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Part I Biblical Scroll links to Bible 1. Part II Electronic Bible links to Part 2.
The Bible: The Book That Bridges the Millennia

Whose Canon? Which Bible?

Biblical scrolls

Protestants tend to think there is only one Bible--ours.

Actually different religious groups of the Judeo-Christian tradition have different biblical canons.

Different Inside Books

Some canons are smaller than the Protestant Bible; others are larger:

  • The smallest Bible is claimed by the Samaritans, who recognize only the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch).
  • The largest Bible is that of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which has 81 books

New Testament

Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox Christians agree on the same 27 books for the composition of the New Testament; however some smaller groups of Christians do not. The Nestorian, or Syrian church, recognizes only 22 books, excluding 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.

On the other hand, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes the same 27 books in its "narrower" canon but adds 8 books to its "broader" canon: "four sections of church order from a compilation called Sinodos, two sections from the Ethiopic Books of Covenant, Ethiopic Clement, and Ethiopic Didascalia."1

Old Testament

The Jewish Bible and the Protestant Old Testament contain the same books but they are arranged in a different order. Additionally, books that Protestant Christians divide into two parts (Kings, Chronicles, Samuel, and Ezra-Nehemiah) are only one book in the Hebrew Bible.

In terms of the Old Testament, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and other Eastern Christians claim more "inside books".

The books of the "second canon" are considered "inside" by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Ethiopic Christians; the latter group adds even more books beyond the deuterocanonicals. Protestants consider the same books "outside" however they give the Apocrypha high status, considering them valuable for instruction and spiritual edification.

The Ethiopian Orthodox church's narrower Old Testament canon includes the books of the Hebrew Bible, all of the Apocrypha, and "Jubilees, 1 Enoch, and Joseph ben Gurion's (Josippon's) medieval history of the Jews and other nations." 2

Explore lists of canonical books:

Canon Comparisons (Lists)

Next: Ancient Texts Excluded from the Bible; Option: No Frames


1. Bruce Metzger, "Bible," Oxford Companion to the Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 79.
2. Bruce Metzger, p. 79.