Why doesn’t the Catholic Church recognize the King James version of the Bible?

Question: Why doesn’t the Catholic Church recognize the King James version of the Bible? I heard that one was the most accurate.

Today, a visit to the Bible section of any major bookstore can result in a head-spinning experience! Why are there so many translations? First and foremost, the obvious reason that we have translations is because the Bible was not written in English! It was written in Hebrew (OT) or Greek (NT) and no original manuscripts exist: what we have are manuscripts that are copies of the originals and, unfortunately, these copies often contain variations. That makes translating accurately into any language (an already difficult task), even more complex. Some translations aim for a literal translation while others aim to either find a contemporary equivalence while still other translations attempt to paraphrase. As a result, no one translation is perfect…it all depends what you are looking for. The King James Version (KJV), completed in 1611, sought a precise translation coupled with a majestic literary style. It should be noted, however, that the editors of the KJV were instructed by King James I of England to make sure that the translation was in harmony with the theology of the Church of England. The KJV as looked to as the standard English translation of the Bible for almost 400 years.

Although the KJV may sound very lofty and dignified in its language (thou, thee, ye, thine), it can be very difficult to read since the English language has changed much in the last 400 years! Likewise, since the KJV was written, scholars have discovered numerous other manuscripts from which more accurate and current translations have been made.

Since the late 19th century, much progress has been made in Scripture scholarship that has produced versions of the Bible that challenged the previously undisputed prominence of the KJV. Specifically for Catholics, the KJV follows the Protestant pattern of not including the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament that are recognized by Catholics: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees (as well as portions of the Books of Esther and Daniel). As such, readings from these books appear in the Catholic Lectionary at various times of the liturgical year. Likewise, these books contain references to concepts that are familiar to Catholics but rejected by Protestants such as prayer for the dead and intercessions of saints and angels. The bottom line is, it is beneficial for Catholics to use a Catholic Bible, such as the Catholic Study Bible of the New American Bible.

Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).