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Sunday, 10 October 1999


Historical evidence on the canon of Scripture


Following are quotations from historical documents which testify to the Catholic Church's early and authoritative recognition of both the protocanonical and deuterocanonical books of Sacred Scripture. I have included documentation from as early as the fourth century. Here I have personally traced citations only to respected, scholarly, published works. (Due to HTML's obliteration of the original footnotes, I've had to convert the footnote references into endnotes.)



The Council of Rome, A.D. 382 —Pope Saint Damasus I (366-384):

Latin excerpt (1), followed by an English translation (2):

Nunc vero de Scripturis divinis agendum est, quid universalis catholica recipiat Ecclesia et [vel] quid vitare [vitari] debeat.

Incipit ordo Veteris Testamenti. Genesis liber unus; Exodus lib. 1; Leviticus lib. 1; Numeri lib. 1; Deuteronomium lib. 1; Iesu Nave lib. 1; Iudicum lib. 1; Ruth lib. 1; Regum libri 4; Paralypomenon libri 2; Psalmi CL [Psalterium] lib. 1; Salamonis lib. 3: Proverbia lib. 1, Ecclesiastes lib. 1, Cantica Canticorum 1.1; Item Sapientia lib. 1; Ecclesiasticus lib. 1.

Item ordo Prophetarum. Esaiae liber unus; Hieremiae lib. 1, cum Cinoth id est Lamentationibus suis; Exechiel[is] lib. 1; Danihel[is] lib. 1; Oseae lib. 1; Amos lib. 1; Micheae lib. 1; Iohel lib. 1; Abdiae lib. 1; Ionae lib. 1; Naum lib. 1; Ambacum [Abacuc] lib. 1; Sophoniae lib. 1; Aggei lib. 1; Zachariae lib. 1; Malacihel [Malachiae] lib. 1.

Item ordo storiarum. Iob liber unus; Tobiae lib. 1; Esdrae [Hesdrae] libir 2; Hester lib. 1; Iudit lib. 1; Machabeorum libri 2.

Item ordo Scripturarum Novi et aeterni Testamenti, quem sancta et catholica [Romana] suscipit [et veneratur] Ecclesia...


Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.

The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Josue Nave one book, Judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books [I, II Kings; I, II Samuel] (3), Paralipomenon two books [I, II Chronicles](4), Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus one book.

Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book, with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations [including Baruch? (5)], Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee one book, Micheas one book, Joel one book, Abdias one book, Jonas one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc one book, Sophonias one book, Aggeus one book, Zacharias one book, Malachias one book.

Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books [Ezra, Nehemiah](6), Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books.

Likewise the order of the writings of the New and eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church supports...


The Council of Carthage (III), 28 August, 397:

Latin excerpt(7), followed by an English translation (8):

[Placuit,] ... ut praeter scripturas canonicas nihil in ecclesia legatur sub nomine divinarum Scripturarum. Sunt autem canonicae scripturae: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuternomium, Iesu[s], Nave, Iudicum, Ruth, Regnorum libri quatuor, Paralipomenon libri duo, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum, Salomonis libri quinque, duodecim libri Prophetarum, Esaias, Ieremias, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobias, Iudith, Hester, Hesdrae libri duo, Machabaeorum libri duo. Novi autem Testamenti...

Canon 36 (or otherwise 47). [It has been decided] that nothing except the Canonical Scriptures should be read in the church under the name of the Divine Scriptures. But the Canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus(9)](10), twelve books of the Prophets [Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi] (11), Isaias, Jeremias [including Baruch?(12)], Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Machabees. Moreover, of the New Testament...


Pope Saint Innocent I, A.D. 401-417:

From the epistle "Consulenti tibi" to Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, February 20, 405: (13)

A brief addition shows what books really are received in the canon. These are the desiderata of which you wished to be informed verbally: of Moses five books, that is, of Genesis, of Exodus, of Leviticus, of Numbers, of Deuteronomy, and Josue, of Judges one book, of Kings four books, and also Ruth, of the Prophets sixteen books, of Solomon five books, the Psalms. Likewise of the histories, Job one book, of Tobias one book, Esther one, Judith one, of the Machabees two, of Esdras two, Paralipomenon two books. Likewise of the New Testament...


The Creed of the Council of Toledo, A.D. 400, 447: (14)

The rule of the Catholic faith against all heresies...

12. If anyone either believes that any scriptures, except those which the Catholic Church has received, ought to be held in authority or venerates them, let him be anathema.


The Council of Florence, 1438-1445: (15)

...It [the Roman Church] professes one and the same God as the author of the Old and New Testament, that is, of the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel, since the saints of both Testaments have spoken with the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, whose books, which are contained under the following titles it accepts and venerates. [The books of the canon follow, cf. Council of Trent, Session IV, DS 784].


The Council of Trent, Session IV, April 8, 1546: (16)

The sacred and holy ecumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, with the same three Legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, keeping this constantly in view, that with the abolishing of errors, the purity itself of the Gospel is preserved in the Church, which promised before through the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded "to be preached" by His apostles "to every creature" as the source of every saving truth and of instruction in morals [Matt. 28:19 ff., Mark 16:15], and [the Synod] clearly perceiving that this truth and instruction are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which have been received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the apostles themselves, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, have come down even to us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand, [the Synod] following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and holds in veneration with an equal affection of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament, since one God is the author of both, and also the traditions themselves, those that appertain both to faith and to morals, as having been dictated either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And so that no doubt may arise in anyone's mind as to which are the books that accepted by this Synod, it has decreed that a list of the Sacred books be added to this decree. They are written below:

Books of the Old Testament: The five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is called Nehemias, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Psalter of David consisting of 150 psalms, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus [Sirach], Isaias, Jeremias with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets, that is Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second.

Books of the New Testament...

If anyone, however, should not accept the said books as sacred and canonical, entire with all their parts, as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition, and if both knowingly and deliberately he should condemn the aforesaid traditions let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand in what order and in what manner the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the confession of Faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church...

Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod taking into consideration that no small benefit can accrue to the Church of God, if it be made know which one of all the Latin editions of the sacred books which are in circulation is to be considered authentic, has decided and declares that the said old Vulgate edition, which has been approved by the Church itself through long usage for so many centuries in public lectures, disputations, sermons, and expositions, be considered authentic, and that no one under any pretext whatsoever dare or presume to reject it.

Furthermore, in order to curb impudent clever persons, the synod decrees that no one who relies on his own judgment in matters of faith and morals, which pertain to the building up of Christian doctrine, and that no one who distorts the Sacred Scripture according to his own opinions, shall dare to interpret the said Sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which is held by holy mother Church, whose duty it is to judge regarding the true sense and interpretation of holy Scriptures...




1Denzinger, Henricus. Enchiridion Symbolorum —Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum, n. 179. 33rd edition. 1965, Verlag Herder KG, Freiburg.

2Deferrari, Roy, translator. The Sources of Catholic Dogma [from the Thirtieth Edition of Henry Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum], n. 84. 1957, B. Herder Book Co., Saint Louis, MO.

3Cross, F. L., editor. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, pp. 769. 1958 Oxford University Press, London.

4Cross, F. L., editor. p. 1014.

5Cross, F. L., editor. p. 137.

6Cross, F. L., editor. p. 462.

7Denzinger, Henricus. n. 186.

8Deferrari, Roy, translator. n. 92.

9Cross, F. L., editor. p. 436, 1471. (Presently I am not certain that Ecclesiasticus (a.k.a. Sirach) belongs in this list, but my references strongly support its position here in the "books of Solomon" of this canon.)

10Cross, F. L., editor. p. 1269.

11Cross, F. L., editor. pp. 904, 1212.

12Cross, F. L., editor. p. 137.

13Deferrari, Roy, translator. n. 96.

14Deferrari, Roy, translator. n. 18, 32.

15Deferrari, Roy, translator. n. 706.

16Deferrari, Roy, translator. n. 783-786.