Translations Inspired?


Salvete, omnes!

Just a few (what I hope to be!) simple questions from a Protestant “flirting” with conversion to Catholicism…

In Catholic teaching, is Jerome’s Latin Vulgate considered inspired? If not inspired, is it considered infallible (if that’s the proper term to use) and/or inerrant?

Similarly, is the Greek Septuagint considered inspired and/or inerrant and/or infallible since it is pretty apparent that often it and not the original Hebrew/Aramaic text (where it existed) was cited in the New Testament.

What about modern English translations (as well as those in other modern languages)? Inspired? Infallible? Inerrant?

Vobis gratias.


omnis traductor traditor

literal meaning: every translator is a traitor

underlying meaning: every translation is a corruption of the original; the reader should take heed of unavoidable imperfections

There is also a time measure which I call “being removed” like "2015 English is almost 2000 yrs removed from the Greek, which itself in the OT is somewhat removed from the Hebrew.

Then there are motives, such as obtaining copyrights and purposely use words which would not infringe on other copyrights, which further distort the impeccability issue, if there ever was one in the first place.

Bottom line: it becomes a matter of faith for the reader of whether translations are inspired or not and whether it’s inspired enough for him to read it in the first place.

Does any of this make sense?


Scriptural inspiration applies only to the original authors and their original manuscripts. Translations may be more or less accurate, but they are not inspired.

One discussion of the matter can be found here.


The Catholic Church considers no translation infallible or inspired, or even inerrant. It does hold the Vulgate as being free from error in faith and morals (i.e. it has a Nihil Obstat) but it does not mean the Vulgate is without any error at all; it may have translation errors (the same can be said of the NRSV, which also has a Nihil Obstat, but I’m not going to go so far as to call the NRSV inerrant, it just means nothing it says goes against faith and morals). Not even the LXX is considered inspired in itself, although the Greek texts of the NT which quotes from the LXX certainly are.

Only the original autographs are considered inspired.


Thanks for the info. Would you please mind explaining (again, to an ignorant Protestant! :slight_smile: ) precisely how a “Nihil Obstat” works? Does this mean that a text has been evaluated and has been found to contain no errors of faith or morals? Is the guarantee itself to be considered “infallible”, if not in the official sense of the term, at least in some sense? If so, in what sense? So, then, modern translations of the Bible (as well as other documents) can be qualified as such? (I’ve seen even documents on EWTN and here marked with this N.B.) By what particular Church authority (if any) is the Nihil O. given? Is it always given directly from that authority?

Also, if an LXX passage is quoted in the NT, even if the entirety of the LXX is not considered inspired, is that particular passage per se considered inspired because it was quoted in the inspired text of the NT?

Iterum gratias!


**Misty **

A translation is just a translation. The only real difference between translating, say, a French detective novel into English and translating the Bible is the amount of time and effort that goes into it. Every verse, every word, is carefully gone over by different groups of editors time and time again, to make sure the translation is as good as they can get it within the guidelines laid down for that particular edition. I don’t think any Catholic has ever claimed that this or that translation of the Bible is “infallible”, and as far as I’m aware I don’t think any Protestant has ever claimed that this or that translation of the Bible is “inerrant.”


Wikipedia has a decent explanation:

In general, the Nihil Obstat simply means that the book was reviewed and nothing damaging to the faith was found. Nihil Obstat is latin for “nothing stands in the way,” “nothing prevents,” “nothing stops,” “nothing obstructs,” or “nothing hinders”

It doesn’t mean that the book contains no errors. It just means that there is nothing that is damaging. So in theory, it could have an explanation that isn’t quite right theologically, etc; but the message it’s trying to give is correct. A minor error may have been missed by the reviewer(s).

Also, a Nihil Obstat does NOT make a document infallible, nor official. Not official in any sense of the term. The Nihil Obstat is actually just the first of three steps for getting an Imprimatur.

Nihil Obstat are granted under the authority of the Bishops.


Some claim that the King James is inerrant.


How many times have minor alterations been made to the text of the KJV since 1611? Dozens, if not hundreds. How do the inerrantists deal with that, I wonder.


As mentioned above, infallibility is only concerned with the message, not grammar or wording. An approved translation is sufficient because it provides what is necessary for people who can only read that specific language. Over time people has gotten the wrong impression of a translation and its place in the Christian faith due to sometimes well-intentioned people who try to reason out things that they have never been educated in and they misinform others who dont know any better, and their misguided information gets passed along over time and becomes mainstream thought in certain groups. Also groups who believe the Bible is the only authority to the Christian faith they find themselves having to try to fill the need of authority with a specific translation because they dont have the authority of Apostolic Tradition and Succession to guide them into doctrine of one accord so they attempt to solve it by translations or a translation. And something that’s popular these days is people attempt to find authority by going to original Biblical languages to give them “authoritative leverage” or to try to unlock some secret doctrine. You will find that some zealots think they become an apostle when they learn how to use a lexicon or take a course in Koine Greek.


Very true. And as much, if not more, is introduced into paintings, sculptures, movies and such depicting events in the Bible. One would tend to think these non-verbal means of communicating the Bible spread faster than any written translation.


As explained earlier, “Nihil Obstat” means “nothing stands in the way”, meaning, nothing it says is contrary to faith and morals. It does not constitute an agreement with the content of the text. It’s usually issued by a diocesan censor and is a pre-requisite to a bishop issuing an Imprimatur (“let it be printed.”)

It does not mean the document is infallible; far from it. It could be completely wrong. For example: I could make the statement “George W Bush was a good President.”

That statement can easily be given a Nihil Obstat, because it’s not contrary to faith or morals. Is it correct, though? There are those who would argue he was terrible. Or another example as given by a known apologist: if I translated “La manzana es verde” as “The apple is red”, I can still get a Nihil Obstat, because I said nothing contrary to faith or morals. However, that’s a glaring translation error because “verde” means green, not red.

Also, if an LXX passage is quoted in the NT, even if the entirety of the LXX is not considered inspired, is that particular passage per se considered inspired because it was quoted in the inspired text of the NT?

Iterum gratias!

No, the LXX passage would not be inspired even if quoted in the NT. But the quote itself, as it stands in the NT text constitutes part of the inspired text.

For example, Isaiah 7:14 is inspired only in the Hebrew as originally written. The LXX of Isaiah 7:14 is not (because it is a translation). But Isaiah 7:14 as quoted by Matthew, insofar as it is part of Matthew’s Gospel, is part of the inspired text of Matthew. But it does not mean that the inspiration retroactively applies to LXX Isaiah.


Is it possible that Matthew first wrote his gospel in Aramaic and then himself translated his own gospel into Greek? If that were true how inspired would Matthew’s own translation into Greek be?


It would be Matthew’s original writing of his gospel which was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The accuracy of his translation is on him! (Although I’m sure he would do a good job of it!)


There is no difference in inspiration if it is the autographed manuscript from the authors themselves vs an approved version, the message is just as valuable for doctrinal purposes, because our faith taught by the Church is not inferior with the Scriptures that we have had preserved. The only difference if we had the autographed manuscripts would be the relic value.


Excellent point, I never really thought of non-verbal means having potentially greater influence but i can imagine it very well could.


No translations can be considered inspired or inerrant because they are only as good as the translator skills are. The translator is not inspired nor considered error free ( at least I don’t know of any that are.)

The parts of the Greek Septuagint that are in the Catholic Bible are considered inspired. Not all books of the Septuagint are in the Catholic Bible such as 3 and 4 Maccabees.


You just said that no translator is inspired. However, then, you go on to say that the Septuagint is inspired (at least those parts in the Catholic Scriptures). Yet, is not the LXX technically a translation? How do you square this?


The legend of the LXX and of the 72 translators was considered by antiquity as an inspired translation by how the translators all had the same exact translation from the Hebrew, and if the story is true it would be nothing short of miraculous, but whether one believes the legend is subjective. I have no problems believing it since the Holy Spirit has done greater things. Though many Church Fathers believed the the LXX was special, the Church has not exulted it to the standard Old Testament version, though the Greek Orthodox did.

But no translation is inspired in a grammatical sense, but the message itself is. Its the power of the Word of God, not the power of the pen on paper.


Because not all of the LXX is a translation; some works are Greek originals. This includes Judith, 2 Maccabees, portions of Esther, portions of Daniel, Wisdom, Baruch. In the case of these works, the inspired text is the original Greek, whatever that is.

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