Protestant Bible

A Protestant Bible is a Christian Bible whose translation or revision was produced by Protestants. Such Bibles comprise 39 books of the Old Testament (according to the Jewish Hebrew Bible canon, known especially to non-Protestants as the protocanonical books) and 27 books of the New Testament for a total of 66 books. Some Protestants use Bibles which also include 14 additional books in a section known as the Apocrypha (though these are not considered canonical) bringing the total to 80 books.[1][2] This is often contrasted with the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, which includes seven deuterocanonical books as a part of the Old Testament.[3] The division between protocanonical and deuterocanonical books is not accepted by all Protestants who simply view books as being canonical or not and therefore classify the seven Catholic deuterocanonical books as part of the Apocrypha. Sometimes the term “Protestant Bible” is used as a shorthand for a bible which only contains the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.[4]

It was in Luther’s Bible of 1534 that the Apocrypha was first published as a separate intertestamental section.[5] To this date, the Apocrypha is “included in the lectionaries of Anglican and Lutheran Churches.”[6] The practice of including only the Old and New Testament books within printed bibles was standardized among many English-speaking Protestants following a 1825 decision by the British and Foreign Bible Society.[7] Today, “English Bibles with the Apocrypha are becoming more popular again” and they may be printed as intertestamental books.[8] In contrast, Evangelicals vary among themselves in their attitude to and interest in the Apocrypha but agree in the view that it is non-canonical.[9]

Early Protestant Bibles

The contents page in the Coverdale Bible

While from the Reformation, Protestants Confessions have usually excluded the books which other Christian traditions consider to be Deuterocanonical from the canon (the canon of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches differs among themselves as well), most early Protestant Bibles published the Biblical Apocrypha along with the Old Testament and New Testament.

The German Luther Bible of 1522 did include the Apocrypha within its boards. However, unlike in previous Catholic Bibles which interspersed the books of the Apocrypha throughout the Old Testament, Martin Luther placed the Apocrypha in a separate section after the Old Testament. The books of the Apocrypha were not listed in the table of contents of Luther’s 1532 Old Testament and, in accordance with Luther’s view of the canon, they were given the well-known title: “Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read” in the 1534 edition of his bible.[10]

In the English language, the incomplete Tyndale Bible published in 1525, 1534 and 1536, contained the entire New Testament. Of the Old Testament, although William Tyndale translated around half of its books, only the Pentateuch and the book of Jonah were published. Viewing the canon as comprising the Old and New Testaments only, Tyndale did not translate any of the Apocrypha.[11] However, the first complete Modern English translation of the Bible, the Coverdale Bible of 1535, did include the Apocrypha. Like Luther, Miles Coverdale placed the Apocrypha in a separate section after the Old Testament.[12] Other early Protestant Bibles such as the Matthew’s Bible (1537), Great Bible (1539), Geneva Bible (1560), Bishop’s Bible(1568), and the King James Version (1611) included the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament.[8] Although within the same printed bibles, it was usually to be found in a separate section under the heading of Apocrypha and sometimes carrying a statement to the effect that the such books were non-canonical but useful for reading.[13]

Protestant translations into Italian were made by Antonio Brucioli in 1530, by Massimo Teofilo in 1552 and by Giovanni Diodati in 1607. Diodati was a Calvinist theologian and he was the first translator of the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek sources. Diodati’s version is the reference version for Italian Protestantism. This edition was revised in 1641, 1712, 1744, 1819 and 1821. A revised edition in modern Italian, Nuova Diodati, was published in 1991.

Several translations of Luther’s Bible were made into Dutch. The first complete Dutch Bible was printed in Antwerp in 1526 by Jacob van Liesveldt.[14] However, the translations of Luther’s Bible had Lutheran influences in their interpretation. At the Calvinistic Synod of Dort in 1618/19, it was therefore deemed necessary to have a new translation accurately based on the original languages. The synod requested the States-General of the Netherlands to commission it. The result was the Statenvertaling or States Translation which was completed in 1635 and authorized by the States-General in 1637. From that year until 1657, a half-million copies were printed. It remained authoritative in Dutch Protestant churches well into the 20th century.

The Bear Bible’s title-page printed by Mattias Apiarius, “the bee-keeper”. Note the emblem of a bear tasting honey.

Protestant translations into Spanish began with the work of Casiodoro de Reina, a former Catholic monk, who became a Lutheran theologian.[15] With the help of several collaborators,[16]de Reina produced the Biblia del Oso or Bear Bible, the first complete Bible printed in Spanish based on Hebrew and Greek sources. Earlier Spanish translations, such as the 13th-century Alfonsina Bible, translated from Jerome’s Vulgate, had been copied by hand. The Bear Bible was first published on 28 September 1569, in Basel, Switzerland.[17][18] The deuterocanonical books were included within the Old Testament in the 1569 edition. In 1602 Cipriano de Valera, a student of de Reina, published a revision of the Bear Bible which was printed in Amsterdam in which the deuterocanonical books were placed in a section between the Old and New Testaments called the Apocrypha.[19] This translation, subsequently revised, came to be known as the Reina-Valera Bible.

For the following three centuries, most English language Protestant Bibles, including the Authorized Version, continued with the practice of placing the Apocrypha in a separate section after the Old Testament. However, there were some exceptions. A surviving quarto edition of the Great Bible, produced some time after 1549, does not contain the Apocrypha although most copies of the Great Bible did. A 1575 quarto edition of the Bishop’s Bible also does not contain them. Subsequently, some copies of the 1599 and 1640 editions of the Geneva Bible were also printed without them.[20] The Episcopalian king James VI and I, the sponsor of the Authorized King James Version (1611), “threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail.”[2]

The Souldiers Pocket Bible, of 1643, draws verses largely from the Geneva Bible but only from either the Old or New Testaments. In 1644 the Long Parliament forbade the reading of the Apocrypha in churches and in 1666 the first editions of the King James Bible without the Apocrypha were bound.[21] Similarly, in 1782–83 when the first English Bible was printed in America, it did not contain the Apocrypha.[8]

The contents page in the King James Bible, 1769 edition, listing “The Books of the Old Testament”, “The Books called Apocrypha”, and “The Books of the New Testament”.

19th-century developments

In 1826,[22] the National Bible Society of Scotland petitioned the British and Foreign Bible Society not to print the Apocrypha,[23] resulting in a decision that no BFBS funds were to pay for printing any Apocryphal books anywhere. They reasoned that by not printing the secondary material of Apocrypha within the Bible, the scriptures would prove to be less costly to produce.[24][25] The precise form of the resolution was:

That the funds of the Society be applied to the printing and circulation of the Canonical Books of Scripture, to the exclusion of those Books and parts of Books usually termed Apocryphal[26]

Current situation

Since the 19th century changes, many modern editions of the Bible and re-printings of the King James Version of the Bible that are used especially by non-Anglican Protestants omit the Apocrypha section. Additionally, modern non-Catholic re-printings of the Clementine Vulgate commonly omit the Apocrypha section. Many re-printings of older versions of the Bible now omit the apocrypha and many newer translations and revisions have never included them at all. Today, “English Bibles with the Apocrypha are becoming more popular again” and they may be printed as intertestamental books.[8] In contrast, Evangelicals vary among themselves in their attitude to and interest in the Apocrypha. Some view it as a useful historical and theological background to the events of the New Testament while others either have little interest in the Apocrypha or view it with hostility. However, all agree in the view that it is non-canonical.[27]


Protestant Bibles comprise 39 books of the Old Testament (according to the Jewish Hebrew Bible canon, known especially to non-Protestants as the protocanonical books) and the 27 books of the New Testament for a total of 66 books. Some Protestant Bibles, such as the original King James Version, include 14 additional books known as the Apocrypha, though these are not considered canonical.[1] With the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament, the total number of books in the Protestant Bible becomes 80.[2] Many modern Protestant Bibles print only the Old Testament and New Testament;[24] there is a 400-year intertestamental period in the chronology of the Christian scriptures between the Old and New Testaments. This period is also known as the “400 Silent Years” because it is believed to have been a span where God made no additional canonical revelations to his people.[28]

These Old Testament, Apocrypha and New Testament books of the Bible, with their commonly accepted names among the Protestant Churches, are given below. Note that “1”, “2”, or “3” as a leading numeral is normally pronounced in the United States as the ordinal number, thus “First Samuel” for “1 Samuel”.[29]

Old Testament

  • Book of Genesis
  • Book of Exodus
  • Book of Leviticus
  • Book of Numbers
  • Book of Deuteronomy
  • Book of Joshua
  • Book of Judges
  • Book of Ruth
  • Books of Samuel
    • 1 Samuel
    • 2 Samuel
  • Books of Kings
    • 1 Kings
    • 2 Kings
  • Books of Chronicles
    • 1 Chronicles
    • 2 Chronicles
  • Book of Ezra
  • Book of Nehemiah
  • Book of Esther
  • Book of Job
  • Psalms
  • Book of Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Book of Isaiah
  • Book of Jeremiah
  • Book of Lamentations
  • Book of Ezekiel
  • Book of Daniel
  • Book of Hosea
  • Book of Joel
  • Book of Amos
  • Book of Obadiah
  • Book of Jonah
  • Book of Micah
  • Book of Nahum
  • Book of Habakkuk
  • Book of Zephaniah
  • Book of Haggai
  • Book of Zechariah
  • Book of Malachi


  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Esdras
  • Tobit
  • Judith (“Judeth” in Geneva)
  • Rest of Esther
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach)
  • Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah (“Jeremiah” in Geneva)
  • The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
  • Susanna
  • Bel and the Dragon
  • Prayer of Manasses
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees

New Testament

  • Gospel of Matthew
  • Gospel of Mark
  • Gospel of Luke
  • Gospel of John
  • Acts of the Apostles
  • Epistle to the Romans
  • First Epistle to the Corinthians
  • Second Epistle to the Corinthians
  • Epistle to the Galatians
  • Epistle to the Ephesians
  • Epistle to the Philippians
  • Epistle to the Colossians
  • First Epistle to the Thessalonians
  • Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
  • First Epistle to Timothy
  • Second Epistle to Timothy
  • Epistle to Titus
  • Epistle to Philemon
  • Epistle to the Hebrews
  • Epistle of James
  • First Epistle of Peter
  • Second Epistle of Peter
  • First Epistle of John
  • Second Epistle of John
  • Third Epistle of John
  • Epistle of Jude
  • Book of Revelation

Notable English translations

Most Bible translations into English conform to the Protestant canon and ordering while some offer multiple versions (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) with different canon and ordering. For example, the version of the ESV with Apocrypha has been approved as a Catholic bible.[30] Notable English translations include:

Abbreviation Name Date With Apocrypha? Translation
  Tyndale Bible 1526 (NT), 1530 (Pentateuch), 1531 (Jonah) No Formal equivalence
TCB Coverdale Bible 1535 Yes Formal equivalence
  Matthew Bible 1537 Yes Formal equivalence
GEN Geneva Bible 1557 (NT), 1560 (OT) Usually Formal equivalence
KJV King James Version (aka “Authorized Version”) 1611, 1769 (Blayney revision) Varies Formal equivalence
YLT Young’s Literal Translation 1862 No Extreme formal equivalence
RV Revised Version (or English Revised Version) 1881 (NT), 1885 (OT) Version available from 1894 Formal equivalence
ASV American Standard Version 1900 (NT), 1901 (OT) No Formal equivalence
RSV Revised Standard Version 1946 (NT), 1952 (OT) Version available from 1957 Formal equivalence
NEB New English Bible 1961 (NT), 1970 (OT) Version available from 1970 Dynamic equivalence
NASB New American Standard Bible 1963 (NT), 1971 (OT), 1995 (update) No Formal equivalence
AMP The Amplified Bible 1958 (NT), 1965 (OT) No Dynamic equivalence
GNB Good News Bible 1966 (NT), 1976 (OT) Version available from 1979 Dynamic equivalence, paraphrase
LB The Living Bible 1971 No Paraphrase
NIV New International Version 1973 (NT), 1978 (OT) No Optimal equivalence
NKJV New King James Version 1979 (NT), 1982 (OT) No Formal equivalence
NRSV New Revised Standard Version 1989 Version available from 1989 Formal equivalence
REB Revised English Bible 1989 Version available Dynamic equivalence
GB God’s Word Translation 1995 No Optimal equivalence
NLT New Living Translation 1996 Version available Dynamic equivalence
HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible 1999 (NT), 2004 (OT) No Optimal equivalence
ESV English Standard Version 2001 Version available from 2009 Formal equivalence
MSG The Message 2002 Version available from 2013 Paraphrase
CEB Common English Bible 2010 (NT), 2011 (OT) Yes Dynamic equivalence
MEV Modern English Version 2011 (NT), 2014 (OT)   Formal equivalence
CSB Christian Standard Bible 2017   Optimal equivalence

A 2014 study into the Bible in American Life found that of those survey respondents who read the Bible, there was an overwhelming favouring of Protestant translations. 55% reported using the King James Version, followed by 19% for the New International Version, 7% for the New Revised Standard Version (printed in both Protestant and Catholic editions), 6% for the New American Bible (a Catholic Bible translation) and 5% for the Living Bible. Other versions were used by fewer than 10%.[31] A 2015 report by the California-based Barna Group found that 39% of American readers of the Bible preferred the King James Version, followed by 13% for the New International Version, 10% for the New King James Version and 8% for the English Standard Version. No other version was favoured by more than 3% of the survey respondents.[32]


  1. King James Version Apocrypha, Reader’s Edition. Hendrickson Publishers. 2009. p. viii. ISBN9781598564648The version of 1611, following its mandate to revise and standardize the English Bible tradition, included the fourteen (or fifteen) books of the Apocrypha in a section between the Old and New Testaments (see the chart on page vi). Because of the Thirty-Nine Articles, there was no reason for King James’ translators to include any comments as to the status of these books, as had the earlier English translators and editors.
  2. Tedford, Marie; Goudey, Pat (2008). The Official Price Guide to Collecting Books. House of Collectibles. p. 81. ISBN9780375722936Up until the 1880s every Protestant Bible (not just Catholic Bibles) had 80 books, not 66. The inter-testamental books written hundreds of years before Christ, called the “Aprocrypha,” were part of virtually every printing of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until their removal in the 1880s. The original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail.
  3.  Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, 825
  5.  Bruce, F.F. “The Canon of Scripture”. IVP Academic, 2010, Location 1478–86 (Kindle Edition).
  6.  Readings from the Apocrypha. Forward Movement Publications. 1981. p. 5.
  7.  Howsham, L. Cheap Bibles: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society. Cambridge University Press, Aug 8, 2002.
  8. Jump up to:abcd Ewert, David (11 May 2010). A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations. Zondervan. p. 104. ISBN9780310872436English Bibles were patterned after those of the Continental Reformers by having the Apocrypha set off from the rest of the OT. Coverdale (1535) called them “Apocrypha”. All English Bibles prior to 1629 contained the Apocrypha. Matthew’s Bible (1537), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), the Bishop’s Bible (1568), and the King James Bible (1611) contained the Apocrypha. Soon after the publication of the KJV, however, the English Bibles began to drop the Apocrypha and eventually they disappeared entirely. The first English Bible to be printed in America (1782–83) lacked the Apocrypha. In 1826 the British and Foreign Bible Society decided to no longer print them. Today the trend is in the opposite direction, and English Bibles with the Apocrypha are becoming more popular again.
  9.  Carson, D. A. (2 January 1997). “The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: An Evangelical View”. In Kohlenberger, John R. (ed.). The Parallel Apocrypha(PDF). Oxford University Press. pp. xliv–xlvii. ISBN978-0195284447.
  10.  Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Volume 3, p. 98 James L. Schaaf, trans. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–1993. ISBN0-8006-2813-6
  11.  Werrell, Ralph S. (2013). The Roots of William Tyndale’s Theology. James Clarke & Co. p. 42. ISBN9780227174029.
  13.  Fallows, Samuel; et al., eds. (1910) [1901]. The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopædia and Scriptural Dictionary, Fully Defining and Explaining All Religious Terms, Including Biographical, Geographical, Historical, Archæological and Doctrinal Themes. The Howard-Severance co. p. 521.
  14.  Paul Arblaster, Gergely Juhász, Guido Latré (eds) Tyndale’s Testament, Brepols 2002, ISBN2-503-51411-1, p. 120.
  15.  Rosales, Raymond S. Casiodoro de Reina: Patriarca del Protestantismo Hispano. St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Publications. 2002.
  16.  González, Jorge A. The Reina–Valera Bible: From Dream to Reality
  17.  James Dixon Douglas, Merrill Chapin Tenney (1997), Diccionario Bíblico Mundo Hispano, Editorial Mundo Hispano, pág 145.
  18.  “Sagradas Escrituras (1569) Bible, SEV”. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  19.  A facsimile edition was produced by the Spanish Bible Society: (Sagrada Biblia. Traducción de Casiodoro de Reina 1569. Revisión de Cipriano de Valera 1602. Facsímil. 1990, Sociedades Biblicas Unidas, ISBN84-85132-72-6)]
  21.  Kenyon, Sir Frederic G. (1909). “English Versions”. In James Hastings (ed.). Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. ISBN978-1-56563-915-7.
  22.  Howsam, Leslie (2002). Cheap Bibles. Cambridge University Press. p. 14. ISBN978-0-521-52212-0.
  23.  Flick, Dr. Stephen. “Canonization of the Bible”Christian heritage fellowship. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  24. Anderson, Charles R. (2003). Puzzles and Essays from “The Exchange”: Tricky Reference Questions. Psychology Press. p. 123. ISBN9780789017628Paper and printing were expensive and early publishers were able to hold down costs by eliminating the Apocrypha once it was deemed secondary material.
  25.  McGrath, Alister (10 December 2008). In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 298. ISBN9780307486226.
  26.  Browne, George (1859). History of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
  28.  Lambert, Lance. “400 Silent Years: Anything but Silent”. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  29.  Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, C.8.
  30.  “Catholic Edition of ESV Bible Launched”Daijiworld. 2018-02-10.
  31.  Goff, Philip. Farnsley, Arthur E. Thuesen, Peter J. The Bible in American Life, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, p. 12Archived 2014-05-30 at the Wayback Machine

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