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Editor's note: This article is part of a series answering religious questions. Each week, we will answer one submitted faith question. This week's question was not submitted but was a timely divergence. To send a submission, visit timesfreepress.com/religionquestions or email wmassey@timesfreepress.com.

Question: I believe the Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant one. What are they?

A: There are seven books in the Catholic Bible — Baruch, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Tobit and Wisdom — that are not included in the Protestant version of the Old Testament. These books are referred to as the deuterocanonical books.

The history of why this came to be is a bit complicated but offers several interesting implications.

Between 400 and 200 B.C., Jews were formalizing the books that make up the Torah and the Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, which in Hebrew contained a smaller number of books. As Jews moved throughout the region, the Bible was translated into Greek and then Latin, versions that included the seven books, said John Collins, professor of Old Testament criticism and interpretation at Yale Divinity School.

The Catholic church based its Bible off the expanded Greek translation and early on shifted which books were included. During the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, Martin Luther called for a greater focus on traditions in Christianity, among them using the books in the original Hebrew translation of the Bible. With that decision, Luther said the deuterocanonical books were fine to read but were not divinely inspired like the others, Collins said.

The decision to not uphold the value of those seven books shifted the theology of the Protestant church, he said.

"I would say that the main difference is that the Catholic Bible includes more wisdom books," Collins said. "And wisdom is associated with natural theology, and that has been one of the major theological differences between Protestants and Catholics. Protestants generally reject natural theology."

Instead, Protestants focus much more on finding truth through divine revelation than looking at signs in nature to better understand God.

The deuterocanonical books also contain a lot of information on Judaism before the arrival of Jesus, said John Kampen, a research professor at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

"The neglect of these books in the Protestant tradition contributes in the 19th and early 20th century to a certain kind of anti-Semitic denigration of the religious value of Judaism at the time of Jesus," Kampen said.

While Catholicism contained this knowledge, the Protestant churches did not, he said. During the rise of Nazism in Western Europe, some churches distanced themselves from Judaism by drawing distinctions between the two religions. Much of the information found in the deuterocanonical books was later confirmed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s.

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From the reporter


I became a journalist to help people see people as people. But highlighting the human side of every policy decision, and how it is affecting your community, takes time as well as support from readers. If you believe in telling the stories of people in your community, please subscribe to the Times Free Press today. Contact me at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Find me on Twitter at @News4Mass.

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