Footnotes for Biblical passages


In the Bible there was a footnote for 1 Corinthians 11 : 23-25:

  This is the earliest written account of the Lord's Supper in the New Testament. The narrative emphasizes Jesus' action of self-giving (expressed in the words over the bread and cup) and his double command to repeat his own action.      

What do you think about footnotes for Biblical passages?



Footnotes are not the Bible. They are things added to the Bible by men.

I’m not saying that footnotes are bad, just that they are not inspired by God. We have to guard against thinking that there is one explanation to each verse or that a Bible can be explained in footnotes and essays.

The Bible is meant to be listened to with the ears of the heart, as a small child listens to his Father or as one listens to a lover telling him how much he is loved.

I don’t use a Bible with footnotes for this reason. Footnotes just get in the way for me. A good cross reference is much more useful.



Depending on what kind of footnotes they are. I love traditional Catholic notes, especially the ones found in the original Douay Rheims Bible of 1609. I hope to one day publish one myself that is made up of ancient and medieval annotations.


Footnotes can be good or bad depending. And just having the name “Catholic” on the Bible is no guarantee. The footnotes in the New American Bible often seem to be written by an atheist.

Let us move on to Jesus’ second temptation…The devil proves to be a Bible expert who can quote the Psalm exactly. The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the form of a dispute between two Bible scholars. Remarking on this passage, Joachim Gnilka says that the devil presents himself here as a theologian. The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story “The Antichrist.” The Antichrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev’s portrayal of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certain type of scholarly exegesis current at the time. This is not a rejection of scholarly biblical interpretation as such, but an eminently salutary and necessary warning against its possible aberrations. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle the faith.

The common practice today is to measure the Bible against the so-called modern worldview, whose fundamental dogma is that God cannot act in history—that everything to do with God is to be relegated to the domain of subjectivity. And so the Bible no longer speaks of God, the living God; no, now we alone speak and decide what God can do and what we will and should do. And the Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times.

– Joseph Ratzinger
Jesus of Nazareth, p.34-36, 2007


There is sort of an ascending order of Bibles. Bibles without translator notes and/or notes of explanation, Bibles with those translator notes and/or possibly some notes of explanations, Bibles with the preceding plus cross-references to other scriptures that may illuminate the verse in question, Bibles with such features in somewhat expanded form, with maps and diagrams, and so on. Then, another major leap are commentaries. Usually there is a “pericope” (a few verses) of scripture then some expanded explanation by one or more authors. Then, the next level is the previous plus perhaps some homiletic notes, such as the application of that text in modern life.

The notes may be from any point of view such as: translator notes on difficult passages or alternate translations, explanations of what’s going on in that section of scripture. Then, your Bible may have essays inserted in the text of scripture (clearly delineated) or at the end of the Biblical text.

I tend to read the longer versions, in the form of commentaries. I don’t know how anybody can possibly appreciate the significance of scripture without notes explaining the meaning the text would have had in ancient times, discussing the contradictions or apparent contradictions in scripture.

At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is on the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples and explains all the places in the Old Testament that refer to him – wish we would have had a transcript of that. In its place, many versions of the Bible attempt to recreate that, as best as they can. And, truly, it is the position of the Catholic Church that all scripture refers to Jesus Christ, ultimately. and, so, some footnotes or commentary on that helps a lot, I think.

Leviticus is a difficult book for many Catholics to read. I recently read a great commentary on it that makes studying that book relatively painless.

the book of Isaiah is a very complex book, now generally regarded as having been written over hundreds of years, and contains compilations of compilations of prophecies of doom and oracles of hope and restoration. A little help with that goes a long way.

Your public library may have Bible commentaries not only Catholic but Jewish and Protestant, as well. sometimes on a key point, you would be rewarded by looking around a bit, at a couple different points of view.

A previous post referenced the books by Pope Benedict, and these contain comments from protestant and Jewish scholars, usually that the pope is trying to argue against.


The (Catholic) Pontifical biblical commission published a small book called The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church

available for download here:

And it recommends reading the Bible with a commentary nearby for help in understanding the text and ideas of the Bible.


You haven’t said which bible you are using. The footnotes in some bibles, like the NAB, are not that great.


well…that is the opinion of quite a few. Some don’t like the translation of the NAB, which is a paraphrased version.

The NAB study bible has greatly expanded notes and cross-references and is better than the version with selected footnotes.

when it came out, it was developed alongside the revised standard version - catholic edition. this version is now more in favor than the NAB, because the RSV is based on a revision of the King James Version, so the verses have the high quality sound of the KJV. and, the rSV is easier to use, for look-ups, if you happen to have a Strong’s exhaustive concordance of the Bible.

But, you have to be able to understand the notes, to form an opinion about them. the NAB uses the documentary hypothesis – the idea that the pentateuch (first five books of OT) were pieced together from several sources, and then later smoothed over by yet somebody else (the redactor). even in the OT overall, the influence of certain traditions sometimes comes out clearly, if you know what you’re looking at. the footnotes sometimes help sort such things out.


You are right. If you search and look into the NAB threads almost everyone has negative opinions about both the translation and the footnotes but I guess unlike you nobody else understands them.


I have big problems with footnotes and introductions that act as if most of Scripture is no different than a bunch of bed time and campfire stories that the weak minded take too serious.


If you like the NAB but don’t like its footnotes then get The New African Bible. It is the NAB translation but the notes are different–they are from African contributors.


Another option for people who like the NABRE but don’t want any notes on the page is to choose the Oxford Large Print NABRE or the Giant Print NABRE from Catholic Book Publishing Co. Both of these Bible place all of the notes and cross references at the back of each book. While I like these notes when I am studying the Bible, they can be distracting when I am reading it prayerfully.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit