What is the difference in the various translations of the bible and which one should I use?

People who speak more than one language know that, when translating a word or phrase, there is not always a one-to-one correspondence of words. Often, a word in one language can be translated several different ways in another language. In other words, when translating from one language to another, choices and decisions have to be made. When it comes to various translations of the Bible, one needs to know what thinking and philosophy are at the heart of those choices and decisions. Bible translations can be categorized according to 3 styles (see http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/English_Translations.htm)

1.    Formal Correspondence – this type of translation attempts to mirror as closely as possible the original Hebrew or Greek

2.    Dynamic Equivalence – this type of translation aims to capture the intent of the original text as expressed in contemporary English verbiage.

3.    Biblical Paraphrase – this type of translation seeks readability above all else and thus takes great liberties when translating.

With that in mind, it is vitally important for Catholics to use a translation that is truly “Catholic.” Just because a Bible has the word Catholic on it (such as the New Living Translation: Catholic Reference Edition by Tyndale House) does not mean that it has been approved for Catholic audiences. The best way to determine if a Bible is approved for Catholic readership is to look for what is called an imprimatur (im-pri-MAH-tur) near the inside cover of a Bible. The imprimatur, followed by the name of the Roman Catholic authority issuing it, indicates that the translation is acceptable for use by Roman Catholics.

Personally, I recommend using the same translation that we hear proclaimed at Mass (in the United States): The New American Bible (NAB). It makes sense to use this translation in your own studies and prayer since it will be reinforced at Sunday liturgy. A very popular version of the New American Bible is the Catholic Study Bible, which provides extensive footnotes and commentary. Another very popular Catholic Bible is the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB). The NJB was translated primarily by Catholic scholars in Great Britain. Another version that is more ecumenical in the make-up of its Scripture scholars but still carries an imprimatur is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). Rather than attempting to provide an exhaustive guide to selecting Bibles, know that if a Bible carries an imprimatur, it is considered acceptable for Catholic readership.


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