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Blog / What Makes Up the Bible Canon? A Comparison of Old Testaments

What Makes Up the Bible Canon? A Comparison of Old Testaments

I’ve been reading up on my Bible translation history this week. Nearly 500 years ago this week, the famous and influential Bible translator William Tyndale was executed for heresy, but not before translating the Bible into English—an act that’s had a lasting effect on not just Bible translation history, but on the English langauge itself.

In reading about the history of Bible translation, I’ve come across many references to the history of the Bible canon—that is, the process by which the Christian church has identified which ancient texts belong in the Bible. If you’ve ever opened up an unfamiliar Bible and been startled to find “extra” Bible books listed in the table of contents, you know that different branches of Christian tradition have come to slightly different conclusions about which books make up the Bible canon. (The Biblica website has some nice overviews of the selection of the Bible canon and the apocryphal books found in certain Bibles.)

So what are the different Bible canons, and how do they differ? I dug up this chart, put together by a coworker a few years ago, that compares the Old Testament as it’s understood by three major branches of Judeo-Christian tradition (click to enlarge the image):

Most of the Bibles on Bible Gateway adhere to the Protestant canon, but several include the apocryphal books as well. Here’s how to turn on (or off) the display of apocryphal books for those Bibles that include them.

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