173: What Does the Term Deuterocanonical Mean? – CHS 173
There is some confusion today among certain Protestant scholars as to what exactly the term “deuterocanonical” (i.e., pertaining to the second canon) means to Catholics. This question came up in a recent video I was watching where two Protestant scholars were discussing various views about the canon within the Christian world.
One of the Protestant scholars stated that Catholicism relegates the deuterocanonical books (i.e., 7 books accepted by Catholics among the canonical books not—i.e., 1-2 Maccabees, Judith, Tobit etc.) to a second class. In other words, this scholar maintained that Catholic Christianity regards the deuterocanonical books as possessing a second-rate authority in comparison to the other canonical books. Puzzles, the scholar asked whether Catholics believed that the deuterocanonical books were produced as a result of a second level of inspiration of sorts.
In this episode we briefly discuss what the term “deuterocanonical” originally meant when it was coined by the sixteenth-century biblical scholar Sisto di Siena, OP, and why that meaning is still important for Catholics today.
We also discuss how Catholic ecumenical councils such as Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II have understood the inspiration and authority of the deuterocanonical books. We note that each of these councils did not demean the inspiration or authority of the deuterocanonical books but rather regarded them as possessing equal authority with the proto-canonical books (n.b., more on that term in the episode).
In the end, we conclude that it is of utmost importance for Catholics to know their history. History is often the key to answering such objections. Oftentimes, claims such as the ones noted above go unchallenged because the records of Catholic tradition are not well known.
Careful attention to the history of the canon, however, can better help all Christians, whether they be Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or other, better engage in dialogue with about these contested issues among Christians. With the historical records better known, we can all get a better sense of why such terms as “deuterocanonical” were coined in the first place and what they have meant to Catholic Christians since the sixteenth century.
Join us today as we talk about the history of the term “deuterocanonical.” To access the show, download our free app on the iOS or Android stores. I look forward to hearing back from our audience.