For 1,500 years, all Christian Bibles were the same. Most Bibles contained the 66 sacred books of Scripture, as well as several books called the Apocrapha. The word 'apocrapha' means "hidden" or "concealed", but after c. 450 A.D. came to refer to the non-canonical books of the Old Testament period. The church (along with its various branches) never considered to be the inspired word of God. Instead, they were thought of as ancient, faithful writings that encouraged devotion to God—though not infallible. They were considered useful for promoting Christian living, but not to be used to establish doctrine. Jews never considered these writings to possess the authority of Scripture. The great Christian theologians of the past regularly used these books, but never considered them to be the Word of God.
There were, however, some notable exceptions to this. Augustine, perhaps the greatest theologian in church history, argued for full acceptance of the Apocrapha. Clement of Alexandria and Origen (declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church), among others, argued for the inclusion of one or more of these books.
In 1545 the Roman Catholic Church called a church council at the city of Trent. They were responding to the claim that the Protestants were valuing the Bible more highly than the Catholics (Sola Scriptura). To prove this claim wrong, they decided to “one up” the Protestants, and for the first time in Christian history, declared the Apocraphal books to be the inspired Word of God—an act which all Protestant groups rejected as unbiblical.
The Roman Catholic church generally uses the name "deutero-canonical books" when referring to what Protestants call the Apocrapha. The Eastern Orthodox church takes a mediating position, arguing that the "deutero-canonical" books are indeed Scripture, but lacking the authority and trustworthiness of the rest of the Holy Word. Protestants, and even many Catholics, charge the Orthodox with inconsistency on this issue.
The issue in the Reformation/Counter-Reformation period was which group most valued the Word of God. The Protestants firmly held to the principle of sola scriptura, meaning that Scripture was the primary and sole document for determining orthodoxy and standards of Christian living. Conversely, while the Catholics were not willing to give up the church's authority over Scripture, they needed a way to "prove" they valued the Bible as well. Their answer was to simply add more books. As such, Protestant Bibles are not “missing” any books. Instead, the Roman Catholic church inappropriately added some books 1,500 years after Christ’s time on earth in order to win an argument.
Questions for Pastor Josh can be submitted via Email. "Ask the Pastor" is a feature in the monthly newsletter of Indian River Baptist Church. This blog republishes those Questions, along with others not selected for print publication.