Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ASK THE PASTOR - Why are Protestant and Catholic Bibles Different?

Why Are the Protestant and Catholic Bibles Different?

For 1,500 years, all Christian Bibles were the same. Most Bibles contained the 66 sacred books of Scripture, as well as several books called the Apocrapha. The word 'apocrapha' means "hidden" or "concealed", but after c. 450 A.D. came to refer to the non-canonical books of the Old Testament period. The church (along with its various branches) never considered to be the inspired word of God. Instead, they were thought of as ancient, faithful writings that encouraged devotion to God—though not infallible. They were considered useful for promoting Christian living, but not to be used to establish doctrine. Jews never considered these writings to possess the authority of Scripture. The great Christian theologians of the past regularly used these books, but never considered them to be the Word of God.

There were, however, some notable exceptions to this. Augustine, perhaps the greatest theologian in church history, argued for full acceptance of the Apocrapha. Clement of Alexandria and Origen (declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church), among others, argued for the inclusion of one or more of these books.

In 1545 the Roman Catholic Church called a church council at the city of Trent. They were responding to the claim that the Protestants were valuing the Bible more highly than the Catholics (Sola Scriptura). To prove this claim wrong, they decided to “one up” the Protestants, and for the first time in Christian history, declared the Apocraphal books to be the inspired Word of God—an act which all Protestant groups rejected as unbiblical.

The Roman Catholic church generally uses the name "deutero-canonical books" when referring to what Protestants call the Apocrapha. The Eastern Orthodox church takes a mediating position, arguing that the "deutero-canonical" books are indeed Scripture, but lacking the authority and trustworthiness of the rest of the Holy Word. Protestants, and even many Catholics, charge the Orthodox with inconsistency on this issue.

The issue in the Reformation/Counter-Reformation period was which group most valued the Word of God. The Protestants firmly held to the principle of sola scriptura, meaning that Scripture was the primary and sole document for determining orthodoxy and standards of Christian living. Conversely, while the Catholics were not willing to give up the church's authority over Scripture, they needed a way to "prove" they valued the Bible as well. Their answer was to simply add more books. As such, Protestant Bibles are not “missing” any books. Instead, the Roman Catholic church inappropriately added some books 1,500 years after Christ’s time on earth in order to win an argument.

Questions for Pastor Josh can be submitted via Email. "Ask the Pastor" is a feature in the monthly newsletter of Indian River Baptist Church. This blog republishes those Questions, along with others not selected for print publication.


  1. Blessings to you!

    Pastor, It is incorrect to say that the jews didn't accept these books, the jewish cannon wasn't a closed cannon and depending where one was the cannon could be different. Most of the jewish world at the time of Jesus used the greek "old testament" all the new testament quotes are from the greek old testament. The jewish cannon was closed by those jews who rejected Christ. Now remember also that the kjv didn't remove the deutro till the mid 1800's albeit they were placed in the back of the book

  2. Blessings to you as well. We are both also blessed that God, in His grace, has granted to both Protestants and Catholics full agreement on the contents of the New Testament.

    As for your comment, please know that the Jews have never accepted the apocryphal books into their cannon. It is also incorrect to say that only those Jews who rejected Christ rejected these books because Jews both before and after Jesus refused to see them as sacred.

    While many Jews valued these documents, it seems only a fringe minority ever viewed them as having divine origin. Over time, these Hebrew books fell completely out of use by all Jews. In fact, they were not even preserved by Jews, but rather by Christian scholars. Josephus rejected the apocryphal books as inspired and this reflected Jewish thought at the time of Jesus:

    "From Artexerxes to our own time the complete history has been written but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets." ... "We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine..."(Flavius Josephus, Against Apion 1:8) [Please note the different way the Jews used to number their OT, which corresponds exactly to the Protestant books in content].

    Yes, it is true that these books were included in early copies of the KJV. However, the Protestant world made it clear these books were not sacred or inspired. They included them for their historical value and as an aid in shaping conduct and morals, but never doctrine. They began removing them as early as 1629 AD because of the confusing caused by including them.

  3. I am not sure how I feel about religion right now, but I like a lot of the things you have to say and a lot of your answers here. I believe in God and I think you do too.