Have you ever wondered what Bible to buy for you or your family and not been sure which to choose? There certainly is a big choice out there! And so it can be difficult to know where to start…. The Bible is known to be the bestselling book in the world. Overall around 3.9 billion copies are known to have been sold, but with many more free copies distributed yearly, it is difficult to come up with exact figure of how many are in circulation, which is certainly much higher.
Differences between Protestant and Catholic Bibles
Did you know there are differences between Protestant and Catholic Bibles? Catholic Bibles contain—and have always contained—all of the books of the Bible that have been traditionally accepted by Christians dating back to the time of Jesus. These accepted books total 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Protestant Bibles, however, have seven fewer books in their Old Testament. These seven books excluded in the Protestant Bible are Baruch, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith and the Wisdom of Solomon, plus portions of Esther and Daniel. These books were rejected by Protestant Reformers in the 1500s because elements in these books did not support certain Protestant theology and doctrines. Prior to the sixteenth century, however, all Christians used Bibles containing all 46 books of the Old Testament. During the first century, there was much debate among the early Christians as to what made up the canon of Scripture. The Church, having been given authority by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (see The Church and the Papacy), compiled the Bible in the form that it exists today. The video below also offers some explanation.
Here’s another complication when choosing which Bible to buy or read. There are dozens of translations of the Bible into English, none of which are perfect. “It depends on what you want to accomplish with your reading of the Bible,” said John Martignoni, director of evangelization at the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, and founder of the Bible Christian Society.
There are two main ways biblical translation is done:
- Formal equivalence: one that was translated more literally, for use in Bible study,
- Dynamic equivalence: one that is not strictly word for word, providing perhaps a “smoother” reading experience.
There are many contemporary translations of the Bible into English but only a few are officially approved by the Catholic Church to be free from inaccuracy and excessive bias. Among these are the:
- Revised Standard Version
- New Revised Standard Version
- Jerusalem Bible
- New Jerusalem Bible
- Contemporary English Bible
- Good News Bible
The first two use a kind of translation called ‘formal equivalence’ and the last three use a more informal style called ‘dynamic equivalence.’ The first two are recommended for Catholic Bible study because they translate from the original languages in a way that is more word-for-word from the original languages. However the others mentioned make for smoother reading.
The best way to tell if a translation has been approved or not is to look for the words ‘Catholic Edition’ on the cover. This will let you know not only that it is an approved translation, but also that all 73 books of the Catholic Bible are included, not just the 66 books of Protestant editions.
As a rough guide:
- If you have a scholarly interest in the Bible, go for the Revised Standard Edition or New Revised Standard Edition.
- If you want a Bible that is easier to understand, choose the Jerusalem Bible, New Jerusalem Bible or the Good News Bible.
- If you want a Bible to follow Mass with, choose the CTS Catholic Bible.
- If you want a Bible that is particularly suitable for children, choose the Good News Bible.
There is no reason why a Catholic cannot collect two or three different translations. Often it is possible to get a better sense of what is being said in a passage by comparing different translations.
Here are some of our recommendations of bibles which you might consider to start – or, indeed, to add to – your collection…
Bibles for very young children
- My Very First Bible – a sweet and simple starter to help you introduce your young child to the riches of the bible
- God Loves Me Bible – The God Loves Me Bible is filled with simple, action-filled stories about the lives of 66 of the key Bible characters. Each story emphasises the over-riding theme of the Bible: God loves his world, his people, and “me”!
- The Beginner’s Bible – A colourful, cartoon-based bible for small children and a best-seller first bible from Zonderkidz
- Children of God Storybook Bible – My children have found this bible very engaging. Simple selected stories, followed by a prayer, with beautiful and varied illustrations, compiled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- The Catholic Children’s Bible – An expensive, but comprehensive children’s bible, with a very readable translation. It highlights selected bible passages for more in-depth focus, with individual books colour-coded for easy reference. This “proper bible” would be an edition to truly treasure!
- The Jesus Storybook Bible – This storybook Bible is a winner in our house! It re-tells selected stories in a new and thoughtful manner, which allows children to think in a fresh way about the stories presented
- The Lion Children’s Bible – A retelling of the best-known bible stories, in a slightly more mature and more dramatic fashion. Definitely a good bible for older children,
Bibles for older young people
- The Lion Graphic Bible – This is a graphic-novel style bible is well-illustrated and would suit teenagers and visual learners. Bible stories are paraphrased
- The Action Bible – A dramatic, comic-book style bible for teens
- Breakthrough – a hardback bible for those entering adolescence, including special features to make the bible easier to read and understand. It encourages young people to get to know the great people of the bible and to see how God breaks through into human history
- Personal Journey Bible – A youth bible which includes inserts by gifted authors and short, topical bible studies to help a young person direct their life by God’s compass
- The Good News Bible Catholic Edition – This is popular with young people with its easy to use translation. Used in Catholic schools and in liturgies for children.
Bibles for adults
- CTS Catholic Bible – A very solid and faithfully Catholic edition of the Bible, which contains the original Jerusalem Bible translation and the Grail Psalms, used in the liturgy. A must for church-going Catholics!
- New Jerusalem Bible – A scholarly and traditional translation of the Bible which is reasonably priced and has an authoritative feel
- The Great Adventure Bible – A Bible to accompany Jeff Cavins detailed Catholic timeline study of the Bible of the same name. This is an engaging translation of the bible, which seeks to make clear connections between the different biblical books. It is based on the Revised Standard Version – Second Catholic Edition
- Christian Community Bible – This Catholic Pastoral Edition is a modern easy-to-read translation, which contains good notes to assist with understanding