Which Bible Should I Use? A List of Approved Catholic Translations

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The Holy Bible is the world’s most well-known book, read by billions throughout history and reaching far and wide to every corner of the world. It is also the number one best seller, with five billion plus copies sold and distributed. As Catholics, it is ubiquitous in our daily lives. We read it often at home and in Mass, hold Bible studies, and likely own more than one.

However, the Bibles we know and read today are all English translations, stemming from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek text of the Old and New Testament.

“Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them.” – Code of Canon Law 825§1

To be considered a Catholic Bible, a translation has to both have a nihil obstat (Latin for “nothing hinders” or “nothing stands in the way”), a phrase meaning an official Church certification proclaiming the book is not objectionable on doctrinal or moral grounds, along with an imprimatur (from Latin ‘imprimere’, meaning to “imprint” or “impress.”), a phrase for official approval by clergy, most often the bishop. A translation also have to include the entire Biblical canon.

An additional consideration when choosing a particular translation is the translation technique used: formal versus dynamic equivalence. Formal equivalence, also called word for word, is the most literal and reads as close to the original Hebrew, Koine, and Aramaic text. While this type of version is extremely accurate, it can be more difficult to read. Dynamic equivalence, also called thought for thought, conveys the overall meaning and message of the original while being easier to read. Some translations use a combination of the two techniques, called optimal equivalence. The choice is simply personal preference.

With over one hundred English translations of the Bible available today, how do we know which to use? Here’s a list of approved translations an English-speaking Catholic can choose from in chronological order of publication date.

New American Bible: Revised Edition – 2011 – Optimal Equivalence
Ignatius Bible – 2006 – Formal Equivalence
Good News Bible: Catholic Edition – 1992 – Dynamic Equivalence
New Jerusalem Bible – 1990 – Dynamic Equivalence
New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition – 1989 – Formal Equivalence
Jerusalem Bible – 1966 – Dynamic Equivalence
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition – 1966 – Formal Equivalence
Douay–Rheims Bible – 1582 – Formal Equivalence

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has published their complete list of approved translations, which can be viewed here.

Comments

36 COMMENTS

      • Actually, Mormons are not heretics, at least not any more than Jews or Muslims are. Just using Christian words does not make them Christian, because they attach very different meanings to those words. Santería does much the same thing. The baptisms of Baptists and Lutherans are valid — even the baptisms of Arian heretics were valid — but because the meanings attached to the words by Mormons are so radically different, their baptisms are not valid. Without valid baptism, they are not actually Christians, and only a Christian can be a heretic.

    • That’s like asking, “How do you know the Muslims aren’t the true Buddhists?” The question is short; the answer could take a book; but that doesn’t mean the truth of the matter is anything other than totally obvious!

      How do you know? You figure it out, of course! You do what any dispassionate adult does: You investigate the relevant history and determine whether Group X can offer any plausible “Motives Of Credibility.”

      The Mormons, far from offering “Motives of Credibility,” offer profoundly convincing motives for disregarding them. Likewise the Jehovah Witnesses.

      After eliminating the implausible candidates, two categories of churches remain: The sacerdotal churches which DO remain in communion with the bishop of Rome, and those that DON’T. Each group posits a different theory of how one identifies “the Church Jesus founded,” and each has an organic connection to that original founding verifiable through independent historical sources.

      Those NOT in communion with Rome posit that the True Church is that which retains the true doctrines, and that one must first identify the true doctrines, then find the Church which holds them.

      Those IN communion with Rome posit that the True Church retains the true doctrines in a particular way; to wit, by remaining in communion with the office of the Al Bayith which is the court of final appeal on disputes and which prevents disputes from being resolved erroneously because of a special charism attached to that office. This means that a person need not first identify true doctrines and look for the churches which teach them; one must only find the current officeholder of the role of Al Bayith and locate the churches in communion with that office.

      The difficulty with the first theory is that it requires every Christian to be brilliant enough to choose whether the Assyrian Church of the East is more correct than the Tewahedo Orthodox Church on matters of high Christology, sacramental theology, soteriology, etc., so that he can then figure out which to join. No single theologian is sufficiently error-free to reliably do this; he will inevitably find himself making his best guess and hoping himself correct.

      It is also circular logic: One must figure out all the true doctrines of Christianity in order to find the Church that one can trust to teach you all the true doctrines of Christianity. Whatever church you pick will seem right to you because you picked it on the basis of what seemed right to you. It is like firing an arrow in any direction, painting a big bullseye around wherever it lands, and claiming you hit the target.

      By contrast, the second theory is non-circular, better fits the evidence of Matthew 16 and 18, and makes objective obedience possible. (Obedience to Christ; that is, as opposed to obedience to one’s own best guesses.)

      Consequently there is a way to know what “the true Christianity” is: Rule out pretenders with dispassionate historical analysis, and then rule out the remaining close-call-possible-contenders by eliminating those whose notions of Church authority reduce to absurdity.

      Clear enough?

  1. “An additional consideration when choosing a particular translation is the translation technique used: formal versus dynamic equivalence. Formal equivalence, also called word for word, is the most literal and reads as close to the original Hebrew, Koine, and Aramaic text. While this type of version is extremely accurate.” — we should only be willing to read the accurate.

  2. Catholic bible is abomination, God condemned idol
    Worshippers read teen commandments: Exodus 20:1,5 you should not make any image to worship or any likeness
    Of anything that is in the heavens above,or that is in the earth beneath,or that’s is in the water 💦 under the earth;
    Catholic is a idols worshippers, blasphemer , abomination and their make they own bible “””” the real bible is holly bible…

    • Fredline, have you ever heard the argument that Jesus must either be the Son of God or a bad man … that the one thing he cannot be is a mere “good man”, or even, as the Muslims say, a prophet? The nature of his claims prohibit that alternative. This argument has been used by, among others, C.S. Lewis, so it’s not just a Catholic idea.

      Well, the Catholic Church is just like that. Just as Jesus is either the Son of God or a bad man, the Catholic Church is either the Bride of Christ or the Whore of Babylon, due to the nature of *Her* claims. But then, if the Church is indeed the Body of Christ (as in 1 Corinthians 12, for example), you would expect this kind of similarity; at the very least you should have serious doubts about any supposed church that lacks that kind of similarity to Christ. If you do not yet believe that the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, fine; just remain honest enough not to reject Her because it is easier or less embarrassing to stick with what you have already said, should the Holy Spirit present you with evidence that goes against what you currently think.

      As for idols, I certainly hope you are appalled at the Statue of Liberty, at Mt. Rushmore, and above all at the coins that are probably in your own pocket RIGHT NOW, bearing the graven images of men and/or of an unclean bird of prey. I likewise hope that you would no more give any reverence to a flag flying from a flag pole than to an Asherah pole. If not — if you think that it is impossible to show respect without worshiping the symbol as in idol — you condemn yourself with your own words. If you’re going to join league with the Taliban and ISIS, there are no half measures; but don’t think you are imitating Christ or being any kind of Christian if that they are your models.

    • Fredline,

      Read “teen commandments?” Is that like, “Commandment One: Clean your pimples with Benzoyl Peroxide; Commandment Two: Thou Shalt Not Make Duck Lips In A Selfie?” (I am kidding, of course; but I am not making fun of you. I just found the notion of “teen commandments” amusing.)

      Friend, what you think you know about Catholic Christianity is false. Trust me; I know: I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, was baptized at age eight; and have loved Jesus my whole life. I used to believe the same things about Catholic belief because sincere persons taught me to think those things. They were sincere; they were well-meaning; but they were misinformed.

      To find out what Catholics actually do and believe, it makes sense to ASK A CATHOLIC. But, because Protestants and Catholics sometimes use the same word to mean different things, it is vital to find a person who can “translate” from “Catholic-ese” to “Protestant-ese.”

      For me, the best “translators” were Scott Hahn, Jimmy Akin, John Martignoni’s “Bible Christian Society,” and Dr. David Anders of the radio call-in show “Called to Communion.” Please listen to what these guys have to say; they will show you how misinformed you have been, about Catholicism. (Just as they showed me.)

      Once these guys clarified what Catholics really meant by their odd (to me) use-of-terms, I realized that the world’s billion-and-a-half Catholics were my Christian brothers and sisters. Catholics aren’t idolators (or, if they are, they’re bad Catholics and at risk of excommunication).

      Five hundred years’ separation has caused substantial confusion between Protestants and Catholics, but don’t allow the mistakes of our ancestors to prevent YOU from knowing the truth of the matter.

      • I have returned to Catholicism after similar experiences to what you mentioned. There is more depth to Catholicism than any other Christian religious sect.

    • I too have returned to the Catholic Church which I feel has the best connection to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We do not view the Bible as “God,” nor any of our priests or ‘icons.’ All of our tools are meant to point us towards God, and, as far as I know, we are the only Church to practice what Jesus taught at the Last Supper on a daily basis: holy communion.
      If you seek truth, then seek truth, and do not listen to uninformed people.

      • This is what I have been doing, and everything leads back to Catholicism! I am continuing on in my endeavor, learning more and loving it! Search, research and learn!

  3. It is not enough for a bible to have the imprimatur, etc. There are “ecumenical” translations which are really Protestant. One, for example, taking the Protestant notion that “works” are something bad, systematically makes a distinction between works and “deeds” when in fact the underlying Greek word is the same. Then, where Jesus tells his disciples (before they had received the Holy Spirit) not to call anyone father or teacher, Jesus’ rejection of the word teacher (which was an office in the Apostolic community) is changed to “instructor” though the Greek is the same. Obviously, it would have been ridiculous for Protestants to insist that you call no one “father” when you call other people “teachers” quite tranquilly. In the list of the Apostles, Jude is called “son” of James, when in Jude 1:1 he clearly states that he is the brother of “James” (first Bishop of Jerusalem). All of this helps to hide the fact that the four “brothers” of Jesus are sons of another woman named Mary who is clearly called the Mother of James and Joseph at the crucifixion and is clearly the Aunt of Jesus. This gives an idea of how sly certain Protestant translations are. (It is not just well meaning carelessness.)

  4. To those who want to become acceptable to our Heavenly Father יהוה, read His Word, word by word, using Interlinear or Lexicon (e.g., BibleHub.com or eSword) and then do what He commanded. Stop asking the false shepherds on this earth what The Word means; with a pure heart ask Heavenly Father in our Savior’s precious name to send you His SetApart Spirit to teach you. I was a Roman Catholic for 60 years and then Father had more mercy on me and awakened me to His Word. Five months later after minimal study of a dozen or so verses, Father led me out of spiritual Babylon on the 15th day of Aviv which happened to be Catholic good Friday.

    • Vivian,

      It is very good that you are now reading the Bible. But, there are somethings in your statements that contradict your attack against the Catholic Church. You have now declared that you will not listen to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, as you have now declared yourself to be Pope.

      Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, declared that Peter would be His Vicar. Jesus also specifically prayed for Peter that he would be strong.

      Buy a Catholic Catechism and read what the Catholic position is on many subjects. Being a Catholic for 60 years, it may be that you were not properly catechized or you were not paying attention. Look very closely at the Bible versus that speak about the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In His own words He declared, Take and eat for this IS My Body. Take and drink for this IS My Blood.

      Jesus Christ founded and left us a Church. He prayed that all would be one. Search for the Truth and don’t quit before you find it.

  5. “Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See”

    Speaking about Apostolic, why the church has not 12 apostles as Christ stablished? (When Judas commited suicide, the apostles chose another one to complete the 12)

    Also, why the baptism doesn’t follow the definition of the word “baptism” (from the Greek, imersion)?

    Finally, Christ was presented in the temple as a baby. Why he was not baptized as a baby? Should we follow his example and be baptized only when you can decide your own acts?

    • Christ was born into a Jewish family, and his parents obeyed the Jewish laws. I’m assuming you know that there was not anything called a “Christian” until after Christ’s death … ?
      I think you should ask a priest or deacon your questions – someone who is well-qualified to answer them.

  6. Vivian, Jesus said you had to eat his flesh and drink his blood or there is no life in you. Jews were reading God’s word just fine before Jesus came, and yet they were not acceptable to the Father. You say read God’s word the way you do and then we will be acceptable to the Father, where is that in the Bible? I’m sure you mean the New Testament, which is a collection of writings put together in history by Catholic bishops who assumed they had the authority to call them sacred and choose which ones belonged to Christianity as sacred scripture. You stand on top of them and their authority as a foundation when you read the New Testament as God’s Word. Then you call that same authority false.

  7. Missing from the lists are the versions which were approved by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Great Britain which are available in the British Commonwealth which include: The so-called Challoner Rheims Revision, the Westminster Version, Spencer New Testament, The Confraternity Bible, The Kleist Lilly New Testament, Revised Standard Second Catholic Edition, The Knox Version, The Living Bible Catholic Edition, Christian Community Bible, Catholic Truth Society New Catholic Bible, and the Revised New Jerusalem Bible.

    Of course parts of the Authorized Version (The so-called King James Version) has been authorized for private and liturgical use by the faithful and clergy of the Anglican Ordinariate by the Holy See.

  8. Why is there a litmus test for reading the “approved” Bible? When I was an altar boy I could not find an “approved” Bible in my church. Actually, there were no Bibles in the church and the Nuns never referred to the Bible at release time. I was first acquainted with my good friend’s “King James” version which was in abundance in his church, St. James Methodist. Also, I could not find a litmus test.

  9. I have a copy of “The New Catholic Study Bible, St. Jerome Edition” the spine of the bible also says “Today’s English Version”, it was published in 1985. The USCCB’s list has a Good News Translation (Today’s English Version, Second Edition). Your list has Good News Bible: Catholic Edition – 1992. Do you know what type of translation my 1985 bible uses?

  10. Fredline December 18, 2017 at 11:33 pm
    “Catholic bible is abomination….Catholic is a idols worshippers, blasphemer , abomination and their make they own bible “””” the real bible is holly bible…”
    How very strange that “Fredline” does not know that it is Christ’s Catholic (which means universal) Church which gave us the Sacred Scriptures – without the Catholic Church he would have nothing.
    Christ gave us His Church “You are Peter and on the Rock I shall build My Church.”
    [Matt. 16:18].

    This is how we have the Bible:
    The “Bible” was given to the world by the Catholic Church. The New Testament was written by Catholics; the Gospels before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
    The books that actually are declared the inspired Word of God were decided by Pope Damasus at a Council of Rome in 382, confirmed at the Councils of Hippo, 393, Carthage III 397, Carthage IV in 419 and canonised at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) — 46 books in the Old Testament, 27 books in the New Testament.

    • I find it odd that so many who claim to be Christians seem to have no idea that the Bible was painstakingly written – by hand – by monks and other Catholics – and that is the Bible that eventually was taken to the printing press which did not exist until 1439 invented by Gutenburg. Martin Luther in 1517 was to become the first to break from the Catholic Church.
      Oddly enough, there was always a lot of arguing within the Catholic Church, but without “divorcing” as it were. The most learned men on scripture and history disagree about many details when interpreting history and the Bible.
      I for one returned to the Catholic Church believing the very best minds throughout the centuries had the best intentions in staying true to he message of Christ. I have been spending most of my time supporting myself and haven’t had time to become a PhD in history or Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic (the original languages of the Bible). I concluded that I must trust somebody to fill in all the blanks for me …

  11. There is also the Confraternity Version of the Holy Bible, which was used from 1941 up to the use of the New American Bible in the liturgy.

    The version of the book of psalms used today for the Holy Mass is more or less the same as the one from the Confraternity Version.

  12. I would note that while “dynamic equivalence” may have some catechetical value, formal translation is preferred by bible scholars for its representation of the events and times as they were. When reliance is placed on equivalent sense in contemporary language, meaning and sense changes with changes in language. Cubits and shekels may sound quaint and servants are different from slaves or employees. It is also much more instructive to present the translated ancient texts and then explain them so that one can appreciate the tenor of the times. Some modern translations, despite the nihil obstat, simply do not promote the original textual meaning.

  13. I bought the The New Catholic Answer Bible for my fallen away from the church adult son. I liked it so much, I bought one for myself. An excellent Bible! And highly recommend. The inserts pages, like “Why do Catholics pray for the dead” have a 1 page explanation with ALL the Catechism reference #s. Highly recommend.

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