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How are Protestant and Catholic Bibles Different?

Genesis to Revelation. The Protestant Bible and the Catholic Bible begin and end the same way. But in between there are significant differences. Describing the variances for you, however, turned out to be not nearly as simple as I thought it would be. And please note that I hadnít thoroughly examined a Catholic Bible before studying for this article, so I may have missed something important. If so, please do call it to my attention.

It is critical to note at the outset that the New Testament is precisely the same in both Protestant and Catholic translations. The twenty-seven books from Matthew to Revelation, written in the last half of the first century, were gradually collected and recognized as divinely inspired by the earliest Christians, and this process was pretty much complete by the end of that same century.

Only the Old Testament differs in Protestant and Catholic Bibles, and this is because Catholic Bibles include some apocryphal books and portions of books that are not part of the Protestant canon today (though some Protestant Bibles print the Apocrypha in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments). Although the word Apocrypha means Ďhidden,í the books in question have never been hidden, kept secret, or gone missing. Thatís bestseller hype, not history.

The Apocrypha comprise fifteen books or portions of books: First and Second Esdras; Tobit; Judith; The Rest of the Chapters of Esther; The Wisdom of Solomon; Ecclesiasticus or Sirach; Baruch; A Letter of Jeremiah; The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three; Daniel and Susanna; Daniel, Bel, and the Snake; The Prayer of Manasseh; First and Second Maccabees. Eleven of these have been declared divinely inspired by the Roman Catholic Church, and thus are included in the Catholic Bible.

But of course, itís not that simple. Only seven appear under their own titles; the rest are appended to or inserted within other Old Testament books. Itís really confusing if you examine an older Catholic translation, such as the Douay (which is the only Catholic version I own), where several OT books have different names than Protestants use, but newer Catholic translations like the New American Bible have cleaned that up, and itís now somewhat easier to compare Protestant and Catholic versions.

The New American Bible, which I looked at online, puts Tobit and Judith after Nehemiah. It intersperses six apocryphal bits throughout Esther, and then inserts 1 and 2 Maccabees. The Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach (sometimes called Ecclesiasticus) are spliced in after the Song of Solomon. Baruch (which includes A Letter of Jeremiah) appears after Lamentations. Daniel has The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of Three inserted in the middle of chapter three, giving that chapter 100 verses instead of the thirty in the Protestant Bible. Two extra chapters also appear the end of Daniel, which are Daniel and Susanna, and the story of Daniel, Bel, and the Snake. That sort of adds up to eleven apocryphal portions, depending on how you count them.

The NAB also divides Joel into four chapters instead of three, and makes Malachi three chapters instead of four, I donít know why. The content is the same.

None of the apocryphal books that Catholics include in Scripture are included in the Jewish canon. The content of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles matches the Jewish canon exactly, although in a different order. The Apocrypha appear in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, but were not in the original Hebrew, and are not considered canonical by Jews.

I relied heavily on the following reference books and websites for the information in this column:
Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible by Erwin W. Lutzer
The Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha
The Apologetics Study Bible
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/index.shtml

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