What verses would you look at to quickly judge or compare an unfamiliar Bible translation?


So I’m putting together a little document on different Catholic Bible translations, and it would be useful if I could include a set slate of passages from each translation that really give a good idea of what each translation is like. I’m thinking no more than a dozen. Perhaps:
*]3 or so passages that are generally well-known and beloved (e.g. Psalm 23)
*]Any prominent ideological litmus test passages (e.g. Isaiah 7:14)
*]3 or so passages that are particularly theologically important (Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-5 perhaps?)
*]3 or so passages that are notoriously difficult to translate, or that have a lot of textual variants for translators to choose between, or that otherwise show a lot of variability between translations (e.g. ???)

The problem is I’m not nearly educated or knowledgeable enough to put together this list. Does anyone have any suggestions for good verses or passages that fit the above categories? Any other types of passages I should be on the look-out for?


I agree with looking at John 1:1-5. Another one for me is the Lord’s Prayer.


Luke 1:34 How can this be done, because I know not man?

To me, this so clearly indicates Mary’s intention of perpetual virginity in a way that “since I am not married” most emphatically does not, that I translate it the “right” way when I hear or read it. I probably own bibles that don’t translate it the first way, but I would not, and did not, buy them new.


I can’t answer the question directly from memory, but I would mention that copyright laws drive the translations to be different to some degree. I wouldn’t want to “judge quickly”

There’s two places in the Psalms that read “worship the Lord in holy attire” which misses the point of the verse. A better translation I found said “worship the Lord resplendent in majesty” – a big difference about who is dressed how.


I personally like, “Hail, Full of Grace…” and also, “…the woman will crush his head…”


Would you guys explain the reasoning for the lines you select? I may have trouble getting the douay-rheims pocket bible and have to resort to the RSV-CE Compact

I do understand isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:28 (and Luke 1:34), but how do you use John 1:1-5. Lord’s Prayer, and Gen 3:15 to spot how sound is the translaiton? (afaik, if it’s not JW translation, you cannot screw up John 1:1-5)

Also, for those that have RSV-1CE, what is its Luke 1:34?


As to the forgiveness of sins: 2 Corinthians 2:10 in the KJV, D-R, Knox or 1941 Confraternity: Paul forgave sins for the sake of others in the person of Christ. In persona Christi. Sadly, this has been changed to “in the presence of Christ” in modern translations. That can be misleading.

As to Mary: She succeeds and exceeds Judith (Judith 13:18 “Most blessed of all women”) but Judith is a type of Mary, as by her singular action, she freed Israel from a mortal threat: in Judith’s case, it was Holofernes. In Mary’s case, it was sin. As to her coronation, Revelation 12:1. As to her motherhood of Christ, Rev.elation 12:5 with reference to Psalm 2:9 (the rod of iron). As to her motherhood of the entire faithful, Revelation 12:17.

The usual references to the power and divine institution of the Church: Matthew 16:18, 18:15-18, Eph 3:10, 1 Tim 3:15.

Sacrifice and prayers for the dead: 2 Maccabees 12:38-45.


And thanks to another thread, it illustrated why Luke 1:34 need to be rendered as “because I know not man” or “since I am a virgin”: A Jewish Marriage is 2 stage, and at the time of annunciation, the legal marriage is already in the first stage. Using anything that explicit/implies her not have a legal husband (which according to biblegateway’s RSVCE, is the translation) is not only a doctrinal error but also a historical and cultural error.


Is there specific evidence for what you’re saying about copyright? I’ve heard that before too, but I’ve never actually seen a case of a translator saying that he felt hemmed-in by copyright laws, or one Bible publisher suing another for copyright infringement. After all, all the most familiar phraseology used in English-language Bibles is long out of copyright (the KJV and ASV are in the public domain). And even if you’re right, does it matter if a translation is bad because copyright laws forced the translators to make it bad? I still don’t want to buy it.

As for judging quickly, well, we don’t really have a choice. There are at least 15 distinct translations of the Bible or the New Testament that have imprimaturs or that include the deuterocanon in the Old Testament. Throw in any Bible that includes the deuterocanon in a separate “apocrypha” section and the number of choices balloons to several dozen at least. What do you expect Catholics to do, read the entire Bible three dozen times before settling on a Bible to purchase? The selections I’ve chosen are rapidly reaching around 5 pages of material. I’d say that’s enough selections to at least narrow down the field for a confused Catholic trying to decide among the many different options available.

This is a good suggestion. I’m considering including all of Psalm 96.

Darn, Genesis 3:15-16 is another good suggestion. My list of passages is getting out of hand!

It’s not necessarily just to spot soundness in translation. For the Lord’s Prayer, it’s always interesting to see how much a translation allows itself to differ from the traditional wording, and how it sounds when spoken aloud. It’s also interesting to see if a translation does anything with epiousion besides pretend it means “daily.”

For John 1, it’s worth noting if a translation preserves the parallelism between Genesis 1 and John 1 (In the beginning God… In the Beginning the Word). Also if you extend the passage to John 1:1-14 as I’ve decided to do, you can see how literally a translation renders “he pitched his tent among us.”

Genesis 3:15 is all about seeing if “he,” “she,” or “they” will be bruising the serpent’s head.

According to Bible Gateway:

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?’”


[quote=Transformer]According to Bible Gateway:

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?’”

This topic involves a couple of issues.

  1. The source. If it is the Latin Vulgate, you will get a different translation then you would if you are translating from the Hebrew/Greek texts. PLUS, the sources themselves can be an issue. What I am saying is, the translators may be translating in good faith to the best of their ability, yet arrive at different wording for some key passages (as noted in this thread.)

  2. The translator’s objective. Formal equivalence, paraphrase, gender neutral, modern American (or UK English) etc.

So for example in your quote above the “Catholic” edition of the RSV is more Protestant than the traditional KJV which has “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.” However, even in this rendering, a case can be made that the indefinite article “a” tends toward what is found in the later RSV-CE1!

In my mind (at least) I rate Bibles like this from Most Catholic to Least Catholic:

The D/R Bibles
The D/R/Confraternity Bibles (1940’s-1960’s)
The KJV Bibles (previous to the Standard Authorized Version of the Late 19th c.)
The RSV-CE Bibles
The Jerusalem Bibles
The NAB or NABRE Bibles
The NIV Bibles
The Jehovah Witness/Mormon Bibles



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