Category: Catholic Bible


Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Catholic Bible is different from the Bible used by Protestants. While all 66 books found in Protestant Bibles are also found in the Catholic Bible, the Catholic Bible also contains other books, and additions to books. The Catholic Bible contains a total of 73 books, 46 in the Old Testament (Protestant Bibles have 39) and 27 in the New Testament (the same as Protestant Bibles).

The additional books in the Catholic Bible are known as the deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. They are Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (Ecclesiasticus), Sirach, and Baruch. The Catholic Bible also includes additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. Should the Apocrypha be included in the Bible? There was significant debate in the early Christian church, with a majority of the early church fathers rejecting the idea that the Apocrypha belonged in the Bible.

However, under tremendous pressure from Rome, Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, included the Apocrypha, despite Jerome’s insistence that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Bible. The Latin Vulgate became the dominant and officially sanctioned Catholic Bible, and remained that way for around 1200 years. Thus, the Apocrypha became a part of the Catholic Bible.

The Apocrypha was not formally/officially made a part of the Catholic Bible, though, until the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation. The early Protestant Reformers, in agreement with Judaism, determined that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Bible, and therefore removed the Apocrypha from Protestant Bibles.

The most popular English translations of the Catholic Bible today are the New American Bible, the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, and the New Jerusalem Bible. Aside from the inclusion of the Apocrypha, each of these Bible translations is reasonably good and accurate in how it renders the biblical text into English.

In summary, the Catholic Bible is the version of the Bible promoted by the Roman Catholic Church and used by the majority of the world’s Catholics. Aside from the inclusion of the Apocrypha, the Catholic Bible is identical to Protestant Bibles in terms of the canon (the books belonging in the Bible).

Jerusalem Bible – History
The Jerusalem Bible (JB or TJB) is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible which first was introduced to the English-speaking public in 1966. As a Roman Catholic Bible, it includes not only the deuterocanonical books, but numerous notes and introductions, although for the most part they appear to be only marginally influenced by RCC doctrine. In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter on biblical studies in which he gave permission for an English version to be done by Roman Catholics on the basis of the Greek and Hebrew texts rather than upon the Latin Vulgate, as was traditional up to that time. The Jerusalem Bible derives its name and its character from an earlier French version, called La Bible de Jérusalem. This French version, published in 1956 and revised 1961, was prepared by the faculty of the Dominican Biblical School in Jerusalem, on the basis of the Hebrew and Greek. The Jerusalem Bible was translated from the French version. In 1985, the English translation was completely updated. This new translation—known as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)—was freshly translated from the original languages and not tied to any French translation (except indirectly, as it maintained many of the stylistic and interpretive choices of La Bible de Jérusalem).

Jerusalem Bible – Translation method
The translation from the Hebrew and Greek is literal with the notes and introductions reflecting the “higher criticism” approach. This method led the translators to come to some unfortunate conclusions, notably that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (a theory discredited by Jesus Himself in Mark 12:26). The translators adopted a “mid-Atlantic” method of translating syntax in order for it to sound neither overwhelmingly British nor particularly American in nature. The famous author of the “Lord of the Rings” series, J.R.R. Tolkien, contributed the translation of the book of Jonah. Tolkien also consulted on one or two points of style and criticized some contributions of others.

Jerusalem Bible – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are good English translations of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the translation. The “higher critical” approach the translators took is troubling, but actually makes very little impact on the translation itself. With Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism as the foundation, though, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible should not be used as a primary Bible translation.

Jerusalem Bible – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, before Abraham ever was, I am.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.”

Titus 2:13 – “waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus.”

New Revised Standard Version – History
The NRSV was translated by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical Christian group. It is called the New Revised Standard Version because it is a revision of, and meant to replace, the Revised Standard Version of 1952. Released in 1989, the NRSV has three versions: the NRSV, containing the Old and New Testaments, the NRSV Common Bible, which includes the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books, and the NRSV Catholic Edition containing the Old Testament books in the order of the Latin Vulgate. There are also anglicized editions of the NRSV, which modify the text slightly to be consistent with British spelling and grammar.

New Revised Standard Version – Translation Method
The NRSV was intended to take advantage of manuscript discoveries made since the printing of the Revised Standard Version and to reflect advances in scholarship since the RSV had been released. The NRSV translators chose to eliminate archaic language, especially the pronouns “thee” and “thou.”  However, they chose to keep them when the pronouns refer to the deity, a somewhat controversial decision. Also controversial was the decision to translate some gender-specific words using more gender-neutral wording in places where gender was not seen to be an issue, e.g., “people” in place of “mankind.” The goal of the translators was to be “sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender” (Preface to the NRSV from the National Council of Churches website). The NRSV also sought to expand gender-specific phrases such as “brothers” into “brothers and sisters.”

New Revised Standard Version – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the New Revised Standard Version is a good English Bible translation. The fact that the NRSV has a Catholic version (including the Apocrypha), and the fact that it is “gender-inclusive” in some of its renderings, prevented it from being adopted by most conservative and evangelical Christians. Also, many consider the NRSV to not be as free-flowing and natural-sounding English as it could be.

New Revised Standard Version – Sample Verses
John 1:1,14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

New American Bible – History
Not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible, the New American Bible (NAB) is a Catholic Bible translation first published in 1970. It was specifically translated into English by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine under the liturgical principles and reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) after a long and confused history of translation, re-translation, revision and re-revision beginning in 1943 with Pope Pius XII’s encyclical letter. Shortly after the publication of the complete Bible, American bishops decided that the 1970 NAB New Testament leaned too much on paraphrasing rather than translation for general use, and so the New Testament was “revised” and published in 1986, employing dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) translation in places for the sake of inclusive, gender-neutral language. Pope John Paul II and other Vatican officials were not happy with this version, mainly because of the inclusive language, which was mandated by liturgical guidelines issued by a committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference in 1990. Richard John Neuhaus described the confused state of affairs surrounding Roman Catholic Bible versions in 2001: “At present, three translations are approved for Catholic liturgical use: the New Jerusalem Bible, the RSV, and the New American Bible (NAB). The lectionaries and the several publishers of Mass guides, however, use only the NAB. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a wretched translation. It succeeds in being, at the same time, loose, stilted, breezy, vulgar, opaque, and relentlessly averse to literary grace.”

New American Bible – Translation method
Like all Catholic Bibles, the NAB includes the deuterocanonical (apocryphal) books. The NAB was translated from original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls for the NT and OT, with some influence from the Vulgate in the Apocrypha. As stated above, there are several versions of the NAB, some using dynamic (thought-for-thought) equivalence and some using formal (word-for-word) equivalence.

New American Bible – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the New American Bible is a relatively good English translation of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the renderings the translation makes. The inclusion of the Apocrypha, the “higher critical” background of the translators, and the inconsistency of the translation method, though, prevent us for recommending the New American Bible as a primary Bible translation.

New American Bible – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ,”

“The Vulgate” is the popular name given to the Latin version of the Bible, a translation usually attributed to Jerome. Before Jerome’s time, as the number of Latin-speaking Christians grew, the Bible was translated into Latin so that the Christians of the time could understand it. It is believed that the first Latin translation was completed around A.D. 200, although no manuscripts of this era exist today. The first Latin manuscripts were surely created in North Africa, for it seems that the church in North Africa was Latin-speaking from the start as compared to the predominantly Greek-speaking churches in Asia and Europe.

Two centuries later Pope Damasus I commissioned a scholar by the name Jerome to produce one standard Latin text of the Bible; there were as many different Latin versions of the Bible as there were different forms of the text, and Damasus wanted the church to have a standard version to promote universal doctrine. Jerome completed the translation in A.D. 400, and his version was known as the editio vulgate (the current text of Holy Scripture), because he used the common (or vulgar) language of early medieval times.

Jerome started by revising the Gospels, using the Greek manuscripts available. This he did because of the vast differences he found in the various Latin texts that were available. About the same time, he started revising the Old Testament by using the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Old Testament). Jerome also translated the Old Testament into Latin by using the Hebrew text, a task he did without ecclesiastical sanction. The present Vulgate contains elements which belong to every period of its development, including

(1) an unrevised Old Latin text of the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch;
(2) an Old Latin form of the Psalter, which Jerome corrected from the Septuagint;
(3) Jerome’s free translation of the books of Job and Judith;
(4) Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew Old Testament excluding the Psalter;
(5) an Old Latin revision of the Gospels from Greek manuscripts;
(6) an Old Latin New Testament, revised.

Some of the books mentioned belong to a division known as the “Apocrypha,” normally considered books of Jewish origin which lie outside the canon of the Old Testament.

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are early Jewish writings detailing the history of the Jews in the first century BC. Both books are part of the canon of Scripture in the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, and Russian Orthodox churches, but they are not recognized as canon by Protestants and Jews. The books outline the history of the Maccabees, Jewish leaders who led a rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucid Dynasty from 175 BC to 134 BC. The first book portrays the effort by the Jews to regain their cultural and religious independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes after his desecration of the Jewish temple.

The book of 2 Maccabees consists of a Greek synopsis of a five-volume history of the Maccabean Revolt written by Jason of Cyrene. The authors of both books are unknown. The first book, although written from a biased perspective, does not directly mention God or divine intervention. The second book has a more theological slant, advancing several doctrines followed by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The book of 1 Maccabees was written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. Scholars believe that the author was a Palestinian Jew who was intimately familiar with the events described. The author opposed the Hellenization of the Jews and clearly supported and admired the Jewish revolutionaries led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers.

In the second century BC, Judea existed between the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Syrian Seleucid Empire, kingdoms formed after the death of Alexander the Great. Judea fell under the control of the Seleucids in approximately 200 BC. During this time, many Jews began to adopt a Greek lifestyle and culture in order to gain economic and political influence. They avoided circumcision and advocated abolishing Jewish religious laws.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the ruler of the Seleucid Empire in 175 BC. He was inconsiderate of the views of the religious, traditional Jews in Palestine. To Antiochus, the office of high priest was merely a local appointee within his realm, while to orthodox Jews the high priest was divinely appointed. Antiochus appointed a high priest named Jason, a Hellenized Jew, who promptly abolished the Jewish theocracy, followed by Menelaus, who had the rightful high priest, Onias, murdered. After Menelaus’ brother stole sacred articles from the temple, a civil war ensued between the Hellenized Jews and the religious Jews. Antiochus subsequently attacked Jerusalem, pillaged the temple, and killed or captured many of the women and children. He banned traditional Jewish religious practice, outlawing Jewish sacrifices, Sabbaths, feasts, and circumcision. He established altars to Greek gods upon which “unclean” animals were sacrificed. He desecrated the Jewish temple. Possession of Jewish Scriptures became a capital offence.

In a small, rural village called Modein, an elderly priest named Mattathias lived with his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazer, and Jonathan. Sometimes referred to as the Hasmoneans (a designation derived from Asmoneus, the name of one of their ancestors), this family more frequently has been called the Maccabeans (a nickname meaning “hammerer”). In 167 BC Antiochus sent some of his soldiers to Modein to compel the Jewish inhabitants to make sacrifices to the pagan gods. Mattathias, as a leader in the city, was commanded by the officers to be the first person to offer a sacrifice as an example to the rest of the people. He refused with a powerful speech (see 1 Maccabees 2:15–22).

Fearing violence against the people for Mattathias’ refusal, another Jew volunteered to offer the sacrifices to the pagan gods in the place of Mattathias, but Mattathias killed this Jewish man, as well as the soldiers of the king. He then destroyed the altar to the pagan gods, after which he, his sons, and a number of followers fled to the mountainous wilderness. These men formed a large, guerrilla warfare army and soon began to launch raids against the towns of the land, tearing down the pagan altars, killing the officials of Antiochus, and also executing those Jews who were worshipping the pagan gods.

Mattathias died in 166 BC, just as the revolt was gaining momentum, leaving his son Judas in charge of the rebel forces. Even though greatly outnumbered, Judas and his rebels defeated general after general in battle, winning decisive victories against overwhelming odds. The rebels even won a tremendous victory south of Mizpah against a combined army of 50,000 troops. The people of Israel gave Judas the nickname “Maccabeus” because of his success in “hammering” the enemy forces into the ground.

Antiochus, who had underestimated the scope of the revolt, now realized the serious nature of the rebellion in Palestine. He dispatched Lysias, the commander-in-chief of the Seleucid army, along with 60,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalry, to utterly destroy the Jews. This vast army was additionally commanded by two generals serving under Lysias—Nicanor and Gorgias. This powerful army came against Judas, who fought with a force of only 10,000 poorly equipped rebels, in the town of Emmaus. He prayed to God for strength and deliverance (1 Maccabees 4:30–33), and God answered and they won a huge victory over the Seleucid army.

Subsequently, the Maccabees marched into Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, and resumed traditional Jewish religious practices. The festival of Hanukkah commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Jewish temple. Judah’s brother Jonathan became the new high priest after the rededication of the temple and ultimately succeeded Judah as commander of the army. His brother Simon assumed control from 142 to 135 BC, followed by Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus. With the death of Simon, the last son of Mattathias, the Maccabean Revolt came to an end. The author concludes his narrative in 1 Maccabees with these events.

The Second Book of Maccabees was written in Koine Greek, most likely around 100 BC. This work coheres with 1 Maccabees, but it is written as a theological interpretation of the Maccabean Revolt. In addition to outlining the historical events, 2 Maccabees discusses several doctrinal issues, including prayers and sacrifices for the dead, intercession of the saints, and resurrection on Judgment Day. The Catholic Church has based the doctrines of purgatory and masses for the dead on this work. On the other hand, an important tenet of the Protestant Reformation (1517) was that scriptural translations should be derived from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament, rather than upon the Septuagint and Jerome’s Vulgate. Statements were included in the Protestant Bibles indicating that the Apocrypha was not to be placed on the same level as the other documents.