Dear Father | Catholic Bible used by all Christians until the Reformation

Q. What is the difference between Catholic and Protestant Bibles?A. Perhaps not as much as you might think. But, yes, there are differences, and that's why some Bibles are stamped "Catholic Edition," or "With Apocrypha," or another designation to distinguish them from the "Protestant Edition" (Catholic Bibles also bear the Nihil Obstat).
Catholic and Protestant Bibles essentially are different in three main ways. First (and most obvious) is the number of books they contain. The Catholic Bible contains 73 books, 27 from the New Testament and 46 from the Old Testament. The Protestant Bible has the same 27 in the New, but only 39 in the Old. Catholics refer to the seven disputed as books deuterocanonical ("of the second canon"), while the Protestants call them the apocrypha (books that masquerade as Scripture but really aren't).
By definition, Scripture is the inspired word of God, but in practical terms, Scripture also is defined as the official canon, or "list," of books that may be read at Mass. The Church never had such a canon until the fourth century. Before then, there was a consensus (more or less) of what books would be acceptable for proclamation at the Liturgy, but not absolute unanimity.
With regard to the New Testament, some churches disallowed readings from the Book of Revelation, while others included books such as The Shepherd of Hermas, which now are reckoned apocryphal. With the Old Testament, however, the Catholic Church embraced the Jewish Septuagint version of the Bible (with its canon of 46 books), mostly because it was the version used by Jesus and the Apostles. The Jews had another canon of Old Testament Scripture with only 39 books, and that's the one used by Protestants today (and Jews since 100 A.D.).
Until the Reformation, all Christians used the Catholic Bible of 73 books. The 16th century "reformers" of the Church denied many of the Church's dogmas, including the one on purgatory. Since 2 Maccabees is a major Scriptural foundation for that doctrine, and it's one of the seven books not contained in the 39-book canon, they found it very convenient to excise it from the Bible simply by embracing the Jewish 39-book canon. So, they adopted it and have used it ever since.
Second, most Catholic editions of the Bible include footnotes, study notes, explanations, etc. Trusting the Holy Spirit alone to guide one's understanding of Holy Writ, Protestants often eschew those things.
Third, in older English translations of the Bible, there tended to be an intentional slanting of the words so as either to promote Protestant theology or disparage the Catholic interpretation, or they just suffered from poor scholarship. Most recent translations are much more faithful to the original text, so much so in fact, that, apart from the seven disputed books, there really isn't that much difference between the two.
Msgr. Mitas is pastor of St. Angela Merici Parish in Florissant.

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