Protestant Bible

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The contents page in the King James Bible, 1769 edition.

A Protestant Bible is a Christian Bible whose translation or revision was produced by Protestants. Such Bibles comprise 39 books of the Old Testament (according to the Jewish Hebrew Bible canon, known especially to non-Protestants as the protocanonical books) and the 27 books of the New Testament for a total of 66 books. This is often contrasted with the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, which includes seven deuterocanonical books as a part of the Old Testament.[1] The division between protocanonical and deuterocanonical books is not accepted by all Protestants who simply view books as being canonical or not and therefore classify the seven Catholic deuterocanonical books as part of the Apocrypha.

The practice of including only the Old and New Testament books within printed bibles was standardized among Protestants following the 1825 decision by the British and Foreign Bible Society.[2]

Early Protestant Bibles[edit]

The contents page in the Coverdale Bible

From the Reformation, Protestants have usually excluded the books which Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider to be Deuterocanonical, viewing them as non-canonical. However, prior to an 1825 British and Foreign Bible Society decision, most Protestant Bibles did include these additional books within the same printed bibles. It was usually to be found in a separate section under the heading of Apocrypha and sometimes carrying a statement to the effect that the such books were non-canonical.

The German Luther Bible of 1522 did include the Apocrypha within its boards. However, unlike in previous Catholic Bibles which interspersed the books of the Apocrypha throughout the Old Testament, Martin Luther placed the Apocrypha in a separate section after the Old Testament. The books of the Apocrypha were not listed in the table of contents of Luther's 1532 Old Testament and, in accordance with Luther's view of the canon, they were given the well-known title: "Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read" in the 1534 edition of his bible.[3]

In the English language, the incomplete Tyndale Bible published in 1525, 1534 and 1536, contained the entire New Testament. Of the Old Testament, although William Tyndale translated around half of its books, only the Pentateuch and the book of Jonah were published. The first complete Modern English translation of the Bible, the Coverdale Bible of 1535, also included the Apocrypha. Like Luther, Miles Coverdale placed the Apocrypha in a separate section after the Old Testament.[4]

Protestant translations into Italian were made by Antonio Brucioli in 1530, by Massimo Teofilo in 1552 and by Giovanni Diodati in 1607. Diodati was a Calvinist theologian and he was the first translator of the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek sources. Diodati's version is the reference version for Italian Protestantism. This edition was revised in 1641, 1712, 1744, 1819 and 1821. A revised edition in modern Italian, Nuova Diodati, was published in 1991.

Several translations of Luther's Bible were made into Dutch. The first complete Dutch Bible was printed in Antwerp in 1526 by Jacob van Liesveldt.[5] However, the translations of Luther's Bible had Lutheran influences in their interpretation. At the Calvinistic Synod of Dort in 1618/19, it was therefore deemed necessary to have a new translation accurately based on the original languages. The synod requested the States-General of the Netherlands to commission it. The result was the Statenvertaling or States Translation which was completed in 1635 and authorized by the States-General in 1637. From that year until 1657, a half-million copies were printed. It remained authoritative in Dutch Protestant churches well into the 20th century.

The Bear Bible's title-page printed by Mattias Apiarius, "the bee-keeper". Note the emblem of a bear tasting honey.

Protestant translations into Spanish began with the work of Casiodoro de Reina, a former Catholic monk, who became a Lutheran theologian.[6] With the help of several collaborators,[7] de Reina produced the Biblia del Oso or Bear Bible, the first complete Bible printed in Spanish based on Hebrew and Greek sources. Earlier Spanish translations, such as the 13th-century Alfonsina Bible, translated from Jerome's Vulgate, had been copied by hand. The Bear Bible was first published on 28 September 1569, in Basel, Switzerland.[8][9] The deuterocanonical books were included within the Old Testament in the 1569 edition. In 1602 Cipriano de Valera, a student of de Reina, published a revision of the Bear Bible which was printed in Amsterdam in which the deuterocanonical books were placed in a section between the Old and New Testaments called the Apocrypha.[10] This translation, subsequently revised, came to be known as the Reina-Valera Bible.

For the following three centuries, most English language Protestant Bibles, including the Authorized Version, continued with the practice of placing the Apocrypha in a separate section after the Old Testament. However, there were some exceptions. A surviving quarto edition of the Great Bible, produced some time after 1549, does not contain the Apocrypha although most copies of the Great Bible did. A 1575 quarto edition of the Bishop's Bible also does not contain them. Subsequently, some copies of the 1599 and 1640 editions of the Geneva Bible were also printed without them.[11] The Souldiers Pocket Bible, of 1643, draws verses largely from the Geneva Bible but only from either the Old or New Testaments.

19th century developments[edit]

In 1826,[12] the National Bible Society of Scotland petitioned the British and Foreign Bible Society not to print the Apocrypha,[13] resulting in a decision that no BFBS funds were to pay for printing any Apocryphal books anywhere. Since that time most modern editions of the Bible and re-printings of the King James Bible omit the Apocrypha section. Additionally, modern non-Catholic re-printings of the Clementine Vulgate commonly omit the Apocrypha section. Many re-printings of older versions of the Bible now omit the apocrypha and many newer translations and revisions have never included them at all.

Excluded books[edit]

A Protestant Bible excludes the books and passages of the Christian Old Testament that are not part of the Hebrew Bible canon, which Catholics and Eastern Christians consider to be deuterocanonical. Without these books there is a 400-year intertestamental period in the chronology of the Christian scriptures between the Old and New Testaments. This period is known to Protestants as the "400 Silent Years" because it is believed to have been a span where God made no additional canonical revelations to his people.[14] .

Included books[edit]

Protestant Bibles comprise 39 books of the Old Testament (according to the Jewish Hebrew Bible canon, known especially to non-Protestants as the protocanonical books) and the 27 books of the New Testament for a total of 66 books. These books with their commonly accepted names among the Protestant churches are given below. Note that "1", "2", or "3" as a leading numeral is normally pronounced in the United States as the ordinal number, thus "First Samuel" for "1 Samuel".[15]

Old Testament[edit]

New Testament[edit]

Notable English translations[edit]

Most Bible translations into English conform to the Protestant canon and ordering while some offer multiple versions (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) with different canon and ordering. Notable English translations include:

Abbreviation Name Date Translation
Tyndale Bible 1526 (NT) Formal equivalence
TCB Coverdale Bible 1535 Formal equivalence
GEN Geneva Bible 1557 (NT), 1560 (OT) Formal equivalence
KJV King James Version (aka "Authorized Version") 1611, 1769 (Blayney revision) Formal equivalence
YLT Young's Literal Translation 1862 Extreme formal equivalence
ASV American Standard Version 1900 (NT), 1901 (OT) Formal equivalence
RSV Revised Standard Version 1946 (NT), 1952 (OT) Formal equivalence
NWT New World Translation 1950 (NT), 1961 (OT) Optimal equivalence
NEB New English Bible 1961 (NT), 1970 (OT) Dynamic equivalence
NASB New American Standard Bible 1963 (NT), 1971 (OT), 1995 (update) Formal equivalence
AMP The Amplified Bible 1958 (NT), 1965 (OT) Dynamic equivalence
GNB Good News Bible 1966 (NT), 1976 (OT) Dynamic equivalence, paraphrase
LB The Living Bible 1971 Paraphrase
NIV New International Version 1973 (NT), 1978 (OT) Optimal equivalence
NKJV New King James Version 1979 (NT), 1982 (OT) Formal equivalence
NRSV New Revised Standard Version 1989 Formal equivalence
REB Revised English Bible 1989 Dynamic equivalence
GB God's Word Translation 1995 Optimal equivalence
NLT New Living Translation 1996 Dynamic equivalence
HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible 1999 (NT), 2004 (OT) Optimal equivalence
ESV English Standard Version 2001 Formal equivalence
MSG The Message 2002 Paraphrase
CEB Common English Bible 2010 (NT), 2011 (OT) Dynamic equivalence
MEV Modern English Version 2011 (NT), 2014 (OT) Formal equivalence
CSB Christian Standard Bible 2017 Optimal equivalence

A 2014 study into the Bible in American Life found that of those survey respondents who read the Bible, there was an overwhelming favouring of Protestant translations. 55% reported using the King James Version, followed by 19% for the New International Version, 7% for the New Revised Standard Version (printed in both Protestant and Catholic editions), 6% for the New American Bible (a Catholic Bible translation) and 5% for the Living Bible. Other versions were used by fewer than 10%.[16] A 2015 report by the California-based Barna Group found that 39% of American readers of the Bible preferred the King James Version, followed by 13% for the New International Version, 10% for the New King James Version and 8% for the English Standard Version. No other version was favoured by more than 3% of the survey respondents.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, 825
  2. ^ Howsham, L. Cheap Bibles: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society. Cambridge University Press, Aug 8, 2002.
  3. ^ Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Volume 3, p. 98 James L. Schaaf, trans. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–1993. ISBN 0-8006-2813-6
  4. ^
  5. ^ Paul Arblaster, Gergely Juhász, Guido Latré (eds) Tyndale's Testament, Brepols 2002, ISBN 2-503-51411-1, p. 120.
  6. ^ Rosales, Raymond S. Casiodoro de Reina: Patriarca del Protestantismo Hispano. St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Publications. 2002.
  7. ^ González, Jorge A. The Reina–Valera Bible: From Dream to Reality
  8. ^ James Dixon Douglas, Merrill Chapin Tenney (1997), Diccionario Bíblico Mundo Hispano, Editorial Mundo Hispano, pág 145.
  9. ^ "Sagradas Escrituras (1569) Bible, SEV". Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  10. ^ A facsimile edition was produced by the Spanish Bible Society: (Sagrada Biblia. Traducción de Casiodoro de Reina 1569. Revisión de Cipriano de Valera 1602. Facsímil. 1990, Sociedades Biblicas Unidas, ISBN 84-85132-72-6)]
  11. ^
  12. ^ Howsam, Leslie (2002). Cheap Bibles. Cambridge University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-521-52212-0.
  13. ^ Flick, Dr. Stephen. "Canonization of the Bible". Christian heritage fellowship. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  14. ^ Lambert, Lance. "400 Silent Years: Anything but Silent". Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  15. ^ Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, C.8.
  16. ^ Goff, Philip. Farnsley, Arthur E. Thuesen, Peter J. The Bible in American Life, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, p. 12 Archived 2014-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^