If you’ve ever looked closely at a Protestant Bible and a Catholic Bible side-by-side, you may have noticed that the Catholic version contains some additional books that the Protestant one does not. These extra books in the Catholic Bible are referred to as the Deuterocanonical books or the Apocrypha.
So why is there a difference between Protestant and Catholic Bibles? Where did these extra Catholic books come from? It actually dates back to the early centuries of Christianity, when the canon of Scripture was still being debated and defined. In the 4th century AD, Pope Damasus I commissioned St. Jerome to translate the original Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin. This translation became known as the Vulgate.
When compiling the Vulgate, St. Jerome considered the Deuterocanonical books scripturally questionable, since they weren’t included in the Hebrew Bible. However, local Church councils in North Africa and Rome in the late 4th century upheld the divine inspiration of these books and affirmed them as canonical. This decision was re-affirmed by later Catholic councils.
Since the early Church, Catholicism has recognized the Deuterocanonical books as divinely inspired, while Protestants began rejecting their canonicity 1500 years later during the Reformation.
Martin Luther and other Reformers argued that no book should be considered canonical unless it was in the original Hebrew Bible. They emphasized Scripture alone as their authority. So they removed the Deuterocanonical books from their Bibles.
But Catholics believe that the Church holds authority from God to discern and define the canon of Scripture. We recognize both Scripture and Sacred Tradition, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium.
In the end, the different Bible contents reflect differences in beliefs over biblical authority. As Catholics, we trust the Spirit-led authority of the Church on this matter. The additional books provide spiritual guidance, so we are blessed to have them included in our Bible!
While Catholics and Protestants may not agree on this issue, we all share the same love for Christ and reverence for God’s Word.