Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Bible Do You Use?

Here is a nice blog: Catholic Bibles. Can't say I'm really a fan of Knox, which they like there, though.

What kind of Bible do you use for your personal study and devotional reading? (You do practice lectio divina, don't you?)

Cue imaginary audience participation segment music.

The Bear can't seem to decide.

For awhile the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) was his favorite, but some of the language seems clunky, like the clinical "sexual intercourse," in Genesis instead of the actual Hebrew "know," which is a rich euphemism for the former. Also the notes can be horrible. The Bear thinks he has mentioned the accusation that Matthew didn't understand Hebrew poetic parallelism, therefore puts Christ riding into Jerusalem on both a colt and a donkey -- at the same time! This is ludicrous, and un-Catholic.  Even so, the Bear has Fireside's nice Rosario edition in the "comfortably-sized" print.

The NABRE is the official Bible of the USCCB, who holds the copyright. You get about what you'd expect.

The Douay-Rheims tugs at his heart because there is just so much Catholic history behind it, and it is untouched by the higher criticism that has sometimes been more destructive than enlightening. Every literate Catholic should own one and it makes a nice change of pace. It slows you down, which isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

For really lingering over verses, there's the Vulgate, if you have a little Latin. What you have to work at can leave a bigger impression. The Douay-Rheims is a translation of the Vulgate, and it is a decent, literal translation originally by saint and scholar Jerome. If you want the full story of Tobit's dog, you'll have to go with the DR or Vulgate.

The Bear keeps returning to the New Revised Standard Version because it is a smooth-reading translation, while remaining accurate. It is approved by the United States Bishops for personal use (along with the NABRE). It is an "inclusive language" translation, which doesn't exactly toot the horn on the Bear's bicycle, but it is not as big of a deal as it sounds.

The Harper Collins Study Bible "including apocryphal and deuterocanonical books" is a good choice. It includes those books accepted by the Orthodox and not by the Catholic Church. The notes are readable, many revealing a slight, unexpected and appreciated "personality." They provide much truly helpful background and explanation. It is what will be on your textbook list if you ever take a college religion course, and is the de facto translation among scholars. The Bear likes it! It is not Smythe sewn, but is a bargain at about forty bucks shipped from Amazon. If you are the rare Catholic that will wear out a Bible in a few years, you can easily replace it.

The only objection the Bear has to this particular edition is that the maps in the text are black and white digital images that have been blown up far larger they their resolution supports. They are functional, but ugly. The maps in the back are full-page color plates, and cover the OT better than the NT.

There is also the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, in both the original and 2nd Edition. The translation is kind of old timey in the first, and updated in the second, but both are good, and especially the 2nd Edition is favored by many more conservative Catholics. There is a study version for the New Testament with contributions from scholars like Scott Hahn, but the Bear has just never found this translation in a format he's comfortable with. The Bear gave his son the small zippered version, and it made it to Afghanistan and back.

The study Bible is just the NT, and really big. There are zippered non-study versions with small print, and red hardbacks with hard, shiny, beige paper that is hard to read. Still, this is the Bible you probably want if traditional language like "hail, full of grace," instead of "hi there, be happy!" or some other novelty is important to you. You can probably find an edition to suit you with some research.

As a guilty pleasure, the Bear really likes the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for its literalness, although it is not a Catholic Bible, and is therefore mutilated. It also puts literalness slightly ahead of readability. Paul's long, long, complex sentences are long and complex. John's simple, short, sentences are simple and short. This might be something you appreciate, or you might prefer to sacrifice literalness for smooth reading and ease of understanding. It is the Bear's Serious Study Bible not only because of the literalness, but because it is keyed to useful resources like Strong's Concordance.

Old reference standbys like Strong's, and Vine's Expository Dictionary, and the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible are pretty neutral when it comes to doctrines. And let's face it: there's not much of a market for Catholic Bible study material. So the Bear makes do. Thompson's, for example, makes it easy to find and follow subjects through the Bible, a fairly neutral exercise.

The old saying is, the best Bible is the Bible you'll use.

Using anything that is not explicitly Catholic, however, falls into the "don't try this at home" category. The Bear cannot recommend it, even if he uses a few volumes because they plug a hole in Catholic resources.


  1. Revised Standard: Catholic Edition on paper, New RSV on iPhone. The HarperCollins sounds interesting - thanks for linking to it.

  2. I'm curious: do you have a preference between the two? (Translations, not media.)

  3. I dislike inclusive language, so the CE is my preference. Not a big deal, though - just an annoyance.

    1. Predictably, I thought I would hate it, too. But I notice it only if I'm looking for it. Stuff like "brothers and sisters" or "one" instead of "he," or instead of "take up his cross and follow me," it has "take up their cross." Nothing what I would call wacky. Like I said, I don't even notice it. St. Paul still tells women to keep their mouths shut in church in the NRSV LOL But the RSVCE is surely a nice version. With zero spiritual support downrange for his whole deployment, I am glad my son had that, at least, but that's another Bear rant entirely.

  4. I have a Jerusalem Bible that I like a lot, partly because it's got a labeled tab at the beginning of each book, making it very easy to find one's way around in :-). There's a sentimental aspect too, as I think the Bible that EWTN's Mother Angelica was always holding in her huge, no-nonsense hands during her show, was the Jerusalem Bible. (The network was instrumental in my conversion.)

    I want to own a Douay-Rheims someday, a gigantic hardcover one suitable for Bible-smiting! :-). (It irks me no end that so many Christians are ignorant of its existence.)

    1. Like this?

      I got a book holder for Fathers Day, and the heretic-smiting sized DR makes a very impressive display. I enjoy Haydock's notes, too. They seem to start with the odd assumption that the Bible is correct and the Catholic Faith is the true religion. Imagine!

    2. Ohhh yeah. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. :-)


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