What is the difference between
Catholic and Protestant Bibles?
The differences between Protestant and Catholic translations of the Bible are in the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures. The books of the Bible were written as individual books or writings. They were in response to different needs or situations and had purposes of their own. They emerged from different authors and traditions. Father Farrell tells us that until the Babylonian exile, which took place from 587 to 538 B.C., there were three different traditions concerning sacred writings among the Israelites: Northern, Southern and Deuteronomist.
After the exile the three traditions were merged. One volume of sacred writings resulted with the Pentateuch (first ﬁve books of the Bible) at its heart. With the passage of time other books came to be regarded as sacred or inspired. But not everyone agreed about which books were inspired. Jews in Palestine formed a list of some thirty-nine books written in Hebrew. Egyptian Jews (Jews of the Diaspora) added writings of their own, such as Tobit, to this list and produced a Greek translation of forty-six books called the Septuagint. Thus, there came to be a palestinian Canon and the Septuagint, also known as the Greek or Alexandrian Canon. ‘ After the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, the Jews felt a need to preserve and gather traditions to pass on to those who would come after them. Around the end of the ﬁrst century, the Jews of Palestine settled on a Palestinian Canon. In the meantime the early Christians were reading and writing in Greek. They were producing sacred writings of their own.
The books they wrote in their liturgies and instruction were in Greek. They followed and accepted the Greek or Septuagint version of the Hebrew or Old Testament Scriptures. Although all Christian lists were not immediately the same, there was a list of Christian inspired writings by A.D. 150.
Councils in 393 and 397 listed twenty-seven books as belonging to the New Testament or Christian writings. By his death in 420 Saint Jerome had produced the Latin Vulgate translation, which became the ofﬁcial Bible of the church. When the Reformation came along, Martin Luther translated the Palestinian Canon rather than the Vulgate of Jerome. Leaders of the Reformation for the most part followed Luther’s German translation of the Bible, accepting the Palestinian Canon.
The Council of Trent (1545-1563) took up the question of the inspired writings and authoritatively defined the canon as the books now contained in the Catholic translations of the Bible, following the Greek (Alexandrian) Canon. Today many Protestant translations of the Bible contain the additional Catholic books calling them by the name of Apocrypha. Catholic scholars use the term deutero-canonical for these books unique to the canon used by Catholics and Orthodox.