The Holy Bible is the complete Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.
It has every book in it that God intended – all 66 of them.
They are divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament.
But there are additional books that people ask about because they are found in Catholic Bibles but not Protestant Bibles.
People often ask how many books were removed from the Bible due to this difference.
The truth is no books were ever removed.
What happened just might be different from what you were thinking.
There’s a fascinating story here, so let’s look at the details!
Why Were Books Left Out of the Bible?
Certain books are not included in the Bible for one simple reason – they were never a part of God’s Living Word to begin with!
In fact, the truth is there are no missing, lost or left out books of the Bible.
Every single one of the 66 books that the Bible is made of is there for a reason.
The Lord intended these inspired texts to be part of His true Word so that we may have this “user manual to eternal life”, but the Bible is so wise that it is much more than we even realize!
In his second letter to Timothy, apostle Paul made it very clear that all the books in the Bible are there for a reason as God intended these exact Scriptures to be part of it:
Did you catch that? ALL Scripture is breathed out by God.
Not some of it, but all – every single verse and sentence in the 66 books of the Bible.
This means that there are no forgotten or left out books. Any non-canonical books are not in the Bible because they don’t come from the Lord.
If any book is not included in the Bible, it’s because it was rejected as it wasn’t inspired by God.
There are hundreds of different religious writings that were written during the same time period as the books included in the Bible.
But only 66 of them were recognized as genuine Scripture, because all of the approximately 40 human writers of the Bible were inspired by our Creator.
The church leaders and councils didn’t choose which books were to be included as part of Scripture.
God did, when He chose the human authors that would go on to write all canonical texts.
What’s Considered the Canon of Scripture
The Biblical cannon or canon of Scripture is the compilation of only the texts inspired and revealed by the Lord Himself.
Canon comes from the Greek word “kanon”, which means “measuring stick” or “rule”. This standard or criterion was used to describe those books that were truly inspired by God.
Only a few books were ever disputed over the early centuries and the final list of books to be included in the Bible was finally settled by around 303 A.D.
So what’s the standard that was used to figure out which books should be considered Scripture?
Jude 3 ESV provides insight with the following – “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
This means that every single word in the Bible was canonical from the moment it was written. Scripture was given to mankind once.
More specifically, the Old Testament had to be written by an established prophet. The Jewish scribes had very exacting requirements for this and there is no doubt about the Old Testament books.
This made the process of canonizing the New Testament quite easy.
In the last 2000 years, studies of the 25,000+ New Testament manuscripts has done nothing but affirm the original canon.
We can be confident that the Bible we currently have is the Bible that God intended us to have. There are no secret or lost texts that we need to look for.
Even though individual churches or groups of churches were the ones who usually recognized a particular writing as inspired during the early centuries, the Living Word of God is and always will ultimately be canon.
The Bible is Complete and Doesn’t Lack Any Books
The Bible isn’t missing any books as it’s the complete written Word of God. Simple as that.
The books in the Bible that we have today are there because it’s all according to His perfect will and plan. No more, no less.
The Bible has one ultimate author – God, who supernaturally inspired human beings to write what He wanted them to write so that we may know His grace.
Scripture tells the beautiful story of God’s grace and glory, while also revealing parts of His character including judgment for sin.
In this sense, do you really think that our Creator would allow crucial information to be left out of His written Word?
He wants us to know about the reality of heaven and the consequences of sin, which is the eternal separation from Him in hell.
But God doesn’t wish that anyone would perish (2 Peter 3:9 ESV) so He offers us a way out of this mess – by putting our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
And the Bible in its glorious complete form that doesn’t lack any extra texts or books is how we know all of this is true.
How Many Books are Missing From the Bible?
The Bible is complete and there are no books missing from the written Word of God. Very few scholars say otherwise.
After 2000 years of intense study, the Bible has withstood the test of time.
Any texts and books not found in your Bible are deemed extra-Biblical or non-canon, meaning they were not inspired by God.
The Council of Nicea (AD 325) didn’t invent the doctrine of the deity of Jesus, as that’s a historical fact and a universal truth.
And church groups didn’t recognize the 66 books in the Bible as canon out of nowhere.
All parts of Scripture were recognized as the true Word of God because they met the important criteria mentioned above. And this is all part of God’s majestic plan.
With that being said, let’s take a look at a number of extra books that are not inspired, yet some people falsely think they are missing from the Bible:
Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books
The Apocrypha is a compilation of 14 books that are found in Catholic Bibles.
These non-canonical texts were accepted by the Catholic Church and added to their Bibles at the Council of Trent from AD 1545 to 1563.
Now let’s just think about this for a minute.
After rejecting these books as non-canonical for over 1500 years, What does the Catholic Church do?
It does a complete turnabout and suddenly decides these books belong in the Bible.
Keep in mind the timing of this event. It’s after the Protestant Reformation that was started by Martin Luther.
There’s more to this story that will have to be covered in another post.
The word “apocrypha” stands for “hidden”, while “deuterocanonical” means “second canon”.
But we already know that no books are left out of the Bible and there are no canonical writings that are hidden from us, so it’s crystal clear that the Apocrypha books were not inspired by God.
It’s also worth mentioning that most of these extra-Biblical texts were written by Jewish authors during the intertestamental period (400 silent years).
However, the Apocryphal writings were never accepted by the Jewish Priesthood.
Because they weren’t written by prophets as opposed to the Old Testament books that were available at the time.
And it was really easy to tell if somebody was a prophet or not.
But even more importantly, the Apocrypha (deuterocanonicals) support non-Biblical and non-Christian practices such as worshiping angels and praying for the dead.
The Apocrypha actually expose many doctrinal errors of Roman Catholicism, in which paganism has been mixed in with Christianity.
This is a major reason why Catholicism has so many ideas that don’t come from the Bible, which is the Living Word of God.
Pseudepigrapha (Books with False Authorship)
The pseudepigrapha books are an attempt to mimic canonical writings but written under false authors.
The word pseudepigrapha consists of two Greek words – “pseudo” (meaning “false”) and “epigraphein” (meaning “to write falsely”).
Do you already see where this is going?
These extra-Biblical texts were written sometime between 200 BC to AD 300 by various unknown authors.
They falsely attributed the authorship of these books to well-known individuals from the Bible (e.g. Peter). The supposed authors had already been dead for over 100 years!
Some of the more common examples of pseudepigrapha books include the:
- Books of Enoch
- Elijah the Prophet
- Acts of John
- Acts of Paul
- Testament of Adam
- Testament of Abraham
- Gospel according to Thomas
- History of James
- Apocalypse of Peter
- Epistles of Barnabas
And if you’re wondering why these seemingly interesting books are not part of the canon of Scripture, these are the main reasons:
- They were written under false authors (i.e. the true author wasn’t the claimed author)
- They contain historical errors.
- They include outright heresy.
- They were written hundreds of years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ
When the pseudepigraphal Acts of John says that Christ didn’t really die on the cross, we’ve got a HUGE problem.
Or to put it simply, there’s a good reason why these books are not part of the inspired writings of the Bible.
Maccabees (Story of Hanukkah)
The first and second Maccabees are history books that focus on the history of the Jews during the first and second centuries BC. (See what BC and AD mean and why they are so important here -plus the surprising back story on BC and AD you’ll never get anywhere else)
Both books are about the history of ancient Israel, more specifically the Maccabean revolt that led to the resuming of the Jewish religious practices at the temple.
This is also known as the story of Hanukkah, which is a Jewish festival that observes the cleansing of the Jewish temple.
So far so good… but Maccabees are nothing more than history books.
They’re not about doctrine and they weren’t written by prophets as opposed to the canonical books of the Old Testament.
This is why Maccabees is not considered canon by Protestants and Jews – it wasn’t written by prophets i.e. inspired writers.
However, the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Coptic and Roman Catholic churches include Maccabees in their Bibles.
Non-Canonical Books Mentioned in the Old Testament
Although certain books are not included in Scripture, the Old Testament actually mentions a number of them:
- The book of the Wars of the Lord
- The book of Jasher
- Solomon’s Proverbs and Songs
- The acts of Solomon
- The annals of the Kings of Israel
- The records of Samuel, Nathan and Gad
- The records of Shemaiah the Prophet and Iddo the Seer
- The annals of Jehu
- The acts of Uzziah
- The laments of Jeremiah
Ultimately, the Bible is the complete and true Word of God that includes a total of 66 inspired books.
There are no books left out, there are no missing texts and there are no secret writings that we need to look for.
This is true for both the Old Testament and the New Testament (See my in-depth post on the authorship and reliability of the books of the New Testament here).
What we currently have is God’s Living and written Word for all mankind.
All the extra-Biblical books like the Apocrypha are not considered canon as they weren’t written by inspired human authors.
Keep in mind that there is some value in the deuterocanonical (apocryphal) books.
They do have some accurate historical data and scholars have been able to glean some other useful information from them.
But the pseudepigrapha? Not so much. Reputable scholars are proving what has been whispered about for a long time:
The authors of the Quran drew on pseudepigraphal writings for quite a few Quranic stories.
And don’t forget that “all scripture is God-breathed“, as Apostle Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy.