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WHAT IS A CATHOLIC BIBLE?
When my father-in-law began a Bible study at his parish, he bought a beautiful Bible with a leather cover and gold-edged pages. I could tell he was proud of his purchase, so I didn’t want to tell him what I realized when I looked at the Bible’s table of contents: this Bible wasn’t a Catholic Bible! Its Old Testament was, from the Catholic point of view, missing some books. John was in a class that planned to study all of Scripture, so at some point the biblical book he needed wouldn’t be there.
So what is a Catholic Bible? How did it happen that Catholics have a different Bible from other Christians? And how are the terms "Apocrypha" and "Deuterocanonical" connected with this legacy of Jewish and Christian history?
The Catholic Bible: Extra Books and
Extra Parts of Books in the Old Testament
For every Christian, the New Testament is exactly the same. It's in the Old Testament that Christian Bibles differ.
All Bibles (Jewish and Christian) share the following books, many of which were important for Jews at the time of Jesus:

(Pentateuch)*

(History)

(Wisdom)

(Prophets)

Genesis

Joshua

Job

Isaiah

Exodus

Judges

Psalms

Jeremiah

Leviticus

Ruth

Proverbs

Lamentations

Numbers

Samuel

Ecclesiastes

Ezekiel

Deuteronomy

Kings

Song of Songs

Daniel

Chronicles

Hosea

Ezra

Joel

Nehemiah

Amos

Esther

Obadiah

Jonah

Micah

*(Traditional

categories)

Nahum

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Haggai

Zechariah

Malachi

Catholic* Bibles also include the following seven books in

the Old Testament and extra sections in Daniel and Esther:

Tobit

Wisdom

1 Maccabees

Judith

Sirach

2 Maccabees

Baruch

Text added to Daniel and Esther

* Orthodox and Coptic (Egyptian) Bibles also contain the seven books listed above and the additions to Esther and Daniel. Further, Orthodox Bibles also include

3 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 1 Esdras. Coptic (Egyptian Christian) and Ethiopian Bibles include the Orthodox books as well as 1 Enoch.

If you've got a Bible that does NOT include these seven books, you don't have a Catholic Bible! You'll be wondering why you hear a prayer from Tobit at a wedding and readings from Sirach at Sunday Mass.

Just remember the name of one of these seven books, and you'll always be able to identify a Catholic Bible by looking in its table of contents. You can also identify a Bible that includes all the necessary books by looking for an imprimatur on the reverse of the title page.


Why Different Bibles?
1. The Early Christian Bible (the Septuagint) Had More Books and It Became the Bible of the Church
At the time of Jesus and for a century or two after, Jews had no single authoritative list of which books were officially Sacred Scripture. A translation made from the Hebrew texts for Jews who spoke Greek had come into wide use after it was made in the 150-250 years before Jesus died. This Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, contained all the books and parts of books we have today in the Catholic Old Testament (see above), as well as 3 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 1 Esdras. Some Jews used these books as sacred writings and some did not. (Eventually, the Jewish Bible came to officially include only the books listed above that all Bibles share.)
The Septuagint was the Bible of the early (Greek-speaking) Christians, including Paul and the Christian communities that produced the gospels, as well as the Church Fathers, leaders in the Church's early centuries. Most of the Scripture quotes in the New Testament come from the Septuagint. The Church Fathers used the Septuagint books in their teaching and writing.
The early Church regarded all the books of the Septuagint as the inspired Old Testament of God. Therefore, when it came time to translate the Bible into Latin for Latin-speaking Christians, in translations such as the Vulgate, all the books of the Septuagint were included.
Over time, 3 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 1 Esdras dropped out of use in the Latin-speaking (western or Roman) Church and out of Latin Bibles. (These books continued to be used in Orthodox and Coptic Christian churches and are still in the Bibles of those churches.) When the Church formally stated the official list of books in the Catholic Bible at the Council of Trent in 1546, it included all the texts of the Septuagint except for these four.
2. Martin Luther's Reform Reduced the Authority of Old Testament Books Not Found in the Jewish Bible of His Time
In the early 16th century in Germany, Martin Luther began a reform movement in the Church that eventually led to Protestantism and the variety within Christianity we know today. One aspect of Luther's reform involved the Bible.
Luther believed the Bible of Jesus would have been the Jewish, or Hebrew, Bible. He was not alone in this thinking. From the time of Jerome at the end of the fourth century, Christians had known that Jews had a different Bible (for Christians, a different Old Testament).
Jerome had used the (Jewish) Hebrew texts for his Latin (Vulgate) translation of the Bible and found fewer books in the Jewish Bible than in the Septuagint. He concluded that this different set of books, in Hebrew, would have been the Bible of Jesus. (It's important to realize that neither Jerome nor Martin Luther knew what we know, that in the time of Jesus Jews did not have single, official list of the books of the Bible.)
Seeking the Bible of Jesus and the most authoritative books of Scripture to serve as sources of doctrine, Luther asserted that books not found in the Jewish Bible of his time should not be used to formulate doctrine, or official teaching, in the reformed church. He translated the "extra" books and parts of books into German, but he put them into a separate section of the Bible. Going forward in Protestant Christianity, then, these texts had less authority.
And what were these texts? The same seven books, and parts of Daniel and Esther, listed above, that now make the Catholic (and Orthodox, Coptic, and Ethiopian) Bible different from the Bible of Protestant Christians!
Apocrypha? Deuterocanonical?
From the point of view of Protestant Christians, Catholic Bibles have an additional seven authoritative books. From the point of view of Catholic Christians, Protestant Bibles are missing seven authoritative books! It depends on how you look at it.
The Protestant term for the books (and parts of books) found in the Septuagint that are not found in the Jewish Bible is Apocrypha, which means "hidden."
The Catholic term for these same books is Deuterocanonical, which means "second canon." (A canon is an offical list of biblical books. For Catholics, the books of the "first canon," the "protocanonical "books, are the biblical books all Christians and Jews share. (See list in "The Catholic Bible," above.)
Many Protestant Christian Bibles today do include these seven books, and the additions to Daniel and Esther, even though they're not well known or used in those churches. Look for "with Apocrypha" on the covers of Bibles with translations commonly used by Protestants.
You may also see "with the Deuterocanonical books" or "Catholic Edition" on Bibles published for Catholics but with a translation not used liturgically by Catholics.
If you get a Catholic translation of the Bible, you're certain of getting all the books you need!

WAYS TO IDENTIFY A CATHOLIC BIBLE*


1. Learn one of these names and look in the Bible's table of contents to see if it's there:

Tobit, Judith,

Wisdom, Sirach,

1 Maccabees,

2 Maccabees

(These are the 7 "extra" books in the Catholic Old Testament.)

2. Look for a bishop's imprimatur on the back of the title page.

3. Look for the words "Catholic Edition" or "with Apocrypha" or "with Deuterocanonicals" on the cover.

* A Bible that includes all the texts accepted as canonical by the Church.


ACTIVITY

At home, or when you visit friends, family, or your parish, look at all the Bibles you find. Are they Catholic Bibles or not? How do you know?


QUESTION

How did Jews who spoke Greek and lived before the time of Jesus and the sixteenth century German monk Martin Luther contribute to the Bibles Christians use today?


KEEP LEARNING

Easy: "The Bible from Square One" by Elizabeth McNamer (Scripture from Scratch N0194)

More: Any basic introduction to the Bible will tell you much more about this topic.

In-depth: "Canonicity" in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary,

pp. 1034-1054.