Another reason why these books were removed from the Bible is because they did not meet certain criteria that would make them appropriate to be included in the canon. These criteria include having apostolic authority and being written in the first century.

Lastly, some books were removed because their authorship could not be verified and there were too many other writings with similar themes or ideas.

Why were some books removed from the Bible and is it a sin to read them?

Q. Why were some books removed from the Bible and is it a sin to read them?

I believe you are talking about the so-called Apocrypha. That term refers to books that were written in Greek within the Jewish community in the centuries before Christ. Those books are distinct from the Old Testament because they were written in Greek, not Hebrew, and they are distinct from the New Testament because they were written before Christ came, not after. So there is already something about them that sets them apart as different from the books that all Christians accept as inspired Scripture.

Nevertheless, after lengthy discussion and debate in the few centuries after Christ, regional councils in the western part of the Roman Empire, at Hipppo in 393 and Carthage in 397, approved adding these books to the canon of Scripture, as long as this decision was ratified by the central authority in Rome.

No action was taken in that regard for over 1,000 years. But finally, in 1546,  the Council of Trent, largely in response to the way Martin Luther had separated out these apocryphal books and placed them between the testaments in his German translation of Bible, decreed that they were as fully canonical as the others. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic church still describes these books as deuterocanonical, meaning that they belong to a second group of books “whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters,” as opposed to the protocanonical books, the collection of “sacred writings which have been always received by Christendom without dispute.”

The Council of Trent also decreed that the Vulgate was the authoritative text of Scripture. That actually sent something of a mixed message about the Apocrypha, because St. Jerome’s prologues were always included in the Vulgate, and in his prologue to the book of Kings, in which he surveyed the entire Old Testament, he specified that the books that had been translated from Greek, rather than from Hebrew, are “set aside among the apocrypha” (inter apocrifa seponendum) and “are not in the canon” (non sunt in canone).  He made similar comments in the prologues to several of the apocryphal books themselves. So while the Roman Catholic Church’s embrace of these books is explicit, its position on them is not without internal tensions.

Eastern Orthodox Bibles include all the books in the Catholic Apocrypha along with several more. However, it classifies all these apocryphal books as Anagignoskomena (“worthy to be read”), meaning that they are read during services of worship, but that they are not as authoritative as the other books. Orthodox theologians sometimes call the apocryphal books deuterocanonical to indicate their secondary authority, using this term differently from Catholics, for whom it describes how these books were received after first being disputed.

And Protestants, ever since Martin Luther, have not considered the Apocrypha canonical, except for Protestants in the Anglican/Episcopalian tradition.

So maybe the real question is not why some books were removed from the Bible, but why some books that were different from both the Old Testament and the New Testament were added to the Bible. The answer is that, as the Eastern Orthodox say, they are “worthy to be read.” They provide important information about what happened in the years between the testaments,  they tell inspiring stories of how people remained faithful to God during difficult trials in those times, and they add to the collection of wise advice for living that is found in the canonical wisdom books.

So it is certainly not a sin to read them. Even Protestants, who do not consider them to be inspired Scripture, say that they are edifying, meaning that reading them can strengthen our faith and devotion to God. As a Protestant myself, I do not have these apocryphal books in the Bibles that I use regularly for study and devotions. But I do have copies of these books in some other Bibles that I own. I have read the apocryphal books and gotten a lot out of them.

I hope this provides you with some helpful background to the issue. As I said, it would certainly not be a sin to read those books, and I think they would help you learn some useful things if you did read them. If you belong to a community of Christians, and if this issue is important within that community, you could explain to anyone you told about reading the books that you were not reading them as Scripture, but as edifying literature that has come down to us from within the tradition of our faith. I hope no one would be upset about that.

books of the bible left out by king james

The missing books you refer to in the KJV are most likely the apocryphal books which are generally not found in any Protestant translation (NASB, NAS, NIV, RSV, etc.). The Protestant church generally does not believe these books are inspired and therefore canonical, that is authoritative and deserving to be a part of the Bible as the Word of God. The books in question are considered apocryphal in most Protestant churches, but are accepted as canonical in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Armenian and the Ethiopian Oriental Orthodox Churches.

There are 14 of these books found in the Septuagint and included in the Vulgate but considered uncanonical by Protestants because they are not part of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Roman Catholic canon accepts 11 of these books and includes them in the Douay Bible.

The following explanation from the Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia © 1996-97 Microsoft Corporation may help.

Apocrypha, term coined by the 5th-century biblical scholar Saint Jerome for the biblical books received by the church of his time as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament (see Septuagint), but not included in the Hebrew Bible.

Derived from the period 300 BC to New Testament times, the books of the Apocrypha included Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and the two books of Maccabees. Also generally included with the Apocrypha are the two books of Esdras, additions to the Book of Esther (Esther 10:4-10), additions to the Book of Daniel (Daniel 3:24-90;13;14), and the Prayer of Manasseh.

Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians include all the Apocrypha in the biblical canon, except for the two books of Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. They generally refer to the Protestant Apocrypha as deuterocanonical books, and reserve the term Apocrypha for those books entirely outside the biblical canon, which Protestants call the Pseudepigrapha.

The Reasons the Protestant Church excludes them is as follows:

  1. The early church fathers only accepted the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. The only exception was Augustine (A. D. 400) who included the books of the Apocrypha (those “extra” books that some Bibles include between the books of the Old and New Testaments). However, he did acknowledge that they were not fully authoritative.
  2. The books of the Apocrypha were not officially recognized as part of the canon until the Council of Trent (A.D. 1546) and then only by the Roman Catholic church.
  3. There are some 250 quotes from Old Testament books in the New Testament by the writers of the New Testament, but none from the Apocrypha. All Old Testament books are quoted except Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
  4. In Luke 11:51, the Lord said something definitive about the extent of the canon of the Old Testament which He accepted. In condemning the leaders of the Jewish people for killing God’s messengers throughout their history, He charged them of being guilty of shedding the blood of all the righteous from Abel to Zechariah. Now the murder of Abel is recorded in Genesis 4, and the murder of Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24 which in the arrangement of the Hebrew canon was the last book in order (as Malachi is in our arrangement). So the Lord was saying, “From the first to the last murder recorded in the Old Testament.” Now, of course, there were other murders of God’s messengers recorded in the Apocrypha, but the Lord does not include them. Evidently He did not consider the books of the Apocrypha to be of equal authority with the books from Genesis to 2 Chronicles.

Beyond the Apocrypha, there were many other books that were considered false and were called the pseudepigrapha. These were spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times. They included a number of texts written between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 and spuriously ascribed to various prophets and kings of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jewish and Christian writings that began to appear about 200 BC and continued to be written well into Christian times; they were attributed to great religious figures and authorities of the past. Pseudepigrapha were composed in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and they include apocalyptic writings, legendary histories, psalms, and wisdom literature. In most cases, Pseudepigrapha are modeled on canonical books of a particular genre. Although Pseudepigrapha, in the sense of pseudonymous works, are included in the canon of the Old Testament (see Bible), Protestants and Jews customarily use the term Pseudepigrapha to describe what Roman Catholics would term Apocrypha— late Jewish writings that all scholars consider extracanonical (Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia © & 1996-97 Microsoft Corporation).

Other than these, I know of no other books that could be involved here. Historically, the books of our present-day Bible, as found in the KJV and NASB, etc., are the only ones that the Protestant church has recognized as inspired of God and thus canonical. For more information on the issue of canonicity, see the study, Bibliology: The Doctrine of the Written Word on our web site as well as other studies on canonicity.

how many books were removed from the bible

In 1684 it was decided to remove the following 14 books from some versions of the Bible:

  • 1 Ezra
  • 2 Ezra
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • The rest of Esther
  • The Wisdom of Solomon
  • Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach)
  • Baruch with the Epistle Jeremiah
  • The Songs of the 3 Holy Children
  • The History of Susana
  • Bel and the Dragon
  • The Prayer for Manasseh
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees

While the Catholic faith continued to keep the books in a separate section of their Bible, looking across different versions of the Bible today you will find some contain all of these books, while some contain a select few.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *