Flip open a Catholic Bible and you’ll quickly notice that there’s a different list of books than in the Bibles at the Baptist church down the road. Instead of thirty-nine Old Testament book, you’ll count forty-six. If it’s an Eastern Orthodox Bible, you’ll count even more books. So why do some Bibles have these “extra” books?
Evidence derived from first century Jewish writers—like the historian Josephus—suggests that the Hebrew Bible did not originally contain these books. However, the books were included in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. In AD 382, the scholar Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus to translate the Bible into Latin, the accepted language of the Roman Empire. Jerome was working from the Old Testament Hebrew and Aramaic texts and had serious misgivings about including those other Greek books from the Septuagint. Reluctantly, he added the books in his new Bible translation, called the Vulgate, but with some disclaimers. Jerome labeled these extra books apocryphal, from a Greek word that means “hidden” or “unclear.” Others preferred to call them deuterocanonical, which means “second canon” or “added to the cannon.” In later editions of the Vulgate, Jerome’s disclaimers disappeared.
In 1546 at the famous Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church declared these books to be Holy Scripture. The Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, an Eastern Orthodox Church Council, affirmed the books to be “genuine parts of Scripture.” Most Protestant Christian Bibles today do not include the apocryphal books.
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