Culture of Life
Why Do Catholics ...?
Why are Catholic and Protestant Bibles different?
BY The Editors
July 31-August 13, 2011 Issue | Posted 7/22/11 at 12:35 PM
“To appreciate this question and its answer, one must first remember that almighty God never handed anyone a complete Bible and said, ‘Here it is.’ Rather, over the centuries of salvation history, the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of sacred Scripture to write down God’s revelation to us. As time went on, the Church compiled these books to form a canon — an authoritative set of sacred Scripture — and declared it ‘God’s Word,’” wrote Father William Saunders in a 1994 Arlington Catholic Herald article reprinted at EWTN.com.
“The books of the Old Testament were written probably between 1000 B.C. and 100 B.C. and are usually distinguished as three sets: The Law (or Torah, our first five books of the Old Testament), The Prophets and The Writings. … At this time, some controversy still existed over what are called the seven ‘deuterocanonical books’ — Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, I and II Maccabees and Esther — although they had been incorporated in their entirety or at least partially in versions of the Septuagint, the official Greek translation of the Old Testament (c. 100 BC). Part of the reason for the controversy was because these were the latest writings of the Old Testament and were written in Greek rather than Hebrew; the other books of the Old Testament — the “protocanonical books” — were older and originally written in Hebrew. … Many Scripture scholars, however, have no doubt that the apostolic Church accepted the deuterocanonical books as part of its canon of sacred Scriptures. For instance, Origen (d. 245) affirmed the use of these books among Christians even though some of the Jewish leaders did not officially accept them.
Meanwhile, the writing of the New Testament books occurred between the time of Our Lord’s death and the end of the first century. … St. Athanasius in his Paschal Epistle (367) presented the complete list of 27 books of the New Testament saying, ‘These are the sources of salvation, for the thirsty may drink deeply of the words to be found here. In these alone is the doctrine of piety recorded. Let no one add to them or take anything away from them.’
“This list of 27 books along with the 46 books of the Old Testament (including the deuterocanonical ones) was affirmed as the official canon of sacred Scripture for the Catholic Church by the synods of Hippo (393), Carthage I and II (397 and 419). The letter of Pope St. Innocent I in 405 also officially listed these books. Although some discussion arose over the inclusion of other books into the Church’s canon of sacred Scripture after this time, the council of Florence (1442) definitively established the official list of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament.
“With this background, we can now address why the Protestant versions of the Bible have less books than the Catholic versions. In 1534, Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. He grouped the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament under the title ‘Apocrypha,’ declaring, ‘These are books which are not held equal to the sacred Scriptures and yet are useful and good for reading.” Luther also categorized the New Testament books. …
“Some scholars believe Luther wanted to return to the ‘primitive faith,’ and therefore accepted only those Old Testament books written in Hebrew originally; others speculate he wanted to remove anything which disagreed with his own theology. Nevertheless, his action had the permanent consequence of omitting the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament in Protestant versions of the Bible.
“The 39 Articles of Religion (1563) of the Church of England asserted that these deuterocanonical books may be read for ‘example of life and instruction of manners,’ although they should not be used ‘to establish any doctrine’ (Article VI). Consequently, the King James Bible (1611) printed the books between the New Testament and the Old Testaments. … The Westminster Confession (1647) decreed that these books, ‘not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of Scripture, and therefore are of no authority of the Church of God; nor to be in any otherwise approved, or made use of than other human writings.’ The British and Foreign Bible Society decided in 1827 to remove these books from further publications and labeled these books ‘apocrypha.’…
“The new Catechism … affirms the apostolic Tradition of the canon of sacred Scripture.”
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