Fourth Session Council of Trent
celebrated on the eighth day of April, 1546
"Canonical" Decree, Concerning the Canonical Scriptures
The holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the
Apostolic See presiding, keeps this constantly in view, namely, that the purity of the Gospel may be preserved in the Church after the
errors have been removed. This [Gospel], of old promised through the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, promulgated first with His own mouth, and then commanded it to be preached by His Apostles to every creature as
the source at once of all saving truth and rules of conduct. It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the
written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the
Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand. Following, then,
the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and
New Testaments, since one God is the author of both; also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been
dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession. It has thought it
proper, moreover, to insert in this decree a list of the sacred books, lest a doubt might arise in the mind of someone as to which are
the books received by this council. They are the following: of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second
of Esdras, the latter of which is called Nehemias, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter of 150 Psalms, Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor
Prophets, namely, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two
books of Machabees, the first and second. Of the New Testament, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the
Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen Epistles of Paul the Apostle, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to
the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to
Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the Apostle, three of John the Apostle, one of James the Apostle, one of Jude the Apostle, and
the Apocalypse of John the Apostle. If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with
all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate
Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema. Let all understand, therefore, in what
order and manner the council, after having laid the foundation of the confession of faith, will proceed, and who are the chief
witnesses and supports to whom it will appeal in conforming dogmas and in restoring morals in the Church.
Moreover, the same holy council considering that not a little advantage will accrue to the Church of God if it be made
known which of all the Latin editions of the sacred books now in circulation is to be regarded as authentic, ordains and declares that
the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which, in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures,
disputations, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and that no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it
Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and
morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions,
presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and
interpretation, has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, even though such interpretations
should never at any time be published. Those who act contrary to this shall be made known by the ordinaries and punished in
accordance with the penalties prescribed by the law.
And wishing, as is proper, to impose a restraint in this matter on printers also, who, now without restraint, thinking what
pleases them is permitted them, print without the permission of ecclesiastical superiors the books of the Holy Scriptures and the
notes and commentaries thereon of all persons indiscriminately, often with the name of the press omitted, often also under a
fictitious press-name, and what is worse, without the name of the author, and also indiscreetly have for sale such books printed
elsewhere, [this council] decrees and ordains that in the future the Holy Scriptures, especially the old Vulgate Edition, be printed in
the most correct manner possible, and that it shall not be lawful for anyone to print or to have printed any books whatsoever dealing
with sacred doctrinal mattes without the name of the author, or in the future to sell them, or even to have them in possession, unless
they have first been examined and approved by the ordinary, under penalty of anathema and fine prescribed by the last Council of the
Lateran. If they be regulars they must in addition to this examination and approval obtain permission also from their own
superiors after these have examined the books in accordance with their own statutes. Those who lend or circulate them in manuscript
before they have been examined and approved, shall be subject to the same penalties as the printers, and those who have them in
their possession or read them, shall, unless they make known the authors, be themselves regarded as the authors. The approbation of
such books, however, shall be given in writing and shall appear authentically at the beginning of the book, whether it be written or
printed, and all this, that is, both the examination and the approbation, shall be done gratuitously, so that what ought to be approved
may be approved and what ought to be condemned may be condemned.
Furthermore, wishing to repress that boldness whereby the words and sentences of the Holy Scriptures are turned and
twisted to all kinds of profane usages, namely, to things scurrilous, fabulous, vain, to flatteries, detractions, superstitions, godless and
diabolical incantations, divinations, the casting of lots and defamatory libels, to put an end to such irreverence and contempt, and
that no one may in the future dare use in any manner the words of Holy Scripture for these and similar purposes, it is commanded
and enjoined that all people of this kind be restrained by the bishops as violators and profaners of the word of God, with the penalties
of the law and other penalties that they may deem fit to impose.
Announcement of the Next Session:
Likewise, this holy council ordains and decrees that the next session will be held and celebrated on the Thursday after the
next most sacred feast of Pentecost.
1. Jeremiah 31:22.
2. Matthew 28:19f.; Mark 16:15.
3. See II Thess. 2:14; c.%, D.XI.
4. For earlier lists, cf. Synod of Laodicea (end of IV cent.), c. 60, the genuineness of which canon however is contested (Hefele-
Leclercq, Histoire des conciles, I, 1026); Synod of Rome (382) under Pope Damasus (Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 84); Synod of Hippo
(393), c. 36, which the III Synod of Carthage (397) made its own in c.47 (idem, no. 92); Innocent I in 405 to Exuperius, bishop of
Toulouse (idem, no. 96); Eugene IV in the Council of Florence (Mansi, XXXI, 1736; Hardouin, IX, 1023f.). The Tridentine list or
decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures.
5. Saint Jerome, Comment. on Galatians, chap. 5, vers. 19-21, PL, XXVI, 445 (c.27, C.XXIV, q.3); c.39 (par. 70) ead.
6. Quinisext Council (692), c.19 (Mansi, XI, 951; Hardouin, III, 1667).
7. Cf. the bull "Inter sollicitudines," Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, p. 504
Paul Halsall (email@example.com)