How does the Catholic Bible differ from the Protestant Bible?

It has been a few weeks since I posted – (the week on the beach at Hattaras was divine). I thought that I might toss out a discussion starter to tap into our collective scripture & historical expertise. The article below addresses a question that I hear often: Why do Catholic Bibles have more books than Protestant Bibles? The article is the Catholic response with additional input from me at the end. I am curious to see samples of Protestant responses to this issue.

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

Pat Clement’s Note: It is my understanding that the longer, Septuagint version of the Hebrew scriptures was created at least 2 centuries before Christ. The Jewish leadership at the time recognized a need to provide a Greek translation for those Jews who lived outside of Palestine. They commissioned 70 Jewish scripture scholars who gathered in Alexandria, Egypt and spent 70 months on the task. The resulting translation was named the Septuagint (70 x 70) and contained the 7 additional books that had come to be accepted by the Jewish community as divinely inspired sacred works. Both versions were in use in Israel during Jesus’ ministry, and the longer Greek translation was the obvious choice for the first Christians to use when evangelizing the Greek speaking Gentiles of the Roman Empire.
After the Fall of Jerusalem (@ 70 AD), the Jewish leadership shifted into a survival mode and closed ranks. One of their first responses was to eject all followers of Jesus from their synagogue worship which essentially established Christianity as a separate religion. A few decades later (@ 110 AD?) the Jewish leadership gathered to officially clarify their faith beliefs and membership qualifications. During that gathering, they dropped the Greek Septuagint translation and recognized the original Hebrew translation as the only scripture acceptable for synagogue use. Since this decision was made AFTER the Jewish-Christian separation, the Christian communities of the time continued to use both translations.
In the 300’s, after Christianity became legal, St. Jerome was commissioned to translate the Bible into the common language of the people – Latin. He moved to the Holy Land and spent the rest of his life working on the project which became known as the Vulgate or “common language” Bible. For his translation, he chose to use the longer Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Vulgate Bible was the accepted scripture translation for the next 1,000 years.
During the Reformation, Luther wanted to create a German translation of the Bible. It is my understanding that his first German language Bible was a direct translation of the Latin Vulgate, including the 7 additional Old Testament books. It was later, when Luther and the German leadership were clarifying the differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs that Luther discovered that the contemporary Jewish communities in Germany were using a shorter version of scripture that did not include the Maccabees books (the Catholic basis for praying for the dead and therefore indulgences – Luther’s initial grievance against Rome). Luther proposed that a new German translation be created that omitted the 7 additional books as well as a few New Testament epistles (especially St. James’ letter, i.e. “Faith without works is dead”). The new Protestant leadership agreed to drop the 7 Old Testament books, but chose to keep the New Testament intact. This decision became the foundation for all future Protestant translations of the Bible.
Clearly, this is the Roman Catholic version of these events. What are the variations of the accounts from other viewpoints? Also, what are the historic roots for the additional OT books in the Greek Orthodox and Coptic translations? (I suspect that this will keep Israel G. busy for a few moments)

About Pat Clement

Pat Clement is a Minister of Faith Formation from the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, VA. For over 25 years, she has worked with teams in parishes, schools and campus ministry to discover creative ways to incorporate faith formation into every aspect of church life. She earned a Master's degree in Religious Education from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and a Doctorate of Ministry from the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Indiana with ecumenical studies in Rome. Pat is a native of New Orleans, LA and is currently serving as the Director of Religious Education at St. James Church in Hopewell, VA.
This entry was posted in bible, Christian Education, ecumenical, theology. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How does the Catholic Bible differ from the Protestant Bible?

  1. igalindo says:

    Thanks, Pat! Terrific article.

    I don’t see much difference in terms of a historical understanding of the “history of the Bible” from a Protestant viewpoint. The history of the development of the canon, and of modern Bible versions and texts is a fascinating study. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve got just about every translation and version of the Bible on my bookshelf—collected over years. The only one I know for sure is missing is the Coptic Bible you refer to. Perhaps with good reason. It’s difficult enough deciding among the choices of Protestant and Catholic versions without adding to that having to decide which Coptic bible to get (see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/16078c.htm).

    If you’re curious, check out some of the OTHER books in the Coptic biblical tradition on this Coptic lectionary site: http://www.copticchurch.net/classes/getLectionary.php

  2. Abrahham Geremew says:

    the ommitted bible parts have some contradicting ideas with the other parts which is accepted by thje protestants what can you say about this?
    ommitted one cotradicts with the rest one(some parts).and none of them were qouted by desciples as well as Jesus.

  3. Bea K. says:

    Abrahham Geremew,
    Thank you so much for your response about the “contradicting ideas”, which the King James Version (and a few others) DO NOT present, and can be confusing also by Hebrew definitions and understanding.

    Don’t believe me, line up the KJV and Hebrew texts, with the Catholic version and see for yourself (but make sure you ‘pray’ and ask for the Holy Spirit to give you ‘clarity’ and ‘understanding as you do so, and watch what happens when ‘He’ does)?

  4. Allen Hill says:

    You are incorrect. The 2nd Commandment found in the Protestant Bible is missing in the Catholic Bible. Why? Obviously so that the Catholic leaders can sell graven images and fleece the public in this way and many others as it has done for centuries. I haven’t time to point out other differences. I will research them with the internet. I suggest you do the same the next time you are on the beach at Hattaras, if not before.

    Allen Hill

  5. Allen Hill says:

    INTRODUCTION:
    Christians in the Bible are called people that love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). If a person loves the truth they must hate lies, errors and all distortions of the truth. However, just as God hates sin, but loves all people even though they sin, Christians should likewise love all people even if they do, teach or believe something that is not right or true. So Catholics and Protestant should love one another, even if they do not agree with or do not like what the other does or believes.

    SUMMARY:
    Catholics and Protestants believe and do many of the same things, but they also believe and do some things differently. Some differences are trivial, but some differences deal with the foundational issues.

    HISTORY:
    The Catholic Church has a long history over which time it has changed in many ways, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

    Protestant Christianity began in the 1500’s when a group of people began to protest against some of the wrong things they believed the Catholic Church was doing and teaching. These protesters became separated from the Catholic Church and formed their own Church which was more inline with what they believed was the truth. Just like the Catholic Church, Protestant Churches are not perfect, they have also changed many times in many ways.

    The main issue is Catholics have believed and done some things differently to what Protestants believe the Bible has instructed. Protestants believe this is a result of Catholics believing what certain individuals and traditions have said, rather than what God has said through the Bible. The problem of traditions becoming more important than God’s truth is something all religions have at some time been guilty of, including Protestants. The Catholic Church has admitted to some of the errors it has been guilty of in the past, and has changed. But there are still some beliefs and practices that Protestants would say are against what the Bible teaches.

    An example of change in the Catholic church is, the fact that today, the Catholic Church does encourage Bible reading. But in the past the Catholic church has discouraged personal study of the Bible, in fact reading the Bible was at one time banned by the Church. Only certain people were allowed to do so. People that did read, or spread the Bible, were even killed by the Catholic Church, like William Tyndale who was one of the first people to translate the Bible into English.

    The Catholic Bibles include certain books which Protestants say should not be there. They are called the apocryphal books, which are writings protestants do not believe have been approved as inspired by God. Since they are not referred to as Scripture by Jesus or His disciples.

    At one time almost all Catholic Church services were entirely in the Latin language, and only a few people could understand Latin. This is no longer case.

    THE VIRGIN MARY
    Mary the physical mother of Jesus is of great importance to Catholics, but the Bible says very little about Mary. Here is a summary of what the Bible says about her:

    The Bible describes Mary as the physical mother of Jesus, and that she was made pregnant by God. (Matthew 1:16, Luke 1:26-42, Luke 2:5-19) Mary visited her cousin Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-56) Mary attended a feast at Jerusalem with her family. (Luke 2:48-51) Mary is present at a marriage feast. (John 2:1-10) Mary looked for Jesus when He was teaching inside a house (Matthew 12:46-47, Mark 3:31, Luke 8:19). Mary went to see Jesus at the cross (John 19:25-27). Mary was committed to the care of Jesus’ disciple John. (John 19:27) Mary lived with the disciples in Jerusalem for a while (Acts 1:14).

    So everything Catholics say about Mary that is not in the Bible has been made up by people, and are based on tradition rather than the truth revealed to us God’s Word. Nowhere does the Bible say Mary was greater than any other Christian, she was just a human like all of us. The Bible does not say people should worship Mary or pray to Mary. The Bible does not say Mary prays for us.

    Some Catholics may believe and teach that Mary acts as a mediator between people and God, but this is the opposite to the Bible which says, Jesus is only mediator between God and mankind. (1 Timothy 2:5)

    A mediator is somebody that negotiates a solution between two people that are divided because of some problem.

    Praying to Mary, singing to Mary, and bowing down or kissing statues of Mary, might even be classed as a form of Idol worship, which Jesus said was wrong. For He said we must worship and serve God alone (Matthew 4:10). And Mary was a person.

    Mary is not the gate of heaven as some Catholics say, for Jesus Himself said that He is the way and nobody comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). And the Bible also says, there is no other name except that of Jesus by which we are saved (Acts 4:12).

    A popular belief among Catholics is that Mary never did any sin, but the Bible says everyone has sinned (Romans 5:12-13, 1 Kings 8:46, 1 John 1:8-10, Psalm 53:3). Mary even admitted she needed a Saviour for she called God her Saviour (Luke 1:46-47). Jesus is the only person who has not sinned, and Jesus was God.

    Some Catholics believe Mary never had any other children. But the Bible says Mary did have other children (Matthew 13:55-56).

    Some Catholics often call Mary the mother of God, but God does not have a mother, for God and Jesus already existed before Mary existed (Isaiah 43:10). Mary was not God’s mother, but simply a channel through which Jesus entered this physical world.

    THE POPE
    The Pope is a man Catholics have claimed is a mediator between God and mankind. But as it has been said Jesus is the only mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Catholics also claim the Pope is the head of the Church on earth, but the Bible says Jesus is the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 2:9-10). We should not give to any man the honour that belongs to Jesus alone.

    CONFESSION
    It is often believed among Catholics that a certain group of people called priests, have the power and authority to forgive sins. So sins must be confessed to priests. But such beliefs are the opposite of what is found in the Bible, which says Jesus has the power to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). Also, no human priest is a mediator between God and man. The Bible also teaches we can ask God ourselves for forgiveness, and He promises to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Peter also said in the Bible, that through Jesus name, whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of their sins (Acts 10:43). The Bible does not teach that today there should be a special class of people called priests, for God sees all Christians as priests (1 Peter 2:9).

    PENANCE
    Catholics generally believe sin causes spiritual penalties, and not all of these penalties are removed even if the guilt of a sin has been forgiven. They believe these remaining penalties can be removed or reduced by penance, which involves doing good works. What these good works are is decided by the priest after a confession. According to Catholic beliefs any remaining penalties will be paid by suffering in a place called purgatory after death.

    However the Bible does not say anything about penance, God does not demand such things for the forgiveness of sins. God’s forgiveness is a free gift we receive by turning away from our wrong ways and accepting it through believing in Jesus as our Lord (Galatians 2:16, Romans 1:17). According to the Bible good works do not make a person a Christian, but good works should be the sign of a person who is a Christian. Good works are the result of becoming a Christian. And we become a Christian by turning away from sin and turning our lives over to Jesus.

    PURGATORY
    Purgatory is a place Catholics believe they will go if they die with unpaid penalties, there they will pay for their penalties by suffering. This imaginary place keeps many Catholics in fear all their life, because they can never be sure of how long they will spend there. A fear of purgatory causes many Catholics to miss out on the joy and peace that comes from knowing Jesus has paid the full price for sin. Catholics often teach that time spent in purgatory can be reduced by gifts of money, the prayers of priests, and by doing other things. Through such teachings the Catholic Church has collected billions of dollars, making it one of the richest institutions in the world.

    However nothing about purgatory can be found in the Bible. Jesus said in the Bible, that He who hears His word and believes in Him who sent Him, has everlasting life, and will not be judged, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24). The Bible also says God does not remember sins that have been forgiven (Hebrews 10:17). The Bible also says that once Christians die they will be present with God (2 Corinthians 5:8-9), there is no place in between.

    INDULGENCES
    Catholics also teach that the unpaid penalties can cause individuals to be punished in this life also, in various forms of sufferings, and what remains unpaid by suffering on earth will be paid in purgatory. Catholics also believe these penalties can be reduced with what Catholics call indulgences, which involve doing good works, saying certain prayers, going to confession, going to communion, or doing something else. Catholics also believe indulgences can be gained for people that have died and gone to the imaginary place called purgatory.

    The whole concept of Indulgences goes against the Bible, which teaches that God’s Gift of life is free, for the whole punishment for all sin has been paid for by Jesus once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).

    NEVER SURE OF BEING SAVED
    Because of beliefs about purgatory, No Catholic person is sure they will go to Heaven when they die, they might go to purgatory. But the Bible says if we walk in the light, as Jesus is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of God’s Son Jesus cleanses us of all our sin (1 John 1:7). So Jesus cleanses us of ALL our sin.

    MARRIAGE
    Catholic beliefs do not allow certain men to have a wife because they are leaders in the Church. However in the Bible we read Christian leaders were married, such as the Apostle Peter (Matthew 8:14, Mark 1:30, Luke 4:38) Paul who was a Christian leader and wrote most of the New Testament also allowed marriage (1 Corinthians 9:5). The Bible even makes it clear that it is wrong to forbid marriage (1 Timothy 4:3).

    PRAYER
    Catholics often repeatedly say the same prayer over and over again. But this is a practice that the Bible says is wrong. For even Jesus told His followers to not vainly repeat themselves in prayer, like some do thinking they will be heard because of their many words. Jesus went on to say, we are not to be like them, for our heavenly Father knows what we need, before we ask him (Matthew 6:7-8).

    RITUALS
    A common Catholic tradition involves the kissing and bowing down to images and statues of Mary, Jesus, dead people and angels. The Bible says that is wrong, and such objects should not even be made (Exodus 20:4-5). Jesus told us to worship God in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). There are many other Catholic practices and beliefs that can’t be found in the Bible, such as saying prayers for the dead. Generally Church services involve intricate rituals and ceremonies that are not found in the Bible, but have been invented by people. God has said in the Bible He is more interested in what is in peoples heart than rituals and ceremonies.

    CONCLUSION
    As a Protestant, I believe the Catholic belief system has complicated the simple Gospel message. I protest any religion that teaches that to receive spiritual salvation involves a lot of hard work. I believe we have eternal life when we put our faith in Jesus, as the Scripture says: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36)

    The Bible warns against those that seek to complicate and corrupt God’s simple plan of salvation (2 Corinthians 11:3). The simple truth is God’s gift of life has been fully paid by Jesus on the cross. We can receive it in this life by turning from our wrong ways and accepting Jesus as our Lord, it is not something we can get by doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    So if you want to get right with God, you have to go to Jesus directly, not any Church, religious organization or human individual. Jesus said, come to me all you that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). We are not saved by belonging to a Church either Catholic or Protestant. There are only one kind of Christian, those that have made Jesus Lord of their life, and the simplest definition of a “true” Church is any group of people that is united by a shared love of Jesus Christ.

  6. Lori Westlake says:

    As a former Catholic….Amen, Allen Hill!

  7. Lori Westlake says:

    Except I don’t agree that the second commandment is left out of the Catholic bible. I compared a New Jeruselum and an NIV. They looked the same to me. I do intend to read the 7 books.
    The second commandment does make me question why Catholics have all the images? I know the images themselves are not being worshiped but rather what they represent. However, if we are saved by Grace through Faith…to me, images are not necessary.
    Great post!

  8. Elie says:

    Sorry Allen we don’t need a ex monk after 1500 years to change our beliefs. Jesus is born god so Mary Is the mother of god .
    Hail Mary, full of grace.
    Our Lord is with thee.
    Blessed art thou among women,
    and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
    Jesus.
    Holy Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners,
    now and at the hour of our death.
    Amen.

  9. Elie says:

    Protestants have 22000 denominations we have one leader one church one bible more than 22000 thousand saints. Only god is perfect and churches n people can do mistakes but it doesn’t give the right for a confused ex monk to make a new bible which has become more corrupt and has corrupted the earth . Christ has one church which the forces of hell can not prevail against it.

  10. Suzanne says:

    There is no reason to take offense. This
    is just a site to help determine the differences in these two religions.
    Thanks to everyone for your input too, it was very helpful.

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