With regards to translations, what’s the difference between the New American Bible that Catholics use and the King James Bible that many Protestants use? Is one more accurate than the other?

Sometimes a Catholic who reads from the New American Bible (NAB) can be overheard telling a Protestant who uses the King James Version (KJV) that she has more books in her Bible than he does — as if it’s a bragging right. The KJV has 39 books in the Old Testament, all written in Hebrew. However, the Old Testament of the NAB contains 46 books, including an additional seven (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch) which were part of an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible called the Septuagint. These seven books are variously referred to as the “apocryphal” or “deuterocanonical” books.

Because the NAB was translated in 1970 — more than 350 years after the KJV was produced — it is considered more accurate academically. Translators of the NAB took advantage of ancient manuscripts that had been discovered since the introduction of the KJV, and using these they arrived at a text believed to be closer to the original manuscripts of the Bible. The New King James Version was produced in 1982 and it has updated the grammar and vocabulary of the KJV as well as included the newer findings of the biblical research field. It is also a popular choice for study and prayer.

Every translation is ultimately an interpretation on the part of the translator(s). Some choose to translate in a way that is more faithful word-for-word to the original document, while others strive to communicate the essence of the passage faithfully. Neither is necessarily more “correct” than the other, but more a difference of philosophy.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.