I am often asked the question: what is the difference between the Protestant Bible and the Catholic one? And the answer, basically, is that the Catholic Bible has seven more books in the Old Testament than the Protestant one does, and also that in the Protestant Bible, sections of the books of Esther and Daniel are missing which are found in the Catholic Bible.
Why is this the case? It goes way back to the time before the birth of Our Lord when there were very active Jewish communities in the Holy Land and also in Egypt. In both those places, Jewish rabbis and other scholars were copying and compiling the sacred books of the Jewish religion. Later, in the year 70 A.D., the Roman Empire, having grown tired of the rebelliousness of their Jewish subjects, totally destroyed the city of Jerusalem, its temple, and most of its buildings, and scattered the Jewish people of the Holy Land to the four winds. The Jews realized that they must have something to hold them together as a people and especially as a religious community. All they had left was the sacred writings, or what we today call the Old Testament. But there was some disagreement among them as to which books should be numbered in the Old Testament and which should not. They decided that only those books which were recognized by the Palestinian Jewish community would be considered part of their scriptures, not those accepted also by the Jewish community in Egypt. So seven books of the Old Testament were dropped. They were Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and first and second Maccabees. And also portions of the books of Esther and Daniel.
In the meantime, the Catholic Church had been founded by Our Lord; it accepted all the Old Testament Jewish sacred writings, and continues to do so to this day. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the King James version of the Bible published in 1648 followed the Jewish Old Testament and has been doing so ever since. Thus the typical King James version of the Bible has seven books and parts of two other books fewer than our Catholic Bibles.
Actually, there is only one point of doctrine in the material which the King James version lacks. It is found in the second book of Maccabees, chapter 12, verses 43 to 45. There we read that Judas Maccabeus wanted to offer prayers and sacrifices for the souls of his fallen soldiers. So he took up a collection and sent the money to the priests of the temple to pay for the animals offered in sacrifice. The text goes on to say: “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”
Since it is totally unnecessary to pray for those in heaven, and totally futile to pray for those in hell, this passage indicates the existence of purgatory—a condition after death where the dead can be helped by the prayers of those still on earth. This is the principal scriptural passage referring to the reality of purgatory and the value of praying for those who are there, as we do at every Mass, as well as in our private prayers for our loved ones who have died. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.