Understanding the Bible
Approved translations of the Bible
The Bible is all around us. People hear Scripture readings in church. We have Good Samaritan (Luke 10) laws, welcome home the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), and look for the Promised Land (Exodus 3, Hebrews 11). Some biblical passages have become popular maxims, such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)," "Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15), and "love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:39).
Today's Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the bible.
Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading.
- Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
- Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
- Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church's complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
- The Bible isn't a book. It's a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers' accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
- Know what the Bible is – and what it isn't. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
- The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
- The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God's plan for human beings.
- You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God's Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.
- What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?
- Reading isn't enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be "living and effective."(Hebrews 4:12).
By Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Questions about the Bible
- Questions about the Lectionary
- Questions about this Site
- Questions about Daily Readings e-mail subscription
Questions about the Bible
How many versions of the New American Bible are there?
In what formats is the New American Bible available?
What's the difference between a "Catholic Bible" and a "Protestant Bible"?
Do we read from the Bible at Mass?
What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?
How can anyone own the copyright on the Bible? Isn't it free to everyone?
Revised Edition Information
Released on March 9, 2011, the New American Bible , Revised Edition (NABRE) is the culmination of nearly 20 years of work by a group of nearly 100 scholars and theologians, including bishops, revisers and editors. The NABRE includes a newly revised translation of the entire Old Testament (including the Book of Psalms) along with the 1986 edition of the New Testament.
The NABRE is a formal equivalent translation of Sacred Scripture, sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, using the best manuscripts available. Work on most books of the Old Testament by forty revisers and a board of eight editors began in 1994 and was completed in 2001. The 1991 revision of the Psalter, the work of thirty revisers and six editors, was further revised by seven revisers and two editors between 2009 and 2010. Work on the New Testament, begun in 1978 and completed in 1986, was the work of thirteen revisers and five editors.
The New American Bible , revised edition (NABRE), the first major update to the New American Bible(NAB) translation in 20 years, has been approved for publication. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed the canonical rescript approving publication on September 30, 2010. The following articles reflect on different aspects of how the Bible enriches life in the Church.
List of Articles
A Spiritual Feast for Your Home: How Catholics Can Use the Old Testament in the Family
Bible at Core of Catholic Beliefs
Changes in Catholic Attitudes Toward Bible Readings
How to Use the Old Testament in Daily Prayer
Old Testament Speaks to Young People
Quiz on the New American Bible
Rationale for Catholics Reading the Old Testament
Roots of Catholic Social Teaching Found in the Old Testament Prophets