Catholic Bible Translations


About the Catholic Bible Translations

There are many different kinds of Bibles and many types of translations. We're going to sort them all out for you and give you a little history along the way.

First of all, there are two primary methods used for translations.

  • Literal Equivalence is the translation method used when the translator wants to be as close to the original language's wording and style. Every word is translated and an attempt is made to keep everything in the same order. These translations are what you would want to use for serious Bible study even though they may be more difficult to read as the nuances of the original language usually remain present.

    Some Bible translations that make use of literal equivalence include the Douay-Rheims, King James, Revised Standard and Confraternity Editions.
  • The Second type of translation is Dynamic Equivalence. This method attempts to preverve the meaning of the text while taking liberties with the style and also possibly allowing modern idioms into the translation. This type of translation is less consistent in its rendering of specific words and is more likely to reveal the translator's personal views.

    Examples of Bibles that make use of dynamic equivalence include the New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, New International Version and the Good News.

Each translation method has a sliding scale of rigor with the Concordant Version, which is a word-for-word translation of Greek originally completed in 1926 on the far end of literal equivalence and the Cotton Patch edition on the far end of dynamic equivalence done back in the 1960's which not only didn't attempt to be literal, it replaced old things with modern equivalents.

At Aquinas and More we carry a relatively short list of translations:

  • Revised Standard
  • Revised Standard, 2nd Edition
  • Douay-Rheims
  • New American
  • New American, Revised Edition
  • Confraternity
  • Good News (for a youth Bible)

Here is a little history on each:

New American Bible (NAB)

The New American Bible uses dynamic equivalence and is the official translation of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops. It was one of three translations, the other two being the Jerusalem and the Revised Standard, that were approved for liturgical use in the United States. The translation is based on original texts, not on a previous English translation.

According to Fr. John Neuhaus, "It succeeds in being, at the same time, loose, stilted, breezy, vulgar, opaque, and relentlessly averse to literary grace."

While it is the most popular translation, we don't recommend it for serious Bible study. Many of the footnotes have been criticized for ambiguity and any Bible that uses the word "ignoramus" (James 2:20) just makes my being shudder.

The NAB will cease printing in 2011.

New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE)

We have considered putting together a chart detailing the various incarnations of the New American Bible because it really is an interesting story. The latest edition was issued on March 9th, 2011 (Ash Wednesday). This version combines the 1986 NAB translation of the New Testament along with a completely new translation of the Old Testament, including a new translation of the Psalms.

Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (RSV-CE)

The RSV was originally a revision of the 1952 American Standard Bible. Thomas Nelson, the Protestant publisher, not TAN Books, sponsored the original translation. The translation made use of the latest Greek texts but was criticized by some for supposedly downplaying prophetic links to Jesus and the Virgin birth: the translation of Isaiah 7:14 used "young woman" instead of "virgin".

In 1965 the Catholic Biblical Association revised the RSV for Catholic use by changing some of the footnotes, putting the Apocrypha where it belonged and changing some of the phrasing in the New Testament to more familiar wording.

The scholarly Navarre Bible commentary uses the RSV-CE as its English text.

Revised Standard Version - 2nd Catholic Edition (RSV-2CE)

In 2006 Ignatius Press released the second Catholic edition of the RSV. This edition replaced all of the "Thee" and "Thou" language with "You", updated the footnotes and replaced "young woman" in Isaiah 7:14 with "virgin".


The Douay-Rheims translation was produced during the Counter Reformation over a 28 year period in France. The New Testament was issued in Rheims in 1582. The Old Testament was published by the University of Douai in 1609 and 1610. This English translation was made from the Latin Vulgate instead of from original sources.

In 1749, the English Catholic Bishop Richard Challoner began publication of a revision of the Douay-Rheims which he finished in 1752. This edition made so many changes to the original that it can be said to be an entirely new edition instead of the Douay Rheims but is still the version that is most commonly in print under the Douay-Rheims name today. He made extensive use of the King James Bible in his revision which may come as a surprise. The ironic thing is that during the translation debates for the original King James Bible, the Rheims New Testament was one of the most frequently referred to texts in the margin notes of the translators.

Jerusalem Bible

The Jerusalem Bible, unlike the Revised Standard Version, was a wholly Catholic project from start to finish. It was translated by Dominicans and other scholars in Jerusalem, hence the name, from Greek and Hebrew into French. The edition we carry is the English translation of the French.

The Jerusalem Bible was originally published in 1966 and was praised for its literary quality. J.R.R. Tolkien translated the Book of Jonah but was originally asked to translate a much larger portion of the text.

The Jerusalem Bible was approved for liturgical use in the UK and the USA.

The original printing of the Daily Roman Missal used the Jerusalem Bible for its readings.

New Jerusalem Bible

The New Jerusalem Bible is a revision of the French Jerusalem Bible instead of a revision of the English Jerusalem Bible. It is considered more literal than the Jerusalem but not as literary. Some inclusive language was incorporated where the original text doesn't specifically make the gender clear. It is the most widely used English translation of the Bible outside of the United States.

Approved for Liturgical Use

Until 2002, the Jerusalem, Revised Standard and New American Bibles were approved for liturgical use in the United States. The New Revised Standard Version has been approved for use in Canada.

On May 19th, 2002 the United States Bishops issued a new lectionary based on a revision of the New American Bible which is the only currently approved version in the United States.

Other resources:

Bible font comparison guide.

Bible verse comparison guide.

More Catholic Bible articles.

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