What Is the Catholic Version of the Bible?

by Scott Thompson

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved a number of different translations of the Bible for private use by English-speaking Catholics in the United States, but the New American Bible is the only English-language version authorized for use in Mass. Like the other translations of the Catholic Bible, the New American Bible has a total of 73 books, seven more than the Protestant version of the Bible.

The Number of Books

The word "bible" literally means "books," and the Bible is made up of a number of smaller books, but there is some dispute as to the correct number. The Catholic and Protestant New Testaments contain the same set of 27 books, but the Catholic Old Testament contains seven books not found in the Protestant Old Testament. Protestants call these "apocryphal" books while Catholics call them "deuterocanonical" books. The deuterocanonical books are Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees and Tobit. Ecclesiasticus is also known as Sirach. The Catholic versions of Daniel and Esther also contain verses not found in the Protestant Bible.

The Content of Deuterocanonical Books

The deuterocanonical or apocryphal books of the Catholic Bible don't have a single, unified theme. Judith tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Israel and how his general Holofernes was killed by Judith. Ecclesiasticus includes a selection of wise sayings as well as other writings on wisdom. The Wisdom of Solomon includes arguments for an afterlife as well as writings on wisdom. Baruch includes hymns, other poetry and confessional writings. The two books of Maccabees tell the story of Judas Maccabeus and the Maccabean revolt. Tobit tells the story of a man named Tobias who went on a long journey to collect his family's fortune after the family was sent into exile.

History of Deuterocanonical Inclusion

The Catholic version of the Bible is based on a Greek translation of Jewish scriptures known as the Septaguint. The Protestant version is based on the Hebrew Bible. The Septaguint was mostly the same as the Hebrew Bible, but it contained the seven additional books. Early Protestant leader Martin Luther rejected the scriptural authority of these seven books. In 1546, the Catholic Council of Trent declared that the seven books would remain in the Catholic version of the Bible. From that time on, Catholics and Protestants have used separate Bible versions or translations. Some Protestant Bibles do contain the extra seven books, but refer to them as "apocryphal" or non-scriptural books.

Accepted Catholic Versions

English-speaking Catholics used the Douay-Rheims translation of the Catholic Bible until the 1960s. In 1943, Pope Pius XII called for renewed study of the original scriptural texts to create newer and more accurate translations. 50 Bible scholars and linguists collaborated to produce the New American Bible, which has been the standard version of the Catholic Bible for English-speaking Americans since 2002. However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops maintains a list of other translations approved for private use, including the American Bible Society's New English Version as well as the Catholic edition of the New Revised Standard Version.

About the Author

Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.

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