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I've noticed recently on this site there is a push to enforce the rule that, in one's questions, one ought to state "which Bible" one is interested in learning about—whether that is the "Catholic Bible", "Protestant Bible", "Mormon Bible", etc.

Although I knew there were many translations of "the" Bible, I didn't realize that the various denominations of Christianity were using different books. Sure, there must be appreciable overlap among them, but there must also be appreciable differences, too, for this rule to be in place.

So, questions in this vein might be:

  1. How many different Bibles do experts tend to agree there are?
  2. How do they differ? (provide a summary or key differences)
  3. In what ways do those differences matter to the adherents to those denominations?

By the way, I would not count The Book of Mormon as "part of" the Mormon Bible; I would see it as its own book in that denomination (but maybe that is wrongheaded in the Mormon tradition?).

closed as too broad by curiousdannii, Dan, Lee Woofenden, Matt Gutting, Ken Graham Sep 8 '17 at 21:44

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I don't think anyone would consider the Book of Mormon as part of the Bible. Nor the Doctrine and Covenants, for that matter. – Richard Nov 3 '11 at 17:45
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    Providing "a summary or key difference" of all the translations is far, far beyond the scope of this site. The same is true of question #3. – Richard Nov 3 '11 at 18:00
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    The main division is whether deuterocanonicals are included (i.e. Protestant vs. Catholic Bible). For more information on this, see Should a Protestant read the apocryphal books of the Bible? – dancek Nov 3 '11 at 18:42
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    There are also translational differences that result in doctrinal differences and we cannot ignore this fact. The Inspired Version and the New World Translation are two, off hand, that would not be accepted by most (for example) Protestants. – Richard Nov 3 '11 at 18:52
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    What "Mormon Bible" are you talking about? Mormons use the standard King James Bible (in English, at least, or whatever the standard traditional Bible is in other languages) with the same canon as any other KJV Bible. The term "Mormon Bible" is usually used ignorantly as a reference to the Book of Mormon, but apparently that's not what you mean here. – Mason Wheeler Nov 3 '11 at 19:02
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There are two major variations in the Bible which has caused rifts over time: translation and canon.

Translation

It's important to not underestimate the value of translation. The New World Translation, for example, is a translation used exclusively by the Jehovah's Witnesses. This "Bible" can be considered the Jehovah's Witness Bible.

Other denominations have exclusive translations as well, such as the Inspired Version, which is a partial translation exclusive to Mormonism (although, being a partial translation, is not their primary Bible).

Canonization

There are also many, many canons of the Bible. See here for a list. Some of these were for doctrinal purposes, such as Luther's attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelations from the canon. Others were from political reasons, such as the Ethiopian Christians accepting a different canon from the Roman Catholics. Then there's the authentic reasons for excluding particular books.

Regardless how you come at it, these different canons have resulted in differences in Bibles. The Bible as used by Roman Catholics, for example, contains the Deuterocanonical books, which are not part of the Protestant Bible. The varying Orthodox canons include text that are not found in the Roman Catholic canon.

Summary

Unfortunately, there are many different "Bibles"--a separation caused by both the translation and canonization processes.

Historical translations and canons also broaden the spectrum to an extreme (such as Luther's canon).

If you're looking for a raw list, start with a list of canons and a list of English translations.

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    I must reiterate that different translations are sometimes different "Bibles". Don't presume that just because it's a different translation with the same canon means that it's the same "Bible". – Richard Nov 3 '11 at 18:10
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    Thanks, that list from Wikipedia was great. One thing I noticed was that none of the denominations listed there differed in any way in the New Testament, only the Old. Interesting! – Chelonian Nov 3 '11 at 20:35
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    @Chelonian That is true, but it only lists the major, popular, modern canons. Of course, asking about the "Lutheran Bible" would still get you the standard Protestant Canon, since Martin Luther lost that war on Hebrew, James, Jude and Revelations... – Richard Nov 3 '11 at 20:42
  • If this question was asked today, it would be considers a polling question. – The Freemason Mar 28 '14 at 16:45
  • No, not true. It's a question asking for a list of discrete items and an explanation for them, not for rating or valuating them. Polling questions get closed because they are "subjective and argumentative", which this question is not. – Richard Mar 31 '14 at 15:47
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I'm going to ignore the part about the book of Mormon because I know absolutely nothing about it.

But as a short answer to a very big question, there are two ancient sources of scripture and the scripture tradition of all Christians are more or less built around them.

  1. Septuagint

    The translation of the Hebrew Bible in Greek which is the source informing the earliest Bibles (which incidentally would be Catholic Bible and once the Great Schism happened, the Orthodox Bible).

  2. Masoretic

    The Hebrew Old Testament, the canon of which apparently was approved at the council of Jamnia (a Jewish council which took place a few years after the Resurrection of Our Lord).

Moreover, you probably want to know which Bibles apply to which confessions. Well, the modern Catholic Bible which is approved by the Bishops relies on the Septuagint for its structure and canon (hence it is bigger). Translations of the Catholic Bible generally use both the Masoretic, Septuagint as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls for context and accuracy. But, approved translations for Mass (Like the New American Bible) reflect what's in the Latin (Vulgate) Bible (originally translated by St. Jerome in the 4th century). Protestants use the Masoretic text for the OT, but most translations include a bit of help from the dead sea scrolls I'd imagine (unless your a KJV only person). Orthodox on the other hand, use only the Septuagint.

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As Richard answered, there is a difference between translations and canons. However, I wanted to add that there is also a difference in source text. This later subject is the matter of the field of Textual Criticism.

That is, nobody currently has the original autographs. What we have are copies, and often copies of copies, some of which come in fragments. For works written before the invention of the printing press, we don't have a guaranteed method of knowing the exact words of the original. However, we can make some very good guesses based upon the copies we see. There are different schools of thought on how to put these pieces together. For instance:

  • Do we assume that the actual Bible was preserved by God to be available to the general public for all periods, or was it preserved, but in a hidden manuscript?
  • Do you believe that monks making copies would be more likely to be lazy and leave a letter out, or more likely to add a letter to fit his doctrine?

    Because of this, there are different groups of texts which make up the different source texts. This may also inform your decision on what you believe canon to be.

As for canon, there have been completed lists of what is accepted as canon going back to at least the 2nd century. Some believe the Muratorian fragment to have been written in 170 AD. But the earliest lists either don't have a complete copy or there's disagreement with the authors of the lists.

However, the subject isn't quite muddied as much as you might think. We actually know more about the Bible than we know about almost any other work predating the printing press. We have many more fragments, in much more agreement than other work. Word for word, we know more about the words in the Bible than we do about the words of Shakespeare's plays. Also, I believe that every word of the New Testament has been quoted by the early church leaders in works which have more complete copies. Furthermore, at least for the most popular canons, the most important doctrinal themes are still present in the same way. So, while there is some disagreement, and even heated disagreement, the overlap is enough that the major doctrines can be agreed upon from them. For more information on the historical textual evidence, see Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands A Verdict.

Each denomination has reasons why it believes the canon it chooses, and I have yet to see any confusion within a denomination on what it considers canon. For some, the canon has been so obvious that they never felt the need to spell it out. I don't think that the Catholics had to spell out the canon until the 1500s, which was probably done more as a side effect of another issue. The fact that you've never heard of other canons is itself testimony to how ubiquitous the standard canon is. If you were to take away all the books that people disagree about, you would have the standard Bible that most churches, at least outside of Catholicism, consider to be the full canon.

  • You've misspelt canon as "cannon" every single time... – curiousdannii Jun 30 '17 at 23:53
  • I fixed your spelling error, and I also broke up your wall of text. I also did you the kindness of removing an error of fact at the end. Please go to this link to understand why I did that. (No, the Catholics do not set those seven books aside ...). Please review the edit to make sure your meaning was preserved. (And thanks for taking the time to write that answer, I found it helpful). – KorvinStarmast Jul 1 '17 at 2:23

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