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There are many versions of the Bible, such as the:

  • King James Bible
  • NIV
  • NRSV

But which is the "correct" bible for Catholics to read?

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The answer really depends on if you mean private reading, or liturgical. At mass you should use the version they use at mass. At home use whatever you want, although the hierarchy obviously would suggest you use one labelled as a "Catholic Edition" and which carries an imprimatur. – david brainerd Apr 16 '14 at 4:27

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The King James Version is not accepted by the Catholic Church. Primarily because it is translated to fit Anglican theology src1 src2. There is no Catholic edition of the NIV either. Not to mention these misses Deuterocanonical Books. Regarding NRSV make sure it is a Catholic edition.

The correct bible that a Catholic is supposed to use is the Latin Vulgate Bible. That is the official bible of the Catholic Church. That is the one which is used in papal masses.

But if you are looking for bible in your vernacular look for a bible that has:

  • 73 books in it
  • An imprimatur sign from competent authority (usually a bishop)
  • Bishop's conference of a country would usually have released/recommended an official translation, which is used in the liturgy. It would be better if you can get hold of that version.

The following is a complete list of the translations of the Sacred Scriptures that have received the approval of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1983 src:

  • Books of the New Testament, Alba House
  • Contemporary English Version - New Testament, First Edition, American Bible Society
  • Contemporary English Version - Book of Psalms, American Bible Society
  • Contemporary English Version - Book of Proverbs, American Bible Society
  • The Grail Psalter (Inclusive Language Version), G.I.A. Publications
  • New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE)
  • New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, National Council of Churches
  • The Psalms, Alba House
  • The Psalms (New International Version) - St. Joseph Catholic Edition, Catholic Book Publishing Company
  • The Psalms - St. Joseph New Catholic Version, Catholic Book Publishing Company
  • Revised Psalms of the New American Bible (1991)
  • So You May Believe, A Translation of the Four Gospels, Alba House
  • Today's English Version, Second Edition, American Bible Society
  • Translation for Early Youth, A Translation of the New Testament for Children, Contemporary English Version, American Bible Society
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This looks good on the surface, but even as a non-Catholic I think I can see a massive oversight. How could you not even mention the Jerusalem Bible / New Jerusalem Bible that is the most widely used Catholic sanctioned Bible translation out there? I'm pretty sure there are other technical inaccuracies here too. – Caleb Apr 15 '14 at 7:54
@Caleb This answer specifically refers to USCCB, who have not approved the JB/NJB for public worship. – Andrew Leach Apr 15 '14 at 9:10
@Caleb : I was trying to give a generic answer. Not specific to US. The list was an example of how a bishop conference approves Bible translations. It explicitly specifies that it is a list of bible translations approved AFTER '83. (JB/NJB was not listed in USCCB website; may be it received approval before 1983?) This list is directly taken from USCCB's website. I did NOT prepare this list. I would love to know what other other inaccuracies you find in this answer. – Jayarathina Madharasan Apr 15 '14 at 9:44
I'm not sure why it was -1ed. – The Freemason Apr 15 '14 at 12:54
The citations for Anglican bias in the KJV are poor, and people should note that. The one links to some guy on the internet who just flat out makes the same claim (no discussion, examples, or evidence). The other links to an article that appears to be an argument against KJV as having some special inspired/authoritative status as a translation - which is not the same as having Anglican bias. – Kevin Sep 1 at 13:27

In addition to Jayarathina's answer for the United States, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales lists

For use in the Liturgy (that is, at Mass):

Revised Standard Version
Jerusalem Bible
New Jerusalem Bible*
New Revised Standard Version*
Good News — may be used for Masses with Children

Grail Psalter (1963)
Grail Psalter (revised 1993)*

For the Divine Office:

Jerusalem Bible
Knox Bible
New English Bible
Revised Standard Version
Good News

The Grail Psalter (1963) is used for the Psalms. Canticles are taken from:
Grail Psalter
Jerusalem Bible
Revised Standard Version

*These versions may only be used for individual local celebrations and may not be used to produce a Lectionary (full set of readings)

In England & Wales, the usual translation used is the Jerusalem Bible, but the above versions are permitted in their various uses. In the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the only approved translation is the Revised Standard Version and its use is mandated in both the Ordinariate Use and the Novus Ordo celebrated by the Ordinariate (although in the latter, the Grail Psalter must be used).

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According to Jayarathina Madharasan's answer:

The correct bible that a Catholic is supposed to use is the Latin Vulgate Bible. That is the official bible of the Catholic Church. That is the one which is used in papal masses.

Actually, we have not used Latin Lectionaries (that's the book of Scripture we use in Liturgy) in any widespread sense since the early 60's when it was switched to vernacular. Of course the Papal masses are different because they are done at the Vatican, but that is rare (unless you attend Traditional Latin Mass, which is perfectly fine but very uncommon relative to Masses in the Vernacular).

In the US, our Lectionary is based off a heavily modified version of the New American Bible (the normal NAB, and even the NABRE, do not have Vatican approval without revisions, owing to inclusive language and other factors).

As far as private reading, a great many are approved, but off the top of my head here are some of them:

  • RSV-Catholic Edition (CE)
  • RSV-2ND CE
  • NAB-revised edition
  • Douay Rheims-Challoner Revision
  • Knox Version

I know there are more, but those are probably the most widely used (with Knox being the least used among them despite the beautifully written translation).

For study, most Catholics use either the RSV-CE or RSV-2CE, as they are more readable than the Douay Rheims but also very accurate from the original languages.

For those who can read Latin, they do sell parallel Bibles with the Douay Rheims and either the Clementine Vulgate or the New Vulgate. But those are rarely used by the Laity.

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Very nice post. Can you edit in a source or two to support it? Here's an upvote in advance. – fredsbend Sep 2 '14 at 17:34

The Catholic Answers site has a good article on Bible selection. The article gives good general information about literal vs dynamic, and discusses a number of specific translations. While suggesting each person should choose according to their judgment, they do warn about versions that may be biased and suggest an appropriate choice.

We recommend staying away from translations with unconventional renderings, such as the TEV, and suggest using the Revised Standard Version- Catholic Edition. This is a Church-approved version of the RSV that has a few, minor changes in the New Testament. It has been reissued by Ignatius Press under the title The Ignatius Bible (available from Catholic Answers in both hardcover and paperback formats)

Most Catholics will probably want to have at least one Bible which contains the Deuterocanonical books and has official approval for use in the Church.

There is anecdotal evidence that Bibles like the ones in the picture on this page, apparently a King James version (KJV) printed for the Gideons, are strongly disliked by some Catholic teachers. While some (mostly Protestants) think the KJV is a very good or even the only reliable version and others have a low opinion of it, these opinions are mostly a matter of individual taste.

Back in the early 1600's there were three relatively new translations, the Douay-Rheims, the Geneva, and the King James. The Geneva was either loved or hated because it had extensive notes which discussed doctrinal issues. The King James gradually became the Bible of choice for most Protestants, and at that time only the Douay-Rheims was recommended for Catholic use.

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The original Douay-Rheims Study Bible is the most doctrinally "correct" Catholic study Bible and English translation because:

  1. It is translated from the Latin Vulgate, with comparisons to the original languages; the 4th Session of the Council of Trent on the Canonical Scriptures authorized the Vulgate as the official translation of the Church:
    But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.
  2. The translation and commentary emphasize Catholic doctrine against the Protestant and other heresies.
  3. It is free from error.
  4. It is the first authorized Catholic, Modern English translation of Holy Scriptures; thus, it has great historical significance, withstanding the "test of time."
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1 your opinion. Can you provide objective substantiation for the assertion, however valid that might be? This is Stack Exchange, not a forum! – Andrew Leach Aug 31 at 8:43
@AndrewLeach: The link I provided supplies the reasons, but I've added some to the post. – Geremia Sep 1 at 3:14
"It is free from error" -- not claimed in your source. Apparently they do think it's free of a lot of errors found in other versions, but not necessarily free of all errors. You might want to clarify that. The linked page is written as an advertisement for a rather expensive Bible; it doesn't seem as objective as it could be. – disciple Nov 22 at 15:30

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