How do you choose your Bible?

How do you choose your Bible?

Like many people on this site, both Catholics and Protestants, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decide which bible would be the best bible to read. I figured there had to be a bible that I could use for study and prayer, which was faithful to what we as Christians (not just Catholics) believed. Obviously, there are differences between Catholic bibles and Protestant bibles, yet from what I’ve studied over the last several months regarding bible translations, our Protestant brothers and sisters are often faced with this same question. Which Bible Should I Read?

Yet, I don’t want for this to be a discussion purely on what the original Greek or Hebrew says. Because as most of us know, the most literal translation of a word or phrase from the Greek or Hebrew, doesn’t necessarily make it the best and yet at other times the most literal translation is far better then trying to infer what is meant. Prime example, Matthew 16:18. From what I’ve read on certain commentaries and study guides about this verse, **Hades **maybe the more correct/literal translation of this passage, yet I’d venture to say that most Christians prefer, the word **Hell **to be used simply because it “better” conveys the meaning of this passage.

So what are your reasons behind choosing the bible and/or bibles that you prefer to read from? Is it merely sentimental? Maybe it was a bible that was given to you by a family member at some memorable time in your life? Maybe for some, they don’t see any differences (other then archaic vs. modern language) between a bible like the Douay Rheims or KJV when compared to the NAB or NIV. Maybe for most of us it simply comes down to how a bible feels in your hands; they love the look and feel of the paper and the type setting or the weight and the size. Perhaps you prefer the KJV or DR because you feel that all “new” modern translations have watered down the Tradition and beauty of these older translations. Or maybe you love the NIV or NRSV because of its readability and these bibles have done more to deepen your faith than any other bible out there.


What do you prefer?

There is no such thing as an exact, word-for-word, literal translation. The literal translation of John 6:53 is something like…

***and then to-them the Jesus amen amen I-am-saying to-you if-ever no may-be-eating the flesh of-the son of-the human and may-be-drinking of-him the blood not are-having life in selves. ***

A literal translation is all but incomprehensible. We need to get over it and realize that every Bible is a compromise, but that God is able to work through it to change hearts and minds, convert and help save.

A Bible for me has to first be readable and understandable. A Bible where I have to look up archaic words from the fifteenth century is useless to me. It also shouldn’t read like child’s Bible, shouldn’t treat me like I’m an idiot (NIV, a-hem).

I use a nice, leather bound and zippered RSV-CE from Oxford University Press. No notes. No commentary. Just the written word of God presented in an intelligent and easily read way.


Dear Crusader13,

Your question seems to point in the direction that you prefer a paraphrased translation, where the more understandable or conventional term is used.

Considering its revision history, the NAB, which is a paraphrased version, has disappointed a lot of people. But, because it was the official translation of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, it had a lot of “traction” and you can get it in “study bible” versions.

I don’t mind saying this all over again, it’s been a while, so here goes: Why don’t you decide what sort of budget you want to allot yourself and how much space you have on your shelf.

I’d recommend the Ignatius Study Bible, which is currently only available in completed form for the New Testament. Some of the OT books are available in individual form. That Bible uses the Revised Standard Version - 2nd Catholic Edition translation. That in turn, is based on the early 20th Century American Standard Bible, which was an upgrade from the King James Bible. Whew. Well, this helps, actually, because Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is based on the KJV. So, it can help with the background of reading the RSV-2CE.

Remember your budget…

I’d suggest you get the Jewish Study Bible, which is based on the 1985 translation of the Hebrew Bible from the Jewish Publication Society. It has copious notes and study essays, rather interesting as far as I’m concerned.

Stretch that budget a little further…

The Orthodox Study Bible. The chief redeeming feature is that it is the New King James Version EXCEPT in (unspecified) places it substitutes the Septuagint source. You see, there are places where the Jewish Hebrew Masoretic text and the Jewish Greek Septuagint are close enough to be considered in agreement. So, you will only discover where the Septuagint is different, when you compare texts. The commentary is very down-to-earth and the preliminary and following essays are dripping with Orthodox Church perspectives. (just like the Jewish Study Bible is dripping with Jewish perspectives.)

In the OSB, the NT quotations from the OT should be exactly in agreement with the OT, in general, unless somebody like St. Peter is only quoting loosely from memory. Remember, the NT was written exclusively against the backdrop of the Septuagint.

So, if you don’t have the time/ inclination etc. – like me – then get a couple good Bibles to help expand your insights.

Under the obligation of working out your own salvation, as are we all, you might go out looking for Commentaries on scripture, which are altogether another level of depth of study.
Do not overlook the resources of your local public library and exercise your right to suggest that they buy something you are looking for.

I’ve heard the Catholic Church has magnificent scripture commentaries, but they’re all in Latin and they’re at the Vatican. So – MUDDLE around – like the rest of us. Keep searching and digging.

Keep in mind the Catechism of the Catholic Church and publications from the popes and the Pontifical Biblical Institute, like their 1993 document on The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, and then sometime around 2005 they put out one called something like The Jewish People and their Scriptures in the Christian Bible – both available for downloading free at the EWTN website document library.

This should hold you for a good two or three years, at least.

I like the NAB both in study and regular form. The NAB study Bible is huge and bulky, so I have a inexpensive regular NAB for bedside reading. I am not a Bible scholar so I am reluctant to venture out on anything not strictly Catholic. I am also on a budget.

I think it is just as important to build up a collection of Catholic prayer books and novenas. I also have other books about Jesus, the Saints, biographies, and personal notes, such as those from St. Faustina.

While I think it is helpful to have a few versions of the Bible, it is equally important to include other important Catholic texts in your library as well!

I love bibles that are 100% faithful to Catholic teaching. For example, Mary is full of grace (Luke 1:28) and Paul forgave sins in the person of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:10). Sadly, neither is the case (even if actually meant) in the NAB or NAB/RE. Two that satisfy this are the (British) Knox Translation and the (American) Confraternity bibles. Both are excellent readers.

However, I have recently obtained a Revised English Bible with Apocrypha (Deuterocanon). It was revised in conjunction with Catholic Church authorities in England, Scotland and Ireland and has the complete books of the Deuterocanon. Like all “New” or “Revised” bibles, it is a little politically correct as to genders. And, I don’t favor the “back of the bus” position of the Deuterocanon, but at least they are in there in complete form. I am finding it to be a great everyday reading bible. They can be found for less than $4 shipped on eBay.

In English, it seems that we must settle on somewhat flowery translations, as that is the very nature of our highly-composite/amalgamated/derivative language.

Anymore I find myself mostly reading Scripture through ancient Bible commentaries, which often is either the Old Latin and Vulgate, as well as the Greek text used by the Greek Fathers of the Church. The Glossa Ordinaria happens to be my favorite Bible commentary, which used the Latin Vulgate for the Scripture text. I have a translator who has translated the Epistles of St. John and is now translating the book of Revelation of the Glossa Ordinaria, and I absolutely love reading Scripture that way because it was an authoritative Study Bible of the Middle Ages. I also have someone translating Cramer’s Catena on Galatians and I am also enjoying reading Scripture from the Greek text of the Ancient Church.

As I go on, I do tend to favor the Vulgate-based translations. We can see the quasi-chaos that results from moderns trying to reverse engineer the scriptures after having discarded the Apostolic Tradition.

My method in picking Bibles was to check them out from the library and spend a few weeks with them to see if they spoke to me. When I started I had a beat up paperback NAB and a Douay Rheims. I had a short list (RSV, Jerusalem, new Jerusalem), but learned a few things about my Bible preferences…

  1. No matter how much I try, I just don’t warm up to the New Jerusalem Bible as I do to the original 1966 Jerusalem Bible. It just reads so smooth like a good novel.

  2. A translation that wasn’t really on my radar at the start, the Knox, ended up becoming a top 3 favorite. Sheer poetic beauty.

  3. The Confraternity NT and the psalms from the Pius XII have about the best blend of archaic thees and thous; enough to sound lofty but not to the point of being difficult to read.

  4. While I prefer the RSV 2nd edition, I wish there was a 1.5 that made the other changes but kept archaic language in the psalms.

  5. I will always keep a Douay, even though its a difficult read.

  6. There are finally some Bible layouts that are just inviting to read, all in the NABRE. Little Rock Study Bible is great, even if I can’t seem to warm up to the translation itself. Harper layout is sweet too and OSV is not too bad either.

  1. I use the NABRE the most (Bible study, RCIA and devotional reading).
  2. I use the RSV-2CE (Ignatius Lectionary daily readings, study and comparison with other translations).
  3. I use a compact Jerusalem Bible to take to work and other travel (devotional reading).

I have many others, but these are the three I use the most.

I’m good with old King James. It was written by a commission of about fifty scholars with inspiration from The Holy Spirit. Any newer translations, in my opinion, are corrupted and twist what Go- wants to convey to us. If I have to wade through early modern English to know how The Lord wants me to live then so be it.

I have never heard of a Lutheran KJV-onlyist. Really?

You should learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, as well as study the ancient cultures. Then, you would really know what God meant. BTW, I have several KJVs, and they are wonderful for demonstrating Catholic doctrine.

Im a minority in my division, I acknowledge that. Most of my fellowship uses NKJV which also removes and moves verses around. Regardless, they preach a doctrine that I know to be true. I justify my case when the NIV (as An example) does this. Isnt the morning star Jesus? This treads on dangerous ground. Blasphemy of The Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin, and NIV walks the thin line just like the Pharisees did when they compared the works of Christ to Belzeebub. This is just one of many examples of the grave errors newer translations make.

KJV vs NIV:The NIV deceives you by switching the name of Jesus and LuciferThe KJ accurately reports that Lucifer fell from heaven and was cut down. With an unbelievable slight of hand, the NIV removed Lucifer and replaced him with ‘Morning Star’.Isaiah 14:12 KJ says “How art thou fallen from heaven,*O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!“Isaiah 14:12 NIV says “How you have fallen from heaven,*O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!“But Jesus is the Morning Star

I LOVE this site

it has oodles of parallel different Bible translations.

I like to have one good solid study Bible with annotations, and then one in a translation that is easy to read (both the words AND the print!)

This site lets me get familiar with the styles of writing in the various translations.

I have an NIV that I got at a Goodwill store, only to say that I have one. I find it very dumbed down and agenda-driven, as well as incomplete. That being said, I do think a bit of the criticism leveled at it tends toward the paranoid end of the spectrum. I place it alongside the two New American bibles.

Yet, even the KJV is a far stretch from the original languages. I agree that it was done by probably the best scholars that had not been exiled from England at the time. Yet, the English used in the KJV is florid as compared even to the Middle English which preceded it.

And this brings up the point of the extreme difficulty of translating what God inspired - retaining what He meant - when the Spirit moved the sacred authors to write. I would hope that the KJV translators (and it appears they did) were guided to some degree by the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, which informs as to the correct usage of words which have several definitions.

Yet, the KJV, which once was criticized for its variance with the Church, is now seen by many as more faithful to Catholic doctrine than some modern Catholic bibles.

Personally, I gravitate toward the Vulgate-based translations, as Saint Jerome used the oldest and best manuscripts available to the Church in the late 300s. And, as near as anyone can tell, Jerome’s only bias was to serve the Lord in the undivided Church. As I understand it, no translator since has had access to such ancient witnesses.

That position makes more sense but modern day scholars have updated the Vulgate with some supposedly newly discovered Greek manuscripts. Scholars disagree with one another quite frequently, it seems.

Yet, the KJV, which once was criticized for its variance with the Church, is now seen by many as more faithful to Catholic doctrine than some modern Catholic bibles.

The irony of it all. Good point.

Jerome, being much closer to the Apostles, and to the Traditions, is most certainly a reliable source, and the Vulgate has been defined as reliable. The normal criticism is that updating the Vulgate is translating a translation, but Latin is unchanging. I have little interest in much of modern scholarship actually, as we seem to hold that the further we are away from a given incident, the more we know about it. The concept of entropy applies to all things physical and intellectual.

If newly discovered manuscripts are invaluable, one wonders why did the Church not have them, or preserve copies for Jerome to examine? Either: there may have been errors in them, or they were produced post-Jerome. Either holds the potential of being problematic.

As well, discarding or reducing the influence of the Apostolic Tradition, as we moderns are wont to do, allows today’s agenda to drive the translation.

One other thing: The CCD which updated the Vulgate as late as the Confraternity bible was comprised of 100% ordained clergy with advanced degrees. Not so with any bible in the past 45 years.

Again, you make perfect sense and I agree with you. But the justification was the discovered Dead Sea scrolls giving impetus to these changes. Again it’s a matter of differing modern scholarship and interpretation of code which gives doubts to these discovered “truths.” I mean Hebrew-English or Greek-English dictionaries aren’t infallible as different authors mean different things.

Maybe it’s a matter of time before the entire parting of the Red Sea or Noah’s Ark gets rewritten by archaeologists.

Being relatively attuned to the spiritual realm, I can imagine which spirit leads those who differ with what the Church has maintained - at the cost of shed blood - for almost two millennia. No modern that I am aware of is willing to shed their blood for the opinions which they postulate.

At this point, I have mostly stuck with the Catholic approved bible versions, since that is my background, and it’s weird if a bible does not have the deutero-canonical books.

If buying a bible (at this point I have all I need), I check to make sure I like how it’s printed: the size, binding, the formatting, layout, font size, how much ghosting of text, to make sure it is readable. A lot of bibles come in “gift editions”, that look nice, but generally cram the text so small it’s hard to read, so I avoid those, since I had some like that and never read them. I’m not a bible scholar, so I didn’t buy a huge study bible (which I did a long time ago, and never read it, because it was huge and intimidating).

Right now I have the RSV-CE in a medium size, compact size, and New Testament + Psalms. Then I have an NAB-RE personal study bible (Fireside) with footnotes and intros to the books. I have The Message. And I bought the NRSV bible recently in the form of a lectio divina prayer bible.

I didn’t get them all at once, though. Some I bought a few years ago, and only now looking at them. I seem to read the RSV or NABRE the most. I also have a couple beginners “how-to” books on reading and how to interpret the bible.

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