XI: The Bible

Q: What do Lutherans confess about the Bible? What about the apocrypha included in the Roman Catholic Bible?

A:  As confessional Lutherans, we believe, teach and confess that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit and that God is therefore the true Author of every word of Scripture. We accept all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as a whole and in all their parts as the divinely inspired, revealed, and inerrant Word of God and submit to this as the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life. See https://www.taalc.org/scripture-and-confessions for more.

The Old Testament accepted by Roman Catholics has 46 books, while that used by most Lutherans has 39. The seven books in question are: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and I and II Maccabees.

In the first century BC, two versions of the Old Testament existed: one in Hebrew, used in Palestine, which did not contain the seven books listed above; and a Greek version, called the Septuagint, used by Greek-speaking Jews outside of Palestine which contained the seven books. In AD 90, a group of rabbis, meeting at a council at Jamnia in Palestine, determined that the Scriptures would contain only those books written originally in Hebrew. The aforementioned seven books were written in Greek and, therefore, were not included. These came to be called the "deuterocanonical" or "apocryphal" books.

In the late 4th century, St. Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin, using as his basis for the Old Testament the Greek Septuagint version. This translation, called the Vulgate, was accepted by the Church as the official Latin and, later, Roman Catholic translation of the Bible.

In the 16th century, Luther made his own translation of the Bible into German following the Hebrew, or Masoretic, text. Luther translated the apocryphal works but changed the order of the books and gathered them together in a special section between the Old and New Testaments. In recent times, translations of the Bible are increasingly the result of ecumenical endeavors, and scholarly versions do not differ significantly.

Though most so-called "protestant" Bibles do not follow Luther, the Lutheran tradition is to print out all the books included in the Vulgate, including the deuterocanonicals, but in a different order.

Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.