What Is the Difference Between Protestant and Catholic Bibles?
The Old Testament
In the third century B.C., the Jewish scripture was translated into Greek for the
convenience of the many Jews who were not fluent in Hebrew. This translation was
known as the Septuagint [SEP tuh jint], often abbreviated as "LXX." The
name Septuagint comes from the Greek word for ‘seventy’ (hence the symbol LXX,
70 in Roman numerals) and refers to the tradition that seventy-two rabbis worked
on the translation.*
The First Christian Bible
At the time the Christian Bible was being formed, the Septuagint was in common use
by Jews and Jewish Christians, and Christians adopted it as
the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. However, around 100 A.D., Jewish rabbis
revised their Scripture and established an official canon of Judaism which excluded
some portions of the Greek Septuagint. The material excluded was a group of 15 late
Jewish books, written during the period 170 B.C. to 70 A.D., that were not found
in Hebrew versions of the Jewish Scripture. Christians did not follow the revisions
of Judaism and continued to use the text of the Septuagint as the Old Testament.
In the 1500s, Protestant leaders decided to organize the Old Testament material
according to the official canon of Judaism rather than the Septuagint. They moved
the Old Testament material which was not in the Jewish canon into a separate section
of the Bible called the Apocrypha. So, Protestant Bibles then included all
the same material as the earlier Bible, but it was divided into two sections: the
Old Testament and the Apocrypha. Protestant Bibles included the Apocrypha until
the mid 1800s, and the King James Version was originally published with the Apocrypha.
However, the Apocrypha was considered less important, and Bible publishers eventually dropped
it from most Protestant editions. The books of the Apocrypha
are also known as the deuterocanonical books.
Catholic and Orthodox Bibles
The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches did not follow the Protestant revisions,
and they continue to base their Old Testament on the Septuagint. The result is that
these versions of the Bible have more Old Testament books than most Protestant
versions. Catholic Old Testaments include 1st and 2nd Maccabees,
Baruch, Tobit, Judith, The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach
(Ecclesiasticus), additions to Esther, and the stories of Susanna and
Bel and the Dragon which are included in Daniel. Orthodox Old Testaments include
these plus 1st and 2nd Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm
151 and 3rd Maccabees.
The New Testament
The Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox New Testaments are identical and contain 27 books.
*Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, & Society of Biblical Literature,
Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed.), San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1985, p. 925