The Catholic Bible is composed of 73 books: an Old Testament of 46 books (including 7 deuterocanonical books and additional deuterocanonical content in 2 books) and a New Testament of 27 books.
The term Catholic Bible can be understood in two ways. More generally, it can refer to a Christian Bible that includes the whole 73-book canon recognized by the Catholic Church, including some of the deuterocanonical books (and parts of books) of the Old Testament which are in the Greek Septuagint collection, but which are not present in the Hebrew Masoretic Text collection. More specifically, the term can refer to a version or translation of the Bible which is published with the Catholic Church’s approval, in accordance with Catholic canon law.
According to the Decretum Gelasianum (a work written by an anonymous scholar between AD 519 and 553), Catholic Church officials cited a list of books of scripture presented as having been made canonical at the Council of Rome (382). Later, the Catholic Church formally affirmed its canon of scripture with the Synod of Hippo (393), followed by a Council of Carthage (397), another Council of Carthage (419), the Council of Florence (1431–1449), and the Council of Trent (1545–1563). The canon consists of 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament, for a total of 73 books in the Catholic Bible
Old Testament (46 books)
The 7 deuterocanonical books are indicated by an asterisk (*) and the 2 books with additional deuterocanonical material by a plus sign (+)
- Pentateuch (5): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
- Historical books (16): Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit (*), Judith (*), Esther (+), 1 Maccabees (*), 2 Maccabees (*)
- Poetic Books (7): Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon (*), Sirach (*)
- Prophetic books (18): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch (*), Ezekiel, Daniel (+), Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The Sixto-Clementine Vulgate and the original Douay Rheims Bible also included in an appendix three books whose canonicity was questioned: Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Esdras, and 4 Esdras.[a]
New Testament (27 books)
- The Gospels (4): Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
- Historical book (1): Acts of the Apostles
- Pauline epistles (13): Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
- Hebrews (1)
- General epistles (7): James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
- Prophetic book (1): Apocalypse of John
The term “Catholic Bible” also refers to a Bible published in accordance with the prescriptions of Catholic canon law, which states:
Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations. With the permission of the Conference of Bishops, Catholic members of the Christian faithful in collaboration with separated brothers and sisters can prepare and publish translations of the sacred scriptures provided with appropriate annotations.— Canon 825 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law
Principles of translation
Without diminishing the authority of the texts of the books of Scripture in the original languages, the Council of Trent declared the Vulgate the official translation of the Bible for the Latin Church, but did not forbid the making of translations directly from the original languages. Before the middle of the 20th century, Catholic translations were often made from that text rather than from the original languages. Thus Ronald Knox, the author of what has been called the Knox Bible, a formal equivalence mode bible, wrote: “When I talk about translating the Bible, I mean translating the Vulgate.” Today, the version of the Bible that is used in official documents in Latin is the Nova Vulgata, a revision of the Vulgate.
The original Bible text is, according to Catholics, “written by the inspired author himself and has more authority and greater weight than any, even the very best, translation whether ancient or modern”.
The principles expounded in Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu regarding exegesis or interpretation, as in commentaries on the Bible, apply also to the preparation of a translation. These include the need for familiarity with the original languages and other cognate languages, the study of ancient codices and even papyrus fragments of the text and the application to them of textual criticism, “to insure that the sacred text be restored as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruptions due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, from the interchange and repetition of words and from all other kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries”.