Gene: Hey John,
I was wondering, when the Bible was made, how was it determined what books were canonical and what books were not. Are all authentic books in the Bible, or just the ones that were thought to be divinely inspired? And why exactly did the Protestants take seven books out of the Bible, and what authority gave them that right (or what authority did they think gave them that right?)
J. Salza: Dear Gene. This is a great question and one of the questions that gives an answer that proves the Catholic Church to be the true Church.
The bishops had to rely on apostolic tradition which they received from their successors, and their successors, and so on, all the way back to the apostles. Christ also promised that the Church would be guided into all truth. At the time the canon was selected (just before the end of the fourth century), all the apostles were deceased. So the only way the Church could determine what books were inspired was to rely upon the oral tradition that it received from the apostles.
There were many, many scriptures floating around, many of which seem orthodox (and some are; i.e., Didache, Clement’s letter to the Corinithians, The Shepherd of Hermas, etc.). There were even 50 “gospels” that existed. But how could the Church actually know which ones were inspired? By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they relied upon oral apostolic tradition. As Paul says, this “Church is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth.” 1 Tim. 3:15. This historical and theological fact also disproves the Protestant theory of sola Scriptura (that the Bible is the sole rule and guide of faith). This is because the Bible has no inspired table of contents. You must look outside the Bible to determine what books belong in it, and this is a Revelation given from God to the Catholic Church.
As far as the number of Scriptures, the Bible contains the entire written word of God, and nothing less. There are not and can not be any other Scriptures that were inspired but not selected by the Church, because the Church acted with Christ’s own wisdom and authority in determining the canon. The 72 books of the Bible are it. There is nothing more as far as the written word goes.
The Protestants removed 7 books from the OT during the Reformation (circa 1535), specifically at the direction of Martin Luther. He was particularly disturbed by the book of Maccabees (2 Macc. 12:45) because it supported the Church’s teaching on purgatory. He was also going to remove the letter of James because it supports the Catholic teaching of works justifying us, but the Protestant movement would not let him go that far.
As far as their authority, of course they had none. God gave his authority only to the Catholic Church. Once in a while, you will hear a Protestant appeal to the school of Jamnia, a Jewish “council” that rejected the deuterocanonical books around 90 A.D. (primarily because they were written in Greek, and not Aramaic and Hebrew). But this same council also rejected the entire New Testament! So it is illogical for them to appeal to a Jewish school that rejected Christ as authority for a Christian position! See my link on the deuterocanon. It demonstrates how the sacred writers constantly quoted the deuterocanonical books in their NT writings. See also the link on the Septuagint (the Greek OT that Christ and the apostles taught from). If the rejected books were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for me.
Grace be with you.