What Is the Best Catholic Bible Translation?

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.

  • Paraphrase

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

catholic bible translations

Source: Wikipedia

Liturgical use

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.

1. Douai-Rheims

douay-rheimsbibleThe 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)

best catholic bible translationNRSV-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)

new american bibleNAB 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 bibleNew 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?








6 Replies to “What Is the Best Catholic Bible Translation?”

  1. As a young Christian I didn’t think it mattered what Bible translation I should use. But I wanted to have what our head pastor was using so I can follow along when he reads the Bible as he is preaching. He did not exactly endorse the one he is using because he said that every accepted Bible translation is okay. But he also said that NIV is the easiest so far to understand and so I got myself NIV Bible.

    After spending some years studying Bible translations and the canonization of Scriptures, I thought I should have more Bible translations so I can compare and have a better understanding of what the passages are saying. And so today I have NIV and NKJV which I think are great. But today, when I am preparing messages/sermons I still look into other translations so as to have a wider reference with regards to the texts and verses I am quoting.

    I believe that every Bible translation is acceptable (except of course the NWT by the JWs) but what I don’t understand is that there are some who think that the KJV is the only inspired word of God. There are those who are called King James Only-ist who do not accept other Bible translations. They even go to the extreme of saying that other Bible translations are of the devil. What can you say about this?

    1. Hi Alice

      I was surprised when I read that about 450 English translations have been written. According to the survey from 2014 more than a half  (55%) of Bible readers in the United States use King James Version.

      For some Protestants  KJV is only acceptable version. This situation is called King James-onlyism. On the Catholic side, we faced with “Douay-Rheims-onlyism.”  Advocates of both version claim that translators were extremely saintly and scholarly men,  there are the only translations that avoids liberal renderings and they based on the only perfect set of manuscripts we have. Some people take both »-onlyism« very seriously and do not accept other Bible versions.

      I agree we should stay away from translations with unconventional renderings, such as the TEV or NWT but a majority of translations are acceptable.

      My motto is:  Live this issue to the experts. As Catholic, I accept every version which is approved by Catholic Church authority.


  2. Which one is the best though? I was hoping for an answer of what your favorite was and why. Could you show us a verse comparison so we could compare and contrast each version? You gave some very good information. I do agree that the most important item is that you pick up a Bible and read.

    1. Hi Marcey

      I intentionally didn’t give an answer to the question what is the best Catholic Bible for me. I wanted to live open door for my readers. 

      As non native speaker I prefer ” thought for thought” types of translation because they are more readable. My main criteria is an approvment by Church authority.

      Here you are comparison from 4 Bible translations. I took verse from very begining of the Bible; first two verses of Geneses:


      In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.
      And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters


      In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth]and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters.


      In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

      International Children’s Bible:

      In the beginning God created the sky and the earth.  The earth was empty and had no form. Darkness covered the ocean, and God’s Spirit was moving over the water.

    1. Thank you, Ursula, for stopping by. The new American Bible is the most common Catholic Bible translation.

      On the other hand, Amplified Bible is not so popular among believers. Am I right? I haven’t read this translation yet. I know translators used dynamic equivalence approach of translation and extra words are added in brackets in the text to expend the meaning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *