The Old Testament

The First Christian Bible

At the time the Christian Bible was being formed, a Greek translation of Jewish Scripture, called the Septuagint, was in common use and Christians adopted it as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. However, around 100 C.E [1], Jewish rabbis revised their Scripture and established an official canon of Judaism which excluded some portions of the Greek Septuagint. The material excluded was a group of fifteen late Jewish books, written during the period 170 B.C.E to 70 C.E, that were not found in Hebrew versions of the Jewish Scripture. Christians did not follow the revisions of Judaism and continued to use the text of the Septuagint as the Old Testament.

Protestant Bibles

In the 1500s Protestant leaders decided to organise the Old Testament material according to the official canon of Judaism rather than the Septuagint. They moved the Old Testament material which was not in the Jewish canon into a separate section of the Bible called the Apocrypha. So Protestant Bibles then included all the same material as the earlier Bible, but it was divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. Protestant Bibles included the Apocrypha until the mid 1800’s, and the King James Version was originally published with the Apocrypha. However, the books of the Apocrypha were considered less important, and the Apocrypha was eventually dropped from most Protestant editions.

Catholic and Orthodox Bibles

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches did not follow the Protestant revisions and they continue to base their Old Testament on the Septuagint. The result is that these versions of the Bible have more Old Testament books than most Protestant versions. Catholic Old Testaments include 1st and 2nd Maccabees, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), additions to Esther, and the stories of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon which are included in Daniel. Orthodox Old Testaments include these plus 1st and 2nd Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151 and 3rd Maccabees.

The New Testament

The Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox New Testaments are identical.

English translations of the Bible

The English language has many translations of the Old and New Testaments. A specific translation might attempt a word-for-word rendition of the original languages, but can be difficult to read in English. Another English translation might attempt to be a very easy to read, but is paraphrasing the original languages. A middle of the road approach is dynamic equivalence of the original text, balancing accuracy with ease of reading. Click here for an overview of different English language Catholic bibles.

Click here for the English versions used in Australian Mass.


Christian Bible Reference site
06-01-2010 Used with Permission

[1] The abbreviations B.C.E and C.E are the contemporary method of indicating the time before and after the birth of Christ. B.C.E refers to Before the Common Era and C.E refers to the Common Era. The change in language reflects an understanding of the continuation of God’s special relationship with the Chosen People the Jews.

Portions of this article were extracted from : "Call and Response: An Introduction to the Catholic Faith" p42

Photo of Hands on Bible by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

14 October 2019