One of the most common questions I get is, “Which Catholic Bible should I use?” My first response is, “Which one will you read?” My second answer is a little longer, “Well, it depends.” I don’t have all the Catholic Bibles available but I do have my fair share. I’m also going to be doing a post soon comparing the Catholic Journaling Bibles.
I do have enough Catholic Bibles to give you some good suggestions on which Catholic Bible to use depending on what you want to use it for: Bible journaling, Catholic Bible Study, reading for quantity, etc. I’ll share what I think about the different Catholic Bibles and consider if there are any cons to that Bible. If you have a Catholic Bible you love that I do not have, please share about it in the comments.
What Makes a Catholic Bible, Catholic?
Let me explain first what makes a Catholic Bible a Catholic Bible. Quite simply, an intact Bible meaning it contains all 73 Books of the Bible. These Bibles will be labeled Catholic Bible or will say, “with Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha.” From EWTN, “In 1534, Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. He grouped the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament under the title “Apocrypha,” declaring. “These are books which are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures and yet are useful and good for reading.” Luther also categorized the New Testament books: those of God’s work of salvation (John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, I Peter, and I John); other canonical books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, rest of Pauline epistles, II Peter, and II John); an non-canonical books (Hebrews, James, Jude, Revelation, and books of the Old Testament).
Many Church historians speculate that Luther was prepared to drop what he called the “non-canonical books” of the New Testament but refrained from doing so because of possible political fallout. Why Luther took this course of action is hard to say. Some scholars believe Luther wanted to return to the “primitive faith,” and therefore accepted only those Old Testament books written in Hebrew originally; others speculate he wanted to remove anything which disagreed with his own theology. Nevertheless, his action had the permanent consequence of omitting the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament in Protestant versions of the Bible.” Even though Martin Luther grouped and then eventually removed seven Books of the Bible, he still thought they were of some value to be read, “These books which are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures and yet are useful and good for reading.”
List of Catholic Bibles
Good News Bible
Anyone who has attended Parochial school or a CCD or Religious Ed program knows this Bible. Its most notable feature may be the pencil illustrations scattered throughout. It is considered a fairly easy translation, even recommended for those individuals where English is their second language. It is also an inexpensive Bible, something to consider if you are wanting to purchase a first Bible for a child. The pages feel like real paper, although on the thin side. It contains a subject index in the back.
This Catholic Bible is not one of my favorite translations, although I will reference it sometimes when I’m having difficulty understanding another translation. I consider this Bible indictive of the Church in the 70s and 80s.
Ignatius Bible (RSV) Second Catholic Edition
This Bible is pretty much the standard in Catholic Bibles. It is inexpensive which again makes it a great option for a first Bible. I have the paperback–a very well-loved paperback I might add. This Catholic Bible is a great fit in the hand as well as being easily portable. This makes it perfect for Catholic Bible Study, a carry along to Adoration, or reading in the car while waiting for children.
The pages slick feeling rather than traditional paper but still hold highlighting well without smudging. There are not many notes with this Bible–introduction, footnotes, or index. The RSV–Revised Standard Version translation is considered to be around a 12th-grade reading level. I think that may be a bit high because my younger children read and understand this translation fairly well.
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament Second Catholic Edition RSV
This is the same Catholic Bible as the one mentioned above except it is only the New Testament. The difference is this Bible contains notes upon notes! It has extensive introduction notes, lots of footnotes, and an extensive index with a Concise Concordance. It also contains an Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus, Index of the Miracles of Jesus, Index of Doctrines, Charts, Maps, Topical Essays, and Word Studies. It has nice, thick paper so it holds up well to notes (although very little margin room) and highlighting.
Haydock Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible
This Bible is a big one! It is the Douay-Rheims translation which is a more difficult translation–for me at least, but a more poetic translation. The pages are kind of slick but sturdy. It has notes upon notes as well. “Father Haydock recognized the need for a new edition of the Bible with an extended commentary that would include what the Church’s early Fathers and its best scholars over later centuries have taught about the Bible’s message.”
Each page is at least 1/4 footnotes, if not more. The index contains a Historical and Chronological Index to the New Testament, a Table of Reference Directing the Reader to the Catholic Truths found in Scripture, a Catholic Bible Dictionary, a Comprehensive History of the Books of the Catholic Bible, and beautiful black and white drawings.
My only “con” with this Bible is its use of Roman Numerals for numbering the chapters. If you don’t know your Roman Numerals, you’re going to be confused! Also, this is not an easy or convenient Bible to carry with you. I consider this Catholic Bible more of a reference or study Bible.
TAN Douay-Rheims Paperback Bible
This Bible is a good size, but the paperback makes it feel manageable. This is the Douay-Rheims translation, so again, a little more difficult for some. The pages have a real paper feel to them but are on the thin side.
This is pretty much a no-nonsense Bible. A few footnotes at the bottom of most pages and Historical and Chronological Index to the Old and New Testament in the back. It does contain a Table of Reference as well as a Table of the All the Epistles and Gospels for Sunday’s and the Feasts of the Saints.
The print in this Catholic Bible is fairly small; something to consider when purchasing it for yourself or someone else. There are some large print Douay Rheims translations that might be a better option.
NRSV Notetaker’s Bible
This is the only Journaling Bible I’m aware of that contains all the books of the Bible. (This is no longer the case–there have been a number of Catholic Journaling Bibles published since this post was originally written! I have a post comparing two of them. I am working on a detailed post comparing more Catholic Journaling Bibles.)
Sadly this Bible is now out of print which makes it expensive unless you find one at a used bookstore. This Bible is shorter in size than most and thus thicker. The pages feel like real paper, but a little on the thin side. The thing this Bible has going for it that all the others do not is the wide margin on each page for Bible Journaling. The margin is lined, originally intended more for notes than art, but you easily get past that or use it to your advantage for hand lettering.
Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible (NRSV): Featuring Daily Meditations by Women and a Reading Plan Tied to the Lectionary
This is a nice portable size Bible and the pages have a slightly slick feel to them. In the back, there is a Topical Index, a section on Biographies of Catholic women, and a Liturgical Calendar (but mine ends in 2016, I’m assuming new editions have newer calendars?) My only problem with this Bible is I have found I really do not care for some of the written reflections and meditations. For that reason, I prefer to keep my devotionals and my Bible separate. I guess, if it bothers me bad enough, I could do some Bible journaling over those sections.
The New Jerusalem Bible, Readers Edition
This Bible is affectionately known as “Mother Angelica’s Bible,” this is the translation she used. I’m new to this translation but so far like it. It is a readers’ version as the title states. The page layout and language are arranged so it seems to flow more for reading. It is a good size Bible with real paper pages.
Since this post was originally written I have stopped using this particular translation–it just wasn’t my favorite and I found myself having to cross-read other translations more and more.
Holy Bible Revised Standard Version (Ignatius Catholic Bible) Large Print
I love this Bible. I call this my “Forever Bible.” It is a LARGE PRINT so I’ll be able to read this hopefully forever! I plan on this being the Bible one of my children will want someday after I’m gone.
I like the way this Catholic Bible feels and sound silly? Well, if you know, you know! It has the typical “Bible paper” for its pages–thin and crinkly. Although the pages are thin, you can take notes and highlight in it. I have found these highlighters to be the best for thin pages.
This Bible has a nice ribbon marker attached and golden page edges. After the Old and New Testament, it has Explanatory Notes whcih equals very few if any actual footnotes on the bottom of the pages. In the back, it also contains a chart of comparison between RSV, RSV CE–text, and footnotes. It also has a Sunday and weekday Lectionary.
I think one of the best parts of this Bible is a couple of pages of Prayers and Devotions of The Catholic Faith: Sign of the Cross, Rosary Prayers, Act of Contrition, Acts of Faith, Hope and Love, Stations of the Cross, etc.
And a final mention. Although this Bible is marketed as an Orthodox Bible and geared as such in terms more familiar to the Orthodox religion, The Orthodox Study Bible does contain all the books of the Bible along with beautiful, full color, and full-page images of icons.
Whew! this concludes the original post. I hope I’ve been able to help you decide which Catholic Bible is the right one for you. The old saying is, “The right one is the one you’ll read.” As I mentioned, I will be posting soon comparing the different Catholic Journaling Bibles. I have already compared the Inspire Catholic Journaling Bible and the Blessed is She Journaling Bible. A new one from Avemaria Press has been released this year that I will compare as well.
You stated The New Jerusalem Bible, Readers Edition
This Bible is affectionately known as “Mother Angelica’s Bible,” this is the translation she used. Mother Angelica used The Jerusalem Bible NOT The New Jerusalem Bible..There is a difference…
I’m not engish-language native person. At present, Reading RSV Second Catholic Edition and Ignatius Study Bible, I teach myself how to read english-language. But sometimes I worry wheter this translation is too archaic to learn english. Neverthless Ignatius Study Bible’s introducton and footnotes is very attractive. Therefore, If the translation is not too fatal to learn english, I will carry on. So, I want to take your comment.
Is RSV Second Catholic Edition’s translation fataly archaic? Is it a fine selection to learn english?
Following Church advise, use recent translations based on updated scholarship. That means NABRE, NRSV-CE, etc.
For something that can also be used for liturgy, wait for the latest NABRE, something like NRSV-2CE, and a CTS Bible based on NRJB.
Agreed…unless you won’t read any of those translations. In that case, choose the translation you will pick up and read every single day. Use the others for study.
I am basing my point on “Liturgiam authenticam”.
I appreciate the information and absolutely agree. I am basing my information on my life. I have RSV’s, Douay Rheims, NRSV’s and never read any of them. It wasn’t until I found the New Living Translation Catholic edition last year that I faithfully read my Bible every single day of last year.
I loved this article, Jenny! Thank you for your insights. I currently use Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament & The Didache Bible. Both are excellent bibles that provide lots of study notes, but they are big and bulky. Do you know if there is a Catholic Men’s Devotional Bible available?
Hi Dave, I don’t know of a Men’s Devotional Bible but I also haven’t looked?
Hi Dave! While looking at new Bibles I came across this one and remembered your comment!
I use the Orthodox Study Bible for Bible Journaling. The only sad part is that I sometime ustilize the notation spaces for my doodles.’
I don’t think that’s sad, you’re making the notes that are important to you 🙂
Cheryl-Lee McPhillie says
I own a few Bibles but each one serves a purpose. I got a cheap copy of the expanded edition of the Navarre Bible, Jerusalem Bible Compact Reader’s Edition (which I love), New Jerusalem Bible Standard Edition (my forever Bible) and the RSV Compact Catholic Bible. I hope to pass on most of my Bibles to my 2 daughters. I’m also waiting on a Confraternity New Testament which is in the Douay Rheims translation.
I’m considering buying the Didache Bible and the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible once it’s completed.
Donna Smith says
oops–another note got slipped in before mine–the Catholic Truth Society’s Bible is the original Jerusalem Bible, with the LORD instead of Yahweh, as requested by Pope Benedict, and the Grail Psalms, I believe.
Thanks for letting me know 🙂
The Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible was the first bible that I purchased for myself. I was drawn to the Lectionary, devotionals, tradition stories, and women’s stories. This has been my beloved go-to bible for twelve years. It’s underlined, dogeared, and an intrinsic part of my daily devotions. I can’t imagine my prayer life without it.
I would love to see a picture of your Bible Karen.
The Didache Bible is VERY good. It has notes a as well as using the commentaries of the Catechism of the Catholic church. I use it for Bible Study.
Uh-Oh, a Bible I don’t have and it sounds good! I may have to save my money to get one, lol!
Didache was recommended by our priest. It’s got a hard cover so it’s sturdy. Use it every week for Bible study and it’s by Ignatius Press. You can be pretty sure when you go with a Bible by Ignatius that you are getting a good one.
“Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament Second Catholic Edition RSV ******* it is only the New Testament.*******” I keep waiting for them to come out with the Old Testament in ONE book like the New Testament is. This is the version our Bible Study Leader uses. Our priest actually gave her this to use because it is so good. The notes are WONDERFUL! Like I say when they can do the same version for the Old Testament it will be complete. Should be coming pout in the future just have to be patient.
Donna Smith says
I’m with you Janice–I wrote them and told them what a high priority it is for it to be put in one volume! Not sure they’ll do that though–will have to have thinner pages for sure. The New Testament notes are just amazing.
Donna Smith says
So far the Didache is my favorite Catholic Bible! It comes in two editions–one with new notes for the RSV-CE–and I mean *extensive* notes, and one in the NABRE with *both* the NABRE notes and the other notes–so you can compare and don’t have to go back and forth between Bibles. And for such a big study Bible, it isn’t that bulky–probably as same as the Life Application NIV study bible, large print edition, both of which I have. Well, actually, I have all three. I’m something of a Bible geek….
Donna Smith says
I also got the NRSV notetakers’ Bible. And another really nice study Bible is the Little Rock study Bible. Great layout and extra notes throughout. The leather version is very cool and is floppy, not stiff like the Didaches. I prefer the floppy Bibles…
I’ve never seen the Little Rock Study Bible. I need to go look at it. And I am so with you, I prefer floppy Bibles too 🙂
Donna Smith says
The Didache covers are nice leather, but not floppy–I was reading that they were considering floppy but chose hard “so they would look nice on the shelf.” Good grief!! As a convert, I’m thinking Catholics still don’t quite get the Bible reading thing…..!
Just re-read this thread. Wanted to say–if you get the Little Rock–get the so-called “deluxe” edition with leatherette cover. It’s beautiful! It’s available through Christianbook.com
Thanks for letting me know. They are having a big Bible sale right now too.
Donna Smith says
Would like to post pictures, but am not sure how to do it here. Little Rock is the NABRE, put out by the people who do the Little Rock Scripture Studies. It has a very attractive page layout.
Well, there’s another Bible I need to check out. I love the “extensive” part you mention.
Well, there’s another Bible I need to check out. I love the “extensive” part you mention.
After reading your blog during Lent I took the plunge and bought a used NSRV Notetakers bible (expensive) and I had also bought a New American, The Catholic Youth Bible Revised” by Saint Mary’s Press ($4). I was so surprised at my personal feelings when I received the NSRV in the mail vs the Catholic Youth Bible. I had no ahhh moment with the NSRV where as the Youth Bible just spoke to me made me giddy and happy so easy to read and understand and put to daily life. I was looking for a bible that I could personalized highlight etc. As you said I always thought you couldn’t destroy or make a bible personal. So this was huge for me. Thank you for your bible comparisons they really make a difference in our lives.
You are welcome Eve. I’m glad you found “your” Bible. That alone will make all the difference in your time with the Word of God.
Clare fcJ says
I love the New Jerusalem Bible. It’s the inclusive language one. I use it for prayer and teaching. It’s the one I want to be buried with!
Clare, does it use the name “Yahweh” for God? I was just wondering. I kind of like the inclusive language myself, but the name “Yahweh” holds very special memories for me — in the 5th grade when we started religion classes, my teacher taught us that and somehow the name became very dear to me. I don’t know why.
Yes it does…This is the Bible I have known since Secondary School ( High School)…so it is etched on my heart and spirit…
Don’t take it with you! Pass it on to a spiritual daughter!
Jenny…a little gentle correction….Mother Angelica’s bible was the 1966 edition of the Jerusalem Bible. She did not like the “inclusive” language of the New Jerusalem Bible. The 1966 edition was out of print for a long time, but has recently been reprinted, I think because so many were asking for them because of Mother. Doubleday has printed them, but unfortunately it isn’t the best quality one would expect in that some of the ink looks a little smudged here and there. They can be found on amazon and at EWTNRC.com and just about anywhere now.
Thank you, I didn’t know that.
I think your Orthodox bible is beautiful!! It would be neat just to put it on a bible stand in the living room with a beautiful icon showing and then change them around once in a while. I love icons!
All your bibles look well-loved! I hope mine do too.
I’m slowly developing a love for Icons. I didn’t care for them at first.
Donna Smith says
And it’s available from the Catholic Truth Society in England (but there’s a website). Nice Bible but small sized.