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Question: Bible Translations 


Full Question by Anonymous:
What Bible translations should Catholics read?

The response to this question is more my opinion than Church teachings.

To be an “official” translation it must be approved by the bishops with what is known as an imprimatur, but that doesn’t mean a Catholic in good standing can’t read an unofficial translation.

There are no translations that Catholics are “banned” from reading (at least not in the last 50 plus years, as far as I’ve been told) but there are some that are more problematic than others.

One of the most problematic translations would be the New World Translation, the in house translation of the Jehovah’s witnesses, this one has been greatly varied to fit the witness’ unchristian theology. The NWT would also be the only one that I’d urge all Catholics, and even all non-Catholic Christians, to avoid.

Before we get into the various translations, allow me a moment to write about translation techniques.

There are two major techniques of translation that you will encounter when shopping for a new Bible, and some blending between the two:

1. Formal equivalence
Here translators work to translate on a word for word basis, trying to maintain the grammatical composition of the text. While being very accurate these translation are less readable and thus less likely to be read

2. Dynamic equivalence
These translations are more easily read, because they are translated on a thought for thought, rather than word for word basis. They are great for reading an overview or a whole story, but because their language is less precise they aren’t as reliable for study.

The best (in my personal opinion) is a formal equivalence translation, that uses some dynamic equivalence and more modern language. (Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition is a good example)

Most translations are acceptable, with some being better than others;
Of the Catholic translations I prefer the Revised Standard Version-2nd Catholic Edition (RSV-2CE), it uses a formal equivalence translation so it is more of a literal translation than dynamic equivalence translations.

Also a formal equivalence translation, the Douay-Rheims Bible is another good option; it uses more old-fashioned language reminiscent of the King James, and this makes it harder to read for most people (it was actually translated and finished a year before the King James in 1610).

Yet another choice is the New American Bible, this translation is what we hear, proclaimed during Mass, it uses more dynamic equivalence than the RSV-CE. Like other dynamic translations this makes it more readable, but can obscure the meanings of some words and phrases.

Reading a Protestant translation like King James Version, English Standard Version, or New International Version is acceptable as well, but some of the dynamic equivalence translations done by Protestants allow their theology to influence their translation. An example would be the word BISHOP is replaced by the word OVERSEER in all of the epistles of St. Paul (1 & 2 Timothy, Philippians and Titus), this change is made because most Protestant denominations reject the position of bishop and the hierarchy that existed in the early Church.

When reading a non-Catholic translation you will be missing out in the 7 books that were removed during the Protestant revolution; Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees, along with several chapters in Esther and Daniel. As long as you recognize that these books are, in fact, canonical and belong in the Bible, then you could read a Protestant translation if you find it more readable. Just remember that you’re getting only 66 books when you should be getting 73 for the same cost!

I’ve seen a lot of Christians, of all different denominations, argue over what is the best translation, but what matters most is what you find easiest and most likely to read. As Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers, once said, “the best Bible translation is the one you will actually read.”

(This post originally appeared at )

(To ask your own question about anything Catholic visit this page; Questions)

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