Q. My friend’s Bible has different chapters from mine. Why are they different?
A. First of all, let me say that it is always a blessing to know that someone is interested in the Bible! Many Bibles just collect dust on our bookshelves. I hope that you and your friend keep up your interest in the Bible and read it often.
It’s true that since the early 1500s there has been disagreement among Christians on which books should be included in the Bible. But as early as 382 A.D., the Catholic Church explicitly named the books of the Bible as we have them today.
And for the three centuries prior to that, the books in our Bible today were commonly used—and accepted as authentically inspired by God—by saints, popes, and so many of the early Church fathers.
Today’s difference in Bibles is that the Catholic Church accepts seven Old Testament books of the Bible (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, Baruch, First and Second Maccabees) and parts of two others (Esther 10:14 to 16:14; and Daniel 3:24- 90; 13; 14) that are not necessarily included in Protestant versions of the Bible.
Some Christian denominations completely reject these additional books, and some put them together in the back of the Bible, naming them the “apocryphal” books (meaning “doubtful” or “uninspired”).
So what’s the problem? Why the difference? The essential difference is this: those books that were challenged and called into question in the 1500s are Old Testament books for which we have no Hebrew translation. The only early pre-Christian copies that we have of those books are in Greek and were therefore primarily used by Greek-speaking Jews prior to the time of Jesus. All of the other books in the Old Testament also have early copies in Hebrew and were used by many other Jews prior to the time of Jesus.
Please, keep reading that Bible! And if you bump into a friend with a Bible containing different chapters than yours, you might want to use that as an opportunity to look at those different chapters together. This would be a great way for the two of you to learn and grow in your faith together!