The Breakdown on Bible Translations


The Bible, as we all know, is the most popular book throughout history. The Bible has has been translated into more languages than any other book. Furthermore, the Bible is a composition of writings, letters, and other books which means that as older and more accurate copies of those texts emerge so must new Biblical translations emerge as well. The problem comes down to this:

Every Catholic Christian needs a Bible and there are numerous Bible translations so which one should you have?

Well the biblical translations out there numbers over a dozen. This might seem like a daunting task to choose the right one out of all of these. But luckily, Catholics can eliminate some of these right off the bat because they lack the apocrypha and are not approved by the Catholic Church. This leaves us with the following translations from which to choose from: Douay-Rheims, Revised Standard Version (RSV), Navarre Bible, New American Bible (NAB), New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE), New Jerusalem Bible, and Good News Bible.

That’s still a lot of translations to try and choose from but you might be surprised at how different each one is from one another. I have done some research into each bible translation myself so that I can choose the right one for me and I thought I would share my findings with you.


From 1749-1752 A.D the Latin Vulgate Bible, which was translated from the Old Testament in 1546 by St. Jerome, was revised by Bishop Challoner and, after careful comparison, it became the Douay-Rheims Bible. To this day it is considered the most beautiful and accurate English translation of the Bible. The rich tradition of the Douay-Rheims makes it ideal for Catholics who enjoy history, as well as a more classical writing style. Latin Missals commonly use this Bible translation.

Sample text: John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”

Revised Standard Version (RSV):

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) or Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition (RSV-CE), also known as the Ignatius Bible was completed in 1966 and is based on the 1962 printing of the Protestant RSV. In 2006, after negotiations with the National Council of Churches, Ignatius Press printed a second edition of the RSV. This version replaced the archaic language with modern words and included some revisions requested by the Vatican. The modern language and informative commentary notes make the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition popular among Catholics with an interest in studying the Bible.

Sample Text: John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Navarre Bible:

Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, began a project to combine texts from both the Revised Standard Version and the Latin Vulgate Bible into one, the Navarre Bible. Put together by faculty at the University of Navarre in Spain, this Bible includes explanations and commentaries on biblical passages making it ideal for Bible studies. Typically, the Navarre Bible has been published in separate volumes, but one can also obtain the New Testament in either a single compact volume or a larger volume. Due to its limited space, the compact version omits the Vulgate text, and simplifies the commentaries. The larger New Testament volume allows room for the Vulgate, as well as longer and more detailed commentaries. Using Church documents, papers written by Early Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as modern spiritual writers, the faculty at Navarre provided intellectual, and historical insight to the commentaries. The Navarre Bible is considered one of the best Catholic commentaries.

Sample Text: John 3:16 (RSV sample text featured above)

New Vulgate: “sic enim dilexit Deus mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat sed habeat vitam aeternam”

New American Bible:

The New American Bible, originally published in 1970, evolved from the Confraternity Bible. The American bishops disliked this version and, in 1986, proceeded to re-translate the New Testament and publish a new version. The Vatican did not approve of the inclusive language in this translation and had the scriptural portions revised so that it could still be used in the liturgy. The bishops then updated the NAB to the Revised New American Bible (RNAB), but the Vatican disagreed with the changes and made corrections. This final version became the Amended Revised New American Bible (ARNAB) and is one of the three translations approved for Catholic liturgical use. One of the easiest versions of the Bible to understand, the New American Bible is perfect for everyday use. For this reason, it is especially popular among Catholic students and those who are new to reading the Bible.

Sample Text: John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

New American Bible Revised Edition:

The New American Bible Revised Edition includes the 1986 edition of the New Testament and a Revised version of the Old Testament which was finished in 2001. This work, in its completion, took over 20 years to be completed by nearly 100 theologians and scholars which included bishops, revisers, and editors. The New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) was sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

Sample Text: John 3:16 (Same as NAB sample featured above)

New Jerusalem Bible:

The New Jerusalem Bible is the 1990 version of the Jerusalem Bible of 1966. It is based on the French edition translated by the Dominicans of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, who used the original languages. It is a very literary text and is the most commonly used Bible translation outside of the United States.

Sample Text: John 3:16

“For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Good News Bible:

The Good News Bible was first published in 1976 by the American Bible Society. The Good News Bible is written in plain simple English and is often times recommended for those learning English. The Good News Catholic Bible is popular as a bilingual Spanish/English Bible.

Sample Text: John 3:16

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”

I learned that all of the Catholic Bible Translations out their serve a different purpose and come with different benefits. And not all translations are suitable for all people. Bible translations are far from one size fits all. Hopefully this blog post has helped you as much as writing it has helped me to discover which translation is suitable to my needs and the needs of my family. For myself I choose the Revised Standard Version for its commentary which is especially helpful in my understanding of the Bible. Good Luck finding the Bible that suites you!

Copyright 2011 Kathleen Wellman


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  1. Why would a Catholic website use the term “apocrypha” for the books of Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to Esther and Daniel?

  2. Indeed, ‘apocrypha’ is wrong and casts doubt on the worth of the post. I think we’d all be better off looking at English versions of the Douay-Rheims version anyway, and leaving it at that. Also, if you ever want something sonorous, grab the old KJV. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

  3. The DR section is wrong. The original DR was in the 1500s. The Challoner revision was in the late 1700’s and is what you usually find today sold as the DR though it’s quite different. But St Jerome did the Vulgate in the 400s, roughly.

  4. “we’d all be better off looking at English versions of the Douay-Rheims version anyway, and leaving it at that.”

    Of course then we’d be denied the benefit of the vast increase in knowledge about the earliest manuscripts since the last revision of the DR. I happen to love and use the translation for devotions, but it’s out of date now in terms of accuracy.

  5. ST. Jerome translated the bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin in the 5th century, which became the Vulgate. The original Douay Rheims was published in English, New Testament I believe at the end of the 1500’s and the Old Testament in very early 1600’s. Then it was revised by Bishop Challoner in the 1700’s to retranslate some of the archaic language and make it more readable for people.

  6. A very useful site is:

    Makes it easy to check English vs. Greek or Hebrew.

    I contend that one can avail oneself of advances in knowledge of the MSS without subjecting oneself to the paltry English of the new translations.


    KJV: “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

    NAB: Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.”

    NJB: “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go away, and from this moment sin no more.”

    Good News: “Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

  7. It is a shame that with the revised liturgy coming up in November that the litergy of the word will still come the NAB; complete with “Hail, favorite one!”, and other abominations. This is like putting butter in the cake and Crisco in the icing.

  8. We have devolved in these post Doauy Rheems version to the same degree the Protestant, here I thought being Catholic meant we all read from the same Bible, the one I cut my teeth on. This may cause dissension Catholics are better than this, these superfluous version accomplish nothing but created confusion as Catholic have now no consistency to belief. This post was enlightening but also sad that Catholics and Her rich tradition of faith has as Luther was so fond, changing how we read what we also believe to be absolute, this is a disappointment.
    Sic Transit Gloria

  9. Nicholas Rabiipour on

    The term “Apocrypha” is an accepted catholic term refering to those books which are not present in the Protestant Bible. This term emerged out the reformation as well as the term “deuterocanonical.” Other apocryphal books exist outside of the Apocrypha but the deuterocanonical books refers strictly to the Apocrypha. The apocrypha was originally rejected by St. Jerome when translating the Bible into Latin because no Hebrew version of the texts could be found although they were present in Greek in the Septuagint.

  10. No, Nicholas, you have things backwards and incomplete. The Catholic Church does not traditionally allow the term ‘apocryphal’ to be applied to books such as Tobit and I Maccabees. It is a contention of the so-called “reformers” that these should be considered apocryphal, along with books such as III Maccabees which have always been treated as uncanonical. This article is a good beginning:

    In any case, using the term ‘apocryphal’ to refer to any books in the Catholic (and Orthodox) canon is either sloppy or erroneous.

  11. It’s probably been noted above something by “Navarre Bible” is not a “translation” and should not be listed as one. It does include the Latin of the New Vulgate separately from the RSV-CE translation and the Navarre study notes but in no way is the Navarre a reworking of sacred texts to form a new translation. Calling it a translation only further confuses the already confused Catholic populace. 🙂

    It should indeed be included in your post on worthy Catholic editions of the Bible though as the Navarre study notes that accompany the RSV-CE (Catholic Edition) translation within its pages are excellent.

    The inappropriate usage of the term “Apocrypha” –over Deuterocanonical for seven O.T. books which the Catholic Church considers canonical– on a Catholic site discussing Catholic bibles has been well discussed above so I happily leave that one alone.

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