The King James Bible vs. the Catholic Bible: What is the Big Difference?

As a pastor, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of the Bible in my own life and the lives of my congregants. One Sunday afternoon, a young couple approached me with a question that would set me on a path to greater understanding.

They asked me, “Is it okay for us to study the Catholic Bible?” I realized just how wide the gap is between Protestants and Catholics and my role in bridging it.

This question sparked a curiosity and a desire to alleviate the confusion among many believers, and what better way to do this than by comparing the King James Bible vs. the Catholic Bible?

The main difference between the King James and the Catholic Bible is their origin and content. The King James Bible was published in 1611 and has become the most widely read and respected translation. It has the standard 66 books of the Bible – 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. On the other hand, the Catholic Bible adds seven books known as the Apocrypha to the Old Testament, bringing the total to 73. The Catholic Church considers these books canonical even though Jews and most Christians disregard them.

In this article, I’ll explore the historical context surrounding these Bibles, illuminating the factors that influenced their development. I’ll compare their contents, particularly the Apocryphal books in the Catholic Bible, and their impact on its accuracy.

Finally, I’ll explore the efforts made to bridge the gap created, in part, by the different versions. Join me in seeking to understand how these translations shape the faith of their followers.

What is the King James Bible?

The King James Bible
King James Bible. Image source: Pixabay

Also called the Authorized translation, the King James Bible is an English translation commissioned in 1604 by King James I of England and published in 1611.

Forty-seven scholars from the Church of England, led by Richard Bancroft, translated the King James Bible from the original Masoretic and Septuagint texts.

They were split into six groups, which were equally distributed among three locations: Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster, as shown in the table below:


Translated section

First Westminster team

Genesis to 2 Kings

Second Westminster team


First Oxford team

Isaiah to Malachi

Second Oxford team

Gospels and Acts of the Apostles

First Cambridge team

1 Chronicles to Song of Solomon

Second Cambridge team


The six teams completed their work by 1608. What followed was 3 years of review before printing in 1611. Considering this was a Protestant work, I found it interesting that they incorporated the Apocryphal text from the Greek Septuagint and 2 Esdras from the Latin Vulgate.

In 1769, scholars from Oxford and Cambridge standardized the existing text. This was because of the numerous printing errors that wormed their way into the 1611 version.

They omitted several typos and standardized the punctuation. They also updated the language, enhancing its readability. By the mid-1800, the Authorized Version did not have the Apocrypha.

Not many changes have been made to the language since 1769, and most modern King James Bibles were derived from this revision.

Today, the New King James replaces Old English words and phrases with modern variations. Nevertheless, the King James Bible remains a favorite in many homes.

What is the Catholic Bible?

The Catholic Bible
Catholic Bible. Image source: Pixabay

The Catholic Bible retains the 66 books but adds 7 Apocryphal books to the Old Testament and extra chapters to Daniel and Esther. Apocryphal books were written during the intertestamental period.

They include Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, and Baruch. Although the Jews respected these books, they never treated them as part of the Hebrew scripture.

The Apocrypha was officially integrated into the Catholic Bible during the Council of Trent (1545 -1563) in response to the growing Protestant movement. In 1582, shortly after this council, the first English Catholic New Testament bible was published.

The Old Testament followed in 1609 and 1610 to form what we now call the Douay–Rheims Bible. Unlike the King James Bible, the Douay–Rheims Bible wasn’t translated from the Masoretic texts.

Instead, it was a translation from Jerome’s Vulgate texts. Today, the most popular versions of the Catholic Bible are the New American Bible and the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.

Difference between Catholic Bible and King James Bible


King James Version

Catholic Bible

Number of books




Only the Canon

Canon + Apocrypha



7 books: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, and Baruch.

Translation Period


1582 (New Testament),

1609 (Genesis to Job)

1610 (Psalms to 2 Maccabees)

Which is more accurate the Catholic Bible or the King James Bible?

The King James Bible vs. the Catholic Bible
Catholic Bible vs the King James Bible. Image source: Pixabay

Both versions are reasonably accurate. They may differ in the organization and number of books, but ultimately, there’s very little difference in accuracy.

Bible translators rely on two methods during translation – literal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. Literal equivalence involves translating the text word-for-word, while dynamic equivalence reproduces biblical text using modern translations.

Both Bibles use literal equivalence, making them equally accurate with slight variations in language and prose.

Can Catholics read the King James Bible version?

Yes. Although the King James Bible isn’t used during Mass, many Catholics appreciate its richness and prose. Consequently, publishers now offer a King James Bible for Catholics that incorporates the seven Apocryphal books organized just like the Catholic Bible.

However, it’s worth noting that the Catholic Church hasn’t sanctioned this version because it doesn’t suit Catholic theology.

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