Choosing a superset Bible having largest coverage of books
Though I am a Hindu, I like to explore the so-called ‘holy’ books of other religions. The Bible is one such work. The scriptures of the Jews, the “Hebrew Bible”, is called the Old Testament (OT) by Christians. The New Testament (NT) is the scripture dealing with Jesus and hence Christian-centric.
The chief Christian sects are the Catholics, the Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox (incl. Greeks) and the Oriental Orthodox. Each sect chooses its own set of “books” (similar to parvan s or kāṇḍa s) which it calls “canonical” (primary / authoritative) for the Old Testament. However, all sects agree with their choice of books for the New Testament. Each sect calls the books which it de-recognizes as “apocrypha” or “deuterocanon” (lit. second canon). Due to such infighting the Protestant Bible omits certain books which are canonical for the Catholics and others.
Arranged by number of canonical books:
Protestant (39 + 27 = 66 books) < Catholic (73 books) < Eastern Orthodox (incl. Greek) < Oriental Orthodox (Ethiopian)
Canonical books of Catholics include seven more books (66 + 7 OT = 73) and several additions to existing books:
Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach aka Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah (=Baruch chapter 6), Additions to Esther aka “Greek Esther”, Additions to Daniel
Eastern Orthodox adds on top of Catholics (Greek Orthodox enumerates 51 OT + 27 NT = 78 books):
1 Esdras, 2 Esdras (as appendix), Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees (as appendix), Odes
Oriental Orthodox (Ethiopic) adds these to their canon. At 84 books, it is the largest and most diverse biblical canon in traditional Christendom:
Henok (1 Enoch), Kufale (Jubilees) and 1, 2 and 3 Meqabyan (not to be confused with Maccabees)
The Ethiopic Church also adds “1 Clements” and “Shepherd of Hermas” to the New Testament.
A more comprehensive list is given in Wikisource.
Anyways, as a non-Christian, I was looking for a publication which encompasses a superset of all the books of all the sects. Such a thing is called “ecumenical”. The following are the ones I found:
The King James Version with Apocrypha includes the Catholic books but not Eastern Orthodox books. However certain phone apps include everything, including Oriental Orthodox books like Enoch and Jubilees. All of this is in the public domain because of copyright expiration.
The Septuagint, shortened as LXX (seventy), is the Old Testament as accepted by the Orthodox churches, especially the Greek church. Originally written in Greek in 3rd c. BCE by Jewish scholars from Hebrew sources (now lost), it comprises 39 + 15 = 54 books. A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) is available online, last updated in 2021. An older, “thou-thee” 1870 Brenton Septuagint is in the public domain. For the New Testament, usually the Byzantine Greek translation is used.
The Revised Standard Version (RSV), Oxford University Press, available online from UMich. It comprises of OT 39 books, NT 27 books, Apocrypha 18 books, totalling 84 books. Here’s an older 1973 version published by Collins and another Catholic Edition that excludes Eastern Orthodox books like the 3- and 4-Maccabees. The Common Bible, as it is called, is another name for the same collection. The 18-book apocrypha is available separately as well. The RSV does away with KJV’s “thou” and “thy” and uses modern English equivalents but not gender-identitarian language.
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), from Oxford University Press or Cambridge University Press is an updated version of the RSV which uses women-inclusive language. It comprises of the same 84 books. As before, the 18-book apocrypha is available separately.
The ESV with Apocrypha covers the same books as the RSV and NRSV. Unlike the NSRV, the ESV (like the RSV) doesn’t force fit gender ideologies or political correctness everyhwere. Unlike its counterpart, it uses only a small amount of gender-neutral language. Amazon link. A Catholic Edition by SPCK (ESV-CE) was published in 2018 (which is now widely spreading in India too) and an Anglican edition as well. Versions without apocrypha are available on the Internet Archive (2016), a Gideons edition (2013), one with British spelling, etc.
The World English Bible with Deuterocanon is a open-source translation by volunteers in the 21 st century, intentionally made copyright-free. It comprises of 15 additional books of apocrypha.
The Common English Bible is another U.S.American translation that caters to the three main sects. An online version is available at the Bible Gateway and YouVersion’s Bible websites. It includes the same 84-book selection as the RSV and the NRSV.
All of the above unfortunately do not include the books of Enoch, Jubilees, etc. of the Oriental Orthodox church, such as the Ethiopian and Syrian churches because, well, I don’t know if it’s racism, for, these books are not accepted by the “white” people’s churches (Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Greeks, Slavonic/Russian churches, etc.). In any case, the books of the Oriental Church (and more) are included in the copyright-expired books by H.R.Charles Oxford – Volume 1 - Apocrypha and Volume 2 - Pseudepigrapha; Joseph Lumpkin’s “The Apocrypha: Including Books from the Ethiopic Bible” (see LibGen).
My personal choice is the RSV with the Apocrypha; the ESV, a close second. The RSV is a bit dated now, but it’s more faithful to the original Greek and Hebrew texts. It is also formally recognised by the chief churches of all three sects – Roman Catholics, Protestants and Orthodoxers. On the other hand, NRSV twists “father’s instruction” (Proverbs 17:21) in the Hebrew to “parent’s instruction”. I don’t care whether the language is gender-inclusive or LGBT-pronoun-ized; if the original is not gender-inclusive, then I want to see it that way. Shoving 21 st century U.S.A-specific political correctness into the biblical text is useless and unacceptable for the rest of the world.