The Bible is the most popular book in the world. An estimated 20 million copies are sold each year. It is the most translated, printed, read, and referenced book. But not all Bibles are similar – some are literal translations, others are dynamic equivalent translations while others are paraphrase translations. But even though there are lots of translations and versions of the Bible, we can classify the Bible into two broad categories: the Catholic and the Christian Bible. That’s because of the distinct differences between these two Bibles. The differences stem from the historical background of the Catholics and the protestants which we will get into below.
What is the difference between the catholic and Christian Bible?
The main difference between the catholic and the Christian Bible is the additional books in the Catholic Bible (the Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books). Because of the additional books (seven in number), the catholic Bible is larger as it is made up of 73 books while the Christian Bible only has 66 books.
Origins and Composition of the Catholic Bible
The Catholic Bible, also referred to as the “Biblia Sacra,” is arguably the oldest Bible because it goes back to the days of the early church when the apostles wrote their epistles and gospels. Biblia Sacra is in Latin but it was translated from the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) because Christianity emerged from Judaism. The Tanakh comprises several historical, poetic, and prophetic books which were written over several centuries.
Canonization process and the inclusion of additional books
Canonization is the process by which a collection of books and texts were adopted as the official scriptures. Canon development varied across different regions among the Christians. However, during the fourth century, church councils were established to solidify and unify the canon and as a result, they ended up with a conclusive list of books that make up the catholic Bible. Many councils met to discuss the canon and other relevant issues but not all of them were very successful. The Council of Carthage and the Council of Hippo were the most instrumental councils in the canonization of the Catholic Bible. These councils affirmed the 73 books that are used in the catholic church to date. These books include the same 66 books used in the Christian Bible plus an additional seven books (Apocrypha). The list of the Apocrypha is:
- Esther (with additions)
- Wisdom of Solomon
- Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
- Letter of Jeremiah
- Additions to Daniel (Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel, and the Dragon)
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
During the Reformation, the catholic church was under pressure to remove the deuterocanonical books from the Bible. Martin Luther and other leaders of the Reformation believed that the books didn’t meet the minimum threshold of sacred writings to be included in the Bible. This school of thought elicited sharp debate among the Bible scholars and church leaders but the catholic church held its ground. This is one of the reasons why the Protestant church broke off from the Catholics and they ended up with their Bible which is now referred to as the Protestant (or Christian) Bible.
Origins and Composition of the Christian Bible
Just like the catholic Bible, the Christian Bible is a collection of sacred texts that were canonized by scholars in the early church. The Old Testament, which has 39 books comprises the sacred scriptures of Judaism (Tanakh). The Tanakh was written by different authors spanning centuries and they embraced as part of the Christian heritage. The New Testament is made of 27 books that are based on the ministry of Jesus Christ. They include the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the Acts of the Apostles, various letters or epistles written by apostles like Paul, Peter, John, and others, and the Book of Revelation.
The Christain Bible followed the tradition of the early Jewish Canon and did not approve of the addition of other texts. As a consequence, the Christian Bible has fewer books than the Catholic Bible. This difference in composition can be attributed to the Reformation movement of the 16th century that was Led by Martin Luther and other leaders. During this time, the Jewish scholars opted to exclude deuterocanonical books from the Biblical canon due to theological, historical, and linguistic reasons.
The canonization process of the Christian Bible
As we have seen, the canonization process of the Christian Bible can be traced back to the 16th century during the Reformation movement. Just like was the case in the canonization of the Catholic Bible, there were varied opinions on the canon and it took several years for the official canon to be agreed on.
There were some criteria that were used in the selection of the books that would be used in the Bible. The first thing they looked at was apostolic authorship. As such, only the books that were written by the Apostles were allowed in the New Testament. They also looked at the consistency the books had with Christian teaching and doctrines. Lastly, they sought to only include texts that could be traced back to Hebrew or Greek. This last measure saw the elimination of seven books and some additional texts in Esther and Daniel that make up the Deutraconanoical books in the Catholic Bible.
To wrap it up, the catholic and the Christian Bibles have many similarities. For once, they are both comprised of texts that are considered sacred. These texts were written by prophets, apostles, and other people who are believed to have been inspired by God. Another important similarity is the composition of the books of the Bible. Both the catholic and Christian Bibles have the same books in the New Testament. Their Old Testament composition are also both based on the Tenakh. However, the catholic church also includes the deuterocanonical books as part of the sacred texts in the Old Testament slightly different from that of the Christians.