One of the most convincing truths that I have uncovered over the years, is that the Bible has a history that is, for the most part, discoverable. Its beginnings, its development, and its changes, can all be researched and laid out before us. This allows for any average lay person to consider the makeup of the Bible as we have it today.
The points I am about to make apply strictly to the Catholic Bible verses the Protestant Bible. The difference being the 7 Old Testament books that Protestant Bibles omit. These books have been referred to in various ways, such as, the Apocrypha, Deuterocanonical, or Inter-Testamental books (because they were written between 400bc and the time of Christ.
Notice this quote from a popular protestant website (https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/why-66-books/)
“In the earliest centuries, there was little debate among Christians over which books belonged in the Bible; certainly by the time of the church leader Athanasius in the fourth century, the number of books had long been fixed. He set out the books of the New Testament just as we know them and added:
These are the fountains of salvation, that whoever thirsts may be satisfied by the eloquence which is in them. In them alone is set forth the doctrine of piety. Let no one add to them, nor take anything from them.3“
Notice how the author uses Athanasius, to show that the Bible books had been set, but he conveniently leaves out that Athanasius also lists the Old Testament books. His list does not match the protestant or catholic OT that we have today. So to use Athanasius to imply that the Bible had been established by this time is deceptive to the reader.
Athanasius considered the book of Baruch to be among the canon while Esther was simply a book to be read, but not of the canon. This wording can be a little deceiving as well since Athanasius is not using the word Canon in the same way that we do today. He even says that the non-canon books can be used to teach doctrine to new believers.
Here is Athanasius listing the Old Testament books:
“4. There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.”
Then he goes on to say;
“7. But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.”
Notice that Esther is among the list of “other books”. So for anyone to use Athanasius as an authority on what books should be in the bible is a dishonest argument that has no legs to walk with. Not only is he simply one voice among many, but he also helps to show us that one persons opinions or thoughts, even at the level of Bishop, do not make something official in the Church. This is why Church Councils play such a crucial role in determining important matters such as which books are to be considered inspired by God.
What is also ignored is the following 1,000+ years before any Bible in the world existed without those “extra” writings.
The first time in history that we see an actual Bible that consists solely of the books currently used by Protestants today is possibly in the Great Bible in 1549, even though most of them still included the “Apocrypha”.
So what does this all mean? Well, if Luther can take sections of the Bible and call them uninspired, leading a bunch of people to follow his lead, then what is stopping people from doing the same again someday?
If you claim that God allowed Christians to incorrectly believe in 7+ books for 1,000+ years(until the 1500’s), then how can you know that he isn’t allowing Protestants to incorrectly believe in only 66 books for the last 500?