Canon & Apocrypha

by A. A. Hodge

SECTION II. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these:

Of the Old Testament:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Of the New Testament:
The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul's Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians I, Corinthians II, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians I , Thessalonians II , To Timothy I , To Timothy II, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation of John.

All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.

SECTION III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.

Scripture Proof Texts

Luke xvi. 29, 31; Eph. ii. 20; Rev. xxii. 18, 19; 2 Tim. iii. 16. Luke xxiv. 27, 44; Rom. iii. 2; 2 Peter i. 21.

These sections affirm the following propositions: --
1. That the complete canon of Scripture embraces in the two great divisions of the Old and the New Testaments all the particular books here named.

2. That the books commonly called Apocrypha form no part of that canon, and are to be regarded as of no more authority than any other human writings.

3. That all the canonical books were divinely inspired, and are thus given to us as an authoritative rule of faith and practice.

1. The complete canon of Scripture embraces in the two great divisions of the Old and New Testaments all the particular books here named.

The Old Testament is the collection of inspired writings given by God to his Church during the Old Dispensation of the Covenant of Grace; and the New Testament is the collection of those inspired writings which he gave during the New or Christian Dispensation of that Covenant.

We determine what books have a place in this canon or divine rule by an examination of the evidences which show that each of them, severally, was written by the inspired. prophet or apostle whose name it bears; or, as in the case of the Gospels of Mark and Luke, written under the superintendence and published by the authority of an apostle. This evidence in the case of the Sacred Scriptures is of the same kind of historical and critical proof as is relied upon by all literary men to establish the genuineness and authenticity of any other ancient writings, such as the Odes of Horace or the works of Herodotus. In general this evidence is (a) Internal, such as language, style, and the character of the matter they contain; (b) External, such as the testimony of contemporaneous writers, the universal consent of contemporary readers, and corroborating history drawn from independent credible sources.

The genuineness of the books constituting the Old Testament canon as now received by all Protestants is established as follows: --

(1.) Christ and his apostles endorse as genuine and authentic the canon of Jewish Scriptures as it existed in their time. (a) Christ often quotes as the Word of God the separate books and the several divisions embraced in the Jewish Scriptures -- viz., the Law, the Prophets, and. the Holy Writings or Psalms. Mark xiv. 49; Luke xxiv. 44; John v. 39. (b) The apostles also quote them as the Word of God; 2 Tim. iii. 15, 16; Acts i. 16. (c) Christ often rebuked the Jews for disobeying, but never for forging or corrupting their Scriptures, Matt xxii. 29.

(2.) The Jewish canon thus endorsed by Christ and his apostles is the same as that we now have. (a) The New Testament writers quote as Scripture almost every one of the books we recognize, and no others. (b) The Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, made in Egypt B.C. 285, which was itself frequently quoted by Christ and his apostles, embraced every book contained in our copies. (c) Josephus, born A.D. 37, enumerates as Hebrew Scriptures the same books by their classes. (d) The testimony of the early Christian writers uniformly agrees with that of the ancient Jews as to every book. (e) Ever since the time of Christ both Jews and Christians, while rival and hostile parties, have separately kept the same canon, and agree perfectly as to the genuineness and authenticity of every book.

The evidence which establishes the canonical authority of the several books of the New Testament may be generally stated as follows: (a) The early Christian writers in all parts of the world agree in quoting as of apostolical authority the books we receive, while they quote all other contemporaneous writings only for illustration. (b) The early Church Fathers furnish a number of catalogues of the books received by them as apostolical, all of which agree perfectly as to most of the books, and differ only in a slight degree with reference to some last written or least generally circulated. (c) The earliest translations of the Scriptures prove that, at the time they were made, the books they contain were recognized as Scripture. The Peshito, or early Syriac translation, agrees almost entirely with ours; and the Vulgate, prepared by Jerome A.D. 385, was based on the Italic or early Latin version, and agrees entirely with ours. (d) The internal evidence corroborates the external testimony in the case of all the books. This consists of the language and idiom in which they are written; the harmony in all essentials in the midst of great variety in form and circumstantials; the elevated spirituality and doctrinal consistency of all the books; and their practical power over the consciences and hearts of men.

2. But the books called Apocrypha form no part of the sacred canon, and are to be regarded as of no more authority than any other human writings.

The word Apocrypha (anything hidden) has been applied to certain ancient writings whose authorship is not manifest, and for which unfounded claims have been set up for a place in the canon. Some of these have been associated with the Old and. some with the New Testament. In this section of the Confession, however, the name is applied. principally to those spurious scriptures for which a place is claimed in the Old Testament canon by the Roman Church. These are Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and the two books of Maccabees. They also prefix to the book of Daniel the History of Susannah, and insert in the third chapter the Song of the Three Children; and add to the end of the book the History of Bel and the Dragon.

That these books have no right to a place in the canon is proved by the following facts: (1.) They never formed a part of the Hebrew Scriptures. They have always been rejected by the Jews, to whose guardianship the Old Testament Scriptures were committed. (2.) None of them were ever quoted by Christ or the apostles. (3.) They were never embraced in the list of the canonical books by the early Fathers; and even in the Roman Church their authority was not accepted by the most learned and candid men until after it was made an article of faith by the Council of Trent, late in the sixteenth century. (4.) The internal evidence presented by their contents disproves their claims. None of them make any claim to inspiration, while the best of them disclaim it. Some of them consist of childish fables, and inculcate bad morals.

And this section teaches --
3. That all the canonical Scriptures were divinely inspired, and are thus given us as an authoritative rule of faith and practice.

The books of Scripture were written by the instrumentality of men, and the national and personal peculiarities of their authors have been evidently as freely expressed in their writing, and their natural faculties, intellectual and moral, as freely exercised in their production, as those of the authors of any other writings. Nevertheless these books are, one and all, in thought and verbal expression, in substance and form, wholly the Word of God, conveying with absolute accuracy and divine authority all that God meant them to convey, without any human additions or admixtures. This was accomplished by a supernatural influence of the Spirit of God acting upon the spirits of the sacred writers, called 'inspiration;' which accompanied them uniformly in what they wrote; and which, without violating the free operation of their faculties, yet directed them in all they wrote, and secured the infallible expression of it in words. The nature of this divine influence we, of course, can no more understand than we can in the case of any other miracle. But the effects are plain and certain -- viz., that all written under it is the very Word of God, of infallible truth, and of divine authority; and this infallibility and authority attach as well to the verbal expression in which the revelation is conveyed as to the matter of the revelation itself.

The fact that the Scriptures are thus inspired is proved because they assert it of themselves; and because they must either be credited as true in this respect, or rejected as false in all respects; 'and because God authenticated the claims of their writers by accompanying their teaching with 'signs and wonders and divers miracles.' Heb. ii. 4. Wherever God sends his 'sign,' there he commands belief; but it is impossible that he could unconditionally command belief except to truth infallibly conveyed.

(1.) The Old Testament writers claimed to be inspired. Deut. xxxi. 19 -- 22; xxxiv. 10; Num. xvi. 28, 29; 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. As a characteristic fact, they speak in the name of God, prefacing their messages with a 'Thus saith the LORD. 'The mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.' Deut. xviii. 21, 22; 1 Kings xxi. 19; Jer. ix. 12, etc.

(2.) The New Testament writers introduce their quotations from the Old Testament with such formulas as, 'The Holy Ghost saith,' Heb. iii. 7; 'The Holy Ghost this signifying,' Heb. ix. 8; 'Saith God,' Acts ii. 17; 1 Cor. ix. 9, 10; 'The Lord by the mouth of his servant David saith,' Acts iv. 25; 'The Lord limiteth in David a certain day, saying,' Heb. iv. 7.

(3.) The inspiration of the Old Testament is expressly affirmed in the New Testament. Luke i. 70; Heb. i. 1; 2 Tim. iii. 16; 1 Pet. i. 10 -- 12; 2 Pet. i. 21.

(4.) Christ and his apostles constantly quote the Old Testament as infallible, as that which must be fulfilled. Matt. v. 18; John x. 35; Luke xxiv. 44; Matt. ii. 15 -- 23, etc.

(5.) Inspiration was promised to the apostles. Matt. x. 19; xxviii. 19, 20; Luke xii. 12; John xiii. 20; xiv. 26; xv. 26, 27; xvi. 13.

(6.) They claimed to have the Spirit, in fulfillment of the promise of Christ, Acts ii. 33; xv. 28; 1 Thess. i. 5; -- to speak as the prophets of God, 1 Cor. iv. 1; 1 Thess. iv. 8; -- to speak with plenary authority, 1 Cor. ii. 13; 2 Cor. xiii. 2-4; Gal. i. 8, 9. They put their writings on a level with the Old Testament Scriptures. 2 Pet. iii. 16; 1 Thess. v. 27.


From The Westminter Confession of Faith: A Commentary by A. A. Hodge

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