Catholic Classroom: The Difference Between Catholic & Protestant Bibles
Starting this week, we'll be bringing you questions and answers about the Catholic Faith in a new blog series called Catholic Classroom. Do you have questions about the Faith? Let us know in the comments!
Question: Why do Catholic Bibles have some different books than Protestant Bibles?
Catholic and Protestant Bibles both have a New Testament that contains the same 27 books. But when it comes to the Old Testament, Catholic and Protestant Bibles differ. Catholic Bibles contain the following books that Protestant Bibles do not:
- 1 & 2 Maccabees
- Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus)
This results in 46 Old Testament books in Catholic Bibles and 39 Old Testament books in Protestant Bibles. In addition, Catholic Bibles include some parts of the Books of Esther and Daniel that Protestant Bibles do not.
The differences in canonical books go back to the Reformation. Up until the Reformation, all Christians used the version of the Old Testament that Catholics use today. This version was based on the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used by many Jews before the time of Christ, and then by many early Christians. Another version of the Old Testament was in the Hebrew language, and that version corresponds to what Protestants use today. It is worth noting that in the earliest days of the Church, there was no general or authoritative agreement about which books were canonical.
Between 382 and 397 AD, the early Church convened three councils to determine which books were canon. They ultimately decided to include the Old Testament books from the Septuagint that Catholics recognize today. We, as Catholics, believe that these books are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther and groups of Protestants revisited the decision of the ancient councils. They decided to use a different version of the Old Testament going forward that was based on the Hebrew-language books. A Jewish council had accepted this version for the Jewish religion in the year 70 A.D. Some Catholic teachings have their basis in the Greek-language books, and Protestants do not share those beliefs.
Catholics call the books included in the Catholic Bible and not the Protestant Bible the deuterocanonical books. Protestants call them apocryphal books. In the Catholic faith, one of the big reasons we accept these books as canon is because of the authority we assign to the Septuagint. Many quotes from the New Testament come specifically from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Old Testament. But perhaps the biggest reason we include these books is because the councils of the early Church studied them carefully and made the authoritative decision that they are canon. It is important to the Church that we make decisions guided by the Holy Spirit and in the communal context of councils, which means that we can be confident in the Old Testament that has been handed down to us.