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How does the Catholic Bible differ from the Protestant Bible?

The Catholic Bible is different from the Protestant Bible in only one way: Catholic Bibles contain 46 Old Testament books while Protestant Bibles include 39. The Old Testament books found in Catholic Bibles, but omitted from the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles, are the Books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), First and Second Maccabees, Baruch, and parts of Daniel and Esther. Catholics call these books deuterocanonical works; Protestants call them the Apocrypha.

What’s so special about the deuterocanonical books?

The deuterocanonical books are special in that they include inspiring stories of Jewish heroes as well as discussions of important segments of Jewish history. In them we also find wise sayings and good advice for living a holy life. Some scholars believe they provide a link between the Hebrew Old Testament and the New Testament because they record the religious history of the Jews during the times between the Babylonian exile and the birth of Jesus.

We might ask, "Why are these writings omitted from Protestant Old Testament?"

To understand why Protestants omit these deuterocanonical books, we must consider how the Jewish Scriptures were used in the early Church. Around the first century A.D., there were two Jewish Bibles in widespread use. One was called the Hebrew Bible and it was popular in Judea. The other was called the Septuagint Bible; it was a Greek translation of the Jewish Scripture and it included these deuterocanonical books. Both the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint Bible were used by the early Christians, but recent studies have shown that the longer Septuagint version was the one preferred. For example, when the authors of the New Testament quoted the Jewish Scriptures, they used the Septuagint version about 80 percent of the time; they also quoted parts of the seven deuterocanonical books in their writings. The Septuagint Old Testament was the one eventually approved by the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. From that time until the Reformation, there was only one Bible used in the Church.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther and other scholars began a new translation of the Bible and they decided to use the shorter Hebrew Bible as the basis for their Old Testament. In response to this, the Council of Trent in 1546 followed the tradition of earlier ecumenical councils and canonized the longer Septuagint Bible as the Catholic Old Testament. We know today that by choosing the Septuagint version, the bishops at Trent were in keeping with the faith of the early Church.

It is worth stating that both Catholics and Protestants accept the same 27 books of the New Testament. Also, there are no significant differences between Catholic and Protestant translations of the Bible; for example, there are no extra verses or changed meanings in either of them. In fact, Protestant and Catholic scholars have worked together to bring out several recent translations of the Bible -- translations which are far more accurate than the old King James version or the even older Catholic Vulgate Bible.

So, except for the seven deuterocanonical books we discussed in this message, Catholic and Protestant Bibles are basically the same.

To obtain a printed copy of the Evangeline Scripts write to:
Evangelization Office
Diocese of Lake Charles
P.O. Box 3223
Lake Charles, La. 70602

Copyright 1991 Diocese of Lake Charles, La.
With Ecclesiastical Approbation
+ Jude Speyrer, S.T.L., D.D.
June 1991
Used with permission