Episco-Fact #60
September 17, 2017

I have heard there are different versions of the Bible. Are there and what are the versions? Short answer yes, longer but incomplete answer, see below.

The Episcopal Church has approved 15 translations for worship use: the King James (KJV) or Authorized Version (which is the historic Bible of this Church) the English Revision, 1881: the American Revision, 1901; the Revised Standard Version (RSV), 1952; the Jerusalem Bible, 1966; the New English Bible (NEB) with Apocrypha, 1970; The 1976 Good News Bible (GNB, now the English Version); The New American Bible (NAB), 1970; The Revised Standard Version, an Ecumenical Edition (RSV)," 1973; The New International Version, 1978; The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), 1987; the Revised English Bible (REB), 1989; the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), 1990; or from the Contemporary English Version (CEV), 1995; the Contemporary English Version Global, 2005; or Common English Bible (CEB) 2011. Each has a different editorial stance on the translations of the Hebrew, (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament). The version at St. Francis is the NRSV, which is Ecumenical with language. The differences in the versions are real but more often, than not, subtle, and that might make them different Bibles, or versions of the Bible.

There is another category of "version" that has to do with the books contained in the Canons of different traditions. That is a more substantial sense of version. Before the Protestant Reformation, in the Western Church (i.e. the Church characterized by Roman leadership), the Canon contained a whole set of Deuterocanonical books in the body of the Bible, the Old Testament specifically, which are not part of Reformation Bibles. Those Books are Tobit, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch with the Letter of Jeremiah, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Additions to Daniel, The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (portions of which are found in Canticles 12 and 13 in the BCP, Pages 87-89), Story of Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.

If one were to lift the Bible in the pew backs out of a Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Baptist (all 400+ Conventions in the U.S.A., even those that don't bring their Bibles to church), and more, the books included immediately above would not be there. Those Bibles would have 66 books. Those Books would, however, be in the Episcopal Canon, as well as the Third Book of Esdras, Fourth Book of Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasses (also in the BCP as Canticle 14), all given a secondary status as read for edification and not for support of Dogma.

The reason for the Protestant/Roman Catholic split on the Canon is Humanism. That movement promoted the reading of the Bible in the original languages of Hebrew, Old Testament, and Greek, New Testament. There was some question back in the days of Luther (at one time he also wanted to excise the Letter of James from the New Testament—he changed his mind) that these books were not genuinely Jewish because they were found in Greek, not Hebrew. So, the Protestant decision was a function of historical literary analysis, as much as it was a spiritual and tradition based decision.

Conclusion: It is complicated to explain, but yes, there are different Bibles.

 

 The Rev. David Lucey