Bible translations

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For a much longer list and more detailed notes, see EWTN's expert answers page.

Traduttore, Traditore

The Italian proverb that the translator (traduttore) is a traitor (traditore) is itself an example of the difficulties of translating from one language to another. In Italian, changing one vowel changes the meaning of the word; there is no similar pair in English that matches the Italian pair of words. Puns, jokes, literary or cultural allusions, idioms, paraphrases of well-known sayings, and shades of meaning can easily get lost in translation.

In John 3:3, "γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν" may be translated as "born from above" or "born again." It is a perfect pun, because being "born from above" necessarily implies being "born again." We must use two different phrases in English to capture the tangled meanings of the Greek pun.

ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

New American Bible (NAB)

  • Source for the U.S. English lectionary.
  • A fresh, scholarly translation, with excellent introductions, outlines, footnotes, and cross-references.
  • The whole bible is available online, chapter-by-chapter.

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

  • Very close to the original Greek and Hebrew.
  • Fairly consistent translation.
  • Revision of the American Standard Version (1901), which was a revision of the King James Version (1611).
  • Most editions do not contain the full Catholic canon of the Old Testament.
  • Most editions of the RSV do not have outlines or footnotes to aid in reading the Bible.
  • The Oxford Study Bible, based on the RSV, does include the seven extra books accepted as canonical by the Catholic Church, and also has some footnotes and study aids.
  • Ignatius Press has a Catholic study edition of the New Testament that is based on the RSV translation.
  • Cheap, readable, and readily available online.

Navarre Bible

  • "The Navarre Bible contains the text from the Revised Standard Version bible translation, with additional commentaries and explanations. This extensive project was initiated by St. Josemaria Escriva and was compiled by the University of Navarre faculty. Sources of the commentaries include: various Church documents, the writings of the Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as the writings from modern spiritual writers" (CatholicCompany).

Jerusalem Bible

  • A translation into English from a French translation of the original languages.
  • Deliberately intended to be poetic.
  • Excellent footnotes and cross-references.
  • Consistently transliterated and vocalized the Lord's Name in the Old Testament. This is an aid to study, but is offensive to the Jews, the last remnant of God's original covenant family, the descendants of Abraham in the house of Israel. Pious Jews do not say the Name of the Lord revealed to Moses and treat the paper on which it might be written with great reverence. The Jerusalem Bible trespassed on this tradition and taught others to do the same. The Church has recently asked that the Hebrew Name of the Lord not be vocalized and pronounced or sung aloud in our liturgies.

King James Version (KJV)

  • "Commonly known as the authorized (King James) version."
  • The Elizabethan language (contemporaneous with Shakespeare's plays) is deeply embedded in our cultural and linguistic consciousness.
    • This is the Bible to consult for the correct forms of ye, thy, thou, spakest, cometh, looketh, stretcheth, bindeth, begat, for lo! the preservers of the Authorized Version keepeth every word in its original form.
  • Distributed for free by the Gideons.
  • Does not contain the whole Catholic canon.
  • No introductions, outlines, or footnotes.
  • Readily available online.
"Bible Translations Guide."
Some Protestants will tell you that the only acceptable version of the Bible is the King James. This position is known as King James-onlyism. Its advocates often make jokes such as, "If the King James Version was good enough for the apostle Paul, it is good enough for me," or, "My King James Version corrects your Greek text."

New King James Verson (NKJV)

  • "One of the most significant features of the NKJV was its abandonment of the historic second person pronouns 'thou', 'thee', 'ye', 'thy', and 'thine'. Verb forms were also modernized in the NKJV (for example, 'speaks' rather than 'speaketh')" Wikipedia. How darest they! Such wretches! Why tarriest thou here in this section? Get thee thine own authorized version, and then thou shalt counterfeit the auld tongue like unto a courtier of King James, the Authorizer!
  • Does not contain the whole Catholic canon.
  • No introductions, outlines, or footnotes.
  • Readily available online.

Colloquial Translations

I have no patience with any of these. But some people love the more colloquial translations.

  • Today's English Version
  • Good News Bible
  • New International Version