Why Do the Notes and Introductions in the NAB read like a non believer wrote them?


I am reading through the NAB and I find the notes beyond liberal. I come from an evangelical background but was confirmed catholic as a young man. How can the Church teach that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit if the Bible contains fables and things that according to the notes probably never happened?

When I compare alleged contradictions that the NAB notes point out to Evangelical Study Bibles, such as the NIV Study Bible or the ESV study Bible, reasonable explanations become clear. Do I need to read my NAB with my old Evangelical standbys at hand?


I have read Bible’s that explain John 8 and the long ending of Mark maybe don’t even belong in the Bible. I also hear Catholic Apologists admit that there could be contradicting statements in Paul’s account of Jesus. I also find this unacceptable and puts a damper on my faith until someone explains it soundly.


That’s because they are non-believers, otherwise they wouldn’t be writing these silly notes :smiley:


This is because the NAB’s notes are influenced by the “liberal” or “non-literal” (=Modernist) school of Biblical criticism, as represented by scholars such as Raymond Brown. They have some interesting things to say, but their approach is often inconsistent with Sacred Tradition (and even with Dei Verbum). They are best avoided, unless you’re more than a little familiar with the storied saga of Catholic biblical scholarship since 1950.

For a more balanced take on modern Biblical criticism, the Jerusalem Bibles are much better, and contain far less that is offensive to a traditional understanding of the Scriptures.

Others good resources are the Catholic Scripture Study Bible (RSV) and the Ignatius Study Bible (RSV, 2nd edition).


:thumbsup: What he said.


Try an Ignatius bible, a Confraternity bible from the 40s or 50s, a Knox Translation or a Douay-Rheims. No such modernist nonsense exists in them. The Confraternity, in particular, is my favorite NT translation. Excellent. It is available in reprints, or the entire bible used on eBay or in thrift stores. Early Confraternity bibles had the D-R Old Testament combined with the Confraternity New Testament. The Confraternity translation of the OT was slowly introduced as the years progressed. The project was cancelled when the NAB was adopted. Shame.


Everything that is in the Bible did indeed happen…in some sense. In other words, sometimes the idea being conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit in Sacred Scripture is not flat-out literal. When reading and contemplating Scripture, the literary form that the author intended has to be kept in mind. The Dogmatic Constitution on Sacred Scripture, Dei Verbum tells us:

Since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (7) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another. (8)

But, since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written, (9) no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God. (10)

So, for example, is it necessary for a Catholic - or any Christian - to believe literally that the earth was created in six 24 hour days? No. The sacred writer was obviously using a more poetic rather than literal form when telling the account of Creation.

So yes, the Bible is entirely inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is the Word of God. But this doesn’t mean that every story recorded in the Bible was an actual literal event. And this fact shouldn’t shake ones’ faith - rather, it should enrich it.


The NAB hasn’t shaken my faith but it hasn’t helped it either! I have some NABs that I’d like to get rid of. How might I do that? I’ve gone to an RSV Bible and thank goodness, those stupid, non-believing notes are not there! It boggles my mind that the USCCB would endorse such tripe!:shrug:


Use the RSV-CE or Douay Rheims. The RSV study Bible is excellent, though it does seem to translate more loosely to adhere to a modern translation standard.


Does someone have some specific examples from the NAB that can be discussed?

Point of fact…the bible was written by freely acting human beings who lived in specific cultural contexts. The writers of scripture had limited understanding of God’s will and the events that took place around them, just like we do. They were not robots or tape recorders, nor did they write scripture in a trance with God magically guiding the pen. That’s not what inspiration means. Many elements of scripture were passed down over centuries as stories, with details changing. Still, God accomplishes the truth he wills through the author. The whole of Scripture must be read in light of the gospel, the life of Christ, who is the word. The Word is not simply a thing on paper to be proved or disproved. It is a living thing.

Many (most?) Catholics do not understand how the Church reads scripture. The Church does not read scripture in a literalist or fundamentalist way. The bible is not a history or science textbook, and at the same time it contains elements of them.

Verbum Domini by Pope Benedict is a good place to start, especially sections 29-49.


Examining the Confraternity bible (an update of the Vulgate/Douay-Rheims), one sees that the board of editors and revisers were 100% ordained clergy - many with advanced degrees in theology and sacred scripture. Fast forward to the NAB/NAB-RE and one can see that the editorial board has a good percentage of secular theologians, and even one Presbyterian pastor was consulted. Huge difference.

Contrast the Confraternity with the NAB/RE:

  1. Mary is “full of grace”, rather than merely “favored” Luke 1:28
  2. Her soul “magnifies” the Lord, rather than “proclaims” Luke 1:46
  3. Elizabeth blesses Mary for her belief, “because the things promised her by the Lord shall be accomplished”, rather than blessing Mary for simply believing that the Lord would do what He said. Luke 1:45
  4. Hell exists in it! - the word “Hell” is not in the NAB/RE
  5. Saint Paul forgave sins in the person of Christ, not merely the “presence.” 2 Corinthians 2:10
  6. The NAB/RE notes for Mary’s “Magnificat” basically allege that Luke either made it up or essentially copied and pasted from elsewhere.

It is easier to defend Catholic doctrine using the KJV! American Catholicism cries out for a better bible than the NAB/RE.


1 Corinthians 3:15 ~ But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

Will be saved: although Paul can envision very harsh divine punishment (cf ⇒ 1 Cor 3:17), he appears optimistic about the success of divine corrective means both here and elsewhere (cf ⇒ 1 Cor 5:5; ⇒ 11:32 [discipline]). The text of ⇒ 1 Cor 3:15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.

Catholics often use 1 Cor 3:15 as a proof-text for Purgatory. This note is less than convincing about that; which is disappointing. One would hope for a stronger connection there; since it is, after all, a Catholic Bible!!!


I was bothered by some comments in the NAB – a long time ago.

You might have a problem with some of the comments early on about the “documentary hypothesis.” (DH) Well, first of all, it’s just that, a hypothesis – a proposed explanation that accounts for what happens in the first five books of the Bible.

To start off, the footnotes you have depend on which edition of the NAB you are using. There may be relatively more or fewer footnotes. You don’t have to read any of the footnotes, if you don’t want.

In The New Jerome Biblical Commentary there is an article which explains which Bibles Catholics may read. Almost a hundred years ago, the Vatican said it was OK to read Protestant versions of the Bible. the article describes how that permission might be interpreted today, to include even reading the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament).

Elsewhere, the Church permits and even endorses reading Jewish commentaries on scripture, describing them as “first rate” sources of information – as long as we maintain an awareness and appreciation of their different point of view --we’re not going to agree with all their conclusions.

I have read the series, the Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentaries, and they, for example, explain the DH. That series of books really shows how the first five books of the Bible are knit together from pieces, which is to say, from different traditions.

For example, there are two versions of the Ten Commandments – one in exodus and one in deuteronomy. Now, why are they different? and why were they given twice? One says to observe the sabbath and the other says to remember the sabbath. What does that mean?

Perhaps you can get closer to understanding the need to interpret scripture by considering: the old testament was written in Hebrew (and Aramaic, I think). It has no vowels, no punctuation, no spaces between words, no chapter and verse numbers, and alphabet characters can represent numbers as well as alphabet characters. So, the very literal meaning of scripture is at stake here. If you read BG, would you say it meant bAg, bEg, bIg, bOg, or bUg? See? it could be any of those. So, people had to study scripture intently for centuries even to understand what it meant.

Not all of the books of the OT says exactly who the author was, reliably. That was one of the first questions of “modern” historical analysis back in the 1500’s and 1600’s. And, with it, went the idea that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, even though Christ refers to these as the Books of Moses. That is a traditional interpretation. But,it’s a problem, which deeply bothers some, because Deuteronomy describes the death and burial of Moses – how could he have written this?

It’s hard to explain all of this in a single post. I would just say, keep your mind open, go out and look for commentaries which provide a lot more analysis that does a Bible with footnotes or a study Bible with footnotes and cross references.

When you check out multiple sources, you will find that the DH is fairly well-accepted by Catholics, Protestants (in general), and Jews.

Another example, the names for God in Genesis seem to be much older and not used in subsequent books of the Bible – again suggesting that one man, Moses, was not the author of all of those five books. Also, the language of Genesis is much harder to understand (in Hebrew).


Also try the ridiculous NAB notes on 1 Cor 11:27-33 RE: worthiness to receive the Eucharist.


There’s a separate thread on the subject of there being slightly different accounts of Paul’s conversion in the Acts of the Apostles. Specifically, compare the account in chaps 9 and 22 with respect to what was heard and seen.

I think the NAB says that Luke was writing from different sources, which results in slightly different descriptions. Another (Protestant) study bible says the apparent contradiction results from a technical problem with the translation of the Greek original.

So, which is it?

That’s OK that you expect instant answers. But, when you really get into difficulties or when, like me, I just have curiousity, I look in multiple sources to compare answers.

In my preceding example, I like the Protestant study bible explanation, but I’d like even better confirmation of it. Questions like this I just keep in mind and pick them up when I happen to find another resource to throw into the consideration.


…so then, why do the explanations sound like a non-believer wrote them? Well, that’s your description of them, as being from a non-believer.

I would say, even the experts offer explanations “at different levels” of understanding. And, I consider them, as long as they make sense. I don’t have to decide today (or ever) between them – I just keep looking for more evidence.

Scripture study (modern) is referred to as being “scientific.” So, interpretations and insights may change over time.

Keep in mind: The Catholic Church has very few official interpretations of scripture. Protestants and Jews have no official central authority, like the Catholic Church’s magisterium. There is also no official interpretation of any scripture in all of Judaism. So, a lot of what passes as scripture scholarship is very fluid and subject to change.

For theological and pastoral reasons, every generation of the Church has to go back to the Bible and interpret it for themselves, based on new insights like in physical science, study of ancient cultures and languages of the middle east, and archeology.

The job isn’t finished. Don’t expect it to be finished. In the Catholic Church, the Bible must always be interpreted from the standpoint of faith.


I have a Haydock Bible but it’s so massive it’s hard to carry around. I wish they would make a personal sized edition. Even the Jerusalem Bible has liberal notes.

The other bibles mentioned all are good ones but what I want is a** modern Catholic Study Bible** with good notes so I don’t have to rely on my old Evangelical Bibles to defend sacred scripture. I don’t think one exists. I hear that there is one with just the NT, but most of the liberals attack the OT.


Fair enough, the objections to certain passage interpretations.
Our pastor taught scripture in seminary for many years and does not like the translation either.

I mainly concerned with the OP’s talk about fables, and non-believers writing the notes etc…

The transmission and interpretation of scripture can be almost horrifying in it’s messiness. There are literally thousands of scripture interpretation “threads” or families over the centuries.
In some cases, copyists’ column notes even became part of scripture!
Copyists lost their place while copying and mixed up the verse sequences. Those errors became part of scripture. It’s an incredibly messy endeavor. Human beings are really messy creatures and make lots of mistakes. We also tell stories to convey absolute truths. That truth is still truth, because it is God’s inspired truth, even though conveyed by human beings.

I don’t study scripture to look for facts and contradictions, I read it prayerfully. Interpreting scripture requires training and expertise, just like physics or chemistry does. If you’re going to study scripture you can’t demand definitive answers for many of these things (like the multiple stories of Paul’s conversions for instance), because definitive answers don’t exist, and there is no sense pretending they do. As Sirach says, scripture must be read through the eyes of faith.


Good point but I am referring to historical events in the Historical Books that the NAB notes basically say are doubtful that they ever happened or that the Scriptures facts are wrong. When the Bible says that that this King of Judah did this thing in Kings, but the Chronicles seem to disagree on some matter, the default NAB position is to attack the integrity of the Scripture. Now Samuel/Kings come to us in very corrupted form…so such discrepencies can easily be explained by textual corruption, but I find almost no instance where the NAB uses textual corruption to explain an apparent discrepancy. It just flat out seems to attack the integity of the Scripture


I don’t think it is quite fair, first of all, to question the ability or motivation behind the NAB translators. The Confraternity OT, begun in the 50’s and translating from the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, eventually found its way into the original NAB. The scholars of the NAB and NABRE are well respected in the field of biblical scholarship, some of them have been members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. There has been indeed a few Protestant scholars on the translation committees but this is simply in accord with Dei Verbum 22.

Yes Hell exists, but the Greek word behind it is typically Gehenna or sometimes Hades (Mt 16). If the sacred authors used different words, should not the translation reflect this when appropriate? Also, if one is willing to take the time to look up the history behind Gehenna, one will have a far greater appreciate as to why Jesus referred to the horrors that had historically had taken place at the Valley of Hinnon. (2 kings 23:10). Check out Matthew 5:22 in the NAB and RSV-2CE. The NAB is more literal and the note is far more helpful in the NAB than in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.

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