Are Catholics forbidden to read non-catholic Bible?

Hello, I have my old confraternity version of the Bible [perhaps printed on Vatican I]. On its preliminary pages wherein the introduction of the canon of the Bible, its difference with the Protestant version, along with them, it states that Catholics are forbidden to read non-catholic translation of the Scriptures.

Now that we are in the era of Vatican II, is that prohibition still binding? Thanks. :slight_smile:

No, we’re not forbidden to read them. We do have to be aware that we are reading a non-Catholic Bible and that it might have doctrinally suspect aspects to the translation, as well as parts missing. Also if you’re shaky in your Catholic faith, you should avoid Protestant everything.

For devotional purposes, it’s usually better to get a Catholic Bible, as it’s more correct and complete. But if you only have access to a Protestant Bible or if there is some reason you’re reading the Protestant Bible (like it’s a family heirloom) and it’s not adversely affecting your Catholic faith, then you can use the Protestant Bible. For scholarly purposes, you can read all kinds of Bibles.


Wow! Thank you Tis for answering! God bless!

Just so you know, the old canon law from early 1900s actually said if somebody gave a Catholic a Protestant Bible, the Catholic should give it to his priest to be burned. There are some Catholics out there who still believe that. I don’t go around buying Protestant Bibles, but I have three of them from my deceased husband and his relatives as he was Presbyterian, and I do not intend to burn them even though I generally do not read them and instead read the NABRE at the Vatican website. I consider them family heirlooms.


Fortunately, no. I love the ESV!


We are not forbidden. But it should be noted that there are books included in the Catholic Bible that are not in other bibles.


My question is, why would you bother? No matter what, they’re incomplete representations of God’s revelation. It’s like picking up a book with chapter missing, you’re not going to get the whole story.


Well, the problem here is that the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek. While if you are simply reading a regular catholic translation might be good enough, to dig deeper to get closer to the original meaning you should either learn Hebrew/Greek or consult a variety of translations as each will translate a text slightly differently. I have several Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish Bibles (along with many Catholic versions) both in English and French. When studying, I might read the same text in several of them. But I always check on Catholic notes on the text as I do not want to fall into the “personal interpretation” trap.


Your argument is kind of like, why ever attend a church service at a protestant church, since it is not a Catholic service.
I attend Mass on a regular basis, but I have attended weddings, funerals, and other services at other churches. These folks are our Christian brothers.
When we give glory to God, it is a great thing! :pray::pray::pray:


Um… yeah… I would make that argument. I’ve only been to two protestant services in my life, and don’t intend to go to any more, barring funeral services or weddings. I find nothing useful in them, as they lack the central focus of the liturgy, the Eucharist.

I can recognize them as my Christian brothers while also seeing their liturgy as fairly useless…

I’m not trying to be mean, just stating my views. To me, it just seems like a waste of time.


I would agree… After spending decades in Protestant circles, I would limit my visits to Funerals and weddings… While I consider them brothers in Christ, I just don’t think they get the whole picture.


Even if we’re no longer forbidden from doing so, I would only read Protestant Bibles for research, comparison between translations, or similar purposes. Holding onto one as a family heirloom is understandable. It would be ill-advised to use a Protestant Bible for daily reading is all.

The only Protestant Bible I own at the moment is my old KJV 1611. While the version itself is an interesting piece of history that I’ll likely hold onto (not burn or throw away), I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to pass onto my kids.

As a former Prot, I understand that sentiment. Ever since stepping foot into a Catholic Mass, I’ve had zero desire to attend a Protestant service.


Vatican II in Dei Verbum chapter VI presumes ecclesiastical approval for the use of Scripture translations (noting that such approval is even necessary for common translations with separated brethren in order that “all Christians will be able to use them”–ie, we won’t all be able to use them without that approval).

The general principle is found in the Catechism here:

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.

It is especially the job of the bishops to protect their flocks when it comes to written works, including the translation of the Scriptures. There is a large section of canon law on this. Canon Law forbids the publishing of unapproved translations and forbids their use for instruction.

The US Bishops, in particular say the following concerning vernacular translations:

In addition to the translations listed below, any translation of the Sacred Scriptures that has received proper ecclesiastical approval ‒ namely, by the Apostolic See or a local ordinary prior to 1983, or by the Apostolic See or an episcopal conference following 1983 ‒ may be used by the Catholic faithful for private prayer and study.

If even unapproved translations “may be used by the Catholic faithful for private prayer and study” the above statement is pointless.

Based on all that, the reading of Protestant Bibles would only be permitted for certain narrow purposes (mostly scholarly, apologetic type things). They can’t morally be read for instruction or spiritual edification.

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There are many reasons why a Catholic might read a Protestant Bible.

  • You’re stuck somewhere with no Catholic Bible, like a prison, a concentration camp, a disaster shelter, a hotel room at 1 am, but there is a Protestant Bible available.

  • You’re doing some ecumenical prayer exercise with a bunch of Protestants and everybody wants to use a particular Bible which is Protestant.

  • You’re a scholar of theology, Biblical history, apologetics etc and wish to compare and contrast various Bibles, Catholic and non-Catholic.

  • Your spouse is a Protestant and you want to discuss with them something out of their Bible that they’re familiar with. Or you just happen to have their Bible laying around the house where people such as you and your kid who you’re trying to raise Catholic might read it.

  • You simply enjoy a particular Protestant translation like the KJV, while recognizing that it is Protestant and leaves stuff out, etc.


As a new Catholic I really wish there were more/better Catholic study bibles. Yes I know there is the ignatius study bible (New Testament) and the Didache Bible. But I kind of miss the ESV SB and CSB SB.

The ESV and CSB study bibles have lots of background info, historical and cultural rather than theology. I kind of wish there were more Catholic study bibles like these.

Maybe if and when the ESV-CB becomes available in more countries, rather than just India we might get more choice.


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We have one Protestant Bible. It’s mine. It’s a special nurse’s Bible that has some additional content related specifically to nursing and the spiritual aspects and realities of nursing. Hubby bought it for me as a gift before our marriage.

We also have a number of lovely Catholic Bibles that we use for reading and study.

Yah. And theres books in the Orthodox Bible not included in ours.
I accept the deuterocanonical books as scripture but they really aren’t all that important to our salvation honestly. I like the Orthodox view better of referring to them as “the longer canon”.


These two scenarios would describe what I’ve encountered (and it was a hotel, not a prison :innocent:).

The everyday Catholic should not use a specifically Protestant Bible for study or inspiration. There are many good Catholic Bibles readily available. However, it does seem that prior to the Vatican II era, Protestants were viewed more as dangerous heretics, and that anything related to their religion was to be absolutely shunned. You will find this way of thinking, for instance, in the old Radio Replies book series. In the present day, though, we are encouraged to regard them more as “separated brethren” who possess many things that are good and holy.

Actually, the truth is a “both/and” situation. Just using it as a descriptive term, they are indeed material heretics. Keep in mind that “heretic” is not a pejorative term in and of itself, it comes from the Greek “to make a choice”. They are certainly not formal heretics (or I would hope not anyway). In other words, yes, they make a choice to follow a variant of Christianity that does not possess the fullness of truth. But they do not realize that their faith is incomplete, because if they did, presumably they would come to Catholicism. If they did realize this and continued to speak and believe contrary to the truth, then they would become formal heretics. Likewise, we are not to engage in habitual, repeated worship and study with them, as though we were “just another denomination”. Many lose their faith in this fashion.

That said, though, we do share a common baptism — there is only one. Many of their practices are “shadows”, to put it one way, of ours — the Lord’s Supper, calling for their elders to anoint the sick, and so on. Their sincerity and personal holiness is not to be questioned. Their biblical knowledge, quite honestly, puts ours to shame — it’s all they have, and they know it backwards and forwards. I do not hesitate to worship alongside them when the occasion calls for it, though I do not seek it out. We have much, much in common.

So, as I said, it is “both/and”.

Such admonitions come from an age of high polemics. Once you are familiar with, and understand Catholic teaching, the biases (and occasional errors) in some recent translations become rather obvious. IME, it is not so much outright error as it is a softening of the translation so that the multifarious denominations/non-denominations may use those sold-for-profit bibles in support of their divergent theology.

Editorial content warning!!! I note that the US Catholic Church is not immune to this trend, as the NAB and NAB/RE are softer translations than the D-R, Confraternity and several other English language translations.

I have a KJV because it is my favorite translation (and when I think of Bible verses that I know by heart, they are almost entirely KJV). But I found this one that includes the deuterocanonical books, which of course were part of the original translation.

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