I am often asked myself what is the best Bible translation and which version I should choose when I use Bible quotes in my articles.
I noticed this is an important question about which as Catholic and blogger for English speaking audiences need to be informed.
I am going to explain everything that I have learned about Bible translations.
Translators use 2 general approach:
Formal equivalence translations -“Word for Word”
Formal equivalence translations (literal translation) try to give as literal a translation of the original text as possible. Translators using this approach want to be as close to the original, even preserving much of the original word order. These translations are an excellent resource for serious Bible study. On the other hand, they are more difficult to read. Some Bible translations that make use of literal equivalence include the Douay-Rheims, King James, Revised Standard and Confraternity Editions.
Dynamic equivalence approach- “Thought for Thought”
Because literal translations can be difficult to read, many have produced more readable Bibles using the dynamic equivalence approach. According to this view, it does not matter whether the style, grammar and word order of the original are preserved so long as the meaning of the text is preserved. This allows the translator to use more readable English style and word choice.
The disadvantage of dynamic translation is that is less consistent in its rendering of specific words and is more likely to reveal the translator’s personal views.
Examples of Bibles that make use of dynamic equivalence include the New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, New International Version and the Good News.
There is also the method of free translation or paraphrase. The purpose of this method is to give readers the flow of the biblical text idea by idea. Many times rendering the meaning of whole sentences in new ways, rather than carrying over the exact words of the Hebrew or Greek. A paraphrase may use the word flashlight instead of lamp, for example.
What Is the Best Catholic Bible Translation?
First of all, you should ask yourself what is your intent and purpose. If you intend to do serious Bible study, that you should choose one of the literal translation. This enables you to catch more detailed implications of the text. On the other hand, you must know the “word for word” translation is much harder to read.
Secondly, the choice depends on whether you want a modern form of English language or an old fashion translation. Older versions, such as the Douay-Rheims, can look more authoritative and inspiring. But they are not easy to understand because of changing the language through the century.
The disadvantage to using certain modern translations is that they do not use the traditional renderings of certain passages and phrases, and you may find this annoying. The Good News Bible or Today’s’ English Version is especially known for non-traditional renderings.
And last but not least, for Catholics is important that Bible translation is approved and recommended by Church.
Approved translation of the Bible
Until 1983, Bible translations had been approved by the Apostolic See or by a local ordinary within a diocese and all those approved translations still may be used for private prayer and study.
The list of approved Bible translations by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop (USCCB) from 1983 to now can see on this link.
A huge selection of Catholic Bible translations and editions are available for personal use, prayer and study. All of the below-listed translations have approval by Church authorities
In the future, the Jerusalem Bible, Revised Standard Version, and New American Bibles were approved for liturgical use in the United States. The New Revised Standard Version has been approved for use in Canada.
Since 2002, the revised Lectionary, based on the New American Bible edition with revised Psalms and New Testament is the only English-language Lectionary that may be used at Mass in the dioceses of the United States.
Most Popular Catholic Bible translations
Most popular Catholic translation are Douai-Rheims Bible, Revised Standard Version, New American Bible, Jerusalem Bible and Today’s English version. All of them are available in Catholic stores online. And more important, all have an imprimatur – an official declaration by a Church authority that a Bible edition may be published. The order is chronological.
The original Catholic Bible in English was translated from the Latin Vulgate. NewTestament was completed and published in 1582 when the English College was located at Rheims in France. The Old Testament was issued 28 years later in Douai.
The revision of the Douay-Rheims was prepared by Bishop Richard Challoner and published in 1752. Even though the edition made a lot of changes to the original text, it is still considered Douay Rheims version. Today, this version is most commonly in print under the Douay-Rheims.
2. Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE)
The edition was translated from the original languages ( Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek) in the 1940s and 1950s and adapted for Catholic use by the Catholic Biblical Association in 1966. Many Catholic scholars consider RSV the best combination of literal translation. Today is published by Ignatius Press.
New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE)
NRSV-CE is an adaptation of the NRSV for Catholic use. It issued in the American edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. First edition was released in 1989. With this exception, like the predecessor RSV, it is a good formal equivalent translation.
In 2006 Ignatius Press released the second Catholic edition of the RSV. This edition replaced all of the “Thee” and “Thou” language with “You” and updated the footnotes.
The scholarly Navarre Bible commentary uses the RSV-CE as its English text. Read here What is the Navarre Bible?
3. New American Bible (NAB)
NAB was translated from the original languages in 1970 for use in the liturgy. It was the basis of the American Lectionary from the 1970s until 2002. In 1986 issued the NAB edition with revised New Testament. The NAB will cease printing in 2011.
New American Bible-Revised Edition (NABRE)
Five years later (1991) was published New American Bible-Revised Edition with revised Psalms and revised New Testament. This version of the NAB from 1991 is currently on sale in the United States and is the most common Bible translation.
4. Jerusalem Bible (JB)
Jerusalem Bible is s translation based on the French edition of the Dominicans in Jerusalem, who translated it from the original languages. The Jerusalem Bible was originally published in 1966 and was recognized for its literary quality.
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
New Jerusalem Bible is a revision of the Jerusalem Bible directly from the original languages. It was issued in 1990. It is considered more literal than the Jerusalem but not as literary. It is the most widely used English translation of the Bible outside of the United States. New Jerusalem Bible is considered a very literary text, and comparable in quality to the NRSV in scholarship.
The Jerusalem Bible was approved for liturgical use in the UK and the USA.
The original printing of the Daily Roman Missal used the Jerusalem Bible for its readings.
5. Today’s’ English Version – Catholic (TEV).
Today’s’ English Version was published in 1992. It is the Catholic edition of the popular Good News Bible. Translators used dynamic equivalence philosophy for readability. TEV can be considered more a paraphrase than a translation.
So, what is the best Catholic Bible translation? Hard question, isn’t it? Perhaps, this question is not so important. More important is to pick up the Bible and read the God’s word every day. Here is why?