Why Do Catholics and Protestants Have Different Bibles?

Why do Catholics and Protestants have different Bibles, and how are they different? There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so let me give a basic primer. This isn’t so much looking to convince anyone as just to establish some of the basic facts.

By Joe Heschmeyer of Shameless Popery

#1 Canon

The list of books considered part of the Bible is called the “canon.”

#2 Catholic Bibles have 7 more Old Testament books

Catholic Bibles have seven Old Testament books that Protestant Bibles don’t have (Tobit, Sirach, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, and Baruch). This means that Catholics have 73 books of the Bible, and Protestants have only 66. (We have identical New Testaments.)

#3 Esther and Daniel have longer versions

Additionally, Catholic Bibles have longer versions of two books: Esther and Daniel.

#4 Old Testament Antilegomena

These seven books and two partial-books are collectively called the “Deuterocanon” or more technically the “Old Testament Antilegomena” (meaning that these were the “spoken-against” books of the OT).

#5 The Apocrypha

Protestants sometimes refer to these books as “the Apocrypha,” but that term is confusing and misleading, since there are other books also called the Apocrypha that are rejected by both Catholics and Protestants alike.

#6 Greek versions versus Hebrew versions

These books were found in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and generally not in the Hebrew. So Catholics have “Greek Esther” and “Greek Daniel” while Protestants have “Hebrew Esther” and “Hebrew Daniel.”

#7 Jesus and the Apostles quoted the Greek versions of the OT

Overwhelmingly, Jesus and the Apostles quote from the Greek, not the Hebrew, version of the OT, and there are a handful of references to these books in the NT. For example, Romans 9:19-21 draws from Wisdom 15:7, and Hebrews 11:35-37 refers to events found only in 2 Maccabees 7.

#8 No early Christian used the Protestant canon

No early Christian used the Protestant canon: two men (Jerome and Rufinus) argued for it, or something like it, in the fourth century, but they didn’t personally use it.

#9 3rd Council of Carthage

The Third Council of Carthage, an influential North African regional council held in 397 A.D., gives a list of the books used in the Bible, and it’s identical to the Catholic Bible used today.

#10 St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine gives an identical list in The City of God, in the early 400s.

#11 The Latin Vulgate

The Latin Vulgate, the Bible used throughout the Western half of the Church for a millennium, has this canon.

#12 Ecumenical Council of Florence

At the Ecumenical Council of Florence, in the Bull of Union with the Copts in 1442, the Church listed the canon of Scripture in a bull agreed to by the Catholics, Orthodox, and Copts there present. Bear in mind that this was the Bible already being used, it was just being described here in a statement of the faith related to “the articles of the faith, the sacraments of the church and certain other matters pertaining to salvation.”

#13 Martin Luther rejected some NT and OT books

Martin Luther argued that the following books were not canonical: the seven books (and two partial-books) of the Deuterocanon, as well as Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.

#14 John Calvin disagreed with Luther

John Calvin disagreed with Luther on Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, but also thought that the Book of Baruch was part of the canon.

#15 The Council of Trent

In response to the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent reaffirmed (by solemn definition) the 73-book Catholic canon of Scripture in 1546.