There are a number of books that were removed from the Bible. These books are referred to as the Apocrypha, which means “those that are hidden” in Greek and applies to all the writings that were removed from the Bible. There are many potential reasons why these books may have been left out.
In this article we’re taking a deep dive into the Apocrypha to learn why these books were removed, which books were removed, and what this can tell us about the ancient text.
Why Were the 14 Books Removed From the Bible?
It’s a sacred mystery as to exactly why these books were removed. There are a lot of conspiracy theories and thoughts centered around this but no one knows the exact reason.
Some believe that the texts weren’t included because they were only known to a select few people. As a result, they were left out because they wouldn’t apply to the mass majority of the population.
Others believe that they simply didn’t “fit” the narrative of what the ancient text was trying to convey. That’s not to say that the removed books were inaccurate or false, it’s merely saying that they weren’t suited for the Bible because the information was inapplicable and didn’t have a place in the Bible narrative.
Additionally, some of the books weren’t written at the same time as the Bible, which was yet another reason to not include them. It was generally assumed that these books were incomplete and as a result would be left out.
The King James version of the Bible first coined the term Apocrypha and it separated these sets of books from the rest. Roman Catholic Bibles still contain these books in the Old Testament but do not call them Apocrypha, they’re instead called deuterocanonical. This means that they belong to the second canon, which refers to a list of the literary works accepted as the word of God.
Though many different versions of the Bible have developed through the ages, the Roman Catholic tradition has always been to remain as true as possible to the original word of God. For this reason, they prefer to keep the additional books as part of their sacred text.
Why Were the Book Removed?
Many people disagree about the reasons why these texts were removed. Most believe that this text remained in the Bible until 1828 but translators say that the additional books made it challenging for people to understand the word of God.
There were also a lot of teachings in the books that went against the accepted books of the Bible, causing greater confusion.
This could point to one of the major reasons why the books were removed – they were difficult to read and understand. The goal of the Bible according to translators was to prepare people to accept God and understand Him. Anything that would have complicated or further challenged that agenda would have come up against contention.
Likely this is why the additional 14 books were finally removed from the common Bible in the seventeenth century.
What Are the 14 Books 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
- 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.
There are many theories surrounding why the books were removed. Let’s take a closer look at each book and some scriptures to further explore this topic.
The first chapter of Ezra is a historical account of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This took place between 536 and 436 BC. The chapter deals most often with groups of people coming back to Jerusalem and the callings of Cyrus.
In this book, King Cyrus called everyone who was unable to work on the temple to provide items like livestock and food as offerings. Since they couldn’t physically help, this was their reparation. The building of the temple was a huge undertaking, so these “donations” went toward building costs.
A record of these offerings tells us that Cyrus gave over 5,000 items to the treasurer. In turn, all of these items were given to the prince of Judah which helped Cyrus’ people establish a presence in Jerusalem again.
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
– 1 Ezra:1-2
Ezra 2 has a bit more of an interesting story behind it. In reality, there is no such thing as a 2 Ezra and there are no direct accounts of any scripture from this book of the Bible. It is believed that Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians purposely excluded this book from the Old Testament. Thus, you can only find it in Latin text today.
The name of the book has created a lot of confusion because no one seems to have a solid understanding of who actually named the book 2 Ezra. Across many different versions of the Bible you will see 2 Ezra named something completely different.
The book of Tobit is about Tobit and his family living outside of Israel as exiles. Tobit eventually goes blind and is forced to send his son, Tobias, on a journey with the angel Raphael disguised as a human. This is when Tobias meets Sarah who is possessed by a demon, but Raphael is able to intervene and expel the demon allowing Tobias and Sarah to marry.
They then return to Tobit and his sight returns. He eventually dies of old age as a happy man because God was able to intervene.
This book is not entirely believed to be the true work of God. Instead, it is considered a folk tale due to the outlandish nature of some of the text in the book. That said, there are still plenty of deep rooted Biblical morals and even practical information outlined in this book.
The angel said to him, “Cut open the fish and remove its gallbladder, heart, and liver and keep them with you, and throw away the guts. Its gallbladder, heart, and liver are useful medicines.”
6 So Tobias cut open the fish and gathered up the gallbladder, heart, and liver. He cooked the fish and ate it; and the remaining part of it, which he salted, he put aside. Then they both journeyed together until they approached Media. 7 Tobias asked the angel, “Brother Azariah, what medicine is there in the fish’s heart, liver, and gallbladder?”
– Tobit 6:5-7
The story of Judith focuses on a young woman who is upset with everyone around her for not trusting God to deliver what they need.
She goes with her maid to a nearby camp with an enemy general named Holofernes who is preparing to battle against the very men she is trying to help. Holofernes is able to coerce her into providing information about the whereabouts of the Israelites.
She ends up gaining his trust and he allows her access to his tent one evening when he is drunk. Judith chops off Holofernes’ head and takes it back to the countrymen who feared him.
All the people who were led by him disperse. The result of the story is a victory for the Israelites but Judith remains unmarried for the rest of her life.
It is generally believed that this book blends truth and fiction. The reason this book was left out of the Bible could very well be due to the fact that the story cannot be verified as true. This book was left out of the Bible as revisions and updates have been made over the years.
Whether the story is true or not, this book is a testament to how Judith had confidence in the work of God and was not afraid.
The Rest of Esther
It is believed that the additional sections that were removed from the book of Esther were written by an Egyptian Jew around 170 BC. The goal was to give the Bible a more religious tone and to indicate that Jews were saved due to their piety. The additions changed the tone of the book completely and for that reason, were never included.
This is a big indicator that a lot of the pieces of the Bible that were excluded were done so with the intention of increasing the accuracy of the information and focusing more on the word of God. A lot of the books that were removed were not referenced by Jesus. This is true for all the apocryphal writings.
The Wisdom of Solomon
Even though the name “King Solomon” appears nowhere in the text, some believe that The Wisdom of Solomon was written by him.
The early church rejected this because of an ancient manuscript called the Muratorian fragment that makes reference to the book being written by the “friends of Soloman”. The Catholic Church continues to believe that Soloman did not write this book. Of course, there is no way to know for certain who the author is.
The book touches a lot on the subject of wisdom throughout Proverbs but it was never widely accepted because there are no references to Jesus.
She’s the brightness that shines forth from eternal light. She’s a mirror that flawlessly reflects God’s activity. She’s the perfect image of God’s goodness.
– Wisdom 7:26
There are many verses in this book that really go against what we all know and trust as Christians. We understand that the only way to heaven is through the Father. We know this is one of the most important pieces of salvation. Yet this book describes a different way to gain salvation.
Only then did your ways become clear to us on earth. Only then were humans able to learn what pleases you, and were thus rescued by wisdom.
Thus were the paths of those on earth made straight, and people learned what pleases you, and were saved by Wisdom.
– Wisdom 9:18
As you read this, it sort of sends shivers down your spine. It feels egregious that this could even be considered a part of the sacred text. It does feel as if King Solomon or those around him were worshipping false idols and not living their life according to God.
The wisdom that is touched on in this book refers to the wisdom of Solomon, but unfortunately it elevates that wisdom to salvation, which is something Christians can clearly see to be false teaching. Only God can save us with His grace and mercy.
This book is said to be written by the grandson of Sirach between 190 and 170 BC. He was a philosopher of sorts and lived in Jerusalem. He understood the traditions and Hebrew scriptures very well. The original book was written in Hebrew and was translated to Greek approximately 40-50 years later.
One of the reasons why we believe this book may not have been included is because it contains a lot of advice about varying topics with no real tie to Jesus Christ. It also has a different treatment in regards to sin. It talks about a different type of afterlife where not everyone goes to heaven or hell and instead, everyone receives punishment for their sins during their lifetime.
Baruch with the Epistle Jeremiah
Baruch is Jeremiah’s scribe and is considered the author of this entire book. The book is a reflection of the circumstances involving Jewish exiles in Babylon. In fact, the book is actually written directly to the citizens of Jerusalem with guidelines that they should follow. The book focuses on wisdom and many believe it was written during the period of the Maccabees.
Nonetheless, this is one of the most widely accepted pieces of the removed books and it is still present in the Greek Orthodox Bible and the Vulgate Bible which also contains the Letter of Jeremiah.
The Songs of the 3 Holy Children
This text is not found anywhere in the original Hebrew Bible and it’s not cited in Jewish writing either, but it does appear in some early translations. The origins of the text are obscure and no one knows if they were from the originally composed Hebrew text or if they came from another source.
At this point, there isn’t a lot of information on this scripture and that could be the reason why it was never included in the Bible. Much of the text that couldn’t identify a source was left out due to fear of inaccuracy.
The History of Susana
This was chapter 13 in the book of Daniel until it was removed by the Protestant Church. It is considered an example of proper manners. The story starts with a wife named Susanna who was accused by voyeurs. These men were spying on her while she was bathing and then demand that she have sex with them.
She of course refused and they arrest her, claiming that she sent her maids away so she could have sex with a young man under a tree. When she is put to death the young man Daniel shouts out that the two men should be questioned separately to see if their stories align.
The result is that their stories do not align because they each tell the authorities of a different kind of tree where the act occurred. The two men are then sentenced to death.
Bel and the Dragon
Here we have another book that was from the book of Daniel. This is chapter 13 and in fact, it never even made it into any version of the Bible. This story was rejected by the Church from the very beginning.
It is a single story of Daniel at the court of Cyrus. The story of Bel denounces the worship of idols and the king tests Daniel by asking him if he thinks Bel is a living God. The king is enraged when Daniel denies Bel and is unimpressed by what the king claims.
The king demands that 70 priests show Daniel offerings that will be made to the idol. Bel must then consume all the offerings and if he doesn’t, the priests will be sentenced to death. If he does, Daniel will be sentenced to death.
Daniel sprinkles ashes throughout the floor of the temple to find out that the meal was actually consumed by the priests, wives, and children who enter through a secret door when the temple doors are closed.
The next morning the king comes to see that the food was consumed, but Daniel brings his attention to the footprints of varying sizes indicating a large group of people were present. The priests are arrested, the secret passage is found, and everyone involved is given a death sentence.
The Prayer for Manasseh
This 15 verse prayer to King Manasseh of Judah is believed to have been excluded from the Bible because Manasseh is considered one of the most idolatrous kings in the history of the ancient scripture.
1 Maccabees/ 2 Maccabees
One primary theory for the exclusion of the Maccabees is the dating of the books. It is assumed that the canon was formulated in Jamnia but much of the information in this book would have taken place long before it was written. It could mean that the writers inherited some information they were passing along or it could mean scribes of the Old Testament included this information. There’s no way to know for sure.
It has also been said that the Maccabees are traced back to a political rivalry between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. These two rejected each other’s interpretation of the ancient text and as a result, the exclusion of the book could have been one of the final feuds between the two.
Which Bible Is the Most Accurate?
To pick just one version of the Bible is a difficult task. Think of it like picking a favorite breakfast cereal. They all have similarities, differences, pros, and cons so it’s not easy to say that one is better than the other or more accurate.
It depends on what you’re looking to gain. If you’re looking for applicable information that you can apply to your life, you might benefit from a New American Standard Bible because the translations correspond more with modern life.
If you’re looking for something that more closely represents an older direct translation, the King James or New King James Version might suit you best.
The New Living Translation is considered one of the most dynamic translations because it communicates the information in a language that is easy for everyone to understand.
Where Can You Find an Original Bible?
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as an “original” Bible. The Bible consists of a large number of books and stories that were compiled over time. As a result, there can’t be just one original Bible.
The books of the Bible were written by many different people at different points in time. Over the centuries many different interpretations have resulted, creating a diverse range of translations and inclusions or exclusions of books, such as the Apocrypha.