Jul 15, 2005

Choosing a Bible

Online Edition – July-August 2005

Vol. XI, No. 5

Letter to the Editor:

Choosing a Bible

There seem to be so many Bibles considered acceptable, I cannot help but wonder what is the one we should rely on for a true translation into English.

Your recommendation would be appreciated.
Thomas Fitzsimmons
Modesto, California


Choosing among the many contemporary English translations of the Bible presents a challenge — and this is complicated by the fact that some of these are seriously flawed. Some versions are ideologically influenced and committed to radical “inclusive” language. Some also include notes and “study helps” that are unreliable.

The traditional “Catholic Bible” in English was the Douay-Rheims version. The Old Testament was first published by the English College at Douai, France, in 1610, and the New Testament was published by the English College at Rheims in 1582. The whole translation, based on the Latin Vulgate, was later revised by Bishop Richard Challoner in 1749-1752.

Although the “Douay” is no longer approved for use in Catholic worship, largely because of recent biblical research and scholarship, it is part of our Catholic heritage, and is still worth having as a “traditional-language” text used by Catholics for more than two centuries.

The modern Bible translation regarded as the most accurate by most reliable scholars is the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (1966), and is now available from both Ignatius Press and Scepter Press (Opus Dei). This is the version we recommend for study.

The Jerusalem Bible (1968) was reprinted by Doubleday in 2000 and is preferred by some.

All the other contemporary Catholic versions now available in English are flawed in varying degrees by the use of unacceptable translation principles. Among these are the New Revised Standard Version, the New Jerusalem Bible, and the Revised New American Bible [RNAB].

The New American Bible (1970) was adopted by the US bishops for use in the Lectionary. However, the revised Lectionary in use in US churches today incorporates RNAB texts, and it required correction before it could be approved for use in the liturgy. There is no complete Bible that “matches” the Lectionary. And the complete New American Bible now includes the defective Revised Psalter (1991) that was rejected by the Holy See for the Lectionary, and the Revised New Testament (1986) that also required correction. (The Lectionary is about to undergo a review, as we reported in AB June 2005 — “New Lectionary Review Process Reveals ‘Inclusivizing’ Influence — Again”.)

It would be highly desirable, as Liturgiam authenticam suggested, if there were a single sound English translation of the entire Bible that could be used by all the English-speaking countries for the Divine Office, Lectionaries and catechisms.

In addition to other problems, the impediment to memory of having so many varied Scripture translations in use for worship and for study is serious, indeed. In recent years, many bishops have become aware of the situation as has, the Vatican. But it will probably be a long time before this difficulty is overcome.



The Editors