Bible Translations

by Jimmy Akin

in Bible

A correspondent writes:

Hello. I have recenently become facinated with the Bible and Different translations and history. I was born into a very Catholic family, and I am soon to be confirmed (next year). I am just beginning to understand my faith, and I love it.
However, I grew up with a NIV Bible. I know I know…Im looking to get a new one. I was thinking about the Douay-Rheims, because I am really interested in studying the bible, and Old English is something that has always come easy for me. I have done so much research on the net reguarding different versions. Another Version that had me really interested was the New Jerusalem Bible. Then I came across your Article, and it kinda burst my bubble as far as wanting to get the NJB. At first, it seems like it would be a great bible for study (ISBN:0385142641) – But then your article, is very strong in saying that is a very dynamic bible.
I am looking to get a good Bible that I can read everyday, understand, and study with at the same time. I need help James. I respect you alot, and I would really like it if sometime you had a moment to respond to this email, with maybe some advice or something. Thank you so much. God Bless.

I generally recommend the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (RSV:CE), which is available under several imprints, one of them being The Ignatius Bible. It is a literal translation, making it suitable for Bible study, and it is a modern translation, making it easier to read. It also has all the books of the canon in it. These are the three big assets one wants for a regular reading/study Bible. The only significant problem with it is that it doesn’t have extensive study notes, but then given the low quality of study notes in many Catholic Bibles today, this may be a blessing.

There are Catholic series that have the RSV:CE text paired with extensive and conservatively-oriented study notes (e.g., the Navarre Bible, the Ignatius Study Bible), but these series are not yet complete and thus are not available with the whole Bible in a single volume.

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jamie July 9, 2004 at 7:48 am

I’m with you 100% on this, Jimmy. And the article linked above helped me a great deal years ago when searching for a Catholic translation. I actually use a form of the NIV for ‘devotional’ reading (because of the footnotes – unlike Catholic versions, the footnotes of Evangelical translations actually PROMOTE piety), and the RSV for study (because of the text). I eagerly await the completion of the Ignatius and Navarre Bibles, although I may never be able to purchase them because of the cost. The best possible outcome would be a single or even a double-volume edition of either, though this may be impossible.

Mia Storm July 9, 2004 at 9:15 am

Another significant problem with the Ignatius Bible is that it is not printed in a reader-friendly format. I like the New American for devotional reading and for skimming to find a needed verse because one of its strengths is that it is well-organized and easy to read. I only use the RSV:CE if I need an authoritative translation. I wish the Ignatius Bible would be reprinted in a format similar to the NAB’s.

Mike Roesch July 9, 2004 at 11:15 am

What is your opinion of the original Jerusalem Bible? I noticed that it’s not mentioned in your article.

Francis DS July 9, 2004 at 2:32 pm

Many people find the NJB very satisfying for daily reading and for study. The notes and cross-references are often more helpful than those in the Ignatius (too sparse) and the NAB (too liberal?).
It’s not a good reason to drop a translation simply because it’s a ‘dynamic’ translation, as if such translations have something in them to be avoided.
One point of having a literal translation is to have a starting point from which you can arrive at your own personal dynamic interpretation. Once you arrive at that, you need a dynamic translation to compare with what you arrived at.
Some translations are more dynamic than others. Jimmy Akin didn’t mention any reason why he classified the NJB as among the ‘very dynamic’ translations — too ‘English’?

beng July 9, 2004 at 6:03 pm

I have a slight problem with RSV having “deaconess” in Rom 16:1. It gives the idea of a female deacon. Although it really meant “servant”

Bill Logan February 28, 2005 at 9:11 am

I was also a bit puzzled by the NJB and REB being lablled as “very dynamic.” The label lumps them in with the TEV/CEV, and they’re not like those two at all. The REB is a great improvement over the NEB.

Wayne April 13, 2005 at 4:19 pm

It’s nice to see another blog seriously dealing with questions about English Bible versions. I have been studying them for many years and have posted a fair amount of info on the Internet from my studies. My latest project is the Better Bibles Blog at

Lance G Byzantine Catholic December 21, 2005 at 8:22 am

I have read Jimmy’s article, and do indeed enjoy using the RSVCE. But as a Byzantine Catholic, I also like the New King James version, which is my first string bible, and which is the version used in the Orthodox Study Bible (NT & Psalms only at this point). We Byzantines are almost the same as Eastern Orthodox in our worship and theological expression, but we are Catholic, in union with Rome, and sharing the same faith as Roman Catholics. The Byzantine Text and the Greek Septuagint have occupied a similar position to the Latin Vulgate in the West for Eastern Christians, which is why we use the NKJV, which is based on the Byzantine Text. In 2006, a complete version of the Orthodox Study Bible will be out, starting with the NKJV as a boiler plate, but making changes in translation to reflect the Septuagint readings and adding the deuterocanon. The Orthodox Study Bible gives traditional interpretations of the Mary and the Sacraments, authorship and dates of the biblical books. So it is more small “o” orthodox as well compared to the official Catholic Versions.

Michael Dunphy February 24, 2006 at 10:53 pm

The Orthodox Study Bible may be more orthodox than certain Catholic versions, but anyone considering purchasing it may want to read these reviews first:

Lee September 19, 2006 at 11:45 am

I was curious as to why the RSV-CE translates Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a YOUNG WOMAN shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel…” (emphasis mine)when even the KJV translates it as “virgin”…?

OrthodoxWay1 February 21, 2008 at 1:28 pm

The english Bible versions that say, “Behold, a young woman shall conceive” are translating from the Hebrew text of scripture which says “young woman”. The Bibles that have it as “virgin” instead of “young woman” are translated from the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. By the way, to use “virgin” is more accurate, because it speaks of the prophecy concerning the virgin birth in Isaiah. Jesus, His Disciples, and almost all of the Jews living in Israel in the time of Christ where using the Greek text (the Septuagint), not the Hebrew. Almost every quote from the old testament in the new testament is taken directly from the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Text! Hence, the writters of the new testament and all the early christians for that matter used the Septuagint.

deusdonat February 21, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Orthodoxy, Well said! Too many Protestant and new-age heretics like to point at “new” translations of the Hebrew texts to attempt to justify their “startling new revelations” about scripture. The whole “young lass” vs “virgin” translation issue is a non sequitor, since it does not change the fact that the Theotokos was and remained a virgin before and after Christ’s birth.
Thanks for the insight here.

David De La Torre April 17, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I would recommend the original Jerusalem Bible, but not the reader’s edition.
The complete edition that can be bought on ebay or amazon, this edition has great study foot notes.
When i first read it i was surprised to find that the notes have a very strong catholic interpretation unlike the NAB’s notes. I love the fact that it calls the Q gospel hypothesis unlikely and defends the traditional view. The notes are much more detailed w tons of cross references especially in Romans. When i checked out the old testament notes i did see a that the commentary favored the documentary hypothesis theory for the pentateuch but doesnt go to the extreme stating that Moses only wrote very little. When it comes to the ta ta ta tahhh traditional verses it is a little different. For example in Luke 1:28 the JB reads ” Rejoice, So Highly favored!, the Lord is with you, the notes state the following: The translation Rejoice may be preferred to Hail and regarded as containing a messianic reference, cf Zechariah 9:9 “so highly favored” ie as to become the mother of the messiah. Add ‘Of all women you are the most blessed.
In conclusion, i must say that i love the Jerusalem Bible. I am a revert and have looked over the RSV, NAB, NJB, Confraternity, Douay, Knox, GNB, and Community Christian bible (catholic) and found that they all lack either notes(RSV), translation that is sort of good(Knox), hard to read translation w good notes (douay), so so translation w not so good notes (NAB), fluffy translation (GNB). I wanted balance, this is exactly what i found in the JB. I know our current holy father dislikes the translation of the tetragrammation, but this bible will be for your own edification and not for liturgical reading as our holy father would disagree w the latter. I know that there is a Jerusalem bible available w the name Lord instead of YHWH in UK and will soon be the standard in the european liturgy.

Sleeping Beastly April 18, 2008 at 8:35 am

My inner ear has always enjoyed verses from the King James Version. Is there a reason I should avoid it? I know it was published under the C of E, but will that necessarily make for a heretical translation? I’m not aware of any doctrines on which the C of E differed from the Catholic Church at the time of translation, apart from the nature of the papacy.

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