Understanding the Variations in the Catholic Versions of the Bible



Rev. Fr. Christopher Nnubia

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          The English word ‘Bible’ is derived from the old French bible, which is in turn based on Latin biblia and Greek biblia(“books”). This indicates that the Bible is a collection or a library rather than a single literary composition. The books of the Bible are called sacred because they are written under divine inspiration, and canonical which signifies that they are enumerated in the authentic list of sacred books called canon. “The canon of the Bible is the complete list of the sacred writings which the Church has come to recognize through Apostolic Tradition. The Canon consists of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New,” (CCCC 20).

          The Bible has been handed down to us in more than one form. The Hebrew Bible often called the Masoretic Text (MT), is a collection of thirty nine books in Hebrew (but excluding also the books written in Greek and the Greek supplements of Esther and Daniel). It is divided into three parts: the Law (the Pentateuch), The Prophets- the earlier Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1 &2 ), Kings (1 & 2) and the later Prophets – Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and Minor Prophets ( Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; the Writings: Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther (the last five, read on Jewish feast days, are known as the ‘five scrolls’), Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles. The Greek Bible, the ‘Septuagint’ or ‘LXX’, so called because it was supposedly translated by seventy people, was for the use of Jews of the Diaspora. It includes in addition to the text of the Hebrew Bible: Judith, Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and  Baruch (Chapter 6 is printed under the separate heading of the ‘Letter of Jeremiah’. In Daniel the following parts exist only in Greek: the Prayer of Azariah (24-45) and the Song of the Three Jews (46-90) inserted from verse 23 of Daniel chapter 3; Dn 13 (Susanna); Dn 14 (‘Bel and the Dragon’). The Book of Esther has two different forms: the short Hebrew original; and the longer Greek version that contains one hundred and seven additional verses comprising six distinct portions, A through F. The translation of the Greek portions has been inserted at the appropriate places of the translation of the Hebrew form of the book. Some of the Greek portions apparently had a Hebrew origin; the others were written in Greek (Ester (Greek).These books, commonly referred to as deuterocanonical, are generally regarded as part of the Christian canon.

The other books not accepted by the Church as the canons of Scripture are called "Apocrypha (Hidden)".

Apocrypha (Old Testament): 1 Esdra, 2 Esdras (4 Ezra), The Prayer of Manasseh.

Apocrypha (New Testament): The Protoevangelium of James, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Nicodemus, The Gospel of the Nazoreans, the Gospel of Ebionites, the Gospel of Hebrews, the Gospel of Egyptians, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of John, The Acts of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Thomas, The Acts of Andrew and Matthias, the Acts of Philip, the Acts of Thaddaeus, the Acts of Peter and Paul, the Acts of Peter and Andrew, the Martyrdom of Matthew, the Salvonic Act of Peter, the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, Third Corinthians, the Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Letters of Paul and Seneca, the Letters of Jesus and Abgar, the Letter of Lentulus, the Epistle of Titus, the Apocalypse of Peter, The Coptic Apocalypse of Paul, the first Apocalypse of James, The Apocryphon of John, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, the Letter of Peter to Philip, the Apocalypse of Mary.

Note: the Protestant Reformers regard both the deuterocanonical books and Apocrypha books as the Apocrypha books

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