Thursday February 27th 2020

Why is the Catholic Bible different from the Protestant Bible?

The New Testament canon of the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible are the same with 27 Books. The difference is in the Old Testament.

Around 100 BC in Alexandria, the Greek Emperor, Ptolemy II, commissioned 71 Jewish leaders to translate the Jewish scripture into Greek. The book translated book is called the Septuagint.

During the first century, the Septuagint was widely used in the Roman world. It was the translation used during the life of Jesus. The Septuagint is the Old Testament and scripture that Jesus refers to in the Gospels. It continued to be the Bible used after the resurrection and the Old Testament Bible of Christianity.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jewish leaders came together and declared its official canon of scripture at the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD, eliminating seven books from the Septuagint. The books removed were Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees (which tells the story of Hanukkah…so that means that you can only find the story of Hanukkah in the Catholic Bible), Wisdom (of Solomon), Sirach, and Baruch. Parts of existing books were also removed including Psalm 151 (from Psalms), parts of the Book of Esther, Susanna (from Daniel as chapter 13), and Bel and the Dragon (from Daniel as chapter 14).
The Christian Church did not change with the Jews. They kept all the books in the Septuagint. It is the same Old Testament used by Jesus and used by the Catholic Church today.

In the 1500’s, Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church. During this time he also changed the Old Testament. He rejected many tenants of Catholicism which could be found in some of the “rejected” books of the Septuagint (such as 2 Maccabees which provides some scriptural proof of the existence of Purgatory which Martin Luther didn’t believe in), so he decided to use the Jamnian Canon of Hebrew Scriptures instead of the Septuagint. These books are sometimes referred to as the “Apocrypha” by Protestants or the “Deuterocanonical” books meaning “also canonical” by Catholics. In fact, Martin Luther almost threw out the Letter of James from the New Testament because it talks about how important doing good works is to show that you are a follower of Christ. Anglican and Lutheran Bibles usually add these books today as an appendix. Many evangelical Bibles do not show the books at all.

The Council of Trent in 1546 reaffirmed what the early Church councils had proclaimed in the 4th century: the texts found in the Catholic Bible are all the authentic Word of God and comprise the complete canon of Sacred Scripture. Hence the Catholic Bible has 73 books.

Catholics should use Catholic translations when reading the Bible. First, it has all the books that Catholics hear at mass.   Secondly, the footnotes are based on Catholic interpretations, not Protestant teachings.

Catholic Bible Translations

There are several different English translations available for the Catholic Bible. The primary ones include:
New American Bible (NAB) – This version is the most common American translation. It was written for an eighth grade reading level and contains the most “modern” language of the primary Catholic translations. The New American Bible is available in more versions than any other Catholic Bible.

Douay Rheim – This is the oldest English translation available and is frequently compared with the King James version because of its use of “Thee”, “Thou” and other older forms of words. This translation is considered highly accurate but can be more difficult to read for some people.

Revised Standard (RSV) – This was a joint translation project between American Protestants and Catholics with the Catholic Church completing the translation of the Apocrypha. This translation is considered the most accurate modern translation but still contains “Thee” and “Thou” when referring to God. This translation along with the New American Bible was approved for liturgical use in the United States.

Revised Standard 2nd Edition – This version is almost identical to the regular Revised Standard but updates the language by getting rid of “Thee” and “Thou”.

Jerusalem Biblee – The Jerusalem Bible, completed in 1966, is very similar to the Revised Standard Version 2nd edition in that it is a modern English language translation. It was produced under the direction of the Dominican scholars at the renowned Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem.

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