New American Bible Notes and Introductions


Okay, so this is a topic that’s been done again and again.

But I would love some input anyway, and I’m sure many of you fine posters can find it in your hearts to discuss this yet again.

The NABRE notes and introductions are pretty much panned by a whole group of Catholics. Their claim is that they communicate scholarly opinions which can at the least be a bit shocking to non-specialists, and which can even undermine faith.

On the other hand, there’s another group of Catholics who thinks the NABRE communicates mainstream and solid Catholic biblical scholarship. They might say that having a problem with the NABRE might reveal a fundamentalistic and even fideistic outlook.

So here’s the question.

If you think the notes are bad, can you give some examples, and explain your case?

If you think they’re good, could you do the same? If you know a particular note troubles others, but that it doesn’t trouble you, could you explain how it could be understood in a way that is very consistent with doctrine?

I know this is a lot, but I would reeeeaaaaally appreciate participation in this. I’m sure someone else might too, since these discussions are often theoretical, but maybe don’t get as practical as they should.


Here is a take by Msgr. Charles Pope that points out a serious problem with the note to 1 COR 3:12-15. It says the passage can’t be used to support the doctrine of purgatory.

Here is a take by Jimmy Akin that points out a serious problem with the note to MT 16:21-23. It says Jesus’ words predicting his own passion could not really have been his.

I like the NABRE version because it tracks the liturgy, for the most part. The Bible I use now is the Didache version of the NABRE, which includes both the NABRE footnotes (which are sometimes suspect) and an entirely new set of footnotes from the Midwest Theological Forum that were approved by Cardinal Francis George.



In my opinion, some of the notes are good, and some are bad.

Introduction to Genesis – “How should modern readers interpret the creation-flood story in Gn 2–11? The stories are [not] history… [That] is…misleading, for it suggests that the events actually took place.” This appears to contradict the Magisterium in Humani Generis 38: “the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the [modern] historical method…do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense.” Also CCC 390 – “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.”

Also: “contemporary readers can reasonably assume that ancient traditions (J and E) were edited in the sixth or fifth century B.C. for a Jewish audience that had suffered the effects of the exile and was now largely living outside of Palestine.” This introduction doesn’t even mention Moses’s authorship as the backdrop. It is my understanding that the Pontifical Biblical Commission requires all use of the JEDP theory to accept Mosaic authorship as the backdrop upon which any future edits were made. (source)

Gen. 1:26 – “Let us make: in the ancient Near East, and sometimes in the Bible, God was imagined as presiding over an assembly of heavenly beings who deliberated and decided about matters on earth… This scene accounts for the plural form here… Israel’s God was always considered ‘Most High’ over the heavenly beings.” This appears to explain the phrase “let us make” either by implying that polytheism made its way into the Bible or that the angels helped make man. Both of those seem like heresies.

Genesis 1:7 – “The dome: the Hebrew word suggests a gigantic metal dome. It was inserted into the middle of the single body of water to form dry space within which the earth could emerge.” This appears to say that a scientific error made its way into the Bible.

Genesis 2:6 – “Stream: the water wells up from the vast flood below the earth. The account seems to presuppose that only the garden of God was irrigated at this point.” This seems like another indication of scientific error. And I’ve only quoted the first two lines of this particular footnote, the other lines contain even more suspicious ideas.

Genesis 2:8 – "[T]he garden [of Eden] was not intended as a paradise for the human race, but as a pleasure park for God; the man tended it for God. The story is not about ‘paradise lost.’ " This seems to suggest that God wanted a pleasure park for Himself. The reference to man tending it for God sounds like the ancient polytheistic idea that men were created to make food for the gods. The statement that the story is not about paradise lost appears to contradict tradition.

Genesis 2:10 – “the stream of water mentioned in v. 6 [was] the source of all water upon earth.” This appears to repeat a scientific error.

I wrote those down just now after going through the notes in the intro to Genesis and its first two chapters one by one. If the rest of the books are like that, it looks like there’s a lot of objectionable material.

If you think they’re good, could you do the same?

My favorite set of notes in the NAB is from the Book of Revelation. When I first read that book the whole way through, I read it with the NAB’s notes, and it made sense of the whole thing for me. Honestly, after putting it down, I wasn’t confused by Revelation, but rather I wondered why people Are confused. I thought it was so obvious, but now I think the notes just were that good.


The following is a review of the NAB by a traditional Catholic. It points out some of the important problems with various notes:


…though I’m not much of a joiner I feel your plight… here’s my deal (since I’m a functional idiot) instead of me catching up to NABRE and their followers, can you open a second thread where you can quote these notes and intros?

God Bless!

Maran atha!



This is actually a bit misleading. The quote in full:

“[The] letter [to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies], in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.”

Forgive me, but it is overly-simplistic to try to use this quote to say that scholarly explanations of the flood that assume it is a reworking of other flood stories, and that that is the story’s genre rather than strict history, are in some way contrary to the mind of the Church.


Despite Mr. Douglass’s tone in certain areas, this catalogue of clunkers and bloopers is most helpful. Thank you!


As the author of the post you are referring to, I want to thank you for posting the full quote from Humani Generis. I am grateful to know that it can be interpreted in a way that is compatible with the NAB notes and introductions.

One thing I want to point out: the parts you are emphasizing seem to state things that the NAB notes agree with. In my fallible opinion, the difference I highlighted is still a contradiction, though. The NAB introduction to Genesis seems to say that Gen. 1-11 cannot be called history because that would imply that the events actually took place. Humani Generis seems to say that Gen. 1-11 Can be called history because the events Did actually take place. Both of them seem to say they are not Strict history. Is that how you see it, or do you see it differently? Thanks!


My feelings exactly. :):slight_smile: Mr. Douglass was an associate of Robert Sungenis’ apologetics ministry before breaking with him on the anti-Semitic issue, so he does tend to be a bit vehement in tone. However, that catalogue is very useful. (He had a more detailed one on his website, but that site has been down for quite a while. :()


The NAB notes are absolutely heretical. Not only that, but it’s terrible scholarship. It’s nothing more than bland mumbo jumbo that is literally out to destroy the faith. Funny how it somehow gets to use the Catholic name! It’s wrong on several points. For example when it says that the mention of camels in Abraham’s time is an anachronism, that is just wrong. There is archaeological and literary evidence of camel domestication in the second millennium BC. The notes practically denies all of the historicity of the biblical text, rendering the scriptures guilty until proven innocent. This ridiculous skepticism is nothing new and Christians shouldn’t feel threatened by it. Why the heck they would have liberal, minimalist scholarship do the Bible is literally beyond me.

If you want an actual good Bible, get the NIV archaeological study Bible. It’s got a ton of pictures and maps that prove the historicity of each book in the Bible. What is more pathetic and absolutely disgusting is the fact these idiots writing the introductions and commentary actually refer to the work their doing as “critical scholarship”! Apparently being “critical” is denying that prophets of God can predict the future, that Jesus couldn’t have predicted his death, and that apparently there is no such thing as the supernatural. Apparently we’re all atheists! Absolutely disgusting. What is most tragic about this is that Protestants are the ones who are producing fantastic study Bibles, far better than Catholic equivalents, when Catholics were the ones who put the Bible together in the first place. The NAB needs to go bye bye, and hopefully we can get better study Bibles. This is not critical scholarship, don’t fool yourself friends. There are plenty of conservative scholars out there who would lay waste to all of these pathetic minimalists.

Anyways, now that my rant is done I’ll talk about a footnote in the Oxford Catholic Study Bible that is hilarious. If you don’t know the “scholars” of the NAB notes deny prophetic inspiration and that the supernatural is possible. The book of Daniel is a book where you either have two options, either it is a forgery or it’s authentic prophecy and fulfillment. So in order for them to deny that Daniel in his four kingdom prophecy is predicting the Roman empire and Jesus’s death they must contradict Daniel itself and history by splitting the Medo-Persian empire into two, distinct empires. They do this so they can deny prophetic inspiration. Why is this funny? Because even they admit that their theory essentially contradicts the Book of Daniel itself! Check this out:

  • [8:20] The Medes and Persians: the Medes had been allies of the Babylonians in destroying the Assyrian empire (late seventh century B.C.), and Cyrus the Persian defeated the Medes en route to conquering the Babylonians. The Book of Daniel, however, treats the Medes and Persians as a dual kingdom; cf. also 5:28; 6:9; and note on 6:1.

If they admit this is true, then why do they break the two kingdoms up anyway? I’m sure there are probably countless more but that is just two I can think of off the top of my head.


Hi, Grant!
…I think that what you are missing is that these “scholars” are bent on “proving” themselves impartial (as the politburos–yeah, I know, maybe a little harsh for America’s “Catholic” politicians… I rant too!) in their effort to distance themselves from the Vatican (if they were ever in alliance to the See) keep reinventing the wheel by dabbling in the heretical and nonsensical; the issue becomes even more murky when those who are supposed to be the “watch dogs” (school of “liberal” Bishops), due to fear of appearing too stern and censuring, allow them waaaaaaaaaaay too flexed modus operandi (ditto with “Catholic” higher ed).

Maran atha!



The third edition supposed has had the rewrite on many of the notes (I heard one figure of 70 percent). Haven’t looked at it yet. Maybe not criticize until reviewed.


That is the Bible I have actually. It’s the newest one. :slight_smile:


douglas says that the NAB misleads by saying that the Church endorses the documentary hypothesis.

The most important word in this sentence is “hypothesis.” If it was more than just a hypothesis, then I might have a problem with it.

But, the footnotes of the NAB are NOT inspired and so they may be an arbitrary starting point for discussion.

And, they faithfully report, that there IS a documentary hypothesis.

Now, the DH applies to the OT. I’ve not read about it being applied anyplace else. I’ve read the five-volume Torah commentary series from the Jewish Publication Society. Reading a line-by-line commentary, like these, which delve into the original language to a great extent, really open up the DH for examination.

The Genesis commentary, for example, briefly notes that there are three interwoven accounts of Noah’s flood. the evidence is based on textual analysis, which cannot be teased out of English language translations. So, since I’ll never live long enough to learn Biblical Hebrew, I can and did take a look at that to see what it was all about.

It took 10 years to research and write the JPS commentary on Genesis, and the researchers dug into it as only Jewish and/or Hebrew scholars can do. Am I totally satisfied with the job they did in this 5-volume series - no. Even in a deep commentary, they are selective and somewhat frequently biased towards Jewish interpretation. But, I am certain that Catholic scholars read these carefully so that no stone is left unturned. The Christian and Jewish scholars communicate with each other, and I can tell from the contents of these books that it has been very productive. Christian authors and sources are cited and credited.

I am not aware that the Church has officially ruled against the DH (documentary hypothesis). I will conclude with two questions: 1) What is the PROBLEM? 2) What is at stake in the DH?

the only valid criticism of the NAB discussing it is that it so brief and superficial as to take the beginner unaware. please see my next post


One of the ways that EVERY English translation misleads is that the Hebrew original does not have vowels, upper/lower case, punctuation, vowels, spaces between words, chapter and verse notations, footnotes, parenthetical remarks, etc. An English translation has taken MANY liberties with what the original Hebrew said.

Let’s look at " bg" OK, what vowel goes there? a, e, i, o, u. They’re all plausible: bag, big, beg, bog, bug. There is a tremendous TRADITION about what the text says, in the first place.

Because the scrolls were written without spaces between the letters, the division of the words into sentences requires a lot of judgment. Chapter and verse numbers weren’t assigned until maybe the 11th century (and the Jews have adopted this precedent from Christians, with some revisions).

This MISLEADS every English reader into thinking Genesis was written in 50 chapters – when, according to certain Hebrew words that are used for transition at points in the text, Genesis falls into TWELVE sections. Hint? the 12 tribes of Israel. This would total escape the English reader - NAB or whatever.

This might escape the attention even of someone who knows Biblical Hebrew, unless the scholarship is shared.

Another observation by the editor of the JPS Commentary on Genesis is that in the first creation account, all of the verses either have seven Hebrew words or a multiple of seven Hebrew words. There’s one day when it does not say that God saw that it was good – and that was to make the word count come out correctly – or so it would seem.

All of this presents a difficulty for a novice Bible student, who would be easily overwhelmed by it. It points to a rule about Bible study – keep an open mind, be ready to let your mind grow. If you’re AGAINST the documentary hypothesis (and know why you are against it) hold that thought, but keep an open mind.

In the New Testament, Tim Staples has done a special job ( in his book Behold Your Mother) of interpreting the account of the annunciation, with his ‘hypothesis’ that the angel addressed Mary as ‘FULL OF GRACE’ – the angel changed Mary’s name, or, addressed her with a new name. That’s why the gospel of Luke goes on to say that Mary was (surprised) at this greeting, what could it mean?

And, if I sound like a smarty, telling you my opinion, you’d be wrong. DEI VERBUM says something to the effect that we don’t know about scripture until we’ve read everything that the Church has ever said about. (Well, good luck with that.)


There is actually a lot of stake, especially the doctrine of biblical inspiration. Read this article:


Thanks for jumping in with the insight of this author. Yes, Jesus does attribute the authorship of the Torah (as I recall) to Moses. I’m not so sure that this author hasn’t overstated the gravity of what the documentary hypothesis demolishes. Certainly I have only read second-hand or even further derivative explanations of it.

I think it is exactly true, also,that so-called “enlightenment” Biblical scholarship had that very goal in mind, of discrediting the Bible altogether.

In the document “the Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” the Pontifical Biblical Commission covers the advantages and disadvantages of various methods of biblical “scholarship” or “criticism” and has found all of them lacking in some fashion or other, witth an appropriate warning. Any form of criticism which undercuts the Biblical basis of faith certainly is rejected by the Catholic faith.

An obvious and explicit form of Jewish Biblical strategy is harmonization. In this context, I think the Church also looks at harmonizing the Bible with genuinely honest (not rigged) scientific analysis. The data of the documentary hypothesis, the changes in vocabulary that are evident in the Hebrew text, must mean something. Can this be denied? Who has the authority to say that such changes in the voice of scripture has no meaning or significance? The JPS Commentary on Genesis that I referred to earlier declares its method of that commentary to analyze the text as received.

On the specific question of the authorship by Moses, so what? who is to say that the text, as received, was not the work Moses? Who is to say that that was not the way the text was inspired to be written?

In Abraham Cohen’s book Everyman’s Talmud, he relates the Jewish view that the Torah was composed* in heaven * thousands of years before the creation, and was virtually the script for creation etc. In my non-academic way, that view converges nicely with the view of your reference alluding to direct inspiration of the text. I don’t have to deny Christ or Mosaic authorship to accept the peculiarities of how the text is composed.


I agree with most of these posts, that there are some serious modernistic errors in the NAB notes, in particular their rather uncritical acceptance of historical and textual criticism when it contradicts tradition, their notion of inspiration and inerrancy and the like. Sadly the RSV has some equally troubling notes, not too different from the NAB, when it comes to the Old Testament. Pray hard that the Lord would send us good orthodox Catholic exegetes of His Scriptures. This is in my opinion, the most important part of theology.

Benedicat Deus,


Thank you for asking this! One of my pet peeves, and precisely why I rely on almost any other Catholic bible. Just a few highlights.

HUGE: The notes suggest that Luke either fabricated or ‘copied and pasted’ Mary’s magnificat into his Gospel.

“Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat. Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if not composed by Luke…”


ANNOYING: The intro to Matthew:

“The unknown author, whom we shall continue to call Matthew for the sake of convenience, drew not only upon the Gospel according to Mark but upon a large body of material (principally, sayings of Jesus) not found in Mark that corresponds, sometimes exactly, to material found also in the Gospel according to Luke. This material, called “Q” (probably from the first letter of the German word Quelle, meaning “source”), represents traditions, written and oral, used by both Matthew and Luke. Mark and Q are sources common to the two other synoptic gospels; hence the name the “Two-Source Theory” given to this explanation of the relation among the synoptics.”

Mary is “favored” Luke 1:28

Saint Stephen the Martyr is “filled with grace” Acts 6:8


Go back to the bible in use at the time the NAB was adopted (1941-1969 Confraternity bible) and you will find a stronger translation, and notes and intros that are confidence inspiring and build the reader up in faith. The NAB is a disappointment, and its notes a scandal.


You’re really confusing me. You seemed to whole-heartily accept the Documentary Hypothesis, now it seems you are fine accepting the text as it is now as the work of Moses. Which is it? I personally think Moses and the levitical priests in his day wrote the Pentateuch, with subsequent copiers over time adding genealogies, changing place names to reflect its current name, Laish to Dan, Avaris, to Pi-Ramesses, etc. This accounts for much of the archaic material in the text, while also explaining anomalies found within it as well. What do you think?

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