We talked about this on Periscope recently and it’s a pretty common question, “Which Catholic Bible should I use?” And my answer is, “Well, it depends.” I don’t have all the Catholic Bibles available, but I do have a fair share, enough to give you some good suggestions on which Catholic Bible to use depending on what you want to use it for: Bible journaling, reading, study, etc. I’ll share what I think about the Bible and consider if there are any cons of that Bible. If you have a Catholic Bible you love that I do not have, please share about it in the comments.
Let me explain first what makes a Catholic Bible a Catholic Bible. Quite simply, an intact Bible, containing all the books of the Bible. These are either labeled “Catholic” Bibles 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 fall-out. 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.” All of the Bibles listed below contain all 73 Books of the Bible.
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.
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) and it is a great fit in the hand as well as being easily portable–perfect for Bible studies, adoration or reading in the car while waiting for children. The pages are a little slick feeling, but still hold highlighter 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.
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament Second Catholic Edition RSV
This is the same Bible as the one mentioned above except it is only the New Testament. And this Bible contains notes upon notes! It has extensive introduction notes, lots of footnotes and an extensive index with a Concise Concordance, 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 harder (for me) translation, but poetic. 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.
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 is tiny print as well as a Table of the All the Epistles and Gospels for Sunday’s and the Feasts of the Saints.
NRSV Notetaker’s Bible
This is the only Journaling Bible I’m aware of that contains all the books of the Bible. Sadly, this Bible is now out of print so it is expensive unless you happen upon one at a used bookstore. This Bible is shorter 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 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’s 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.
Holy Bible Revised Standard Version (Ignatius Catholic Bible) Large Print
I love this Bible. I call this my “Forever Bible.” Its 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 it feels and sounds–silly? 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. It has a nice ribbon marker attached and golden page edges. After the Old and New Testament it has Explanatory Notes, so 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. But the best part of the index is a couple 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.
I hope I’ve been able to help you decide which Bible is the right one for you. The old saying is, “The right one is the one you’ll read.”