Friday, March 18, 2016

How to Pick a Catholic Bible by Philip Kosloski

Saw this article today at Aleteia about choosing a Bible.  I have some thoughts, but perhaps I will leave them to the comments section.  How about you?

Let’s envision a common scene: shortly after the Easter Vigil a new convert walks into a Catholic bookstore and asks to see their bibles. A friendly sales associate points this person to the back wall. The new convert makes her way to the back of the store and is surprised by what she sees. There is not just one Catholic bible; there are at least a dozen Catholic bibles, all with different abbreviations on the spine!
Which bible should this new convert choose?
To be honest, there is no one-size-fits-all version of the bible. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and all are flawed by the fact that they are not in the original language in which the Bible was written. Nevertheless, very few of us have the luxury of studying ancient Greek or Hebrew, so we must make the decision as to which Bible we will use. It is a critical decision, as God desires to speak to us through the words of scripture, and the rest of our lives could be changed by what we read.
Here are some basic tips to consider the next time you find yourself looking at a dozen different Catholic bibles and don’t know which one to buy:

read the rest here


Deacon Dave said...

Many explanations and versions or editions left out of his article, though it is a simple clear explanation of some basics. How about the commentary in either the New Community Bible/Catholic Edition or the Christian Community Bible/Catholic Pastoral edition for both doctrinal and life application notes? Or one of the many options of the St. Joseph Edition of the NABRE for supplementary indexes, lectionary readings, etc.? Or of the Didache Bible (RSVCE2 or NABRE) for its connection with the CCC?

Timothy said...

There are so many more resources and actual Bibles that could have been mentioned, instead of resorting back to the ICSB as the end all be all. It also considers the NABRE a dynamic equivalence translation, which it is not.

Keith said...

Here's my experience dealing with new converts...again one size doesn't fit all, but here's my take. Many I have come across haven't read the bible a lot at all. If this is the case, my recommendations is always to use The Bible Timeline approach from Jeff Cavins. Read the select 14 books he recommends to get the big story. I tell then not to worry about what the deep meaning is, just read for the story. I suggest that they use either a Good News translation or The Message. One of these two will make getting the story easier.

JDH said...

It is amazing to me how often the NABRE is described as a dynamic equivalence translation. It's clear that many Catholics haven't given it a chance and assume it's a minor revision of the 1970 NAB. I love the RSV-CE as much of the next guy, and do most of my personal reading out of it or Knox, but I don't get this need some people have to criticize the NABRE.

By the way, I just recently discovered this blog and am loving it! I keep going down rabbit holes of old posts. So glad I found it!

Timothy said...


Thanks for the kinds words. Hope you enjoy searching the many posts. You will certainly see how I have evolved over the years.

Michael Demers said...

Even if the New American Bible was renamed I doubt if all the old criticisms of the now defunct 1970 NAB will ever go away but will keep popping up every time some people mention this Bible. Pernicious!

Anonymous said...

This is not to undermine the quality of the article. But perhaps for a novice, those basics can be helpful. The aim of the article is pointed towards the starting with the Faith as it is evident in the first lines of the article.

We cannot expect an extant discussion for this one given the perceived audience of the article.

Eric Barczak said...

Honestly, if one wants a Bible, I think the worst thing to do is just go into a bookstore and pick one off the shelf. Ultimately, different people will prefer different translations. Finding "your Bible" is a personal thing and one should spend time with a translation and see how they like it. I think it's even more important for a first Bible. Spend some time with various translations by borrowing from your parish or public library. Otherwise, you end up having a dozen different ones on your shelf. Save the safari for trumpet mouthpieces or African antelope.

CarlHernz said...

It is a wonderful thing that we have many various Bible versions to choose from, many different editions, and a plethora of different bindings, type styles, and formats to choose from.

But in the end, it is not so much that we find a Bible that suits our tastes. The more important thing is that we let the words of Scripture change us to suit God.

It matters not that the binding be this or that as much that we wear it out from our constant use. God's word should never leave our side and should always be at our fingertips. A beautiful Bible is a used Bible, not one that is preserved through disuse.

And if we have various Bibles on our bookshelf but they gather dust, what good is it that we collected them in the first place? Would we work hard to earn stacks of money and then place these stacks on shelves to gather dust? The Bible is worth far more than many stacks of money.

And instead of looking for a Bible that renders things in ways we like, why not let the Bible we choose be one that challenges us? Why not take ourselves out of the equation and search for a Bible that will move us to actively serve the needy and marginalized of society in practical ways? Does the Bible we choose puff us up with knowledge or make us overflow in acts of self-sacrificing love to care for those who have none to care for them? Does the Bible we choose fit our lifestyle or does it shake us up, moves us to avoid resting on our laurels, and produces in us active service to care for our families, our friends, and those we would otherwise forget to minister to if it were not for the Word of God to remind us to do so?

Don't worry so much if you like the Bible. Worry more that you will like it so much that it does little to change you from who you are. Even hypocrites and those who ignore the plight of the poor and suffering have Bibles, some of which are more ornate and pious-sounding than yours!

It's great to find a Bible that suits you and that reads in such a way that you will use. And the stronger the binding, the longer it will last. But don't forget the other things. Remember, you want a Bible you will USE, not a Bible you will not wear out.

Jason Klinnert said...

I would like to see An updated Jerusalem Bible with the classic format and notes coupled CCC cross references.

Neil Short said...

As I see it, dynamic equivalence attemptsto capture the sacred author'sintent where a literal translation fails.

Neil Short said...

I'd like a NJB in a nice sewn spine.

Anonymous said...


I must admit I am a victim of not knowing the versions prior to purchasing them. Though collecting Bibles give me that extra sense of thrill, in the long run when the books land on the shelves, it would leave you thinking that it maybe a waste of effort to stack a bunch of different versions wherein you'll only choose to stick to one or a few versions that you will turn to as reference.

But the Bibles are already there, I am already thinking for a long time already of giving out my dynamic equivalent Bibles with the exception of course of the Jerusalem CTS Bible. Of all the dynamic translations, JB was the only one encouraged me to start reading through the Bible.

But as I study deeper with the Bible , I am more gravitated now to use literal versions when comparing them the original texts of the Bible.

Biblical Catholic said...

"I don't get this need some people have to criticize the NABRE."

I think it largely has to do with a distrust of the American bishops. In the 1960's and 1970's, the American hierarchy doctrinally much weaker than they are now. Many bishops tolerated, and at times even encouraged, doctrinal dissent and liturgical abuses. There were bishops like Raymond A Lucker of New Ulm, Minnesota and Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee who were very open about the fact that they rejected significant parts of Church teaching and practice, and there were many frankly dubious documents produced by the USCCB. The NAB was produced at the moment when post-Vatican II doctrinal confusion was at its height. As a result, many traditional minded, orthodox Catholics came to adopt an attitude of suspicious towards the bishops and anything that the bishops produced. Since the NAB was produced at precisely the moment when the problems in the Church were at their worst, many Catholics came to regard it with suspicion simply because of how and when it was produced. And admittedly, the notes, which in many places challenge and call traditional Catholic doctrines into question, don't exactly help its reputation.

I have, over the years, gotten into arguments with many Catholics over the NAB who reflexively dismiss the NAB, often without really being able to explain why they reject it, and the only real objection they can offer is that they find the notes offensive. I try to press the issue 'yes, the notes are bad, but apart from the notes, the translation is generally very good', and they tell me that they don't care how good the translation might be, they won't read it because of the notes.

This is why I think revising the notes is absolutely necessary to restore the NAB's reputation among many of the laity. Many people refuse to give it a fair chance because of the notes.

When people do produce specific complaints, they are usually very nitpicky, the kind of complaints that could be made about ANY English translation, and often they repeat the same tired passages and examples, most of which even defenders of the NAB admit aren't the best passage in the text, like Isaiah 9:6.

JDH said...

Biblical Catholic, I think you are exactly right. And, much of that suspicion is deserved; it's just unfortunate we haven't yet been able to really move on. In my opinion, the 1970 NAB had lots of room for improvement, but it was never nearly as bad as it's harshest critics made it out to be. And the NABRE OT seems to be quite good. Even if they did keep "God-Hero!" :-)

Michael Demers said...

Would it hurt so much just to drop the notes?

Biblical Catholic said...

Canon Law requires that Bibles be printed with explanatory notes.

That being said, however, there seems to me that there is no reason why only one set of notes can be printed with the NAB. Canon Law does not require that any specific notes be attached, I don't see why they won't authorize the publication of an edition of the NABRE with different notes.

Jeff S. said...

Biblical Catholic,
What you want is already available:
The Didache NABRE put out by Midwest Theological Forum contains both the "official" notes by the USCCB, and additional notes on each page
based on the CCC (Catechism Catholic Church). These notes are
considered to be the "Didache" notes.

You'll note that MTF also offers a Didache version of the RSV-2CE.

Biblical Catholic said...

The Didache Bible contains ADDITIONAL NOTES, not alternative notes.