There are many versions of the Christian Bible and modifications continue with every new publication. One source of continual change comes from archaeological discoveries of ancient texts, which are often used to correct modern versions of the Bibles. Because we have no original documents to compare to later translations and the most ancient manuscripts all differ - sometimes dramatically so - it's often the case that new discoveries change the balance of evidence for what we consider to be the correct historical text. Aside from textual edits, over the centuries entire books have been rejected or included by various traditions. Different churches and denominations have different ideas about what books are holy and biblical, which are man-made but commendable, and which are despicable forgeries. The Jewish Tanakh was organized into the 24 scrolls familiar to us today by the second century BCE1. Christianity now calls this the Old Testament but major Christian traditions have accepted different books, organized into different divisions, as the final holy word of God. The Protestant Bible has 66 books, the Catholic one has 73, and the Eastern Orthodox one has 76. The table below compares major traditions' Bibles.
Longest book in the Bible:
Psalms is a collection of songs and poems, covering 150 chapters, 2461 verses in total, and 42,659 words
Background colours of Jewish books indicate where in the canon they were moved to by Christians, and the background colours of Christian bible books represent their original place in the Jewish holy scriptures.
|The "TaNaKh" is named after the first consonants of the 3 portions of scripture - Torah2, Nevi'im and Ketuvim3, totalling 24 books.|
Total Books: 73
Total Books: 76
(Prophets - 8 books)
|Ketuvim (11 books)||Wisdom Books|
Taken from Nevi'im > >
|New Testament: The Gospels|
|New Testament Books|
Ethiopian New Testaments are notably longer, including books that were not accepted by other branches of Christianity. Other Christian churches also have various odd books in their bibles, but, in general, the canon is more stable and better defined than the Old Testament:
This table of books reflects some of the most popular collections of books. Some traditions consider some books as holy, divine and inspired. Others reject them. There is a lot of overlap between these major traditions. Nearly all geographic areas have distinct ideas of what they accept in the Bible, and what they reject. Here I only attempt to document the largest traditions.
In addition to entire books being included or omitted, many books have (sometimes hundreds) of verses that are included in some tradition's copies of the book, but not included in others. Historians and researchers very frequently know with some accuracy when edits, additions, re-orderings, mistranslations and intentional re-wordings have taken place. Fundamentalists and church organisations going through authoritarian phases have often resorted to violence, murder, book-burning and aggressive rhetoric in asserting that their canon is exclusively accepted.
“In the English Bible the books of the Old Testament are arranged, not in the order in which they appear in the Hebrew Bible, but in that assigned to them by the Greek translation. In this translation the various books are grouped according to their contents - first the historical books, then the poetic, and lastly the prophetic. This order has its advantages, but it obscures many important facts of which the Hebrew order preserves a reminiscence. [...] It would somewhat simplify the scientific study even of the English Bible, if the Hebrew order could be restored, for it is in many ways instructive and important. [... T]he order of the divisions represents the order in which they respectively attained canonical importance - the law before 400 B.C., the prophets about 200 B.C., the writings about 100 B.C. - and, generally speaking, the latest books are in the last division. Thus we are led to suspect a relatively late origin for the Song and Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles, being late, will not be so important a historical authority as Kings.”
“The word apocrypha comes from a Greek word meaning "hidden". It is applied to all the books of scripture which are not included in the Protestant Bible, but particularly to the Old Testament books which are included in Roman Catholic versions. There are many other apocryphal books of both Old and New Testaments, which have been rejected as spurious or doubtful authenticity, and these are now usually referred to as pseudepigraphia.”
The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures included many books that have not been universally accepted by different Christian churches. They are collectively called the apocrypha. Their presence has caused much controversy and debate between different Christian Churches. This table indicates which institutions accept or reject these books. Some of them may "partially accept" some of these books but give them less value than other books, whilst some "partially reject" them; they are not in the canon but they are valued and given religious value.
|Additions to Esther||R||PR||A||A||PA||PA||R||A||PR|
|Prayer of Azariah & Song of Three Young Men||R||PR||A||A||PA||PA||R||A||PR|
|2 additions to the Book of Daniel||R||PR||A||A||PA||PA||R||A||PR|
|Bel and the Dragon||R||PR||A||A||PA||PA||R||A||PR|
|Letter of Jeremiah||R||PR||A||A||PA||PA||R||A||PR|
|Prayer of Manasseh||R||PR||PR||R||R||R||R||A||R|
|Wisdom of Solomon||R||PR||A||A||PA||PA||R||R||PR|
Key: R=rejected, PR=rejected but given value, PA=partially accepted (lesser value than other books), A=considered part of the canon. E O = Eastern Orthodox, O O = Oriental Orthodox.
Table Source: 3