Disputed Books of the Old Testament

The table below shows which of the disputed Old Testament books are included in Christian catalogs of canonical books up to the eighth century. Y indicates that the book is plainly listed as Holy Scripture; N indicates that it is placed in an inferior class of books; M indicates that the terminology of the author may be construed as a reference to the book as Holy Scripture. An S indicates that the author does not mention the book in his catalog, which implies its rejection. See notes on the authorities below.


Esth. - Esther
Bar. - Baruch
Eccl. - Ecclesiasticus
Wisd. - Wisdom of Solomon
Tob. - Tobit
Jud. - Judith
Mac. - First and Second Maccabees

1. Greek Authors. Date Esth. Bar. Eccl. Wisd. Tob. Jud. Mac.
Melito 160 S S S S S S S
Origen 225 Y M S S S S N
Cyril of Jerusalem 348 Y Y N N N N N
Council of Laodicea 363 Y Y S S S S S
Athanasius 367 N Y N N N N S
Gregory of Nazianzus 380 S S S S S S S
Amphilocius of Iconium 380 M S S S S S S
Epiphanius 385 Y S N N S S S
Stichometry of Niceph. 550 N Y N N N N N
Synopsis of Sac. Scrip. 550 N S N N N N N
Leontius 590 S S S S S S S
List of the Sixty Books 650 N S N N N N N
John of Damascus 730 Y S N N S S S
2. Syrian Greek. Date Esth. Bar. Eccl. Wisd. Tob. Jud. Mac.
"Apostolic Canons" 380 Y S N S S M Y
3. Latin Authors.* Date Esth. Bar. Eccl. Wisd. Tob. Jud. Mac.
Hilary of Poitiers 360 Y M S S M M S
Cheltenham List 360 Y M S M Y Y Y
Jerome 390 Y M N N N N N
Augustine 397 Y M Y Y Y Y Y
3rd Council of Carthage 397 Y M Y Y Y Y Y
Rufinus 400 Y M N N N N N
Codex Claromontanus 400 Y M Y Y Y Y Y
Letter of Innocent I 405 Y M Y Y Y Y Y
Decree of Gelasius 550 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cassiodorus 560 Y M Y Y Y Y Y
Isidore of Seville 625 Y M Y Y Y Y Y

* NOTE: The Latin authors often subsumed the book of Baruch under Jeremiah, and so do not name it separately.


The most satisfactory treatment in English of the history of the Church's Old Testament canon is H.E. Ryle's The Canon of the Old Testament (London and New York: MacMillan, 1892). The best short treatment is the article by B.F. Westcott in the revised American edition of William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible. For a more recent study see Earl Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991).

1. Greek Authorities.

Melito was bishop of the church in Sardis, an inland city of Asia Minor. His list gives the Hebrew canon minus Esther, and makes no mention of any of the disputed books. This list was reproduced by Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (in his Church History, around 324). See Greek text with translation.

Origen was a very influential teacher in Alexandria, the chief city of Egypt. His list (also preserved by Eusebius) has, after Jeremiah, the words "Lamentations, Letter," and it is thought by some scholars that "Letter" here probably means the book of Baruch, which includes a letter. Others suspect that this is a later addition to the list. After his list of canonical books Origen adds, "and outside of these are the Maccabees." See Greek text with translation.

Cyril of Jerusalem was bishop in that city. His list was published in his Catechetical Lectures, followed by the statement, "Let all the rest [i.e. the rest of the books commonly included in the Septuagint] be placed outside in a second rank. And whatever books are not read in churches, neither should you read them in private." See English text.

Council of Laodicea. The authenticity of this list of canonical books has been doubted by many scholars because it is absent from a variety of the manuscripts containing the decrees of the Council of Laodicea (in Galatia). The list may have been added at a later time. See English text.

Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria. His list was published as part of his circular Easter Letter in 367. After the list of canonical books he names the others (but not First and Second Maccabees) as "not received as canonical but having been appointed by the Fathers to be read to those just beginning in the faith and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness." See English text.

Gregory of Nazianzus was the bishop of Constantinople from 378 to 382. His list is given in metrical verse. It includes only the books of the Hebrew canon, and makes no mention of the other books. See English text.

Amphilocius of Iconium was bishop of that city (in Galatia). His list, also in meter, is preserved by Gregory. After it he writes, "some add Esther." See English text.

Epiphanius was bishop of Salamis (on the isle of Cyprus) from 367 to 402. He lists only the Hebrew books as canonical, but mentions Ecclesiastes and Wisdom as "near to them in substance." See English text.

The Stichometry of Nicephorus is given as an appendix to the Chronography of Nicephorus of Constantinople, to which it was probably attached about the middle of the ninth century. It is, however, considerably older than this and may date back to about the sixth century. It gives a list of canonical and apocryphal books of the Old and New Testaments together with the number of stichoi or lines which each book contained. Under the heading of Old Testament "disputed" books it gives, besides the ones indicated on the chart, Third Maccabees and the Psalms and Odes of Solomon.

The Synopsis of Sacred Scripture was traditionally ascribed to Athanasius, but most scholars now agree that it cannot be earlier than the sixth century. The books indicated on the chart are all those listed under the heading antilegomena, "disputed books." See Greek text.

Leontius was a writer against heresies. He resided first in Byzantium and later entered a monastery near Jerusalem. His list includes only the books of the Hebrew canon.

The so-called List of the Sixty Books is found attached to certain manuscripts of the Questions and Responses of Anastasius of Sinai (c. 650) and is probably from about the same time. In it nine books are named as lying "outside the sixty." Besides the ones shown on the table, Third and Fourth Maccabees are named in this inferior class. After that, there follows a list of disapproved books under the heading "apocrypha."

John of Damascus was an eminent theologian of the Eastern Church, born in Damascus, but a monk in Jerusalem for most of his adult life. His list is adopted from the writings of Epiphanius. See English text.

2. Syrian Greek Authorities

The list of the Apostolic Canons is one of many additions made by the final editor of an ancient Syrian book of church order called the Apostolic Constitutions. The whole document purports to be from the apostles, but this imposture is not taken seriously by any scholar today. Nevertheless, the work is useful as evidence for the opinions current in at least part of the Syrian church towards the end of the fourth century. The list of canonical books was probably added about the year 380. The list mentions three books of the Maccabees. Judith is not found in some manuscripts. Ecclesiasticus is recommended as useful for catechumens. See English text.

3. Latin Authorities

Hilary of Poitiers was bishop of that city (in Gaul). He lists only the Hebrew books, but mentions that some add Tobit and Judith. See English text.

The Cheltenham list is a catalog of uncertain date contained in a tenth-century Latin manuscript of miscellaneous content, probably from Africa. See English text.

Rufinus was an elder of Aquileia in northeast Italy. He lists only the Hebrew books as fully canonical, and lists the others as belonging to an inferior class of books which are commonly read but which are not to be relied upon "for the confirmation of doctrine." See Latin text with translation.

Jerome was born near Aquileia, lived in Rome for a time, and spent most of his later life in Syria and Palestine. He was no doubt the most learned churchman of his times, and was commissioned by the bishop of Rome to produce an authoritative Latin version (the Vulgate). In his Preface to the Old Testament historical books he gives his list, which includes only the Hebrew books, and he relegates all of the others of the Septuagint to the "Apocrypha." These books are to be read, he says, "for the edification of the people, but not as authority for the confirmation of doctrine." See Latin text with translation.

Augustine, the bishop of Hippo (in a Roman colony on the northern coast of Africa), is the first major figure in the Church to set forth a list which includes all of the disputed books without making any distinction between the fully canonical Hebrew books and the lesser books derived from the Septuagint. See Latin text with translation.

The Third Council of Carthage was not a general council but a regional council of African bishops. Augustine was at that time very prominent among them, and their canon resembles the one given by Augustine in his treatise On Christian Doctrine. At the end of the list there is however a qualifying statement: "Let this also be made known to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface of Rome, or to other bishops of those parts, for the confirmation of this canon; for we have learned from the Fathers that we should read these in church." See Latin text with translation.

The Codex Claromontanus is a Greek and Latin manuscript of the epistles of Paul from the sixth century. In this manuscript between Philemon and Hebrews there is a Latin list of the books of the Bible, which is thought to be copied from a fourth century source. See English text.

Innocent I ("the first" of that name to be called pope) was the bishop of Rome. In 405 he sent in a letter to the bishop of Toulouse a list like that of Augustine. See Latin text with translation.

The Decree of Gelasius (Decretum Gelasianum) is traditionally attributed to Gelasius, bishop of Rome from 492 to 496, and was thought to be promulgated by him as the president of a council of 70 bishops held in Rome. but it is now generally regarded as spurious, probably composed or revised by an Italian churchman in the sixth century. See English text.

Cassiodorus was the learned founder of two monasteries near Squillace (southern Italy). His list appears in the encyclopedia of sacred literature he compiled for his monks, in which he also respectfully gives the catalog of Jerome.

Isidore of Seville was archbishop of that city (in Spain), where he founded a school. His list appears in an encyclopedia he compiled for his students, in which he also gives the catalogs of Jerome and Augustine.