Why is a Protestant Bible different from a Catholic Bible?

Well, it all goes back to 2nd Century Before Christ.   Somewhere around 100 BC, in Alexandria, a Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures was collected and published.   It was called the Septuagint (meaning 70) since it was believed that 72 Jewish elders labored to produce this book.

The Septuagint was the common form of Scriptures at the time of Jesus and the Apostles.   This was the Scriptures that Jesus and Apostles used and referred to.

After the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD, by the Romans, Jochanan ben Zakkai, led a reform movement of rabbis in the city of Jamnia to revise the Jewish Scriptures.   Their goal was to promote a strict interpretation of the Scriptures (many of these rabbis were Sadduces) and (if possible) remove or "re-translate" certain verses that were deemed too "Christian" (ie, they were widely used by Christians to promote Jesus as the Messiah).  Part of this effort, also, included removing from their scriptures any books that could not be found to have original Hebrew versions. So, away went the Book of Judith, the Book of Tobit, the Book of Baruch, 1st and Second Maccabees (which by the way tell the story of that means that you can only find the story of Hanukkah in the Catholic Bible!), the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus).

Curiously enough, fragments of Hebrew versions of these books were later found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Catholic Church kept the original Septuagint which was translated anew from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts in 426 AD by St. Jerome (it took him 35 years to accomplish).   This version was called the "Vulgate" since it was written in the common language of the time, non-classical Latin ("vulger" means "common").

Now, when Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church in the 16th Century, he formed his own Bible.   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.   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.   Martin Luther believed that the Catholic Church stressed Good works too much, and he believed that you were saved by accepting Christ alone.

If you read the Letters of Paul and other letters you will see Scriptures mentioned.   What the Apostles are referring to is the Septuagint (the Old Testament), plus some additional books which are quoted by Paul and others (such as "The Assumption of Moses"), which were never part of the Bible in any of its forms, but which were popular in their time.  A modern example would be fictional Scriptural books such The Robe or Ben-Hur.

It should be noted that what we consider as the New Testament didn't come into acceptance by the Church in general until around 200AD.   Like with the Hebrew Bible, there were many letters and books out there, but not all were considered divinely inspired.   It wasn't really until the 4th Century that the Latin and Eastern Churches agreed on the 27 books that make up the New Testament that we have today, and which is accepted by all Christians, today.

So the Bible you have at home was a book that grew from the prayers, writings and work of many people over many Centuries. As Yeshua Ben Sirach of the Book of Sirach would say:
"The fruit of the tree shows the care it has had". and as Jesus says in Luke 6:44:
"every tree is known for its own fruit."  

The Catholic Canon
(books in RED are rejected by present day Judaism and in the Protestant Canon [though may be included in an Apocrypha section])

- Deacon George Kozak (6/01)

Return to Questions Main Page