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Bible Versions
Question from Drew on 1/31/2001:

I am currently in RCIA (convert from Protestantism), and I feel a bit out of place due to the fact that I have a New American Standard Bible (a Protestant version.). I have long been considering getting a Catholic Bible, but I do not know what versions are doctrinally pure. I have seen a version called "Jerusalem/New Jerusalem" Bible in some bookstores. Is it ok, and is it the version read in Mass? If not, what other versions are condoned?

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 2/4/2001:

The following English version bibles have been approved by the Church for use by Catholics:

The Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (RSV - CE) Look for the Catholic Edition

The Jerusalem Bible (JB)

The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) (never approved for use in the Liturgy in the United States)

The New American Bible (NAB)

The Douay-Rheims Bible (DR)

With regards to the New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha (NRSV) I know that the Vatican refused to approve this text for liturgical use and I did not discover an imprimatur in my edition of this Bible. Personally, I do not recommend the NRSV, in part for its attempt to be “inclusive” which I regard as act of violence against the integrity of God’s Word. To a lesser degree, the NJB does the same, though I do like the study notes of the study edition of this translation.

In addition, there is a paraphrase approved known as the Good News Bible with Apocrypha, but I do not recommend paraphrases since they do not accurately render the original texts. I hope that I have not left out any Bible, but these are the principal versions available today (the "Living Bible" is another paraphrase, and I do not recommend it). The NAB has been the most widely used and available but in my opinion, this is not due to any intrinsic value as to the translation itself. The approval of the Church does not necessarily mean that the translation is of high quality but that there does not appear to be anything standing in the way as to matters of faith and doctrine. I am not a fan of the NAB, especially in the current edition which subscribes to “inclusive language.”

I will offer my opinion as to which to use: the RSV for its text and the JB for its study notes and format. I also like the Douay-Rheims for its text and use of the Vulgate, even given certain textual limitations in light of advances in this regard. I am anxiously awaiting the publication of the RSV in a new format, a project currently underway by Ignatius Press which involves Dr. Scott Hahn The Gospel of St. Matthew is currently available, with extensive study notes. Once the entire Bible is available, this is likely to be my recommended version and edition. By the way, the JB is now available through EWTN and the RSV is available through Ignatius Press (but not yet in its new format).

As to the NAB, I do not care for the currently available version of this translation, nor have I ever regarded it as a good translation. To quote one of my scholarly graduate professors at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, “Not a good translation.” And to quote another professor of the same Institute, upon learning that a revision was in process, “That’s too bad.” The most recent revision attempts to be “inclusive” in its language, which is a departure from the language of the original text. Also, I have regarded the prose of the NAB as sometimes substandard and some of the footnotes as ambivalent and even misleading. I do not recommend this text as a first or even second choice, but perhaps useful as a comparative text in light of other versions which are more faithful to the original and more eloquent in the English.

I have probably confused you with so many qualifications, but there is not at present a single translation that perfectly satisfies me. ©

Thanks, Drew

Father Echert

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