Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bibles for Catholics Part 2

Part 2 in Bibles for Catholics

Current Choices

If you're Catholic in the U.S., there is the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE), owned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It's actually pretty good, but does hit you with the occasional clunker. It is what most American Catholics who read the Bible read.

The NABRE's notes have some real problems, however, since they reflect the modern critical method. The inspired evangelist St. Matthew is accused of making a dumb mistake in 21:7, where the USCCB thinks he has Jesus riding into Jerusalem with one foot on a colt and the other on a donkey like a circus rider. Yes, the official Bible of the Church in America says the inspired text is wrong about Palm Sunday. Why? Perhaps St. Matthew was a Gentile and didn't understand parallelism in Hebrew poetry, and so made a mistake when he tried to make Jesus' entry fit the prophecy, they suggest.*

If you are mature enough in your faith to handle the occasional Modernist note, the NABRE is a good choice. It is what the Shepherdess uses here at Zoar, and the Bear occasionally.

The Douay Rheims retains a small but fanatical following, and remains a legitimate choice if you don't mind a few odd words. ("Reins," or kidneys, means the inner person, as in "heart.") There is nothing to offend pious readers, though and it really isn't hard to read after you get use to it. It also retains bits that modern translators have decided lack authenticity and have therefore eliminated. The Dog in Tobias (Tobit) has a small but charming role in the DR, for example. It is great for avoiding any taint of Modernism, and ideal for reading and memorizing.

The Bear has a couple DRs, both very nice. The St. Benedict Press one is a handy size. The Bear heavily annotates and highlights his copy. (Special gel or crayon dry markers avoid bleed through, and a fine mechanical pencil is handy.)

The other is a beautiful, big DR with Haydock's commentary. It is from Catholic Treasures, and is a reproduction of a large Bible published when Pius IX was Pope, before Modernism and Political Correctness spoiled all the fun of being a part of the One True Church. It's a real joy to own and use, and counts as weight lifting.

The New Revised Standard Version (NSRV) is the latest in the line of KJV Bibles. It is favored by academia, mainline Protestant communities like the Lutherans, and those who want inclusive language. The USCCB authorized the Catholic Edition for private study. You may be surprised to learn that the Bear is actually fond of this version. It reads well, and the inclusive language is not intrusive. Things like "brothers and sisters," instead of "brethren." The Harper Collins Study Bible with "Apocrypha" is good for scholarly use, and the copious notes are interesting and useful in that vein.

There are also the excellent Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE) and RSVCE 2nd. The latter gets rid of thees and thous and makes some minor improvements, but either one is a fine choice. This Bible is favored by many conservative Catholics, and Ignatius has published a fantastic New Testament study Bible. You will not find evangelists called confabulating dunderheads in this one!

The Navarre Bible is also a good conservative choice that uses the RSVCE, with much longer notes of a more devotional nature. It has a decidedly Opus Dei vibe to it, which the Bear happens to like, and many notes include quite from St. Josemaria Escrivá. (It is pricey, but well worth it.)

All of the above are available for Logos software, if you like electronic solutions.

What About Protestant Bibles?

In a word, no. The translations are often biased toward Protestant notions like sola fide, or chiliasm The notes are even worse (although when it comes to study Bibles Protestants are light years ahead of us).  Even if it looks okay, you are still running the grave risk of having your Catholic sensus fidei corrupted. And, of course, you will be missing some books of the real canon!

The Bear does enjoy one old Protestant favorite: the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. It links concepts by assigned numbers to them, making it easy to follow threads through the Bible and find related verses. It also comes with extensive maps and study aids. Plus, it is available in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1977 version. This is a superior translation for serious study because it is more faithful to the text, even if it sometimes means the occasional less than felicitous phrase.

The Bear likes his a lot, but cannot in good conscience recommend a non-Catholic Bible to others, for the reasons stated above. If you're an amateur scholar and secure in your Catholic Faith, you might find useful tools in the Heresophere.

All the Bibles you could want may be found at Biblia.com, a service of Logos. It even has the Vulgate!

The old saying goes: the best Bible is the Bible you will read! The Bear loves reading the Bible. He goes to sleep reading it, and he wakes up to read it. He takes one everywhere he goes. He memorizes favorite verses. St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."

And, should the Bavarian Bible Bear visit you, it just might save your life. (Just kidding. Actually, no, the Bear Bavarian Bible Bear will kill you. Don't be another tragic victim of his misguided zeal. Know your Scripture!)

*The Apologetics Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2007, resolves the problem this way. It makes much more sense than to imagine St. Matthew being oblivious to an absurdity in a story he was embellishing with scriptural allusions. 

The inseparability of a donkey and its colt was proverbial in Judaism, and here the mother apparently accompanied the unbroken colt on its first ride to keep it calm. Matthew noted both animals because of the nice parallelism with the prophecy of Zec 9:9 (two animals are mentioned: the colt and the female donkey of whom it is the son), though he doubtless understood that only one animal was indicated as being ridden there and intended his readers to understand that it was upon the colt that Jesus actually rode. Mark and Luke referred only to the colt since it was the animal ridden and since they made no mention of the prophecy.


  1. I'd also put in a good word for Msgr. Ronald Knox's translation (aka The Knox Bible), which often soars with literary beauty, particularly the prophetic books, and was used for a short while in England for Mass readings in the vernacular. He also renders the psalms in prose form, and even manages to recover the original acrostic format of some of them. Based on St. Jerome's Vulgate with assistance from the Greek and Hebrew texts, Knox seems not to be the most precise of translations, and I sometimes struggle with his translations of the Epistles, but it is my primary bible for devotional reading.

    For precision (as with the abovementioned Epistles), I use the Ignatius RSV-2CE, which is excellent.

  2. I don't have Knox; people seem to love it or hate it. My problem is I like too many translations to settle on just one. I am trying to discipline myself to the NASB because of its accuracy. I also like the verses separate, rather than in paragraph. I use the RSVCE2d also, and for the deuterocanonical books. I have found using multiple translations for reading and study to be a mixed blessing, which is why I am trying to limit myself. The clincher for the NASB was the Thompson Chain Reference Bible.I know it isn't Catholic, but it is so doggon useful.


Moderation is On.

Featured Post

Judging Angels Chapter 1 Read by Author

Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...