The NABRE Notes


I know that this question is often brought up. But to be frank, I still can’t wrap my thick head around the answer. I hope you’ll indulge me.

I come from a slightly Fundamentalist upbringing, and some of my view of Holy Scripture is still influenced by that. Partly because of this, I’ve often looked at the NABRE, and especially its notes, with a great deal of suspicion. I’ve perceived it as just being Modernistic. But that suspicion was ultimately rooted in what folks whom I respect have said, and also through some browsing through editions of that Bible. But I’m not all that familiar with it, and I’ve certainly always been biased against it. I’m attempting to rethink all of that.

Here’s my question, just as a bottom line sort of thing.

Is it possible to simply read the NABRE and assume that all of the material one comes across is perfectly legitimate scholarship that is safe and compatible with the faith?


Yes. Scripture is inspired…footnotes are not…this applies to all footnote bibles, not just NABRE.


Yes, Our Bishops have no problem with it and its even on the Vatican website.
I do get where you are coming from, I was raised Baptist. It took me some time and prayer to get used to Catholic biblical scholarship.


I have not found the footnotes to deviate substantially from the Biblical text, however I try to read and understand the text on my own before I refer to the notes because they tend to lock me into the scholar’s particular interpretation.

What are more controversial, I believe, are the Introductions to each Book. These contain historical research (and some guesswork?) about the dates and authorship of the books. This rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Personally I don’t have a problem with them.


To think that the footnotes or introductions in the NABRE are not in keeping with the faith is, quite frankly, ridiculous. This is the Bible that is used on the USCCB website and is disseminated by parishs across the U.S.

The idea that your own exegesis is competing with the Church’s is a funny thought to me. That’s not to say I think it’s a bad idea to ruminate on scripture, it’s good to do that. But interpreting it for yourself is not encouraged by the Church.


Hi Liam!
This comes up a lot.
Here’s my take:
For my personal reading I use the RSV CE.

At the parish we use the NABRE because, frankly, it’s cheap. I can get copies (100’s of them for about 5 bucks each. We lose so many of them, people borrow them, and never bring them back, students take one off the shelf, never bring it back, and poor folks want to purchase a cheap Bible from us that’s Catholic. :shrug:

I can assure you, the teenagers and children never even look at the footnotes, but they like reading a version that is exactly what they hear in Mass.



Of course, there’s no such thing as an official exegesis of Scripture as presented by the Magisterium. And neither do the notes in the NABRE necessarily even deal with exegesis. They’re scholarly takes on the composition of the Biblical texts by way of the historical-critical method, no?

Maybe I could rephrase my original question.

Do you think that everyone who is exposed to certain historical-critical theories will have their faith affirmed, and do you foresee that they might in fact find it being undermined? If so, to what extent would this apply to the NABRE notes?


Hi, Clare!

I’m partial to that one myself, but I’ve kind of regretted having a suspicious attitude towards the NABRE. As others says, the US Bishops endorse it (in some way) and that should be something to keep in mind.


To be frank, a lot of the stuff I’ve come across just seems like liberal Protestant scholarship, and clearly, not all Catholic scholars agree with many of the conclusions that can be arrived at through those methodologies.

Reading the short introduction to Second Peter, for example, would lead a person to think that:

(1) Peter obviously didn’t write it;

(2) It was met with resistance in the early Church, who treated its canonicity with extreme suspicion;

(3) It may have been written as late as 125 - 150 AD.

Moreover, while those facts may all be true, they’re presented in a way which doesn’t at all come across as faith-affirming. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible or the Navarre Bible, for example, certainly mention these types of ideas, but yet presents them in a careful manner, knowing that their readership might be very new to all of this.


Your splitting hairs here.

If your faith is dependent on scripture, your in spiritual trouble.


I have an absolutely wonderful NABRE version – the Didache Bible from Midwest Theological Forums. It incorporates the Catechism and apologetic topics. It is a scholarly work of love. I also have the Navarre RSV-CE New Testament and the Old Testament (7 volumes, I think in total for the OT). This is also exceptionally well done. Between these two versions – I have all I could want in terms of understanding Holy Scripture, Living Tradition and the teachings of the Catholic Church. I do not worry about accuracy or reliability; I trust the notes, I trust the commentary and I absolutely love the input from the Early Church Fathers and the saints. When the complete Ignatius Study Bible is published, I will consider that purchase as well.


Judging from other CAF threads on the NABRE notes, the notes certainly offend some readers, so I would have to say there is a chance of undermining the faith.

You have answered your own question so well, I have nothing to add, but I’ll stay tuned…


I almost hesitate to reply, due to being nearly excoriated for daring to offer an opinion in another thread when such was solicited. However, in the case of the NAB/NABRE, I note a sudden and fairly stark change in attitude from the notes of both the D-R as well as the Confraternity (1941-1969) translations. Here I will type portions of the intro to 2 Peter from a 1952 confraternity bible:


In this Second Epistle, St. Peter refers to his previous letter and to the doctrine contained in it. It was most likely addressed to the same Christian communities of Asia Minor as the former Epistle, and was occasioned by the appearance among the Christians of false teachers, heretics and deceivers, who promised them freedom, corrupting their good morals and denying the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world…The contents of this epistle, specifically chapter 2, bear such a striking resemblance to the Epistle of Saint Jude that it seems probable Saint Peter was familiar with the Epistle of his fellow-Apostle and made use of some of its thoughts…The author calls himself “Simon Peter, a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ.” This statement of authorship is affirmed by the Epistle itself, the author of which describes himself as an eyewitness of our Lord’s Transfiguration, and calls Paul his dear brother…The time and place of its composition are deduced from 1,13-15. The Apostle knows that his death is at hand.As St. Peter died a martyr in Rome, we may conclude that the Epistle was written from Rome during his imprisonment, 66-67 A. D.

** Comparing that with the NAB/NABRE notes reveals that modernism (i.e.historical-critical examination) indeed has crept into those notes. The editors and revisers of the Confraternity bible were all ordained clergy with advanced degrees, whereas the NAB was influenced by lay theologians, at least one religious sister as well as input from a Presbyterian Pastor.

What also strikes me is that modern theologians seem to assume that, the further in time they are removed from the subject matter, the more they know about it. As well, the traditions of the Church are downplayed and the NAB text is demonstrably less Catholic than all previous Catholic bibles.

Read the NABRE comments about Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1, for example. They intimate that Luke either made up, or essentially ‘copied and pasted’ the Magificat from some other source, suggesting that Mary never, in fact, spoke those words. Call me a reactionary, but such insinuations I find to be unacceptable.


No, I don’t believe so. There are some notes that I believe are incompatible with the faith (and probably some of the introductions too) and the translation itself of the Sacred Scriptures is highly questionable in at least some places. For example, the first three verses of the Bible in Genesis are translated in such a way that as the footnotes tell us are as it were a pre-creation of creation, i.e., God’s creative activity starts with verse 3 and the creation of light. This is contrary to the entire Tradition of the Church’s understanding of Genesis 1:1 and the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning Genesis 1:1 (cf. #290). In a word, there is no pre-creation of creation, this is not what God through Moses is revealing to us here in Genesis but rather some scholar’s personal opinion and interpretation.

The entire NABRE, footnotes, introductions, and the translation of the scripture text itself needs to be read with discernment. It’s the work of various scholars and their opinions and interpretations. The introductions and footnotes are not Scripture itself nor do they have the guarantee of divine inspiration. If I owned a NABRE I would compare the translation of the text itself to other catholic bibles including the Latin Vulgate as well as protestant bibles; one can do a personal study of the text itself, there are many personal bible study tools on the internet today. Some of the scholarly work in the NABRE is good I think. But, I do not agree with all of it to say the least.


On occasion, I will take my Knox, Confraternity, or other bible to mass and will read parallel to the readings, as the translations can be quite different, according to the intent of the translators. I stop and listen to the Gospel reading, though.

One ‘sleeper’ translation, that was done in collaboration with the Catholic Church in the UK is the Revised English Bible (with “apocrypha”). It is a smooth flowing read and I believe that it is more Catholic than the current US Catholic bible. Excellent to as-new examples may be found on ThriftBooks or eBay for less than $10 - a bargain. I wish that a truly Catholic version were available, as some true apocryphal books (i.e. 1&2 Esdras) are included in the mix. But, it is a very good overall translation, IMO.


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