“Whose Bible is it, anyway?”
You might recall the TV show- “Whose line is it anyway?”; this column is titled “Whose Bible is it anyway?” and as you’ll see, the answer to that question is often times none too clear.
For the sake of this article, we are not talking about all the different translations of the Bible, like the King James Version, or the NIV, etc, etc. We are talking about the actual composition, the books, the number of books and all those variations that exist between different canons.
All Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. God-breathed and God-inspired. The problem is- which Bible? If two Bibles are different, does one have more of the Word of God than the other? This is a question that has gone on and on for two thousand years. We’ll try to tackle a little of that here.
There are seven versions of the Bible; two of those are non-Christian and are Hebrew based. There are five Christian Bibles- each with a slightly different canon. (A canon is an official “list” of the God-breathed books of the Bible.) They are: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Syriac, Ethiopian, and Protestant. The Protestant canon has 66 books, the least of any Christian denomination/ Church. The Syrian and Ethiopian have even more books than the Catholic Bible. Each group has their valid and earnest reasons for including what they include.
The Apocrypha, and various Canons
One of the main contentions between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles is the inclusion of much of the Apocrypha within the Catholic canon. The books of the Apocrypha were written generally between 400 BC and 100 AD, and the Catholic Church deems most of these Apocryphal books as canonical. Some Protestant Bibles actually print these “other” books within the physical Bible book- but just as an Appendix and not as part of the Old or New Testament.
One such Apocryphal book which is neither in the Protestant nor Catholic Bible is the Book of Enoch. However, this is a quite interesting work and is worth some study to the Bible reader. Though it is named after the Patriarch Enoch, it is clearly not written by him or any of his immediate followers or associates. As a point of reference, there are only two people EVER who have lived on this Earth and have never died. Those two are Enoch and the prophet Elijah. Both are seen as unique Biblical characters by both the Jews and many Christians.
I believe it is important to understand, whether a book or letter is canonical or not, that it can be extremely worthwhile for Christian study and understanding of the Faith. It does not have to be “in the Bible” for it to be worthy of reading and considering. Take the “95 Theses” from Martin Luther in the 1500’s. This is the prime work of Luther’s career that was the catalyst for his life and much of the Reformation movement. Many Christian scholars and theologians have studied and pondered upon the intricate details of this document, though clearly it is not part of the Bible and in fact was written some 1500 years after Jesus’ time.
For Protestants, other integral figures like Calvin and Spurgeon and Wesley have published works and commentaries that are of great value- yet not part of any canon. Likewise, Catholics have always sought guidance from papal encyclicals and from determinations from different Councils through the ages. These various works do not of themselves contradict their Bibles, but are used in addition to regular Bible study.
“Whose Bible is it anyway?”- a good question, but a question that has a tendency to lead to more questions than true answers.
(This article was originally published on the www.believersbay.com website.)