October 13, 2012
Which books go in which Bible?
Christians from all denominations often ask me which Bible is which and why, and I’ve been explaining away – incorrectly! Well, not totally wrongly, but I was under the forgetful impression that any Bible “with Apocrypha” is the same as a “Catholic edition” – not!
With apologies to all, I’ll try to set things straight, confusing though it may be, but important too, so please bear with me.
As I’ve also mentioned over the years (and, yea! – gotten right) – the order of the books in a Bible “with Apocrypha” differ from a “Catholic edition” most noticeably by placement.
Each edition approved for Roman Catholic readers has the “extra books” woven into the “Old Testament” according to category. For example, Tobit and I and II Maccabees go with historical books whereas The Book of Sirach (one of my favorites) wisely goes with Wisdom Books and Baruch goes with the Prophets. However, Bibles labeled “with Apocrypha” typically place the extra books between the Testaments or after Revelation.
That can be confusing if you enjoy interdenominational Bible study groups, as I do, but otherwise, it’s no big deal. Right? Well, at least not until you come to some extra “extra books” with no clue what to do, which is what happened recently to me.
Reading my new copy of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) with Apocrypha, I ran across books I did not recall ever reading in my Catholic Study Bible or Revised English Bible with Apocrypha or The New Jerusalem Bible. Just to be sure, I double-checked the lists and saw that some of the books “with Apocrypha” are not part of the deuterocanonical books of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church does not consider books labeled “apocryphal” as such since “Apocrypha” means hidden, which those books clearly are not. Rather the Roman Church deemed the “extra books” to be “deuterocanonical” or outside the canon established by Jewish scholars who canonized the Hebrew Scriptures sometime after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D.
When Protestants left the Catholic Church, the Jewish Bible went, too, as the “Old Testament.” In the ecumenical environment we now have, however, most Christians want to see all the books inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, surprise! Most new editions of the Bible “with Apocrypha” have books the Catholic Church never included.
Let me quickly add:
The New Testament (NT) is the same for every Christian.
The NT books are the same; the order is the same, and only the footnotes might differ.
Before I leave you hanging in confusion and despair of knowing, here’s a list of deuterocanonical (aka apocryphal books) included in Bibles approved by the Roman Catholic Church:
Additions to the Book of Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus aka the Wisdom of Jesus aka Sirach
The Letter of Jeremiah
The Additions to the Book of Daniel – Prayer of Azariah (aka Abednego)
Bel and the Dragon
1 and 2 Maccabees
In addition to those “extra books” in the “Old Testament” (OT) of a Catholic Bible, the Greek and Slavonic Bibles include all books above plus:
Prayer of Manasseh
Finally, Slavonic Bibles include:
2 and 3 Esdras
To recap: “with Apocrypha” Bibles include all the “extra books” just listed, which, together, equal the length of the entire New Testament. Therefore, having done my extra reading, I think I’ll focus on the NT, OT books of Wisdom, and the Prophets to see what’s coming next!
© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler reserves all rights to correct her mistakes and be corrected, so if I still got it wrong, feel free to tell me – nicely, of course :)