Bible Versions and Commentaries
Liturgical Use in United States
There is only one English text currently approved by the Church for use in the United States. This text is the one contained in the Lectionaries approved for Sundays & Feasts and for Weekdays by the USCCB and recognized by the Holy See. These Lectionaries have their American and Roman approval documents in the front. The text is that of the New American Bible with revised Psalms and New Testament (1988, 1991), with some changes mandated by the Holy See where the NAB text used so-called vertical inclusive language (e.g. avoiding male pronouns for God). Since these Lectionaries have been fully promulgated, the permission to use the Jerusalem Bible and the RSV-Catholic at Mass has been withdrawn. [See note on inclusive language]
A bewildering array of Catholic Bibles are available for personal use. They all have imprimaturs, but not all avoid the use of inclusive language. That use is indicated in the summary. The order is generally chronological.
Douai-Rheims. The original Catholic Bible in English, pre-dating the King James Version (1611). It was translated from the Latin Vulgate, the Church’s official Scripture text, by English Catholics in exile on the continent. The NT was completed and published in 1582 when the English College (the seminary for English Catholics) was located at Rheims. The Old Testament was published in 1610 when the College was located at Douai. Bishop Challoner’s 1750 edition, and subsequent revisions by others up to the 20th century, is the most common edition. Retains some archaic English. The 1899 edition is available from TAN Books. The text is widely available on line, including EWTN’s library.
Confraternity Edition. Begun in 1936 by the American bishops’ Confraternity for Christian Doctrine as a translation from the Clementine Vulgate. The publication of Pius XII’s encyclical Divino afflante spiritu (1943) caused the translation committee to switch to the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Not all books were completed by the time of Vatican II (1962-1965). Those that were finished were used in the liturgy in the 1950s and 60s. Published in a dignified American idiom. Though hard to find, this edition of the Scriptures is worth possessing.
Revised Standard Version (RSV) - Catholic Edition. Translated for an American audience from the original languages in the 1940s and 1950s by the National Council of the Churches of Christ, and adapted for Catholic use by the Catholic Biblical Association (1966). Considered the best combination of literal (formal equivalence translation) and literary by many orthodox Catholic scholars. Published today by Ignatius Press (Ignatius Bible) and Scepter Press, and available through EWTN’s Religious Catalogue.
(There is also now the aforementioned RSV-CE 2nd Ed., which primarily removes the “thees and thous” in favor of modern language.)
4.1 New American Bible or NAB (1970). Translated from the original languages by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine according to the principles of Vatican II for use in the liturgy. It was the basis of the American Lectionary from the 1970s until 2002. A good translation, but it was criticized for its changing of some traditional and familiar expressions, such as “full of grace”.
4.2 NAB with Revised New Testament (1986). A restoration of some traditional familiar phraseology. Unfortunately, it also included some mild inclusive language. No longer widely available, owing to the publication of the revised Psalms (see next entry).
4.3 NAB with Revised Psalms and Revised New Testament (1991). It was due to the use of vertical inclusive language (re: God and Christ) and some uses of horizontal inclusive language (re: human beings), that the Holy See rejected this text as the basis of a revised Lectionary for the United States. This is the version of the NAB currently on sale in the United States.