Did Protestant Remove Books From the Bible

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/01/23 •  13 min read

The Protestant Reformation, a turning point in history, brought about significant changes in the religious landscape. One crucial aspect of this transformative period was the revisiting and reevaluation of the biblical canon, which resulted in the exclusion of certain books from the Protestant Bible. To truly understand this decision, let us delve into the historical context and explore the canonization process.

The process of canonization, or the selection and recognition of which books should be included in the Bible, was a complex and lengthy one. It involved careful consideration by religious leaders and scholars who sought divine guidance in determining the authenticity and authority of each text. Through prayer, study, and deliberation, they sought to discern which works truly belonged in the sacred scriptures.

During the Protestant Reformation, reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin questioned the inclusion of certain books in the canon. They believed that only those books that aligned with their interpretation of the Gospel should be considered authoritative. Consequently, they chose to exclude several books from the Protestant Bible that were previously accepted by the Catholic Church.

Among the books removed from the Protestant Bible were the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and parts of Esther and Daniel. These books, commonly referred to as the Deuterocanonical books or the Apocrypha, were considered by the Catholic Church to be inspired and part of the biblical canon. However, Protestant reformers questioned their authenticity and theological consistency.

It is important to note that the decision to exclude these books was not unanimous among all Protestant groups. While some reformers completely omitted them, others chose to include them in an appendix or as secondary readings, acknowledging their historical and cultural value without granting them the same level of authority as the other biblical books.

The removal of these books from the Protestant Bible sparked controversies and debates that continue to this day. Supporters of their exclusion argue that they lack sufficient historical evidence and do not align with the central themes and teachings of the Bible. On the other hand, proponents of their inclusion assert that these books provide valuable insights into the religious and cultural context in which the Bible was written.

To better understand the implications and impact of the Protestant Bible, let us turn to a story from the Bible itself. In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul encountered a group of Jews in the city of Berea who were described as ‘more noble-minded’ because they ‘examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so’ (Acts 17:11). This story highlights the importance of critical examination and discernment when it comes to interpreting and understanding the Word of God.

In conclusion, the modification of the biblical canon during the Protestant Reformation brought about the exclusion of certain books from the Protestant Bible. This decision was based on the reformers’ interpretation of the Gospel and their questioning of the authenticity and theological consistency of these books. The controversies and debates surrounding their removal continue to shape discussions within the Christian community. Ultimately, the Protestant Bible serves as a testament to the ongoing search for a comprehensive understanding of the Word of God, emphasizing the importance of critical examination and discernment in the study of scripture.

Key Takeaways

Historical Context: Understanding the Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation, a significant religious, political, and cultural movement in the 16th century, challenged the authority of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther, a prominent figure in this movement, criticized the practices and teachings of the Church. He based his arguments on his interpretation of the Scriptures, advocating for reforms that aligned with his understanding of God’s Word.

One of the outcomes of the Protestant Reformation was the establishment of Protestant denominations, each with its own theological beliefs and practices. As these denominations diverged from Catholicism, certain books were considered non-canonical or apocryphal by Protestant leaders. They made these decisions based on their understanding of the early Church’s teachings and the Hebrew Scriptures.

To understand why these books were removed from the Protestant Bible, it is important to explore the historical context and the canonization process. The canonization process refers to how certain books were included in the Bible while others were excluded. This process involved careful consideration of the authenticity and divine inspiration of each book.

When considering the Protestant Reformation and the removal of certain books, it is important to remember that the Bible itself does not explicitly list the books that should be included. However, there are references in the Bible that provide guidance on what should be considered as Scripture.

For example, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, it is written, ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ This verse suggests that only the books inspired by God should be considered as Scripture.

Another factor that influenced the removal of certain books was the consideration of their consistency with the teachings of the early Church. The early Church Fathers played a significant role in determining the authenticity and authority of the books to be included in the Bible. They relied on apostolic tradition and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles to discern which books were divinely inspired.

One example of a book that was removed from the Protestant Bible is the Book of Tobit. While this book is included in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, it was excluded by Protestant leaders. They argued that it lacked historical evidence and did not align with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

Canonization Process: How Books Made It Into the Protestant Bible

The canonization process, a crucial step in establishing the authoritative texts for religious beliefs, played a significant role in shaping the Protestant biblical canon. This process involved evaluating and including certain texts based on various criteria such as apostolic authorship, theological consistency, and widespread acceptance by the faithful.

One example that highlights the importance of this process is the inclusion of the Gospel of John. This gospel, attributed to the apostle John, was highly regarded for its profound theological insights and its portrayal of Jesus’ divinity. In John 1:1, it states, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ This verse emphasizes the deity of Jesus and his role in the creation of the world, making it a significant text for understanding Christian beliefs.

Another text that made it into the Protestant canon is the Epistle to the Romans. Written by the apostle Paul, this epistle explores theological concepts such as salvation by faith and the righteousness of God. In Romans 3:23, it states, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ This verse highlights the universal need for salvation and the grace offered through faith in Jesus Christ.

However, not all texts were included in the Protestant canon. One example is the Gospel of Thomas, which is considered a Gnostic gospel. This gospel contains sayings attributed to Jesus but was not included in the final collection of sacred texts due to its theological differences from the accepted canon. The Gospel of Thomas emphasizes secret knowledge and individual enlightenment, diverging from the mainstream Christian teachings found in the canonical gospels.

The canonization process involved careful scrutiny and debate among early Christian communities. Through a collective discernment, certain texts were deemed authoritative and included in the Protestant canon, while others were excluded. This process ensured that the final collection of sacred texts reflected the theological foundation of Protestantism.

Missing Books: Which Books Are Absent From the Protestant Canon

The exclusion of certain books from the Protestant canon has sparked intense debates and controversies, raising questions about biblical authority and the criteria for inclusion. These missing books, often referred to as the ‘Apocrypha’ or the ‘Deuterocanonical books,’ are present in the Catholic and Orthodox canons but not in the Protestant canon.

One of the books absent from the Protestant canon is Tobit. This book tells the story of Tobit, a righteous and faithful man who experiences numerous trials and tribulations. It emphasizes the importance of charity and the belief in God’s providence. Tobit 4:7-9 states, ‘Give alms from your possessions to all who live uprightly, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you make it. Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor, and the face of God will not be turned away from you. If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have.’

Another missing book is Judith, which recounts the bravery and cunning of a Jewish widow named Judith. She saves her people by seducing and beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes. Judith 16:17 proclaims, ‘So Judith was a widow in her house three years and four months. And she made herself a tent on the top of her house, and put on sackcloth upon her loins and wore her widow’s garments.’

The Wisdom of Solomon, another excluded book, focuses on the pursuit of wisdom and the benefits it brings. It offers insights into the nature of God, the immortality of the soul, and the consequences of righteousness and wickedness. Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-8 states, ‘Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.’

Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, is another missing book from the Protestant canon. It provides practical advice for living a righteous life and emphasizes the importance of honoring one’s parents, seeking wisdom, and avoiding sinful behavior. Sirach 3:2-4 advises, ‘For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure.’

The controversies surrounding the exclusion of these books stem from theological differences and historical considerations. While some argue that these books lack divine inspiration, others believe they offer valuable insights into the religious and cultural context of the biblical period.

To fully understand the reasons behind the removal of these books from the Protestant canon, it is essential to delve deeper into the controversies and debates surrounding their inclusion. By exploring the biblical verses and stories within these missing books, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the theological implications and historical significance involved.

Controversies and Debates: Reasons for Removing Books

A key aspect of the controversies and debates surrounding the exclusion of certain books from the Protestant canon involves the theological and historical reasons for their removal. The reasons for the removal of these books vary across different denominations and theological traditions. Let us explore some of the main reasons using relevant facts and quotes from the Bible.

  1. Theological disagreements: Certain books were excluded from the Protestant canon due to theological disagreements regarding their content, teachings, or authenticity. For example, the book of Tobit, which contains references to the intercession of saints, was not included in the Protestant canon. This exclusion is based on the theological belief that salvation comes directly through faith in Jesus Christ, and there is no need for intercession from saints.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus says, ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’ This verse highlights the idea of direct communication with God, without the need for intercession.

  1. Historical considerations: Some books were removed from the Protestant canon based on historical considerations, such as their late authorship or lack of acceptance by early Christian communities. One example is the book of Wisdom, which was written during the Hellenistic period and not widely accepted by early Jewish and Christian communities.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, it is stated, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.’ This verse emphasizes the importance of considering the divine inspiration of the Scriptures when determining their inclusion in the canon.

  1. Consistency and cohesiveness: The removal of certain books was driven by a desire to maintain consistency and cohesiveness within the Protestant canon, ensuring that the chosen books aligned with the overarching theological framework of Protestantism. This was done to create a unified understanding of salvation and biblical teachings.

In 1 Corinthians 14:33, it is written, ‘For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.’ This verse suggests the importance of having a cohesive and orderly canon that reflects the consistent message of God’s word.

These reasons for the removal of specific books from the Protestant canon have had significant implications and impact on the development and interpretation of the Bible as a whole. By carefully considering the theological, historical, and cohesive aspects of the canon, Protestant scholars and theologians sought to create a unified understanding of God’s word for their respective traditions.

Implications and Impact: The Influence of the Protestant Bible

The influence of the Protestant canon on religious practices, theological doctrines, and the interpretation of scripture has been far-reaching and continues to shape the beliefs and practices of Protestant communities. The exclusion of certain books from the Protestant Bible, such as the Apocrypha, has had significant implications for theology and the cultural significance of Protestantism.

One story from the Bible that highlights the importance of the Protestant canon is the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus is tempted by the devil three times. Each time, Jesus responds with a quote from the Old Testament, specifically from the book of Deuteronomy. This story emphasizes the authority and reliability of the Old Testament scriptures for Jesus, and by extension, for Christians.

The removal of certain books from the Protestant Bible, like the Apocrypha, has shaped Protestant theological doctrines. These books are not considered authoritative sources of revelation by Protestants. For example, the book of Tobit from the Apocrypha includes teachings on the intercession of angels and the importance of almsgiving, which are not emphasized in Protestant theology. By excluding these books, Protestants have developed a different understanding of salvation, sacraments, and other key aspects of Christian belief.

Another significant impact of excluding the Apocrypha from the Protestant Bible is its cultural significance. This exclusion has influenced the development of Protestant religious practices, such as the emphasis on sola scriptura (Scripture alone) and the rejection of traditions not explicitly found in the Bible. This emphasis on scripture as the ultimate authority has shaped Protestant worship and religious rituals.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.