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Differences Between Bible Canons

This page describes (in words) the differences between Bible canons.  I start with the smallest Bible canon and progress toward the largest.  If you prefer, there is a listing of exactly what documents are included in various Bible canons.

Regarding the differences in Bible canons, the first thing to know is that nearly all Christians use a New Testament that has the very same 27 documents found in typical English Bibles.  None of the Bible canons described on this page differ with respect to the New Testament, and probably you will not find a single English Bible version in print that does have an alternate New Testament canon except for reprints of the 14th-century Wyclif’s Bible (which Bible includes The Epistle to the Laodiceans).  Indeed:  in the New Testament all of the Bible canons described below have idential contents (canon) and identical ordering of the books.  (Note that historically the order of documents in the New Testament has varied in some significant editions of the Bible, for example in the Luther Bible and in the previously-mentioned Wyclif’s Bible.)

66-Book Bible Canon

This is sometimes named “The Protestant Bible Canon”.  I avoid using that term because many Protestants use a different Bible canon, but indeed most English-speaking Protestants use this one.

This Bible canon has 39 Old Testament documents and 27 New Testament documents.  Historically it was first seen in print in the 1590s, a product of the Puritans of England.  (Source:  HarperCollins Bible Dictionary)  The Old Testament contents are identical to the contents of “the Hebrew Bible”, Tanakh.

Catholic Bible Canon

This Bible canon includes all of the documents found in the 66-Book Bible canon and more.  This Bible canon has 46 Old Testament documents and 27 New Testament documents for a total of 73.  It was formally and officially established upon the papal ratification The Council of Trent in 1564.  However, some earlier Bibles (for example, the Luther Bible of 1534) had essentially the same contents.

The books that are found in Catholic Bibles that are not found in 66-Book Bibles are the following.  “The Deuterocanon” or “the Deuterocanonicals” are the terms used to describe this group of documents.
  1. Tobit The Book of Tobit
    or
    The Book of Tobias
  2. Judith The Book of Judith
  3. Wisdom The Book of Wisdom
    or
    The Wisdom of Solomon
  4. Ecclesiasticus or
    The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach
    or
    (scholarly):  ben Sirach
    (note:  different from Ecclesiastes)
  5. Baruch The Book of Baruch
    or
    The Prophecy of Baruch
  6. 1 Maccabees The First Book of the Maccabees
  7. 2 Maccabees The Second Book of the Maccabees

Another important difference between this canon and the 66-Book canon is that the books of Esther and Daniel have several more chapters than the 66-Book Esther and Daniel.  The reason is this:  these chapters are found in ancient Greek editions of Esther and Daniel.  They have found their way into Christian Bibles because these ancient Greek editions of the Jewish Scriptures were much more commonly used by early Christians than were Hebrew/Aramaic editions.  These ancient Greek editions were also included in the earliest proto-Bibles (which were Greek) (e.g. Codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus).

In “with Apocrypha” Bibles these Greek portions of Esther and Daniel are given titles as follows:
  • Esther The Rest of Esther or
    Additions to Esther
  • Daniel
    • Song of the Three Children The Song of the Three Holy Children
      or
      The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews
    • Susanna The History of Susanna
      or
      The Story of Susanna
    • Bel and the Dragon or
      The Idol Bel and the Dragon

Traditional English “with Apocrypha” Bible Canon

First, an explanation of the lengthy title.  I use very precise language because not all “Apocrypha” sections in Bibles are the same.  For one:  the original “Apocrypha” section, which appeared in the 1534 Luther Bible, did not include as many Scriptures as the traditional English Apocrypha (which first appeared in print in 1535 and which was adopted officially by the Church of England in 1563).  For another:  a few modern English Bibles have an “expanded” Apocrypha that includes Scriptures that are commonly found in Eastern Orthodox Bibles but that are not found in the traditional Apocrypha section of English Bibles.

The traditional English “with Apocrypha” Bible canon includes all of the documents found in the Catholic Bible canon and more.  This Bible canon has an Old Testament identical to the 66-Book canon.  That is:  39 books.  However, between the Old and New Testaments is a third section of the Bible titled “Apocrypha”.  In that section are books and chapters that have these qualities:
  • They are Jewish Scriptures with Jewish authors (like the Old Testament documents, unlike the New Testament documents).
  • They were commonly included in the Old Testament of Christian Bibles in the 16th century (and earlier).
  • They are not found in the “Hebrew Bible” (or “Jewish Bible” or, more properly, Tanakh).
Altogether in the Apocrypha there are 9 books and 6 separately-titled book portions.  I imprecisely refer to such a book portion as a “chapter“ or “chapters” rather than a “book”.  This makes a total of 81 separately-titled documents in this Bible canon (75 books, 6 “chapters”).
The contents of the traditional English Protestant Apocrypha are as follows:
  • 1 Esdras Traditional Catholic: 
    3 Esdras
    or
    The Third Book of Esdras
    (book)
  • 2 Esdras Traditional Catholic: 
    4 Esdras
    or
    The Fourth Book of Esdras
    (book)
  • Tobit The Book of Tobit
    or
    The Book of Tobias
    (book)
  • Judith The Book of Judith (book)
  • The Rest of Esther or
    Additions to Esther
    (5½ chapters)
  • Wisdom The Book of Wisdom
    or
    The Wisdom of Solomon
    (book)
  • Ecclesiasticus or
    The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach
    or
    (scholarly):  ben Sirach
    (book) (note:  different from Ecclesiastes)
  • Baruch The Book of Baruch
    or
    The Prophecy of Baruch
    (book)
  • The Letter of Jeremiah (chapter) (In ancient Latin Bibles appended to The Book of Jeremiah.  In modern Catholic and Orthodox Bibles appended to The Book of Baruch.)
  • Song of the Three Children The Song of the Three Holy Children
    or
    The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews
    (chapter of Daniel)
  • Susanna The History of Susanna
    or
    The Story of Susanna
    (chapter of Daniel)
  • Bel and the Dragon or
    The Idol Bel and the Dragon
    (chapter of Daniel)
  • The Prayer of Manasseh or
    The Prayer of Manasses
    (chapter, traditionally appended to 2 Chronicles, now in English Bibles typically found only in the Apocrypha section)
  • 1 Maccabees The First Book of the Maccabees (book)
  • 2 Maccabees The Second Book of the Maccabees (book)
Some relevant facts:
  • The Anglican Communion, one of the largest Christian denominations in the World, still includes the (traditional English) Apocrypha as part of their official Bible.
  • Early English printed Bibles inevitably included the Apocrypha.  For example, the original edition of the King James Version included the Apocrpyha, as did the original edition of the Geneva Bible.  You can still find unabridged “with Apocrypha” editions of the King James Version in print.
  • Many people and many web sites confuse the Apocrypha and the Deuterocanon.  In English they are not the same thing.  Unlike the Deuterocanon, the Apocrypha includes 1 & 2 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh.

Differences Between Bible Canons

This page describes (in words) the differences between Bible canons.  I start with the smallest Bible canon and progress toward the largest.  If you prefer, there is a listing of exactly what documents are included in various Bible canons.

Regarding the differences in Bible canons, the first thing to know is that nearly all Christians use a New Testament that has the very same 27 documents found in typical English Bibles.  None of the Bible canons described on this page differ with respect to the New Testament, and probably you will not find a single English Bible version in print that does have an alternate New Testament canon except for reprints of the 14th-century Wyclif’s Bible (which Bible includes The Epistle to the Laodiceans).  Indeed:  in the New Testament all of the Bible canons described below have idential contents (canon) and identical ordering of the books.  (Note that historically the order of documents in the New Testament has varied in some significant editions of the Bible, for example in the Luther Bible and in the previously-mentioned Wyclif’s Bible.)

66-Book Bible Canon

This is sometimes named “The Protestant Bible Canon”.  I avoid using that term because many Protestants use a different Bible canon, but indeed most English-speaking Protestants use this one.

This Bible canon has 39 Old Testament documents and 27 New Testament documents.  Historically it was first seen in print in the 1590s, a product of the Puritans of England.  (Source:  HarperCollins Bible Dictionary)  The Old Testament contents are identical to the contents of “the Hebrew Bible”, Tanakh.

Catholic Bible Canon

This Bible canon includes all of the documents found in the 66-Book Bible canon and more.  This Bible canon has 46 Old Testament documents and 27 New Testament documents for a total of 73.  It was formally and officially established upon the papal ratification The Council of Trent in 1564.  However, some earlier Bibles (for example, the Luther Bible of 1534) had essentially the same contents.

The books that are found in Catholic Bibles that are not found in 66-Book Bibles are the following.  “The Deuterocanon” or “the Deuterocanonicals” are the terms used to describe this group of documents.
  1. Tobit The Book of Tobit
    or
    The Book of Tobias
  2. Judith The Book of Judith
  3. Wisdom The Book of Wisdom
    or
    The Wisdom of Solomon
  4. Ecclesiasticus or
    The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach
    or
    (scholarly):  ben Sirach
    (note:  different from Ecclesiastes)
  5. Baruch The Book of Baruch
    or
    The Prophecy of Baruch
  6. 1 Maccabees The First Book of the Maccabees
  7. 2 Maccabees The Second Book of the Maccabees

Another important difference between this canon and the 66-Book canon is that the books of Esther and Daniel have several more chapters than the 66-Book Esther and Daniel.  The reason is this:  these chapters are found in ancient Greek editions of Esther and Daniel.  They have found their way into Christian Bibles because these ancient Greek editions of the Jewish Scriptures were much more commonly used by early Christians than were Hebrew/Aramaic editions.  These ancient Greek editions were also included in the earliest proto-Bibles (which were Greek) (e.g. Codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus).

In “with Apocrypha” Bibles these Greek portions of Esther and Daniel are given titles as follows:
  • Esther The Rest of Esther or
    Additions to Esther
  • Daniel
    • Song of the Three Children The Song of the Three Holy Children
      or
      The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews
    • Susanna The History of Susanna
      or
      The Story of Susanna
    • Bel and the Dragon or
      The Idol Bel and the Dragon

Traditional English “with Apocrypha” Bible Canon

First, an explanation of the lengthy title.  I use very precise language because not all “Apocrypha” sections in Bibles are the same.  For one:  the original “Apocrypha” section, which appeared in the 1534 Luther Bible, did not include as many Scriptures as the traditional English Apocrypha (which first appeared in print in 1535 and which was adopted officially by the Church of England in 1563).  For another:  a few modern English Bibles have an “expanded” Apocrypha that includes Scriptures that are commonly found in Eastern Orthodox Bibles but that are not found in the traditional Apocrypha section of English Bibles.

The traditional English “with Apocrypha” Bible canon includes all of the documents found in the Catholic Bible canon and more.  This Bible canon has an Old Testament identical to the 66-Book canon.  That is:  39 books.  However, between the Old and New Testaments is a third section of the Bible titled “Apocrypha”.  In that section are books and chapters that have these qualities:
  • They are Jewish Scriptures with Jewish authors (like the Old Testament documents, unlike the New Testament documents).
  • They were commonly included in the Old Testament of Christian Bibles in the 16th century (and earlier).
  • They are not found in the “Hebrew Bible” (or “Jewish Bible” or, more properly, Tanakh).
Altogether in the Apocrypha there are 9 books and 6 separately-titled book portions.  I imprecisely refer to such a book portion as a “chapter“ or “chapters” rather than a “book”.  This makes a total of 81 separately-titled documents in this Bible canon (75 books, 6 “chapters”).
The contents of the traditional English Protestant Apocrypha are as follows:
  • 1 Esdras Traditional Catholic: 
    3 Esdras
    or
    The Third Book of Esdras
    (book)
  • 2 Esdras Traditional Catholic: 
    4 Esdras
    or
    The Fourth Book of Esdras
    (book)
  • Tobit The Book of Tobit
    or
    The Book of Tobias
    (book)
  • Judith The Book of Judith (book)
  • The Rest of Esther or
    Additions to Esther
    (5½ chapters)
  • Wisdom The Book of Wisdom
    or
    The Wisdom of Solomon
    (book)
  • Ecclesiasticus or
    The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach
    or
    (scholarly):  ben Sirach
    (book) (note:  different from Ecclesiastes)
  • Baruch The Book of Baruch
    or
    The Prophecy of Baruch
    (book)
  • The Letter of Jeremiah (chapter) (In ancient Latin Bibles appended to The Book of Jeremiah.  In modern Catholic and Orthodox Bibles appended to The Book of Baruch.)
  • Song of the Three Children The Song of the Three Holy Children
    or
    The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews
    (chapter of Daniel)
  • Susanna The History of Susanna
    or
    The Story of Susanna
    (chapter of Daniel)
  • Bel and the Dragon or
    The Idol Bel and the Dragon
    (chapter of Daniel)
  • The Prayer of Manasseh or
    The Prayer of Manasses
    (chapter, traditionally appended to 2 Chronicles, now in English Bibles typically found only in the Apocrypha section)
  • 1 Maccabees The First Book of the Maccabees (book)
  • 2 Maccabees The Second Book of the Maccabees (book)
Some relevant facts:
  • The Anglican Communion, one of the largest Christian denominations in the World, still includes the (traditional English) Apocrypha as part of their official Bible.
  • Early English printed Bibles inevitably included the Apocrypha.  For example, the original edition of the King James Version included the Apocrpyha, as did the original edition of the Geneva Bible.  You can still find unabridged “with Apocrypha” editions of the King James Version in print.
  • Many people and many web sites confuse the Apocrypha and the Deuterocanon.  In English they are not the same thing.  Unlike the Deuterocanon, the Apocrypha includes 1 & 2 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh.