The Number of Bibles

I have asked groups of people this question:  “How many Bibles are there?”  After a kind of gasp, undoubtedly thinking about the fact that the Bible has remained a best seller for years, they usually respond something like “Millions!”  Then someone will ask, “Oh!  Do you mean versions of the Bible, or what?”  To find out the answer to my question, click on this site.

Yes, there are millions of copies of Bibles in the world, translated into many, many languages. Yes, there are hundreds of versions of the Bible in English published over the past 400 years. But, no, these are not the answers to the question.

There are three major Bibles.

1. The Jewish Bible.

The Jewish Bible is known to Christians as the Old Testament.  It contains 39 books.  The Jews, however, see their Bible as being divided into 3 parts: the Law or, more correctly, the Instruction (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im), and the Writings (Khetuvim).  The first letter of each of the Hebrew words -- T, N, and Kh -- with the addition of the vowel “a”-- create the word “Tanakh.”  This is the name used for the Jewish Bible.

2. The Catholic Bible.

The Catholic Bible includes the 39 books of the Tanakh but in a different order.  In addition, the Catholic Bible includes 7 other books, known as the Deuterocanonicals or Apocrypha.  And, finally, the Catholic Bible contains the 27 books of the New Testament.  Thus, the Catholic Bible has a total of 73 books.

3. The Protestant Bible.

The Protestant Bible includes the 39 books of the Tanakh and the 27 books of the New Testament.  It does not include the Apocrypha.  The books of the Apocrypha were taken out after Martin Luther inadvertently started the Protestant Reformation.  Thus, the Protestant Bible has a total of 66 books.

There are actually more forms of the Bible in use today.  For a more detailed review of them, click here. 

Although we view the Bible as a “single” book, like other books we have, it is really composed of many different books, each composed by a particular person (or more than one) in a particular place at a particular time for a particular purpose.  And then comes the question, “Why do we have just 39 books, or 73 books, or 66 books?”  This question is concerned with the “canon” of the Bible, and that is a subject for future issues of Biblical Insights.

Biblical Heritage Center, Inc.
Editors: Jim Myers & Ike Tennison

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