What are the Books of the Bible?
Different religious groups include different books in their Biblical canons, in varying orders, and sometimes divide or combine books, or incorporate additional material into canonical books. Christian Bibles range from the sixty-six books of the
Protestant canon to the eighty-one books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church canon.
The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, contains twenty-four books divided into three parts; the five books of the Torah (“teaching” or “law”), the Nevi’im (“prophets”), and the Ketuvim (“writings”). The first part of Christian Bibles is the Old Testament, which contains, at minimum, the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible divided into thirty-nine books and ordered differently from the Hebrew Bible.
The Catholic Church and Eastern Christian churches also hold certain deuterocanonical books and passages to be part of the Old Testament canon. The second part is the New Testament, containing twenty-seven books; the four Canonical gospels, Acts of the Apostles, twenty-one Epistles or letters and the Book of Revelation.
The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches may have minor differences in their lists of accepted books. The list given here for these churches is the most inclusive: if at least one Eastern church accepts the book it is included here.
Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the 24 books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, as authoritative. Evidence suggests that the process of canonization occurred between 200 BCE and 200 CE. A popular former theory is that the Torah was canonized 400 BCE, the Prophets 200 BCE, and the Writings 100 CE, perhaps at a hypothetical Council of Jamnia, but this position is increasingly rejected by most modern scholars.
Protestants and Catholics use the Masoretic Text as the textual basis for their translations of the protocanonical books (those which are accepted as canonical by both Jews and all Christians), with various changes derived from a multiplicity of other ancient sources (such as the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.), while generally using the Septuagint and Vulgate, now supplemented by the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts, as the textual basis for the deuterocanonical books.
The Eastern Orthodox use the Septuagint as the textual basis for the entire Old Testament, in books both protocanonical and deuteroncanonical, to be used both in the Greek for liturgical purposes, and as the basis for translations into the vernacular. Most of the quotations (300 of 400) of the Old Testament in the New Testament, while differing more or less from the version presented by the Masoretic text, align with that of the Septuagint.
The intertestamental books, largely written during the intertestamental period, are called the Biblical apocrypha (“hidden things”) by Protestants, the deuterocanon (“second canon”) by Catholics, and the deuterocanon or anagignoskomena (“worthy of reading”) by Orthodox. These are works recognized by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches as being part of scripture (and thus deuterocanonical rather than apocryphal), but Protestants do not recognize them as divinely inspired.
Many other Christians recognize them as good, but not on the level of the other books of the Bible. Anglicanism considers the apocrypha to be “read for example of life” but not used “to establish any doctrine”. Luther made a parallel statement in calling them: “not considered equal to the Holy Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.”
The difference in canons derives from the difference in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint. Books found in both the Hebrew and the Greek are accepted by all denominations, and by Jews, these are the protocanonical books. Catholics and Orthodox also accept those books present in manuscripts of the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament with great currency among the Jews of the ancient world, with the coda that Catholics consider 3 Esdras and 3 Maccabees apocryphal.
Most quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, differing by varying degrees from the Masoretic Text, are taken from the Septuagint. When the Jews closed the Old Testament canon, two criteria were used, that the book be written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and that it be no younger than the time of Ezra. This process led to the 24/39 books of the Tanakh and Old Testament (even though Daniel was written several hundred years after the time of Ezra, and since that time several books of the Septuagint have been found in the original Hebrew, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Cairo Geniza, and at Masada, including a Hebrew text of Sirach (Qumran, Masada) and an Aramaic text of Tobit (Qumran); the additions to Esther and Daniel are also in their respective Semitic languages.
The unanimous consensus of modern (and ancient) scholars consider several other books, including 1 Maccabees and Judith, to have been composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. Opinion is divided on the book of Baruch, while it is acknowledged that the Epistle of Jeremiah, the Wisdom of Solomon, and 2 Maccabees are originally Greek compositions.
The disputed books, included in one canon but not in others, are often called the Biblical apocrypha, a term that is sometimes used specifically to describe the books in the Catholic and Orthodox canons that are absent from the Jewish Masoretic Text and most modern Protestant Bibles. Catholics, following the Canon of Trent (1546), describe these books as deuterocanonical, while Greek Orthodox Christians, following the Synod of Jerusalem (1672), use the traditional name of anagignoskomena, meaning “that which is to be read.” They are present in a few historic Protestant versions; the German Luther Bible included such books, as did the English 1611 King James Version.
1 Esdras/3 Esdras
2 Esdras/4 Esdras
Additions to Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Baruch with the Letter of Jeremiah
Song of the Three Young Men and Prayer of Azariah
Story of Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
Additional books accepted by the Eastern Orthodox:
4 Esdras (in an appendix to the Slavonic Bible)
4 Maccabees (in an appendix to the Greek Bible)
Psalm 151 (in the Septuagint)
Additional books accepted by the Syrian Orthodox (due to inclusion in the Peshitta):
2 Baruch with the Letter of Baruch (only the letter has achieved canonical status)
Psalms 152-155 (not canonical)
The Ethiopian Tewahedo church accepts all of the deuterocanonical books of Catholicism and anagignoskomena of Eastern Orthodoxy except for the four Books of Maccabees. It accepts the 24/39 books of the Masoretic Text along with the following books, called the “narrow canon”. The enumeration of books in the Ethiopic Bible varies greatly between different authorities and printings.
4 Baruch or the Paralipomena of Jeremiah
The Ethiopian broader Biblical Canon