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Why is the Protestant Bible different from the Catholic Bible?



The Protestant Bible is different from the Catholic Bible because of a dispute over questionable religious books written between 190 B.C. and 70 A.D. The disputed books were written in Greek during a time when the Jewish people were striving against foreign rulers and seeking independence. They included Jewish historical accounts, hopeful stories, and words of wisdom meant to encourage the people during difficult times. Although valued as historical documents and as expressions of Jewish piety, they were never accepted as part of the Jewish “canon” or list of recognized inspired writings.

There are fourteen Apocryphal books, which include Maccabees, Esdras, Wisdom, Baruch, Esther, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith and others. These books became familiar to many in the Early Church when they were translated into various Latin versions in the 3rd and 4th century.

Controversy over the Apocrypha arose with the translation of the Bible known as the Latin Vulgate in 405 A.D. Under the auspices of the Roman church, the scholar Jerome was commissioned to bring order to the various Latin versions with a final Latin translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and Greek New Testament.

Jerome himself objected to the Apocrypha since its books were not part of Jewish Scriptures. However, under pressure from church leadership, he compromised and included several questionable books, although clearly distinguishing them from those known to be authoritative.

Over the centuries, all of the Apocryphal books found their way into the Latin Vulgate, with Jerome’s distinction between those Old Testament books that are authoritative and the mere history of the Apocrypha erased by Catholic Church hierarchy. The Latin Vulgate with the Apocrypha became the authorized Catholic version of the Bible.

The issue came to a head again after 1517 A.D. as part of the growing influence of the Protestant Reformation. Protestants sought to base their faith on the Scriptures alone rather than on the traditions that had developed over the centuries. Familiar with the inferior status of the Apocrypha, the Reformers separated those books from Scripture, refusing to base any doctrinal position on their teachings. These are some reasons why Protestants have not included the Apocrypha in their Scriptures.

1. When making a list of the official books of the Hebrew Scripture in A.D 90, Jewish scholars rejected the Apocrypha.

2. The New Testament is filled with hundreds of quotes from almost every book of the Hebrew Bible and yet never quotes from the Apocrypha.

3. Josephus, a first century Jewish historian explicitly excludes the Apocrypha from his list of canonical books.

4. Many early church fathers (Origen, Cyril, and Athanasius) rejected the authority of the Apocrypha.

5. The Roman Catholic Church only gave the Apocrypha full canonical status in A.D. 1546 as a response to its conflict with Protestant Reformers. A number of disputed Roman doctrines (such as prayers for the dead, and meritorious works) were based on Apocryphal sources.

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