Our bruin friend over at Saint Corbinian’s Bear gives a useful overview of Catholic Bibles:
Recently, the Bear joined a Facebook Group called something like “Douay-Rheims Bible.” His first contribution was to note that St. Jerome started by correcting the “old Latin” Bible, which took people like 200 years to get over. What he got back was this:
THE BIBLE DOES NOT NEED TO BE “CORRECTED!!!” IT IS PERFECT FROM GOD IN THE ORIGINUL LATIN!!! SELL YOUR MODERNIST HEARESIES SOMEWHERE ELSE. AND HOW DARE TO CALL YORSELF A “SAINT.” YOR’ PROBLY NOT EVEN A REEL BARE!!!
The Bear still doesn’t know what to make of this. Except that he inadvertently turned over a rock. But it illustrates the fact that Catholics do not get Bible. Granted, they have the correct number of books, but we’re not spoiled for choice compared to our separated brethren.
- Vulgate — Bear forgot most his Latin
- Douay-Rheims — archaic language, but Challoner’s version is useful, especially with Haydock’s semi-useful commentary. (You want to talk BIG; must be registered as a deadly weapon in Washington state and Maine.) Published back when Catholics were confident. Not a bad choice at all, although some words will leave you scratching your head. Currently available on sale for $95 from Catholic Treasures. You owe it to yourself to own this beautiful, illustrated edition. Of course, more portable versions are available, too, but without Haydock’s notes, from St. Benedict Press and Lepanto Press, which has an economical, illustrated hardcover. Note that just as Protestants have their KJV-Onlyists, Catholics have their Douay-Rheims Onlyists. Both harmless if you pass on the Kool-Aid.
- Revised Standard Version (either Catholic edition) — people get upset that Isaiah 7:14 is accurately translated in the 1st Ed. 2nd Ed. panders a bit by trying to make Catholics happier, which fails, because everybody (even Protestants) just knows “it’s a liberal translation.” Even so, the RSV is one of the best all-around choices for Catholics, in the Bear’s opinion. 1st Ed. uses “thees and thous” when addressing the Deity, if you like that sort of thing. Not impressed with translation to “repent” in relation to Judas, though, which recently confused our dear old holy Father.
- Navarre Bible — very nice, extensive, conservative Catholic commentary (even if St. Jose Maria Escrivá is overrepresented in some volumes). RSV translation with current official Latin on every page. While there is a lovely one-volume, oversized “expanded” New Testament, it otherwise comes in a multi-volume set, e.g. “Pentateuch,” “Minor Prophets,” etc. You won’t be taking this to Sunday School with you. Catholics just don’t do one-volume study Bibles. Otherwise best in show.
- Ignatius Study Bible — another multi-volume publication done by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. Nice; the NT volume is hardcover; others are paperback and the Bear has not read them. Probably the Catholic study Bible most like a Protestant study Bible in format and style, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
- Catholic Scripture Study International — a whole program designed for group study, with an RSV-CE 1st Ed. Bible. Apologetics material on glossy pages scattered throughout. The program drivers are obviously well-meaning, but the Bear was just not impressed. You might be.
- Jerome or Collegeville commentaries — Bear calls Modernism, but officially state-of-the-art, Catholic-style, i.e. recycling century-old liberal Protestant theories that the Bible is a forgery written in 1829 by Wilbur T. Birkenback, of Augusta, Maine. (Collegeville? Really?)
- New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) — the official Bible of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of two “officially approved” for private reading by Catholics in the U.S. The Bear doesn’t know about you, but he can’t think of a single body better qualified to publish an annotated translation of the Bible! Translation itself isn’t bad, but you can’t get it without the notes, in which you will learn things like: because St. Matthew had never heard of Hebrew parallelism, he had Jesus enter Jerusalem riding both an ass and a colt like a circus performer. “The ass and the colt are the same animal in the prophecy [we sure about that, smart guy?] mentioned twice in different ways, the common Hebrew literary device of poetic parallelism. That Matthew takes them as two is one of the reasons why some scholars think that he was a Gentile rather than a Jewish Christian who would presumably not make that mistake” [when he was making up his Gospel]. That’s right, St. Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, completely blew the whole Palm Sunday scene because he was an ignorant Gentile. Recommended for Catholics who aspire to become atheists. Plus the usual recycling of Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis (Darwin’s Origin of Species of Biblical scholarship) and other “assured results of higher criticism,” e.g. all books of the Bible were forged by people other than whose names they bear, and any prophecies had to have been made after the fact. (Sorry, Cyrus.)
Go here to read the rest. I read a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament each night, a habit I have kept since December 25, 1970 when my parents, at my request, gave me a New American Bible for Christmas. I agree with the Bear that the translation is adequate while the notes are a tribute to the intellectual fads and prejudices of “higher criticism” of the Bible, and which are often unintentionally hilarious to someone who actually has some knowledge of the history of the Middle East circa 1500 BC to the Roman Empire. Douay-Rheims isn’t bad, although some of the names can be odd to English speaking Catholics used to different names for familiar figures in the Bible. There are several good sites on the internet where different translations are laid out side by side, which is not the worst way to get a general quick sense of a difficult passage. Alas, no Catholic translation can yet match the majesty of the original King James. Theologically suspect, the King James is the closest we will ever come to a Bible written by Shakespeare. Now if only the theories of Shakespeare being a crypto-Catholic were true, and a Catholic Bible written by him were suddenly unearthed! Hmmm, I think that is a good idea for a novel!